The Vatican Tapes (2015)

JULY 25, 2015


I can give The Vatican Tapes some props for two things. One is its score from Insidious/Conjuring composer Joe Bishara, which does what the movie itself fails to do and never recalls The Exorcist, instead opting for its own ideas and pulling them off quite well (I even stuck around to listen to it during the credits). The other is that, despite what the trailers suggested, the movie isn't found footage. Not even close to it, in fact. I thought it'd be like a Lovely Molly kind of situation where it divides its time between traditional filmmaking and POV stuff, but apart from a few scenes in the beginning and a rarely used (unmanned, mounted) camera during the exorcism, it's shot like every other movie.

Alas, that's pretty fitting, since the script itself is like every other movie, at least the possession/exorcism ones. It saves its most (only?) interesting elements for its final moments, perhaps setting up a pretty intriguing sequel that we're likely never to see, as the film's sub-million opening weekend take* isn't exactly going to send producers scurrying to get Vatican Tapes 2 off the ground. Instead, director Mark Neveldine (half of the team responsible for Crank and then 3 terrible movies after it) and the script by too many people to remember (though one was Chris Morgan of the Fast & Furious series) spend the majority of the runtime on the same old shit we've seen a million times. Girl (Olivia Taylor Dudley from the also "Wait, it's NOT found footage?" entry Chernobyl Diaries) has an encounter, weird things start happening around her, hospitals get involved, answers are not given, and finally a priest is called in. Would you be surprised to learn that the film's climax involves two priests, a worried parent, and a possessed girl strapped to a bed?

Now, just a few days ago I gave Inner Demons some love, and in many respects it also commits some of the Exor-sins this movie does - so why is one OK and not the other? Well the approach the Inner Demons team took is a big one; the idea of the demon being held at bay by drug use is an intriguing one, and it also justified its POV aesthetic with the inclusion of the reality show team. Here, they can't even use the sparingly used camera properly, with the boyfriend inexplicably filming Angela as he takes her through the house and outside "to show her something" (a surprise birthday party, one she secretly knows about, which at least explains why she doesn't ask why he's filming her walking around). And the narrative has no such hook; there's a brief bit where she appears to be in two places at once at the hospital (sleeping in her bed, and in the nursery, attempting to drown a baby), but it's largely a go nowhere subplot, with Neveldine and his writers content to race through this stuff and get back to ripping off Friedkin and Blatty.

Except for when they opted to rip off ZAZ, of all people. There's a scene at the top of the exorcism sequence where Angela starts to gag and the priest reaches into her mouth, pulling out an egg. Two more follow, and it's basically one of the movie's big "scary" setpieces - and all I could think about was the same scene being played for laughs in Airplane! Somehow the 1980 movie parodied this one 35 years earlier (if the Airplane gag was supposed to be making fun of anything specific in that moment, I never caught the reference, and some Googling didn't help), and it sticks out even more when you realize it's the closest the movie really gets to finding a pulse beyond those final 5 minutes. Neveldine also throws in some GoPro type footage during a brief out-of-control-bus scene that will remind you of the Cranks, and I couldn't help but wonder if there was a disconnect, with him being hired to make the "EXTREME" version of an Exorcist movie and him taking the job to show he could do something besides that sort of thing (kind of like when, with both seeking to do something new, Wes Craven signed on for an Eddie Murphy comedy and Eddie Murphy signed on for a Wes Craven horror movie). These brief moments belong in that hyper-silly/exciting world, not the world of the rest of this interminable affair.

It also wastes the cast. Michael Peña is one of those guys who shows up and makes any movie better (he's great in Ant-Man, the sounds of which were occasionally booming into this tiny screen at the local multiplex), but the script gives him very little to do, particularly during the exorcism sequence where he mostly just stands around and lets the older priest do the fun stuff. Dougray Scott has some fun "overprotective dad" stuff going on with Angela's boyfriend, and the backstory of her mother is fairly novel, but like Peña as the movie continues he is reduced into the background more often than not, and the antagonistic relationship with her boyfriend has no real payoff. Plus (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) both he and the boyfriend die during the climax with little fanfare, as if they were never important to begin with. Peña at least gets to survive and be the hero of the sequel that exists only in our dreams, as he gets drafted into the secret cabal of Vatican personnel who go around investigating cases like these, while Angela, now revealed as the Antichrist, goes around healing people for some sinister, never to be known agenda.

