Thirteen Ghosts (2001)

JULY 26, 2020


As any astute moviegoer can attest, there are times where you see a movie you don't particularly want to see due to circumstances beyond your control: your vote got overruled by your date or friends, your first pick was sold out, etc. And on those occasions, you're not likely to enjoy the film as much as you would have if it was what you wanted to see all along, which sucks because it might be pretty good or even great if you were watching it under more desirable circumstances. In some cases I tend to wait a while and revisit it to give it a fair shake - sometimes it pays off, sometimes it turns out I was right the first time. But I usually REMEMBER the movie, which isn't the case with Thirteen Ghosts - it's now been close to twenty years since my one, unwanted viewing.

And it wasn't a case of the other movie being sold out or whatever - it was in fact the "consolation prize" after a soul crushing disappointment. One Saturday night in October of 2001 my buddy Joe called me up in my dorm room to let me know that Halloween was showing at a little indie theater about an hour away. I couldn't believe it! This was pre-Fathom Events and what not - I had never seen my all time favorite movie on the big screen. The showtime was 10pm, and this was just before 9 - he said he was coming to get me and we'd have just enough time to get there if he drove fast. And drove fast he did, hitting the upper 80s during safer stretches of the highway. We get to the theater at like 10:02, praying they had trailers and such, running into the lobby with a breathless "Two for Halloween, please!"

The box office lady looked very confused. "We're not showing Halloween?" she said. We panicked, thinking we had the wrong theater, and this was 2001 so we couldn't exactly double check on our cell phones. Luckily I had called the theater earlier to verify Joe's claims, so I just hit redial in the lobby and listened to their recording. "Yep, we're at the right theater, OK, now here are the showtimes... (whatever non-horror stuff they were showing), Rocky Horror every Saturday at midnight, Halloween 10pm." I look at the lady confused again, "Why is your phone line saying Halloween 10pm?"

Then I look at their marquee/calendar above her, and it all suddenly made sense. They weren't showing Halloween at 10pm that or any other night - on Halloween *night*, they'd be showing Rocky Horror again, except at 10pm instead of the usual midnight. It was just a weird phrasing on the phone line that got misinterpreted by whatever service supplied showtimes to or whatever we were using at the time. So we left, dejected as any horror fans could be, and drove back toward our school, assuming the night was over. Halfway there Joe suggested hitting the usual multiplex to see if anything was starting, and that's how I ended up watching Thirteen Ghosts instead of finally seeing my favorite movie on the big screen.

Needless to say, I wasn't exactly keeping an open mind, and didn't like it all that much. Down the road a bit I penciled in the idea of renting (or buying cheap) the DVD to give it another chance, but never got around to it until now, when Scream Factory added it to their library. And now that I'm watching it when I *want* to, I can report that... well, it's better than my angry self thought in 2001, but not exactly good. The main problem is that it's too cramped, both on a technical level and a narrative one. After a solid prologue showcasing the capture of one of the titular ghosts, and then a fine credit sequence that tracks over time to show how a happy family fell apart after a tragic fire, the seams start to show. First we get proper introductions to our heroes: Tony Shaloub (whose wife died in that fire) and his children, a teenage (?) daughter (27 year old Shannon Elizabeth) and a little boy who has become obsessed with death. But they also have a live-in nanny, which is confusing because the nanny is played by Rah Digga, who is *younger* than Shannon Elizabeth (who is seen doing half the nanny kind of work anyway) and also their financial problems keep coming up, so how the hell do they pay for this woman when they don't even seem to need her services in the first place?

But all their problems seem to be solved when F. Murray Abraham - the ghost hunter killed in the opening scene - leaves them his house, because Shaloub is his distant nephew/only living family. They instantly go check the house out and almost as quickly, the kids get lost, which is where the movie's problems really start. While the glass house with all its clockwork gears and moving walls is very cool looking and well designed, it was also built on a single floor set, which means we never get a really good look at it (even when they arrive, it's hard to get a sense of how big it is). So when the kids get "lost", it leaves you at a disconnect, because there's no sense of how far they could possibly be, and Steve Beck directs almost everything in closeup too, so even basic geography of a single room isn't always clear, let alone how far anyone is from one another. It ultimately feels like someone trying to pass off getting lost in one of those cheap haunted houses they have in traveling carnivals, i.e. a large trailer that sets you in a single zig-zag path from entrance to exit.

And that's pretty much all the plot! I think it's actually told in real time from the time they arrive; Shaloub goes to sign some papers with the lawyer (the film's sole kill in between the first and last ten minutes) and the kids are instantly lost, at which point Matthew Lillard's psychic character (posing as a power company guy to get into the house and find some money he is owed) repeats most of what we learned in the opening sequence. It's at this point you might assume that the opening was added (or at least heavily reworked) to give the movie some action up front, and in order to make sense out of it they had to instantly explain some of the things that were supposed to be revealed later (even Lillard's re-introduction as a power guy seems like we're supposed to just think he's a power guy at first, as we see it from the family's POV).

Then it's just an endless "let's find the kids" sequence, which is somewhat hampered by Shaloub's strange lack of concern (he calls his own son "the kid" constantly, as if he was just some random) but thankfully peppered by brief appearances from the woefully underdeveloped title characters. On the DVD (and possibly the film's website at the time?) and this Blu there's a special feature where Abraham's character explains their backstories, and while we don't need as much info as he offers here, it might have been nice to at least have some of it in the film so it wouldn't feel so random. The only one we get any real explanation for is the Juggernaut, because he's the one in the opening sequence and someone has to give the "how evil is this guy" speech that there is no time for in the house section of the film. Some of the ghosts are actually benevolent, such as a kid who (the bonus features tell us) got killed by a real arrow while playing Cowboys and Indians with a pal, but there is no payoff for this within the film - the only one who directly helps them is their mom's ghost, and the real villain (Abraham, who wasn't really dead, shocking) is dispatched by the Juggernaut and the others instead of the human heroes.

