Posts tagged with "Blu-Ray review"

Slither Collector’s Editon: BLu-Ray Review

By
Frank Ford

Slither crawled its way onto a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray today from Shout! Factory with an abundance of bonus content, new art work, and slipcover.

It’s strange, now twelve years after its theatrical run, to see Slither getting some well-deserved love it was owed upon its initial releasing. But back in 2006, when Slither came to the big screen, it was a dismal release at the box office pulling in just over seven million dollars, only making back half of its fifteen million dollar budget. Though critics were nice to the film, as it was the best reviewed horror movie of 2006, this still wasn’t enough to make Slither a massive hit.

Penned by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2,) as a side project to sell while he was working to get his first directorial effort (Super) off the ground, Slither follows the story of a small town that is overcome by and alien lifeform, turning the residents into zombie-like hosts, and other mutated creatures.

Why this movie was not a hit back in 2006 is beyond any sci-fi/horror fan’s knowledge. It has just about everything a sci-fi/horror lover could want in a film. Good, likeable and unlikable characters. Gore. Comedy. A good story. Exciting, nail-biting sequences of action and tension. And even a few well-timed jump scares that really slither up your spine with frightful delight. And let’s not forget all of the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the film that call back to sci-fi/horror’s past – some of them you have to really listen or look for, others are in full view – R.J. MacReady’s Store comes to mind; R.J. MacReady is Kurt Russell’s character from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1981).

Thankfully Shout! Factory rescued this movie from falling into total obscurity and released it out in a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray.

Though the additions to the Collector’s Edition are only three NEW features, (the rest are pulled from the old DVD release of the film) they are well done and exciting to watch.

The NEW interview with director James Gunn is entertaining and listening to his insight into how the film came about, what it was like to shoot the picture, writing, distribution, and ultimately the response of the film when it originally opened and how it’s changed over the years is a treat to anyone who really loves this film.
The second NEW interview is with Gregg Henry. The interview is slightly shorter, but well worth checking out and hearing his stories and time on the film.

But I think the highlight of the NEW bonus edition to the Collector’s Edition of Slither is the NEW commentary track with Actors Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Director James Gunn. This may be one of the funniest commentary’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening too; not only do these guys go into details on the making of the film, but one can tell they are three very good friends who love to get together and have a good time while talking about the movie, and while slinging shit at one another for fun – especially James Gunn to poor Michael Rooker. You can’t help but listen to this commentary and not laugh with them, smile as they are telling stories, and be truly invested (and enthralled) as they come along with us for the duration of the movie.

Check out the GAG REEL (also on the DVD) – you won’t stop laughing.

The updated picture to Blu-Ray looks fantastic in 1080p (much better than the old DVD transfer) and it was surprising to see, even with better picture quality, that most of the CGI effects still hold up very well today, as do all the practical effects - naturally.

The slipcover artwork really captures the feel of the film, while at the same time hankering back to the 1980s monster movies and the wonderful VHS artwork.

The Blu-Ray jacket sleeve is reversible, with the new artwork on one side and the original artwork on the other.

Slither is a worthy addition to Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Line and one any fan of this film needs to pick up right away. And even if you already own Slither on DVD, I highly recommend picking it up on Blu-Ray as the picture and sound are far superior.

Bonus Features
• NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director James Gunn And Actors Nathan Fillion And Michael Rooker
• NEW The Genesis Of SLITHER – An Interview With Writer/Director James Gunn
• NEW The Other MacReady – An Interview With Actor Gregg Henry
• Audio Commentary With James Gunn And Nathan Fillion (From 2006)
• Deleted And Extended Scenes With Optional Commentary By James Gunn
• Visual Effects: Step By Step
• Slithery Set Tour With Actor Nathan Fillion
• The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of SLITHER
• Brewing The Blood – How To Make Blood
• Bringing SLITHER's Creatures To Life
• Lloyd Kaufman's Video Diary
• Gag Reel
• Who Is Bill Pardy? Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer

10 out of 10 Stars.

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Psycho Cop Returns on Blu-Ray – Review

By

Frank Ford

This month marks the return of Psycho Cop 2 on Blu-Ray Special Edition from Vinegar Syndrome in a fully uncut, newly restored 2K scan from 35mm vault prints.