With the movie offering very little to excite me until that point (the lovely Kathleen Robertson shows up for a bit during the hospital sequence, but these scenes are ultimately inconsequential), I spent a lot of time wondering why so many exorcism movies are content to follow Exorcist's template so rigidly. Here it's even more frustrating since the post-exorcism scenes are the film's best - what if they skipped over the usual crap involving "freak accidents" (birds seem drawn to her) and "The Catholic Church does not perform exorcisms lightly!" type padding where the skeptical priest has to be convinced, and got to where any intelligent audience member knows it was going by the 45 minute mark? Then they could use the rest of the movie on something new, leaving our Exorcist memories largely behind. It's almost comical how, 40+ years later, the most prominent examples of these sort of movies not going by the numbers are the actual Exorcist sequels. Hell, the 3rd one didn't even have an exorcism at all until reshoots were demanded. And then there are The Last Exorcism and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, two that also go off the beaten path and were rewarded with huge box office, as if the public was saying "Yes! Thank you for doing something new!" and were then rewarded with more of the same old crap (Last Exorcism 2 notwithstanding, offering a different kind of crap).

Oh well. I admit I was hardly excited about the movie, as its trailers did nothing for me and I'm no fan of Neveldine's (even Crank is really a one-time only deal for me; I had a lot of fun watching it but never the desire to see it again). But I can be won over when I have low expectations (see, again, Inner Demons, and, keeping with the possession theme, The Atticus Institute from earlier this year), so I could have just as easily walked away a fan of this one if it was putting enough effort into the proceedings. But alas, when your title sequences offer more chills than the movie itself, there's a big problem, and ultimately the film just continues this year's vastly underwhelming output for horror (It Follows might be the best theatrical release and I saw it in 2014!). Nothing is really hate-worthy, but after all these C- types, I almost long for a loathsome piece of shit - at least then I could be engaged on some level.

What say you?

*To be fair it's basically a limited release, at 427 screens or something like that, but the number of theaters isn't as important as the number of people IN those theaters, and that's where the movie's poor showing is plainly evident, with an average of less than 80 people showing up per day at each theater - not even enough to fill one screening. Someone on Twitter told me they were the only person in their theater and the manager tried to get them to leave so they wouldn't have to show it at all!


Inner Demons (2014)

JULY 21, 2015


If you roll your eyes at nine found footage movies in a row, but enjoy the 10th, does it make it all worthwhile? Inner Demons is not going to challenge Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity as the go-to example for how these movies can be effective, but it's still one of the very few of late that I didn't want to slap, so that's gotta be worth something, right? And it's even more notable when you consider how many possession-driven found footage movies there are (2nd most popular after ghosts, I think); the movie could have been doubling down on its uselessness, but it actually struck a minor chord with me. I'll be seeing The Vatican Tapes this week; if I actually like that one MORE than this I'll be fairly stunned.

Part of what makes this movie work is, thankfully, a decent reason for the cameras to exist. Sure, by the end they're using them in situations where no real human being would (and I think I spotted a few impossible cutaways) but like I've said in the past - you just have to meet us halfway on that one. Give us a solid reason for filming in the first place (many don't) and maintain that movie-logic for a while, until we're hooked into the story, and then it won't really matter as much as long as you're not going overboard (i.e. people standing there filming a zombie biting their friend's face off). This one is particularly interesting - it's presented as the footage from the crew filming an episode of an Intervention-type reality show, with their subject being a formerly sweet, good Catholic girl who started dressing goth and using drugs. As it turns out, the drug use isn't for recreation - she is shooting up in order to control the demon that's taken up residence inside her. When she is sent to rehab, and thus unable to use, her conditions actually worsen.