The ghosts are well designed though, so at least they leave an impression during their brief, largely random appearances. In a fun nod to the original film (where Castle's obligatory gimmick was a pair of 3D glasses that would let you see the ghosts during those scenes), Lillard has spectral glasses that allow him to see where the ghosts are, though there aren't enough pairs to go around. So this means a handful of fun "I know you can't see the ghost but I can and you're the one about to get hit, duck now!" kinda moments, though by the end everyone either has a pair (Embeth Davitz' completely nonsensical character stops by with extras) or is so worked up by the house moving around and/or the human villains wreaking havoc that it doesn't really matter where "The Jackal" is or whatever. When the title characters are afterthoughts and it's a haunted house movie that never gives you a good look at the house... it's kind of a problem!

Ultimately the only thing really keeping it from sinking is Lillard, who is dialed up to 11 in nearly every scene and lands some good jokes ("Yes, the ghosts are in THIS house - if they were next door, I wouldn't give a shit!"), plus (spoiler for 20 year old movie ahead) gets a great death when he sacrifices himself to save Shaloub, in yet another scene that Beck's claustrophobic direction prevents from landing as well as it should. It seems like there was plenty of room for them to get away from the approaching ghost, and also Lillard's sacrifice didn't exactly get Shaloub out of their shared predicament (he's still trapped in a hallway with the ghost), but hey. Thought that counts and all that.

Scream Factory's blu-ray has the usual new interviews (including one that runs fourteen minutes for a guy who only appears for about 30 seconds in the opening scene) and two commentary tracks, one with Beck and the other with the crew. I listened to Beck's, but his constantly fuzzy memory (for example, he says Silver didn't pay much attention to Ghosts because he was working on the first Matrix, which is impossible - they shot nearly two years after Matrix came out in theaters, and months before the sequels started their own productions) had me wondering how many things I didn't know were wrong were, well, also wrong. The old making of is kind of fun though, since it's the only time you hear from Shaloub and Lillard (neither of them appear in new features, alas), as is the aforementioned explanation for the ghosts, so once again I want to give props to SF for always carrying over old features when creating new ones.

Oh well. I tried! It just isn't that great of a movie. It's watchable and has some good bits here and there (and the sound design, if nothing else, is a good way to scare off neighbors if you wish), and it thankfully isn't dated (the FX are largely practical, so no CGI blemishes that tend to sink a lot of films from this era, including Bones which was released the same day) but it's just too compressed in both its story and its vision to really come to life. House of Wax is and always will be the crown jewel of the company's offerings - hopefully Scream Factory gets that one down the road.

What say you?


The Police Are Blundering In The Dark (1975)

JULY 7, 2020


It's interesting that only one of the three films on Vinegar Syndrome's Forgotten Gialli collection is actually from Italy, since they're the ones who were responsible for the sub-genre (some even say if it's not Italian it's not even a giallo, which I don't agree with, but I guess they will be furious about this). The Police Are Blundering In The Dark is that one exception, a true Italian production (the other two were Spanish films) and, of the three, the one where Dario Argento's influence was most apparent. It's also the fastest paced of the lot, offering a murder in the first few minutes while the other two on the set took their time getting to the black gloved shenanigans.

It also has the best title, though it sadly has little to do with the movie, as the police don't really factor into it at all. The line comes from a newspaper headline about a handful of murders that have occurred over the past 18 months (the one in the opening sequence being the latest), and surfaces again when one of the film's heroes explains why he was trying to solve the case, but that's it. Since so many gialli feature heavy police activity (in Argento's films, where they were often co-leads with the innocent hero whose name had to be cleared) it's kind of funny that one of the few to use "Police" in their title has about as much police activity as a later Friday the 13th sequel, i.e. none.

Instead, it has one of the horniest heroes ever, which meant I spent most of the movie laughing at his caddish ways. His girlfriend is the movie's second victim, who is using his car to travel to a modeling shoot (all of the victims are models) and has to stop somewhere along the way when the car breaks down. She calls him to let him know and ask him to come help, but he's already in bed with another woman! When he finally decides to come help her (she's already dead, alas) he ends up at the artist's home, at which point the artist's maid throws herself at him. This leads to a hilarious sequence where they get interrupted and she tells him to come to her room, which he can't find so he is kind of just wandering around the house looking for yet another woman to cheat on his girlfriend with. He never manages to find her, but as a consolation prize he ends up sleeping with the artist's niece for good measure. All while trying to find his girlfriend! It's amazing.

As for the mystery, it's inadvertently made "difficult" by what I assume was a mistake in the opening kill. As is often the case, we only see the arm for the most part, swinging into frame toward the victim, but at one point the stuntman/camera operator/whoever playing the arm lunged a little too far and offered three frames of the side of his face. Later on, when we meet the artist, one could conceivably think they were the same person, and since he is confined to a wheelchair, it seems like it could be setting up a twist (he's faking his invalid state!). But no, it's just a bad mistake from the director/editor, and my (very close) second pick was the guy it turned out to be anyway.