Before I get into the restored releasing from Vinegar Syndrome, l want to take a moment and explain a little about Psycho Cop (the first film) and Psycho Cop Returns (or Psycho Cop 2 as it was labiled on VHS).

Psycho Cop (the first film) was released to home video on November 28th 1989 from South Gate Entertainment. The film was directed by Wallace Potts from his script. The plot is simple: Officer Joe Vickers (Robert R. Shafer, who goes by the name Bobby Ray Shafer for both Psycho Cop movies) is a devil worshiping serial killer who targets his victims by the laws they break – or what he considers breaking the law. After six college students, on a getaway trip to a remote house in the woods provoke him, Vickers follows them and kills them one-by-one.

To say the first film is good would be giving it a lot of undeserved praise; it’s slow and boring, the production looks cheap, and the direction and cinematography are absent with flat, bland shots that lack any artistic skill behind the camera. The kills in the movie are mostly bloodless, unlike Psycho Cop Returns, and there isn’t a stich of nudity, also unlike Psycho Cop returns. The characters are your normal trope of college kids found in almost all 1980s horror flicks, and Psycho Cop follows the rules Halloween, or more-so, Friday the 13th, set up in films before it, but here they seem to be somehow dumber than any characters in slasher film history. The acting (with exception to Shafer) is horrendous and truly laughable at how bad some lines are delivered.

Psycho Cop came out a year after another slasher cop was covering the screen in crimson – Matt Cordell from Maniac Cop. Psycho Cop was a lower budgeted rip-off of Maniac Cop, without William Lustic’s masterful direction or Larry Cohan’s writing skills. And boy, it shows.

But that’s not to say Psycho Cop isn’t without its charm and appeal. It came out in a time when home video was in high demand, and production companies were producing low budget horror movies by the truckloads to get on to rental shelves. Looking back on the film now, Psycho Cop looks like a time capsule trapped in the late 1980s when these types of B horror movies littered every mom and pop video store shelf. With that, comes fond memories of a time long past, when Friday Nights were spent scouring the video store shelves looking for a new horror movie. How can that alone not bring an otherwise bad movie up several notches on anyone’s belt?

But there is another shining star hidden in Psycho Cop, that being Officer Joe Vickers and Shafer’s crazy, yet menacing performance as the devil worshiping serial killer cop. Shafer plays Vickers just over the top enough that he comes off truly scary, crazy, and funny all at the same time. Shafer is the saving grace of the first film, and unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees (or even Matt Cordell), Vickers actually speaks and has several puns (‘Sarah, now stop this, you’re obstructing justice’; ‘You have the right to remain…dead’).

If you have not seen the first film its okay, you don’t need to to watch Psycho Cop Returns as they are not connected, except for Vickers. Finding a copy of Psycho Cop can be hard; it has never been upgraded to DVD or Blu-Ray, so the only way to get the film is on VHS and they do pop up on eBay every so often.

Four years later in 1993 we would see the return of the Psycho Cop. This time direction was turned over to Adam Rifkin (under the name Riff Coogan- which he also directed The Invisible Maniac under). Rifkin is known for such films as The Chase and Detroit Rock City.

Adam Rifkin used the name Rif Coogan so he could also direct grindhouse/schlock films. Rifkin has a great love for all types of films, including horror and grindhouse style movies. So he created the name Rif Coogan to direct these types of movies, and it would allow him to keep the Adam Rifkin filmography separated from the Rif Coogan films, much like writers such as Stephen King did when he was writing as Richard Bachman or Nora Roberts does as J.D. Robb.

From the start of Psycho Cop Returns, from the opening shot, you can tell that it is a much better film than the first, with people behind the camera (and in front) that know what they are doing. When the film needs to be suspenseful or scary, it is. When it needs to be funny, it is. Because of Adam Rifkin’s skill behind the camera he delivered a movie that is suspenseful, scary, sleazy, and really funny at times and that’s not an easy task to take on for any director but Rifkin pulled it off seamlessly.

Shafer returns to play Vickers and is in top form in this movie. Everything you liked about him in the first film is taken up and played to the max. He’s a real treat to watch.

This time around, Vickers targets a group of yuppies who are throwing their buddy a bachelor party at the office where they work – for some unknown reason; I guess they couldn’t find a house to have this party in?