If anything I wish they had stuck with the intervention angle longer. Given their religious background there's a good reason for a priest to be there, and they could have had the demon dishing out dirt on her friends/family who had assembled to help her, rather than random other patients at the rehab facility. The movie's logic also takes a hit here, as there is plenty of fairly concrete proof that the girl is possessed (or SOMETHING) thanks to the facility's security cameras that give the movie much of its footage during these scenes, but no one bothers to check the tapes I guess. It's only when one of the intervention crew guys gives her a fix to control the demon that things get back on track, as she is kicked out of the rehab center and sent home in time for the big climax. The rehab scenes are fine on their own, but since the other addicts don't get much involved with the story it seems like a missed opportunity for some Bad Dreams/Dream Warriors style character moments, and they could have just locked her in her bedroom and brought a doctor in to serve the same story points.

But the attention to detail is what really makes it work. Director Seth Grossman actually has a background in reality shows (including some work on the actual Intervention), and it serves the opening well, giving us authentic reality show footage along with the behind the scenes dealings in between it (i.e. asking a subject to modify their reply and start over so it's more sound-byte worthy). Grossman did a pretty good job of assembling a believable history and backstory for its fictional characters too - old photos, acquaintances as character witnesses, etc. Horror movies in general (meaning, not just these kinds) tend to suffer from a lack of world-building, where the characters all seem to have been willed into existence moments before the movie began and seemingly have no lives beyond what they are doing in the 80 minutes we're spending with them, so it's nice when a filmmaker takes the time to make his characters a bit more fleshed out and lived in - ESPECIALLY when they're doing it under the guise of "reality".

Another boon: Lara Vosburgh is great as Carson, the infected girl. The Venn diagram of "found footage movies" and "great performances" doesn't have much of an overlap, so it's definitely another happy surprise. She's got a tough role to play - especially when she begs for a fix in order to keep the demon at bay (a literal fix!), as it's kind of heartbreaking that she'd rather risk her own body/mind than become a monster that everyone hates. Throughout the film you see these tiny glimpses of the very sweet girl that's being eroded by both the drugs and the demon, and Vosburgh handles these moments perfectly, never swinging too far into one direction. Grossman keeps the usual possession visuals to a minimum (black eyes, some minor contorting... nothing particularly eye-catching) and wisely let Vosburgh herself be the effect - damn fine choice.

I saw this movie because I was tagging it for Netflix, and my heart sank when I saw it was another FF movie. So I began just kinda keeping one eye on it while I started filling out the form (if you missed previous explanations - tagging is basically plugging in all of the data that allows their computers to make recommendations, in this case it'd probably come up if you liked Last Exorcism), but after 15-20 minutes I realized I was doing myself a disservice by being so technical with my viewing - it deserved a legitimate viewing! It's not the funnest way to watch a film, because you have to be on the alert for things that might not register if you're not actively looking for them (like drinking; if someone has a beer with their dinner it's gotta go on the form - this is not something you notice when you're watching a movie to enjoy it), and that robs you of the experience a bit. Fine for a documentary or maybe even a comedy, but horror is a different beast. Watching it that way is no different than someone pulling out their cell phone in a theater - it's distracting you with reality, and the movie can't get under your skin as effectively. In other words, the movie earned my respect, and after those 15-20 minutes I closed the tagging form and watched it like I would any movie, going back to double check whatever I may have missed later. Sure, it took longer, but I got to see a pretty decent movie as a result! And you guys got a new review, something I can't usually do for the aforementioned reasons.* Win-win.

What say you?

*That might be kinda funny though, review a movie based only on its clinical data. "The problem is, the movie offers plenty of profanity and smoking, but not nearly enough drinking or live music performances. Furthermore, the setting is nondescript..."