It's also not particularly complicated or involved - he just wants to kill women, I guess. No lengthy childhood flashbacks to explain the trauma is offered, nor is the particular hatred toward models explained. Just a crazy guy, and that's that. And the camerawork is equally rudimentary - apart from a few long (still) shots where an entire scene plays out without a cut, there's nothing notable about any of it, no flourishes during the murders or vivid imagery. That said, the screenwriter goes for some mild Four Flies on Grey Velvet-esque silliness with the late reveal that the artist is working on a device that can produce an image of what someone is thinking about, which of course helps identify the killer. The hero ultimately doesn't really do anything himself, amusingly; you can cut him out of the movie entirely and it would play out pretty much the same way.

But then you'd be denied what might be my favorite scene! He goes to the hotel where his girlfriend was staying, and asks for the clerk to go wake her up. We know she's dead already, so watching the guy go check the empty room then come back would be pointless. Instead, we stick with the hero, who sits down in the lobby and watches the hotel's maid endlessly wipe down a table, rolling her eyes at this guy's intrusion. It's like a full 60 seconds that offers absolutely nothing, but I found it delightful - it kind of reminded me of the bit in The Prowler where the bored deputy just pretends to go look for the sheriff until enough time has passed to tell the caller he isn't in. So pointless/random, but so good.

Unlike the other films on the set, there's no historian commentary for this one - which makes sense given how obscure the movie is (this is apparently its first official home video release, on any format, ever). Instead, there's an audio essay that runs about 10 minutes, quickly covering the highlights of its participants' careers and offering some perspective on the film's merits and placement within the genre. It's nothing particularly essential, but worth a listen to get your money's worth, and I took extra enjoyment since the writer shares my opinion that the film is enjoyable without doing anything notable. It came out in 1975, so the sub-genre had already been well established (and if you include that year's Deep Red, gone through most of its most well known classics, in retrospect), but feels kind of underwhelming, so it kind of reminded me of those later '80s slashers like Iced and Berserker where they were just going through the expected motions for a sub-genre that was already losing its appeal. That said I still enjoyed it, perhaps because The Killer is One of Thirteen (the second film from the set that I watched) was kind of a snooze so it just looked good in comparison? Either way, I had a good time with this set and look forward to Volume 2, though all of them are definitely "for completists only" as opposed to must-see entries.

What say you?


Below (2002)

JULY 21, 2020


It never got properly released in the US, but Below has had a much longer shelf life than most Dimension movies, thanks to its stacked cast of character actors who you'll recognize (seriously, there's like, two guys in the movie I can't name) and unusual development process. The WWII submarine setting never changed, but it began life as Proteus, an "alien monster" movie that was to be directed by Darren Aronofsky (who co-wrote the script with Lucas Sussman), but eventually Aronofsky handed directorial duties to David Twohy, who rewrote the script to be a straight up psychological/ghost movie. Given the two filmmakers' careers, you'd think it would be the other way around, and the Pi guy had his psychological thriller turned into a monster movie by the Pitch Black guy, right?

Perhaps the lack of a monster (or any visually appealing antagonist at all; even the enemy sub that causes a lot of their problems is only glimpsed) is why Dimension buried the movie? It's very much unlike the rest of their fare, in that it appeals to adults and has nary a Creed song on the soundtrack, but I can see how it would be hard for them to sell people on seeing it since it's kind of a weird movie. It kicks off with our American heroes picking up a few survivors from a British ship (a nice inversion of the usual horror movie approach of having the protagonists board an unknown ship and get trapped there, i.e. Death Ship, Ghost Ship, Virus), after which odd things begin happening as they try to make their way out of dangerous territory. Could it be gh-gh-gh-ghosts?

Unfortunately it's one of those movies where something really big that kicks off the plot happens offscreen, which tips off astute viewers that there's a big twist coming, and while it's a pretty good one (spoiler for 18 year old movie ahead!!!), I wish Twohy and Aronofsky (who remained on as producer) didn't tease it out as long as they did. There's only about 20 minutes left by the time they tell us what we probably already knew, that our heroes were the ones who accidentally blew up that other boat in the first place (mistaking it for a German vessel), at a point where most of the characters had already perished thanks to an off-screen gas explosion. So it's basically a Tell-Tale Heart kind of deal, with the captain (Bruce Greenwood) and the other two guys who know the truth letting their guilt get the best of them, but instead of leaning into that they try to make it seem like it's the ghosts of the dead getting some kind of revenge.

So it leaves the movie in a weird kind of middle where it's not scary enough to be a good ghost movie because the "ghosts" are just figments of their guilty consciences, and not actual vengeful spirits that can cause major havoc. But by trying to get us to think it is, it reduces how much time we can spend knowing what several main characters already know and why they're acting the way they are (not to mention they know damn well there's no "evil Nazi ghost" or whatever), so whenever it feels like it's about to really escalate, it... well, it doesn't, because it can't, really. Everything needs to have a real world explanation, limiting what can happen, and even half of that stuff occurs off-screen. And several others - like a pretty solid mirror bit - occur with no one else present, keeping tension to a minimum as well.

Luckily, with so much of the horror stuff underplayed, the movie is (perhaps inadvertently) able to succeed as a standard submarine thriller; not exactly Crimson Tide level tense, but engaging all the same. There are some terrific set-pieces throughout, such as when an enemy ship drops depth charges all around and one possible dud bounces its way across the length of the sub's (submerged) deck, or when the ship's wheel gets stuck and ultimately shatters into pieces as they try to get back on course. You can't go wrong with a "we are running out of oxygen" ticking clock, and the looming threat of the enemy ship actually produces more stress than the ghost plot - the scene where they all have to be very quiet, only for a record player to go off and tell the enemy where they are, yields the movie's best scare.