Unlike the first film, which at times takes itself too serious and tries to be scary, Psycho Cop Returns plants its tongue firmly in cheek and goes for this whacky grindhouse style of filmmaking that really doesn’t exist anymore. The comedy is ramped up, the kills are bloodier and gorier, Vickers’ sadistic puns are everywhere, and naked girls (including Julie Strain) are abound and showing off the goods – everything a home video release in the 1990s needed to be successful.

The movie was shot in about a week. But with Rifkin’s skilled direction you wouldn’t know that. Most shots look good and the angles were well chosen and appear that they were thought out long beforehand. But Rifkin has said that he shot most of the film on the fly and it taught him how to be looser with the way he films a scene for future movies.

The film was released on home video on July 27th 1994 in the US.

But when the videos went out, the film had been edited down unbeknownst to anyone associated with the film, including Rifkin. Most of the gore and violence and the sex and the nudity in the film had all been edited out. And were not talking about small snip-its of the film to secure an R rating (no one knows why these cuts were made or who did them for that matter) but cuts to the film that were so bad it leaves huge holes in the plot or scenes that just awkwardly cut to another scene, never showing any of the violence, blood, gore, sex and nudity in the film.

Viewers of the film instantly knew that major cuts had been made. Because of this, Psycho Cop 2 took on this mysterious vibe, leaving viewers wondering for years what had been cut from the film and when they could finally see it restored in a fully uncut edition.

Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, that came to fruition this year with their release of Psycho Cop Returns in its fully uncut edition. All the violence, gore, sex and nudity was put back into the film and finally we get a movie that makes sense, unlike its home video predecessor.

The newly scanned 2K restoration from 35mm vault elements looks spectacular! Vinegar Syndrome cleaned up the print just enough that the picture and colors pop off the screen, but don’t diminish the grain of the 35mm film too much – one still gets the feeling that they are watching a grindhouse/home video movie on Blu-Ray format.

There is a forty-three minuet documentary called “Habeas Corpus” on the making of Psycho Cop Returns that is a must watch for fans of the film and to gather a little more insight into its creation, featuring new interviews with: Adam Rifkin, Robert R. Shafer, Dan Povenmire (screenwriter), Pert Schink (editor), Miles Douglas (co-star), Rod Sweitzer (co-star) Nick Vallelonga (co-star), Barbara Niven (co-star) and Melanie Good (co-star). The only downside to the documentary is that Julie Strain was missing from the interviews, and it would have been nice to hear what she had to say about the film.

“The Victims of Vickers” is the second documentary on the film with interviews by SFX Artist Mike Tristano. The segment is much shorter, but still very well done and goes in to great detail about the effects in the film and how some of them came to be, as well as the strange cuts that were made to the home video release.

The commentary track with Adam Rifkin and Vinegar Syndrome’s very own, Elijah Drenner, is well done and fun to listen to. Rifkin explains how he got started on the project, how the casting was done, the effects, the strange cuts to the home video version of the film, and a life-altering story that you’re only going to hear on the commentary track– so listen to it!

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo is Region Free (AWESOME!).

There is reversible cover artwork – but we did not get that with our copy. Not a big deal though.

Vinegar Syndrome really went above and beyond to produce this for us collectors. And I have to thank them for doing so. Finally we got to see Psycho Cop Returns as it was intended, not the watered-down version that was released on home video so long ago.

Companies like Vinegar Syndrome are keeping physical media alive for us collectors. We need more films like Psycho Cop Returns to be saved from obscurity, and places like Vinegar Syndrome to restore them for future generations to enjoy – so buy physical media and support them and other restoration companies like Vinegar Syndrome. It’s you, the consumer, who can and will keep physical media alive. Do your part!

Well done Vinegar Syndrome. Well done.

10 out of 10 stars.

you can order a copy here: http://www.mcssl.com/store/18046487/psycho-cop-returns-blu-raydvd-combo

Blu-Ray REVIEW: Wes Craven’s ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’

By

Frank Ford

Wes Craven’s ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ Blu-Ray Special Edition from Shout! Factory released this week.  As thrilling as it is to have one of the ‘master of horrors’ greatest cinematic achievements on a Special Edition Blu-Ray, I was left a little wanting on this release.