The Gallows (2015)

JULY 9, 2015


This will be a (slightly) shorter review than most HMAD entries, because quite frankly, The Gallows didn't give me a lot to work with. I almost didn't bother to write a review at all (was gonna just tweet a few things) but a quick check on Alexa revealed how far the site has plummeted since I stopped updating daily, which is concerning since part of that non-frequency is due to my writing a book that I'll need people to come here on the regular to know when it's available. So you'll get a review of a lousy found footage movie that you can read at a red light, and I'll spare my twitter followers more thoughts on this shockingly flat, long past its prime entry in the now-over POV race.

Oddly, the one thing the movie gets right is that it feels like a genuine video shot by an obnoxious high school kid. As anyone who has read my takes on some of the other major FF releases can vouch for, I particularly hate when there's no logic behind the footage we're seeing - impossible cutaways, people filming things for absolutely no reason just so they can ensure the camera is on when something scary happens, people standing there filming their friends being killed - all of these things drive me up a wall and keep me from engaging in the film. But here, I bought like 75-80% of the footage as something I could imagine filming myself in that situation. One scene even plays out mostly while looking at the characters' feet (attn: fetishists), because they're arguing and that's what people would do if holding a camera up before things got heated - they'd drop it to their side and engage as a human being. It's only in the film's final scene that the camera logic is completely out the window, but by then I stopped caring anyway.

Because while they got the camera right, they screwed up everything else. The movie has almost nothing to it beyond the one line plot synopsis: some kids break into their high school at night, get stuck, and are menaced by the ghost of a kid who died in a school play 20 years ago. There are a couple of reveals concerning why it's after these kids specifically (well, one of them), but it's an empty attempt at making the film more interesting, because (spoiler) the connection our hero has to the original incident involves his father, and that's a character we see briefly, 30-40 minutes before this revelation, and never again. For it to have any meaning, he'd have to re-enter the picture and explain his side of the story, but that doesn't happen. So who cares?

(That it's a reveal even though the picture of his father has been hanging up in the room that he's been practicing a play every day for weeks is something we can just let slide, I guess.)

Dropped characters are just the order of the day in this movie, actually. Early on our hero goes out of his way to film a janitor going about his business and saying "working late tonight?", to which the janitor answers in the affirmative - this seems to establish his presence/another victim for later when they go inside after hours, but nope. Ditto for the Jonah Hill-y stage manager who the protagonist torments (if you haven't guessed by now, the guy with the camera is an asshole), as they are engaged in some back and forth pranking/retaliation that goes nowhere, since he doesn't show up in the locked off school either. I suppose one could defend these things as mere misdirection, but that only works if they're directing your attention away from the real threats or suspects, which do not exist in this one-note movie. It's either padding to fill out the barely feature length run time (an exact 80 minutes, with credits and a scene we see play out twice), or sloppy writing. Take your pick. It's a toss up to me, but I might give "sloppy writing" the edge based on how many jaw-droppingly bad bits of exposition are shoehorned into the dialogue, a problem that starts in the movie's very first scene when an audience member filming a school play (starring his own kid, one would assume) starts talking about how one of the actors was a last minute replacement.

It's also not scary at all. As always I use the audience to gauge the effectiveness of these things to see how well they're working since I'm immune to jumps and such, but the scattered audience members who joined me for this 9:15pm screening were, I guess, equally just annoyed that they were missing Hannibal for this, because I swear I only heard one person shout at one of the scares (far cry from its hilariously overblown ads suggesting that it's the scariest movie ever or whatever). Worse, there's no sense of dread - it's clear who the villain is, more or less what he wants, and the idiotic twist that explains how he connects to one of the other characters is too laughable and out of nowhere to add to the non-existent tension. Even the light supernatural elements about doors that can't be opened fail to register, and I say this as someone who can count sneaking into my own high school after hours (ironically to obtain a videotape) as one of the more intense moments of my adolescence, since I'm sure being caught would result in some sort of major disciplinary action. Shouldn't I be even the slightest bit worked up to see this sort of thing on-screen in a legit horror movie? Having a connection to the material is a key factor in how much you respond to horror movies (hence why I now have trouble with evil/dead children movies since becoming a father), so it's an even bigger indictment of the movie's failures that I was unable to feel anything but apathy.