And the cast! The biggest "before they were famous" type is Zach Galifianakis (who isn't exactly "funny" but stands out as a bit of a goofy dude), but Mindhunter's Holt McCallany, and a baby faced Andrew Howard also pop up, plus Dexter Fletcher in his pre-directorial days. And then you got the guys who were already established (Greenwood, Nick Chinlund, Jason Flemyng, Scott Foley, etc) and the always welcome Olivia Williams as the film's sole female character. Oh and the lead is Matthew Davis, who was one of those handsome but uninteresting guys they were trying to push on us at the time (Urban Legends: Final Cut represent!) before he found his true calling on TV. I wouldn't say his appearance is a perk of the movie, but it does offer a kind of time capsule-y kind of appeal for a bygone era when these kind of guys would get to star in big budget theatrical releases. All VOD now, gents, even before Covid-19 (and presumably after, if there is such a thing).

I've had the DVD forever but hadn't seen the movie since like 2003 or 2004, when it came to DVD. In my memory it was a little more Session 9-esque with regards to the "ghost" stuff, so I was kind of surprised to see how not only was the horror element kind of minimal, the movie might have even been better without it. The deleted scenes have two exciting sequences that Twohy (via optional commentary) says they cut because it was putting the movie into action movie territory (I believe he specifically mentions U-571), and I couldn't help but think that it might have been easier to go the other way and cut the low-key horror stuff and just make it a straight action/suspense film, with Davis and Williams working to try to get the crew on their side as Greenwood goes to greater lengths to protect his secret, as all of them are in danger. OR they could have just filmed the alien monster script. Either way, it's a movie that held my interest, but ultimately never really kicks into high gear. Probably why the blurb on the cover just says "Suspense and horror!" instead of anything more insightful.

What say you?


Blu-Ray Review: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

JULY 13, 2020


Troubling. When I got a press release about Kiss of the Vampire, I replied saying "I haven't seen this, I'd love to review!" and then I watched it when it arrived, formed my opinion, and got ready to write up my thoughts. Part of my prep for such a thing involves looking at the Wiki and IMDb pages for the film, and it was on the former that I saw a note about how it had been released in an eight-film Hammer Horror set. "I have that set and used it for HMAD!" I thought to myself, "Why did I skip it?" So I searched HMAD and, as you might have guessed by now, I *didn't* skip it - I watched and reviewed it in 2009. And at no point during this viewing in 2020 did I even get a slight sense of deja vu. Sigh.

The good news is, my opinion didn't change, so you can read that old review and spare me the trouble of writing it all out again. However, thanks to the new Scream Factory release, I have a little more context for some of its weaker points (if you're too lazy to click over, my overall feeling on the film is that it's "fine", basically), which warmed me to the film a bit. For example, it was originally designed to be a third Dracula film, following the Drac-less Brides of Dracula (which was also on that same set), but those elements were written out. When a movie starts off as one thing and is overhauled, it can never really get around the disconnect caused by the rewrite - it lost its reason to exist (i.e. make big sequel money) and thus is just kind of there, without any of that creative spark you'd normally find in an original.

I also had to laugh at my old note that the vampires don't really do all that much in the movie, because it's From Dusk Till Dawn-level violent in comparison to "Kiss of Evil", which was the television cut of the film. While removing the bloodshed isn't too surprising (though the movie was hardly gory to begin with, even by 1960's standards), the television version removed all violence and references to vampirism - even just shots of one of them baring fangs! - making the movie somewhat incoherent at times as we get people reacting to things that were completely excised. For example, one of the movie's cooler moments is when the hero is wounded in the climax, and he smears his own blood into a cross shape to ward off the vamps as he makes his escape. But the TV cut removed his quick thinking action, and all the vampires come off as human cult members or something, so the climax is now... the lot of them just simply letting him go for no apparent reason.

The censors removed so much of the footage that they had to shoot new scenes in order to get the film back up to a proper running time. But unlike the similar situation with Halloween (where the cast and crew were back together to shoot the sequel, so the new scenes, while still awkwardly placed, at least had some legitimacy), they didn't have the actors, sets, or (as far as anyone can tell) same people to create them, so they are not only clumsily shoehorned into the narrative, but ultimately serve no function. These scenes tell the story of a family living in town, whose of-age daughter is potentially falling under the spell of the film's villainous Ravna (the Dracula replacement), who the family is acquainted with because the mother is the one who makes the robes for all of his disciples*. To blend these scenes with the movie, they have one of the new actors look out their window and see, for example, the hero's carriage passing by, then comment on it while carrying out their own little stupid subplot, while never once interacting with any of the other characters.

Hilariously, these scenes manage to be even duller than the rest of the film, even in its violence-free form. The movie doesn't really start getting interesting until a (too-late) development where the vampires try to gaslight the hero into thinking that his wife (who they've inducted into their ranks) didn't exist and that he had arrived in town by himself, but none of this new footage involves that (if it were me I would have tied it in by saying that their home was where they hid all of the wife's belongings). So the new scenes just make you wait longer for the best part, before then cutting up the climax and making it incoherent. Oh well.

As usual, Scream Factory has put together some bonus features, including the ability to watch the new "Kiss of Evil" scenes on their own and a pair of brief tributes to the film's composer and production designer, respectively. And there are three commentaries, though they are confusingly split across the three different versions of the film that are available. The first is an old one with two of the actors (Edward De Souza and Jennifer Daniels), which is moderated by Peter Irving and is presumably from some laserdisc or DVD special edition, and it's fine - they're not as catty as some of their British peers so it's mostly complimentary about everyone, which gets a bit dull.