Note: this is a review of the Blu-Ray Special Edition disc only; not a review on the film.

serpenty

Serpent

Shout announced late last year that they were planning on putting out a Special Edition to ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’, to be released in late January – that date was pushed back until late February. This marked the second Wes Craven film to be released on Blu-Ray Special Edition since his passing last August.  The first was ‘Shocker’, released merely days after his death.  Serpent’s releasing on Blu-Ray completes the trilogy of films he did for Universal starting with ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ (1988), followed by ‘Shocker’ (1989) and finally ‘The People Under the Stairs’ (1990).  I thought the date had been pushed back to punch-up the extras on the Blu-Ray, or to pay respect to Wes Craven with an outstanding Blu-Ray that would leave fans drooling honoring the late director.  On paper (or computer screen) the extras looked fantastic, but in reality…meh.

serpent1

My biggest gripe is the commentary track with Bill Pullman and Rob Galluzzo (Icons of Fright) who moderates the film with him.  Don’t get me wrong, the commentary is good between the two of them and they have a very good rapport, but the commentary abruptly ends because Pullman has to leave in the middle of the film do to other obligations.

Okay, Bill Pullman couldn’t stay to finish the film’s commentary track – not his fault and not a problem in my opinion, I get that work comes first, as well as commitments  – but that leaves us with only half of the film with a commentary track now.   Why didn’t the track continue with just Rob Galluzzo? Or get someone else to talk about the film along with Galluzzo and Pullman, so when Bill left there would still be a completed commentary track to finish out the film?  Maybe Shout! had reached out to other people who were connected to the film for commentary but were unable to get them? I don’t know.

Shocker

The extras are very sparse on the Blu-Ray too:

A new making of featurette that includes interviews with: Author: Wade Davis, D.O.P: John Lindley, and Special Effects Artists: Lance and David Anderson.  A Theatrical Trailer. And a still gallery, which is quite good.

serpeant-and-the-rainbow-2-craven-official

The making of featurette says that it contains new interviews with Bill Pullman.  This is true, yet untrue, as what he says in the featurette is pulled directly from his commentary track (questions asked by Galluzzo on the track) and laid into the video featurette.  Still, the featurette is decent with the participants reminiscing about Wes Craven and what a pleasure he was to work with, as well as the history of Wade Davis’ book of the same name, voodoo ceremonies they attended, the special effects of the film, and shooting on location in Haiti.

People

Yet, one of the biggest problems is the lack of Wes Craven’s commentary on the film or interviewed in the featurette.  I do believe if his insight would have been on one or both, my opinion would be vastly different about this releasing.  Craven had done commentary to almost all of his films, and if you have ever listened to his commentary tracks, you already know they are some of the best tracks to listen to.  Craven was both funny and incisive, and you couldn’t help but be enthralled by listening to him talk about the making of his films.

But I have to send compliments to Shout! Factory for dedicating the Blu-Ray releasing in memory of Wes Craven.  That shows a lot of class from Shout! Factory and the impact the filmmaker had on so many people in the business of movie making and distributing, and to his fans around the world.  This small gesture has a huge impact when you see it on screen, and it brings tears to your eyes knowing the master is gone…

wes-craven-the-serpent-and-the-rainbow

wes-craven

As for the Blu-Ray 1080p transfer, Shout! Factory did a fantastic job restoring the film as they always do.  The colors are bright and vibrant and the darks are desolate and moody, which really enhances the whole voodoo madness feel of the film.  The sound in DTS is perfect and really puts you in the middle of the movie. I especially took notice to this when Pullman’s character, Dennis Alan, is being dug up from the grave after he’s been zombified; felt like someone was digging me out of a grave too, putting me right there with his character.

SerpentRainbow11

I know it sounds like I’m bashing this releasing, but really I’m not.  I’m glad that Shout! Factory put Serpent out on Blu-Ray Special Edition, especially since ‘The People Under the Stairs’ and ‘Shocker’ both got fantastic Shout! treatments – a great trilogy (unofficial) to have of Wes Craven’s films.  But this releasing just left me wanting more and a little bummed that we didn’t get what we should have.  For a film like ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ and the recent passing of a horror icon, Shout! should have put more effort into this disc.  Much lesser films, with a less notable director and stars, have gotten better Blu-Ray releases than ‘The Serpent and The Rainbow’ has.

Serpent

7 out of 10 stars.