Thankfully, the trailer's awful "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover is not included. That and the believable camerawork are about the only positives I could find in this thing. It didn't exactly have a high bar to clear for me to say something like "best wide release found footage movie in years!" (I specify wide release because the indie scene still produces some minor gems, like Afflicted), but it couldn't even manage that. It's maybe better than Paranormal Activity 4 and Devil's Due, but that's about it. This is the sort of movie where I wouldn't even bother yelling at someone for taking out their phone - I'd be thankful that they offered something that actually engaged me.

What say you?


Ghosthouse/Witchery (1988)

JUNE 28, 2015


The only thing Italian horror producers did better than rip off American genre movies was shamelessly rename the movies to make them look like sequels to unrelated properties, either for their own distribution or when sending them elsewhere. Sometimes they were their own productions, such as Beyond The Door (a film that got a "sequel" in Shock) and other times they'd piggyback on American franchises. For example, the Evil Dead series was renamed La Casa* over there, and after Evil Dead 2/La Casa 2 was an even bigger draw there than in its native US, they saw fit to continue the series with at least three "sequels", including Ghosthouse (aka La Casa 3) and Witchery (aka La Casa 4, and also Witchcraft, not to be confused with the long-running DTV series). These two are making their blu-ray debut this week, and if it's successful enough maybe Scream Factory can bring us La Casa 5, better (?) known as Beyond Darkness. (UPDATE! I wrote this review all week - see last paragraph for reasons - and a day after I wrote that part Scream indeed announced that the film will be released later this year)

Interestingly, unlike all those demon-less Demons sequels (or the infamous Troll 2), these movies are at least thematically similar to the Evil Dead films - one of them even involves a tape recording! Both involve a bunch of folks meeting up at a creepy place, and in both the evil force wipes out pretty much everyone in a variety of ways. They might lack the energy and creativity of Raimi's films, but if this was 1988 or 1989 and the internet didn't exist to quickly inform me that I was watching something completely unrelated, I'd be... well, not fooled, but at least not as angry as I was when I was 14, buying a movie I was led to believe was a sequel to Dawn of the Dead and seeing some voodoo zombie stuff (that would be Fulci's Zombie - I've since come around). Compared to most of these retitled things, these movies are Saw-level tight with Evil Dead.

Not sure which one I prefer of the two; they're both pretty entertaining, and what could have been a Massachusetts bias in favor of Ghosthouse turned out to be a moot point - Witchery was set there too! They even share a police car from Scituate, which is the (real) seaside town where the films were shot, another thing that makes this fake series almost plausibly connected (they beat Marvel to the punch by like 20 years!). I guess in that regard Ghosthouse would get the edge because it has a few scenes in Boston proper (including a bit at Faneuil Hall), but either way it was a nice surprise - MA-shot films are pretty rare, so I certainly wasn't expecting to see my old neighborhood in a random Italian flick, let alone in two of them.

Ghosthouse also lacks David Hasselhoff. It's not Witchery's fault that he became such a joke, but it was nearly impossible for me to watch it without thinking of the reality show mainstay that is synonymous with "lazy stunt casting" nowadays. In 1988 he was still the handsome hero of a recently ended long-running series (Knight Rider), so it'd be the equivalent of getting someone like Jeff Donovan from Burn Notice today - hardly something to laugh at, and probably helped the movie get sold (whereas now it'd probably be a red flag). He's actually not bad as a photographer who ends up getting trapped in the seaside hotel with his wife, some prospective buyers, and a really bad child actor, but every 5 minutes I'd just get a Baywatch image in my head, or worse, the bloated dude eating a cheeseburger off the floor. Linda Blair is the movie's other big star and thankfully she doesn't have that notoriety - she may always be "the girl from Exorcist" but she never really tainted her brand the way her co-star has. She also gets possessed briefly in the 3rd act, which was a surprise - I figured she'd rather avoid the obvious comparison and skip roles that required such behavior (not counting Repossessed, of course).