The other two tracks aren't listed in the "Extras" menu however, so you have to look for them. One is by Constantine Nasr and Steve Haberman, and it's only available on the 1.66:1 version of the film (which is 1.85:1 by default). Why, I don't know - there is no explanation for why the movie is presented in two aspect ratios, let alone why they couldn't just put the track on the default version. The 1.66 one also omits subtitles, which is annoying since sometimes they comment on a bit of dialogue that you can't hear OR read, though at this point I have given up hope SF will ever match most other companies and put subtitles on everything (hell, some of them even subtitle their commentaries! I don't ask for that much, but it's still nice). It's a good track though, especially the awkward parts where one will contradict the other (one guy will say "Polanski didn't mention this film specifically as an influence on Fearless Vampire Killers..." and the other will reply "Actually, in this one interview he did," heh. Fight!), plus they note the same thing that I did in my old review, which that the movie is curiously devoid of any of the big Hammer regulars. Nice to know I'm as observant as the licensed historians!

The other track is by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, and that one's only available if you opt to watch the complete "Kiss of Evil" version, which is basically presented as a curiosity (in fact, I only found it because I clicked it by accident - the track isn't even listed on the packaging) since you can watch the extra scenes on their own rather than sit through the film, now cropped to 1.33:1 and taken from an ugly standard def Sci-Fi Channel broadcast. It's a great track though; they explain the new footage for this and a few other Hammer films that had similar treatment, plus (as Nasr and Haberman did) go into the film's "Dracula 3" origins and some other trivia, as well as offer the usual biographical info. And, as I did in my old review, they also swoon about costar Jacquie Wallis, so I feel better about my 2009 thirst (when I was only a few years older than her!) when these much older dudes are panting about her in 2020. We don't do things like that anymore, gents!

All in all, if you're a fan of the film I think you can agree that it's a terrific package despite some bizarre decision making as to how it's all presented, where the best bonus features are buried in sub-menus in places you wouldn't think to look. I wouldn't say it's a top tier Hammer movie, even if just limited to their vampire films, but Don Sharp's direction is solid and the climax is worth most of the wait. When it hits 4K UHD in 2031 and I get a copy for review I'll do my best to remember I've seen it before.

What say you?

*Watch this version back to back with Us for a "We didn't care how they got their matching clothes!" double feature!


Scream Factory's FRIDAY THE 13th collection is coming!

FRIDAY THE 13th, 1980


In the thirteen (!) year history of HMAD there have been, I think, maybe three "news" type posts in lieu of reviews. I always had other outlets to write about such things, and I wanted to keep the site clean/pure, so apart from a few exceptions for friends, I never even considered it.

...but I also never considered Scream Factory would put together a mammoth boxed set of the Friday the 13th franchise, with new bonus features and even a few new transfers to boot. And even if I daydreamed about such a thing, I would assume I'd write about it on BMD, but... well... I can't, at least not right now. So I feel it's my duty to inform you fine people here, because if I can prevent even one (1) fan from missing out on this, it'll be worth it. There will only be 13,000 produced, so some folks will likely miss out - don't be one of them!

As expected, no uncut version of New Blood or whatever has been found, but I've long given up hope that it ever will and it's certainly no reason to be disappointed with what we're getting here. For starters, all of the films have their own discs, which is enough of a reason to pick this up over the last set in itself - if you yank JGTH out of your player in anger, it won't ruin Jason X along with it! Also, there are lots of new commentaries and interviews, plus two devoted bonus feature discs (one of which has a pair of related documentaries), so if you, like me, feed on the history of these movies, there's hours and hours of new stuff to look forward to this fall. And it comes in a nice sturdy box instead of a flimsy piece of aluminum that's blank on the side!

Read on for all the details and join me in drooling at the thought of that box on your shelf!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the original and groundbreaking 1980 film Friday the 13th, Scream Factory™, the fan-driven entertainment brand devoted to all things horror, has announced the Friday the 13th Collection (Deluxe Edition), to be released on Tuesday, October 13th, 2020. The 16-disc set is the definitive Blu-ray™ collection of one of the most influential horror franchises ever created and includes all 12 original films from Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema.

It also includes NEW and existing extras, a NEW collectible rigid slipcover with newly-commissioned art, a NEW 40-pg collectible essay booklet with archival still photography, and NEW 4K film transfers for Parts 1-4, with Part 3 in its original 3D presentation. Additionally, each film comes with a dedicated Blu-ray™ case featuring original theatrical artwork. A list of bonus features is below, with additional new extras to be announced at a later date.

The 12 films included in this must-own set are Friday the 13th (1980), Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993), Jason X (2001), Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and Friday the 13th (Remake) (2009).

Customers purchasing the Friday The 13th Collection (Deluxe Edition) on will receive an exclusive, limited edition 36" x 24" lithograph featuring new artwork from artist Devon Whitehead, and an exclusive, limited edition 24” x 36” Friday the 13th 40th Anniversary poster featuring new artwork from artist Joel Robinson, while supplies last.

The Friday the 13th Collection (Deluxe Edition) is limited to 13,000 pieces and is available for pre-order now.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) (2-Discs)

· NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative (theatrical cut and unrated cut)
· Audio Commentary by director Sean S. Cunningham, screenwriter Victor Miller and more (unrated cut)
· Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th
· The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham
· A Friday the 13th Reunion
· Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 1
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· TV Spots (New to the Set)
· U.S. Radio Spots (New to the Set)
· U.K. Radio Spot (New to the Set)
· U. S. Theatrical Trailer
· International Theatrical Trailer (New to the Set)


· NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
· Amy Steel podcast interview
· Inside Crystal Lake Memories: The Book
· Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions
· Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 2
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· Radio Spots (New to the Set)
· TV Spots (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer


· NEW 4K scan from the original film elements
· In 2D and a new 3D version
· Audio Commentary with actors Larry Zerner, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker and Dana Kimmell
· Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror
· Legacy of the Mask
· Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular
· Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 3
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· TV Spots (New to the Set)
· Radio Spots (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer


· NEW 4K scan from the original camera negative
· Audio Commentary by director Joe Zito, screenwriter Barney Cohen and editor Joel Goodman
· Audio Commentary by fans/filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch
· Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 4
· Slashed Scenes with audio commentary by director Joseph Zito
· Jason's Unlucky Day: 25 Years After Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
· The Lost Ending
· The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part I
· Jimmy's Dead Dance Moves
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· TV Spot (New to the Set)
· Radio Spots (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer


· NEW Audio Commentary with Melanie Kinnaman, Deborah Voorhees and Tiffany Helm
· Audio Commentary by director/co-screenwriter Danny Steinmann, actors John Shepherd and Shavar Ross
· Audio Commentary by fans/filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch (New to the Set)
· Lost Tales of Camp Blood – Part 5
· The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part II
· New Beginnings: The Making of Friday the 13th Part V
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· TV Spots (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer


· NEW Audio Commentary with Thom Mathews, Vinny Gustaferro, Kerry Noonan, Cynthia Kania and CJ Graham
· Audio Commentary with writer/director Tom McLoughlin
· Audio Commentary With writer/director Tom McLoughlin, actor Vincent Guastaferro and editor Bruce Green
· Audio Commentary by fans/filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch (New to the Set)
· Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 6
· The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part III
· Jason Lives: The Making of Friday the 13th: Part VI
· Meeting Mr. Voorhees
· Slashed Scenes
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to the Set)
· TV Spots (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer


· Audio Commentary with director John Carl Buechler and actor Kane Hodder
· Audio Commentary with director John Carl Buechler and actors Lar Park Lincoln and Kane Hodder
· Jason's Destroyer: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VII
· Mind Over Matter: The Truth About Telekinesis
· Makeover by Maddy: Need A Little Touch-Up Work, My A**
· Slashed Scenes with introduction
· Vintage Fangoria Magazine Article (BD Rom – New to Set)
· Theatrical Trailer
· TV Spot (New to Set)


· Audio Commentary with director Rob Hedden
· Audio Commentary with actors Scott Reeves, Jensen Daggett and Kane Hodder
· New York Has A New Problem: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan
· Slashed Scenes
· Gag Reel
· Theatrical Trailer
· TV Spots (New to Set)


· NEW 2K scan of the original film elements (Theatrical Version)
· NEW 2K scan of the original film elements with HD inserts (Unrated Version)
· NEW interviews with Sean Cunningham, Noel Cunningham, Adam Marcus, Kane Hodder
· NEW Audio Commentary with Adam Marcus and author Peter Bracke
· Audio Commentary with director Adam Marcus and screenwriter Dean Lorey
· Additional TV footage with NEW optional Audio Commentary with director Adam Marcus and author Peter Bracke
· Electronic Press Kit (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer
· TV Spots (New to the Set)


· NEW audio commentary with Kane Hodder, writer Todd Farmer and Peter Bracke
· NEW interviews with Sean Cunningham, Noel Cunningham, Kane Hodder, Kristi Angus and Todd Farmer
· Audio Commentary with director Jim Isaac, writer Todd Farmer and producer Noel Cunningham
· The Many Lives of Jason Voorhees – a documentary on the history of Jason
· By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Jason X - Making-of/production documentary
· Electronic Press Kit (New to the Set)
· Theatrical Trailer
· TV Spot (New to the Set)


· Audio Commentary by director Ronny Yu, actors Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger
· 21 Deleted/Alternate Scenes, Including the Original Opening and Ending with optional commentary by director Ronny Yu and executive producer Douglas Curtis
· Behind-the-Scenes Coverage of the Film's Development - including Screenwriting, Set Design, Makeup, Stunts and Principal Photography
· Visual Effects Exploration
· My Summer Vacation: A Visit to Camp Hackenslash
· Pre-fight press conference at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas
· Original Theatrical Trailer
· TV Spots
· Music Video: Ill Nino "How Can I Live"

FRIDAY THE 13th (2009)

· Includes the Theatrical Cut and the Special Extended Version
· Hacking Back/Slashing Forward - remembering the groundbreaking original movie
· Terror Trivia Track with Picture-In-Picture with comments from the cast and crew
· The Rebirth of Jason Voorhees – a look at the making of
· Additional Slashed Scenes
· The Best 7 Kills


· NEW interview with composer Harry Manfredini
· NEW location featurette on Parts 1 & 2
· The Friday the 13th Chronicles – an 8-part featurette
· Secrets Galore Behind the Gore – a 3-part featurette
· Crystal Lake Victims Tell All!
· Tales from the Cutting Room Floor
· FRIDAY THE 13th artifacts and Collectibles
· Jason Forever – Q & A with Ari Lehman, Warrington Gillette, C.J. Graham and Kane Hodder
· And more to come…


· Scream Queens: Horror Heroines Exposed (2014) – including interviews with Adrienne King and Melanie Kinnaman (78 minutes)
· Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever (2013) – including interviews with Corey Feldman and John Carl Buechler (75 minutes)Trailer Reel – all 12 trailers in a row
· Friday the 13th (2009) TV Spots
· Friday the 13th (2009) Electronic Press Kit
· And more to come…


Relic (2020)

JULY 8, 2020


Heads up: this isn't so much of a review of Relic as it is a "Collins Crypt" type piece on going to the drive-in - I just want to get that out of the way right off the bat.

Because of Covid-19's continued decimation of our daily life, movie theaters continue to be closed, and even the slightest hint of "we might reopen soon!" is met with near universal derision by even the biggest moviegoing champions (i.e. people like me). I have indirectly lost my BMD job thanks to theaters being closed (we were owned by Alamo Drafthouse - it was healthy ticket and concession sales at their theaters that allowed side efforts like BMD to continue) and even I have no real desire to return to the cinema until a vaccine is available. It's literally affected my livelihood and I say wait - what's your excuse, Christopher Nolan fans? Now,dDo I miss going? Of course I do; I consider the lack of being able to go to a movie a big part of why my mental health is increasingly troubled. But I'll take mood swings and staring at a wall over my lungs deteriorating because I caught a deadly disease at a matinee of Halloween Kills.

The solution, sort of, has been drive-in movie theaters, a nearly dead form that is now thriving again. The few that existed are having huge numbers, and places like Wal-mart are turning their parking lots into temporary versions. On paper, it is indeed a perfect consolation prize - you're "sort of" outdoors, and you're "sort of" with a crowd, but you don't really come into contact with anyone beyond the box office clerk (or the snack bar person if you dare; I bring my own food), making it safer than even your trip to the grocery store. And for folks like me, it's the only real way to watch a movie uninterrupted by the other people in the house - by the time my son goes to bed, I'm often too tired to make it through an entire movie (despite being stuck in my house 95% of the time, I'm not able to watch more movies than I did prior to quarantine, because the work/daycare schedule hasn't changed).

However, the drive-ins I've been to - and reports from people going to others - is that the actual experience of watching a movie at one is less than ideal. For starters, as we've learned from the endless supply of recent "Karen" videos, a lot of of people are selfish and/or morons. If I can go a full 15 minutes without someone's headlights glaring off the screen, I consider it a minor victory, and that's just the ones that can be controlled. Last night's presentation of Relic was interrupted by a train going by, its giant light bouncing off the screen the entire time - that's a relatively minor but not unimportant chunk of the film that I couldn't really see, nor could I focus on because I was too frustrated by the interruption. Add in the other sounds and lights from the nearby area (I picked a good spot, then a car in front of me moved, probably to avoid the same harsh light from a garage next door that was now in *my* eyes instead) and you might join me in wondering how it is this was any better than being interrupted by my kid asking to watch Youtube videos instead.

I also began wondering how it is that horror films became such a staple of drive-ins, when they are often filled with dark images and well made sound mixes, neither of which can be properly presented in this environment. Perhaps with a really terrific sound system in your car it can sound OK (Halloween and its first sequel sounded just fine to me last fall when I went for a special presentation), but it's still an FM broadcast - not exactly powerful in the best circumstances. And even if everyone can manage to leave their headlights off, the projection in these places tends to be a bit washed out, since there's nothing to block the light of the environment itself - even the goddamn moon is working against you in this situation.

Let's use Relic as an example! (Ironically, when I said I was seeing Relic people thought I meant the '90s monster movie THE Relic, which was notoriously too dark.) Most of the movie takes place inside a decaying, dimly lit house, so even daytime set scenes are hardly bursting with light, but while this would be fine on a normal (well calibrated) TV it meant that on a drive-in screen the nighttime scenes were often impossible to make anything out. There's an apparent scare in an "under the bed" moment, but damned if I could see whatever spooked Emily Mortimer's character. Also, her mother, suffering from some kind of dementia, leaves notes around the house to help her out, and they were often considered important enough to warrant a closeup insert shot so we could see what they said, but out of around ten such notes I could only read one ("Flush", on a toilet) throughout the film. Even if I bottled the most ideal second of my viewing experience to stretch it out for the film's 90 minute runtime (that is, no trains, no headlights, no morons next to me constantly restarting/shutting off their car), I'd still have trouble simply SEEING some of the film's images.

And as you might expect given the "all in a house" description I just offered, it's not exactly an action packed movie. The plot is simple enough: a woman (Mortimer) and her daughter (Bella Heathcoate) head to the former's mother's house, as they haven't heard from her in a while. The house is in shambles and the older woman (Robyn Nevin) is gone, only to return a couple days later with no memory of where she was. The two stay with her for a few days while they try to find a place for her, but her dementia starts to take scary turns - is she even really their "Nan" anymore? The three actors are terrific, and carry the entire film as there are no other major characters (a neighbor boy has the next most amount of screentime after them, and it totals about 75 seconds, if that), so it's not about a body count or whatever - the focus is entirely on what is happening to the woman and if she poses a threat to her daughter and granddaughter.

In other words it can/will be described as a "slow burn" type of film - which is the sort of thing that might even lose some of its impact in a normal theater, let alone a drive-in. Some movies just work better at home, and this is most certainly one of them, making it a peculiar choice for IFC Midnight to put on drive-in screens ahead of its VOD release this week. I enjoyed it, sure, but the early reviews from a festival described it as a movie that left some audience members completely devastated by its closing moments, and while I can see why they'd feel that way, I never even came close to getting worked up about it. And I'm an easy mark for this sort of thing (potential loss of a parent), especially this time of the year as the anniversary of my father's death is just two weeks away. At home, I'm sure I'd be crying or at least emotional - but it was truly impossible to get that invested given the venue.

So I think from now on I will reserve my drive-in experiences for movies I've already seen, where my own memories can fill in what I might be missing due to this or that distraction (I had a great time at a Jaws/Tremors double feature the previous week) or at least for movies I don't really care about and just need an excuse to (safely!) get out of the house for a while. That Dave Bautista movie where he teams up with a little girl, for example - if I'm ever bored enough to drive an hour to see that, I'm sure I won't care much about the occasional (but sadly guaranteed) interruptions. The nostalgic factor is a blast - the pre-show entertainment they put together last night, with vintage trailers and concession bumpers, put a big smile on my face - but for a well regarded "elevated" horror film like this, that I was really looking forward to? I'll do my best to wait until my son goes to sleep, I think.

What say you?

P.S. If you're heading to the drive-in, I highly encourage bringing a portable FM radio! Every night I've seen people in need of a jump when the movie ended as their car stereo drained their battery.


Trauma (1978)

JULY 1, 2020


If I tell someone I watched Trauma, they're going to think I mean the Argento film, but THIS Trauma is directed by León Klimovsky (who gifted us with The Vampires' Night Orgy) and came out fifteen years earlier. So technically Argento's should be the one that needs clarification, but as this one is included on a Vinegar Syndrome collection literally titled "Forgotten Gialli"* I guess it's fair that you'd automatically first think of his 1993 effort upon hearing the shared title. Luckily, beyond a Psycho reference (well, more of a full blown lift in this one) the two don't share anything else of note in common, and we can simply enjoy the coincidence and perhaps even watch them back to back someday, as they're very different beasts.

Also, no babies get beheaded in this one, so it gets the advantage in that department. Here, a writer does that thing that all movie writers do: goes off to an isolated place to write and ends up in a horror film. He takes a room at a very hazily defined inn run by a woman and her invalid husband, but while the woman seems to enjoy his company and even hits on him a few times, she gets annoyed at two couples who show up to provide the body count. Specifically, she seems alarmed that they are not married couples (one of them is a prostitute, in fact), so their inevitable deaths seem to be the result of a Jason Voorhees-esque hatred for pre/extra marital sex, assuming she is indeed the killer, that is. Could it be our writer, who is clearly sexually repressed himself (and perhaps even gay)?

Well (spoilers)... I actually don't know. The ending of the film finds the woman, totally crazed, swinging a razor around, but after she is sent to jail we see the writer - wearing the black gloves! - hiding a razor with a smirk on his face, suggesting he more or less framed her for the deaths using her mental illness as a cover. It would certainly explain the obviously male forearms we see on the otherwise off-screen killer, but there's also a scene where he finds the buried car of one of the now-dead couples, so if he was the one who murdered them in the first place (and then hid their car to use the "they left" cover story) why was he surprised to find it? I mean, I wouldn't trade anything to lose his hilarious little smirk (and the subsequent knowing nod from a neighborhood kid who seems to have been watching all of the film's events from the sidelines), but it's rare to see a whodunit where I can't actually answer the question of who done it.

Don't get me wrong - this in no way took away from my enjoyment of the film, as I had a blast. It's been quite a while since I've seen a new giallo (over a year, in fact! Unless I just didn't bother to review one I saw between) so such lapses were very easy to forgive, as I was just so happy to be seeing something new in this style again. Plus it was a Spanish giallo (Amagiallo?), which I tend to enjoy more for whatever reason - perhaps because they're less convoluted, at least in my experience? I mean this was a straight up Psycho riff (it's so obvious that the "invalid" husband that we never see is dead, I almost expected a reverse twist where it turns out he is actually alive), without police investigations and inheritance/jewel robbery kinda stuff cluttering the narrative, so it's easy to just enjoy the simple pleasures (i.e. sex, weird diversions, and of course, black gloved murder scenes).

The movie also had something I don't think I've ever seen before, and I swear I applauded even though I was at home watching it alone (if I was at the New Bev or something, I would have led a standing ovation). One of the couples is about to start having sex when the killer enters their room, slowly approaching (via POV) as if to kill them both in the throes of passion, Bay of Blood style. However, the killer opts to back off instead and let them have their fun! He/she kills them the next morning! I absolutely love this, even if it makes no sense given that an aversion to sex seems to be the motive regardless of which one was the actual killer.

The commentary doesn't help answer that question, as no one from the movie is on board to discuss it (Klimovsky passed away in 1996). Instead we get Troy Howarth, who literally wrote the book (three of them, in fact) on these movies and is always fun to listen to. He spends a bit too much time on a few ultimately uninmportant details (such as an alternate title for the film that IMDb lists as a different film entirely), but he's got lots of insight on where the sub-genre was at the time (his research suggests there were only five other giallo films that year) and the careers of its participants. However he seems to think there's no question who the killer is, whereas I saw it as a question mark (leaning toward the other person being the true culprit, if anything), and he knows more than me on these things, so maybe I just missed something. Luckily, the film is one I wouldn't mind watching again anyway, so if I did miss a specific clue I will enjoy finding it the next time around! But I'll watch the other two films on the set first, of course.

What say you?

*Specifically, Forgotten Gialli Volume 1! Well then, BRING ON VOLUME 2 AND THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!


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