The location goes a long way to making up for Hoffstraction, however. I've always been intrigued by big hotels set right on the water; we used to go to Maine in the summer and I knew from the odd trip to check on our trailer (it was one of those family campgrounds - we'd leave our big ass trailer there all year round even though the campground was only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day) that the area was pretty much a ghost town in the off season, so I'd be curious about those giant hotels that had to be completely empty for months on end (my early viewing of The Shining probably informed some of this). But such locales are rarely used in horror films; sadly, Puppet Master is the only other one that readily comes to mind. Unfortunately they don't get too much use of it, holing up in a couple of distinct rooms and limiting the exploration to a few scenes (I think we see more in the mostly horror-free early "tour" we get of the place than we do once the shit hits the fan), but it still makes for an interesting setting. There's a great bit where the witch/ghost thing traps them all inside and shuts all the lights off as a would-be rescue chopper flies overhead - allowing you to see the hotel in all its glory as their searchlight scans all of the windows.

Plus it's about a witch! Maybe I just pick wrong, but it seems the Italians were afraid of being compared to Argento and thus left most of the witching to him, while they tackled zombies and black-gloved killers, plus the odd supernatural silliness (director Fabrizio Laurenti's next film was the incredible killer tree movie Contamination .7, which, sigh, is also known as Troll 3). But not here, it's a legit witch witch carrying out witch-y type killings like crucifying someone and roasting them on an upside down cross (the devil also pops up for good measure). It doesn't make a hell of a lot of conventional sense, but it's tough to pick out the obvious survivor from their introductions, offers some decent gore and various kills, and offers one of the more abrupt attempts at an epilogue I've ever seen (seriously, it's like 12 seconds long and hilariously blunt). And the old bitchy lady gets killed early - I've gotten used to the "let's keep the asshole around so we can build up to a spectacular death!" way of thinking, so it's nice to see a movie that opts to get rid of its unlikable character early and keep only the sympathetic ones around for a while.

As for Ghosthouse, the characters aren't as diverse - buncha twenty-somethings, including two blond guys I had trouble telling apart, leading to some confusion (luckily, one of them is killed off early). But the story, involving a little ghost girl who terrorizes them in typical haunted house ways (including a pretty great bit where the floor breaks apart and a guy nearly drowns in milk), plus a deranged handyman killing people for trespassing for good measure, makes up for the bland protagonists. It also has one of my favorite "doctor explains a death" scenes in movie history, where he tells the cop that a corpse couldn't have been killed by another person due to the angle of the cut on their neck, and thus it HAD to be a piece of the fan breaking off and flying into the guy via centrifugal force (he explains this kind of casually, as if it happens often).

But the real draw is the very odd hitchhiker that our heroes pick up and get rid of on the way to the house. He's pretty delightful for a hitchhiker, probably because he doesn't know how to do it properly - he stands in the middle of the road, for one thing, and later he risks the hero's life by trying to scare him with a skeleton arm thing while he's driving. They get rid of him not long after that, but he returns later, scaring a different character with the same prop before entering the haunted house, scoffing at a bag of cookies in favor of a box of croutons (?), and then gets killed not long after that. His scenes are so disconnected that you'd swear he was added into the narrative after test screenings, but the girl he scared on his second appearance talks about him later, which seems like a detail that they'd skip if it was a late addition (her description is amazing too; her friend doubts she really saw anyone and she's like "He had a skeleton arm!" without explaining it was a toy). I could have watched a whole movie about this guy just goofing off on the fringes of a more exciting storyline.

This fella aside, one thing I liked about the movie is how it split the two groups of protagonists up, letting two of them go back to the city to take the brunt of the less exciting plot development scenes while the rest of the characters wandered around at the house, often getting killed. If everyone stayed together you'd get the long exposition dumps, plus narrative hiccups where people would be getting killed two rooms away from someone sitting there reading an old newspaper or whatever, oblivious to the screaming. I know conventional logic is that a movie is scarier if you get the sense that they are kinda stuck there (like, well, Evil Dead!), and it DOES spoil the mood a bit when the hero goes back to his riverside office in Boston at the halfway point, but again - it keeps it stopping completely cold to deliver pages of backstory at once. And that means we're never too far from hearing the creepy-ass "theme" that accompanies the evil spirit - it sounds like a simple saying being played backwards, over and over along with equally unsettling music. The jump scares and such aren't particularly great here, but that music more than makes up for it (the clown doll is also appropriately "off" - much better than the one in Fauxltergeist). It's rare to enjoy a film for being goofy AND somewhat creepy, so kudos to Umberto Lenzi for pulling it off, even if it wasn't intentional.

Lenzi's usual hatred of "things that make sense" still comes through, however. In addition to characters getting angry over nothing (and forgetting about it a few seconds later), he offers a particularly head-slapping bit where a cop talks on his squad car's CB radio. A common enough scene, but Lenzi inexplicably chose not to include the other side of the conversation, so the cop is sitting there with a two way handset, responding to an unheard voice with things like "When?" and "OK, I'll check that out!" or whatever, as if he was on a phone instead of a device where we should be able to hear the other person speaking. Lenzi has always been one of the more random of this group (which includes Fulci, Lamberto Bava, Claudio Fragrasso, etc.), and you'll be happy to know that this fits in nicely with his others in that respect.

All in all, a perfectly enjoyable double feature of a couple of movies that flew under the radar. By the late 80s, the Italian horror scene was starting to dry up, as they couldn't compete with the bigger budgeted, FX heavy movies the US was making, and there were fewer theatrical distributors for such fare as there was 4-5 years before. And it's not like they could just call Ghosthouse "Evil Dead 3" here, so the rather anonymous title probably did it no favors. Witchery fared SLIGHTLY better, in that I had heard of it a couple of times prior to seeing, but that's probably thanks to its more famous cast. I didn't recognize anyone in Ghosthouse; Witchery offered Blair, Hoff, plus the lovely Catherine Hickland, who was one of those actresses who would seemingly pop up on every TV show in the 80s (including Knight Rider!) and also had sizable roles on some soaps. She gets killed via swordfish, which is pretty great. Perhaps if the movies were more famous Scream would have put a little more effort into the presentation - the transfers are fine, but the movies don't even get their own sub-menus like they usually do for their double features. There's a main screen that offers both "Play Movie" and both trailers, with no scene selection (chapter breaks are included), and the subtitle option obnoxiously located in the center. It's basically what you'd expect from a disc that had a "Play All" option for a true double feature experience, but since it lacks that I can't help but feel it's a bit of a lazy setup.

But that's not really a dealbreaker, and more importantly it kicks off a month's worth of releases from Scream Factory of movies that I haven't seen. Next week is Robot Jox, and the week after that is another double feature: Cellar Dweller and Catacombs, followed by I, Madman, and finally Ghost Town (which also features Ms. Hickland, yay!). More often than not I've seen the movies they're putting out, which is why I usually write about them on Birth Movies Death (formerly Badass Digest) because I've already discussed them here. It's unusual to see so many new-to-me movies in a row (broken up only by Howling II), and they have some new ones too, such as Paul Solet's long awaited sophomore effort, Dark Summer (which I also haven't seen yet). So this place should be a little more lively in the weeks ahead! I apologize for the decreasing number of updates but it's all for a good reason - I've been working really hard to finish my 2nd draft of the HMAD book so I can clean it up and send it off to my editor and hopefully get it to you guys before Christmas (virtual stocking stuffer!). I've been seeing some stuff, but when it comes to time to write, I usually choose the book over writing a new review. Sorry!

What say you?

*In my room I have a giant poster for "La Casa 2" that I got relatively cheap at an auction, because the new title confused the audience that was paying triple digits for similarly oversized art for Dream Warriors and other films of that era. I'm pretty sure they thought it was a poster for House II (the big, Bates House-ish home right in the center of the image probably didn't help), so I was the only bidder and got it for 50 bucks. Score!


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget