Danielle Harris steps behind the camera this time around for what is being touted
as her feature film directorial debut. AMONG
FRIENDS (2012) is a thriller for genre fans that goes by the clever tagline "This dinner party's gonna to be killer".The Internet Movie Database lists MADISON, a vignette that appears in a 2008
feature called PRANKS which includes two other short films each directed by actresses
Ellie Cornell (HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS & HALLOWEEN 5: THE
REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS) and Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
& A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART III: THE DREAM WARRIORS), as Ms. Harris's
first professional directing job.To
date, PRANKS has not seen the light of day as a DVD release, which is curious
given the talent involved in its creation.Hopefully a DVD release is somewhere on the horizon.NOTE: PRANKS is not to be confused with the
alternate title of 1982's THE
DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.
FRIENDS tells the story of Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit) who is hosting a murder
mystery party. She has invited Marcus (Christopher Backus), Melanie (Jennifer
Blanc), Adam (AJ Bowen), Jules (Brianna Davis), Sara (Kamala Jones), and Blane
(Chris Meyer) to her house for what promises to be a fun night playing out a game
and trying to guess who the killer is.
of the participants are done up in 80s retro hairstyles: Melanie sports big
hair, Adam dons a mullet, and Jules looks like she fell out of a video by A Flock
of Seagulls.A limo driver (Kane Hodder)
escorts the gang to Bernadette's house. As each one of them exits the limo, he
comments on them individually with an improvised litany of comical insults that
elicit both smirks and laughs.
inside, the group gathers in Bernadette's kitchen for some friendly small talk.They are instructed to look for clues
throughout the house and as they do we become aware of some less-than-stellar personality
traits, such as Adam's grapple with cocaine despite trying to be sober for two
is instructed to sit at the table and dine prior to the game, however almost
simultaneously they all become numb below the waist and unable to walk.Terrified, they all demand an
explanation.Bernadette, the sole person
unaffected, has spiked their drinks and has something macabre in store for them.Tying everybody up to their chairs with duct
tape, Bernadette turns on everybody and accuses all of them of egregious
behavior.To prove it, she directs their
attention to a large-screen television with footage of most of them that was
surreptitiously recorded months earlier. Adams's out-and-out rape of their
friend Lily, and Sarah and Jules getting it on while Marcus pleasures himself
from afar are just a few of the things that turn Bernadette's stomach to the
point that she administers punishment by cutting off one of the women's hair -
along with her scalp.Given that Adam
committed rape, you can only imagine what his punishment entails.
introduces ground rules which inevitably lead to a subsequent humiliation and
torture of all held hostage at the dinner table. There is a twist at the end of
all this, and seasoned genre fans will see it coming from a mile away, however this
should not dissuade fans as Ms. Harris proves herself a capable director.
basic plot of AMONG FRIENDS calls to mind David Slade's HARD CANDY (2005) in
which a man is lured by a young woman under the pretense of sex, only to be put
through the ringer when she spikes his drink and calls him out for preying on
underage girls and proceeds to make his life a living hell.In Ms. Harris's film, a lone woman (a doctor
with access to medication, no less) turns the table (in this case, the dinner
table) against her friends who disgust her.Alyssa Lobit is a striking actress and she imbues Bernadette with a
sinister slant that would make John Doe of David Fincher's SE7EN (1995)
smile.The rest of the cast is also very
good, and you have to be in you're going to spend ten shooting days strapped to
a chair for hours upon hours.
Harris makes a cameo appearance in her trademark clown outfit from HALLOWEEN 4
in a sequence when the drugged out Jules is hallucinating that she's in a
movie.Michael Biehn also adds to the
madness in this sequence.
film also offers visual references to Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (1980) and Adrian
Lyne's FATAL ATTRACTION (1987).
DVD comes with a commentary that consists of director Harris and actor Bowden
and actress Blanc.Their disposition is cheerful
and fun to listen to.Ms. Harris is
always gracious at her convention appearances and her personality is likewise
as she discusses the rigor (mortis?) of making a film in a confined space.That being said, I do wish that her comments
discussed more of the challenges of directing under these circumstances.
word of warning: if you hate seeing people vomit and drool (as I do), close
your eyes at the 33:30 mark and the 38:20 mark respectively and count to ten
before opening them again!
Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD (1982) and its sequels are widely revered among genre
fans.The original film, which was shot
in late 1979 and early 1980 and offers up five characters who all suffer from
outdated wardrobe choices, is not what I would consider a terrifying film by
any means, but it is certainly entertaining.It was one of the first (if not the first) films to put several
characters in a confined space and force them to deal with a violent and
demonic force, spraying the cabin and the screen with lots of blood and
gore.Like George A. Romero's DAWN OF
THE DEAD (1979), THE EVIL DEAD was released unrated and saw much of its success
on the nascent home video revolution of the mid-1980's.Youngsters like myself who are now ensconced
in middle-age used to get a thrill when visiting local video stores to pick up horror
films on display, eager to find that Next Big Find that would entertain us and
our friends.In the days since then, Mr.
Raimi's film has been released on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD (no less than seven
times in this format) and like so many other classics, it was bound to be
Mia (Jane Levy) is a heroin addict
and is taken to the family cabin by her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia
(Jessica Lucas), and her unreliable brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his
girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore)and dog
(the first one to die, of course.See
Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE (1976) for further cliches).Now, I know that films require a suspension
of disbelief to succeed, but if your younger sister were a
heroin addict, would you take her to a location like this in an effort to wean
her off of the drug?Is that even
possible under the circumstances? Don't
they still have methadone clinics?A
cabin in the woods is the last place
I would want to be.
foul stench emanating from the basement reveals a trap door under the rug
smeared with blood.Eric exclaims, "Oh,
can that be blood?" Well, that would be some coincidence if it wasn't!Eric is portrayed by Lou Taylor Pucci, the
actor who played the aloof and disgusted son of Chris Isaak in Gregor Jordan's THE
INFORMERS (2008). Somebody should have informed him that he needed a haircut in
this movie.They all venture into the
basement to find animal corpses in various stages of decay, and if they were
smart they would bolt - but then there would be no movie.Eric manages to be even more annoying than
Mia's brother David; not only does he go wandering about and sticking his nose
into places that he shouldn't, but he also manages to get his hands on the Book
of the Dead called Naturom Demonto and fails to heed its warning by reading the
very names out loud that should never be spoken.
Jessica Lucas plays Olivia and she
should really go back to Melrose Place. She isn't given much to do here except
remind everyone that they really need to help Mia. Although everyone is pretty
much dismembered and ravaged, they all come back by the end of the film.
EVIL DEAD has no doubt divided
diehard evil dead enthusiasts into the "love it" or "hate it"
camps.There is plenty of gore to go
around by the bucket load, and the fact that this movie earned an "R"
rating whereas the original was released unrated illustrates how times have changed
and how bloodshed has become far more acceptable now whereas sexual intimacy is
still considered a big no-no.
are efforts to startle the audience when the characters are possessed by the
demon in question. Propositions for sexual fulfillment are a throwback to
Reagan McNeil's equally vile vituperations in William Friedkin's superior THE
EXORCIST (1973), however in 2013 even the most explicit profanity fails to
shock.The omni-present 1973 Oldsmobile
Delta 88 sedan from Mr. Raimi's original film makes a cameo appearance (whether
or not this is a prop or the actual car from the film original is something
that perhaps the Blu-ray commentary clears up).
standard DVD contains the following special features:
LIFE DIFFICULT - the intense and physically exhausting creation of the film
THE DEAD - director Fede Alvarez re-imagines a cult horror classic
MIA - physical and psychological transformation into Evil Mia
Amir Shervan's 1989 film SAMURAI COP
is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I have ever seen.A shameless rip-off of
"buddy-buddy" cop movies that proliferated in the 1980's, SAMURAI COP
begins with the requisite artificial pop music of the era (courtesy of Alen
Dermarderossian) with white opening credits set against a black background (a telltale
sign of a low-budget film if there ever was one) and gives way to a man named Okamura
(Gerald Okamura) complaining that his Los Angeles gang is not yet established,
and that they should therefore make friends with the Chinese and Japanese
gangs. Most of his dialogue is indecipherable.
Krista Lane, the eye candy who is
part of the gang, says things like, "Here comes the boss!" or "The
boss is coming."Robert Z'Dar, best
known for the MANIAC COP films, is an imposing guy who does the boss's dirty
work.They get into a fight with a gang
they want to do business with after being rebuffed and several people are
Enter black and white cop team Frank
Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe Marshall (Matt Hanon), the low-budget answer
to Murtaugh and Riggs from LETHAL WEAPON (1987).
Marshall is a samurai expert (really?!)
who looks completely ridiculous with a full head of long hair and runs around
the place looking completely bug-eyed wearing a variety of ill-fitting hats.He looks like he fell off the cover of a
romance novel.They spout some of the
most quotable, ludicrously awful dialogue I've heard in a long time and enlist
the help of another cop, Peggy (Melissa Moore of 1990's SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE
II), in following the culprits.As a
thank you, Marshall beds her in an amazingly boring and mechanical sex
The cops have run-ins with the
Katana Gang in a laugh-out-loud sequence in a restaurant whey they threaten the
boss.Marshall takes to Jennifer, the
young attractive owner of the joint, but we're not sure if he really likes her
or just wants to get more information.There's a completely asinine scene involving an effeminate waiter who
looks like he fell out of an early Dario Argento thriller.It is followed up by a samurai fight and Marshall
goes all out with Washington pulling and Indiana Jones on a henchman, the
former performing an extemporaneous arm amputation.
The film is a time capsule of music,
wardrobe, and hairstyles from nearly a quarter-century ago.There is full frontal female nudity, three sad
attempts at sex scenes, and one of the funniest car chases I have ever
seen.T.J. HOOKER possessed more
excitement than this.Most of the
dialogue is either looped or suffers from poor room tone when using on-set
sound.Dale Cummings plays their loudmouth
police captain, constantly yelling at the cops to bring him results.One of the funniest scenes takes place in his
office as he threatens to send Marshall back to where he came from.
Despite the best efforts of
cinematographer Peter Palian who shoots much of the action in masters, the film
lacks a visual style. Onscreen excitement
is nowhere to be found, but all of these drawbacks add considerably to the
film's overall charm.I wish that the
bulk of movies made today were one-tenth as entertaining SAMURAI COP turns out
The film has been transferred from
the original 35mm film negative and the image is crystal clear. While not
digitally restored, this is unquestionably the best the film is probably ever
going to look.
The extras that the disc comes with
An interview with actor Robert Z'Dar
conducted over Skype which runs 25 minutes.The image quality is poor, however Douglas Dunning, the interviewer, and
the actor are both understandable.Mr. Z'Dar
talks about how he got into the business and came to meet the late director
Amir Shervan with whom he made three films (HOLLYWOOD COP (1987) and KILLING
AMERICAN STYLE (1990) in addition to this one).Director, Amir Shervan intended SAMURAI COP to be a straightforward
action film.It took three weeks to
shoot on a budget of approximately $800,000.00.
An interview with actor and fight
co-ordinator Gerald Okamura which runs 20 minutes.He discusses his time working with David
Carradine on KUNG-FU and with John Carpenter on BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
and ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996), in addition to SAMURAI COP.
An interview with cinematographer
Peter Palian who talks extensively about his career in the business runs 27
There are also stills galleries and
an amusing fan trailer for the film.
Click here to order the new special edition DVD from
you believe that it has been 31 years since Wes Craven's SWAMP THING made its
way into theaters? I can't, and I didn't even see the film during its initial
theatrical RUN. In fact, I didn't even see the film until I watched new Blu-ray.
I've been a fan of Wes Craven's since I
saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) on a local television station in July 1984,
however I was aware of his work when SWAMP THING was released. It was just one
of those movies that I never got around to seeing for some reason, despite the
fact that my friend kept saying "Cable!"
all throughout my high school years.
far as I know or can tell, SWAMP THING is one of the very few PG-rated movies
in Mr. Craven's filmography.It is most
definitely a lot gentler than his previous work such as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE
LEFT (1972).It was
made just a few years prior to his very own A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984),
the film that introduced us all to Nancy Thompson and the monster inside her
head.It will be released on August 6,
2013 on a DVD/Blu-ray combo by Scream Factory.
THING is a film version of the DC Comic that was created by Len Wein and Bernie
Wrightson, the latter of whom is best known for CREEPSHOW (1982). It takes
place in the Louisiana swamps (faked in South Carolina). Alec and Linda Holland (Ray Wise and Nannette
Brown) are brother and sister scientists who are working on an experiment that
is designed to create a plant and animal hybrid that can withstand the extreme temperatures
of various environments. The oddly-named Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) works
for the government and visits the lab to see what the pair have
discovered.Suddenly, the henchmen of
one sinister Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan), headed by the late David Hess, attempt
to steal the scientists'
formula.Linda is killed suddenly, and Alec gets
doused with the new concoction, erupts in flames and falls jumps into the swamp,
only to emerge as the Swamp Thing who is then played by actor Dick Durock from
this point on.
Arcane believes that this serum will make him live forever, and he will stop at
nothing to make sure that he gets his hands on the formula.Alice begins to fall for Alec/Swamp Thing as
she is eluding Dr. Arcane's machine gun-toting minions.Mr. Hess plays the usual bullying crazy that
he was so good at and the supporting cast that surrounds him is a terrific
group of menaces.Young Reggie Batts nearly
steals the film as Judd, a ten year-old store proprietor who does everything he
can to help Alice escape.
THINGwas originally available on
home video on multiple formats.Although
it made its DVD debut in 2000, the discs were pulled from the shelves when it
was discovered that the DVD was sourced from the international print which ran
93 minutes in length and contained an additional two minutes of nudity that was
not seen in the original 91-minute PG-rated 1982 domestic theatrical exhibition.Someone got all bent out of shape over boobs,
and so MGM
reissued the movie on DVD in 2005 in its original version minus the nudity. It
is this version that appears on both the new DVD and Blu-ray.
transfer of the film is excellent; there are a few spots and very small
scratches here and there but nothing to distract from your pleasure of watching
are some really nice extras on the discs (which are presented equally on both
formats). The movie contains two separate full-length commentaries. The first
is with writer/director Wes Craven and it is moderated by Sean Clark who horror
fans will know from his excellent Horrors
Hallowed Grounds tours of horror film shooting locations.Sean asks Mr. Craven lots of interesting and intelligent questions about the
production and the people involved.
second commentary is with makeup effects artist William Munns, moderated by
Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures.This
track is very interesting and insightful as Mr. Munns remembers a great deal
about the making of the film.He discusses
having to wait a long time as the financing was secured, and even went to work
on a film initially called Witch (later
released as SUPERSTITION) in the interim.He talks about fitting the suit to the actor,
discusses how the makeup crew became the scapegoat when filming came to a crawl,
some of the dangers of wearing the Swamp Thing suit, the stunts that needed to
be done, and how he took over as Swamp Thing when Mr. Durock could no longer perform.
bonus features consist of:
"Tales from the Swamp" is an interview with
Adrienne Barbeau. The segment runs 16:56
and Ms. Barbeau is a delight to listen to. She recalls the time that she spent
on the film and talks the long hours on the set while they were in South Carolina,
and the challenging elements around them. The original script that was given to
her by Wes Craven was far more audacious than what ended up on screen.
Unfortunately, just as the film went before the cameras, the production company
began to chip away the film's budget, necessitating constant rewriting during
the course of shooting and many concessions needed to be made.
"Hey, Jude" is the name of the second
segment, and this is a fun and entertaining interview with actor Reggie Batts
who plays Jude (hence the name!).It
runs 14:30. Mr. Batts explains how he
got the role in the film and was a fan of DC comics.
last segment is titled "That Swamp Thing,"
and it's a look back with creator Len Wein who explains how he came up with the
name for the creature, and how he got his start as an animator. The segment
original theatrical trailer is also included, and this is in excellent
condition, not the usual scratch-ridden mess that we're used to seeing.
photo galleries consist of posters and lobby cards; photos from the film;
William Munn's behind-the-scenes photos; and behind-the-scenes photos by
an added bonus, the DVD/Blu-ray sleeve is reversible and has the French poster artwork
under the title of LA CREATURE DU MARAIS, which translates to THE CREATURE OF
hard to believe that THE SHINING had its network television premiere thirty
years ago tonight on ABC-TV.
THE SHINING, released on May 23, 1980
THE SHINING, broadcasted on May 6, 1983
that pre-home video era, if we didn't
have access to cable television, most of us were only able to see horror films
on local or network television channels, and those films were often watered
down with heavy cuts both for gore and for time (many plot points simply
disappeared in favor of commercials).
has been a lot of speculation in the years since THE SHINING was released as to
what it is really all about.ROOM 237 is
the name of the in-depth documentary by Rodney Ascher.In the film, five narrators give their
points-of-view on Stanley Kubrick's
initially disappointing yet subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen
King's novel of the same name,
and what it means to them.
a die-hard fan of this film for the past thirty years, I must say that even
though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props,
visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out,
nor was I even aware of the obvious continuity errors, such as the carpet that
changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall disappearing
during Jack Torrance's
(Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall)
interrupts his writing.An argument can
be made that ROOM 237 isn't so much about THE SHINING's supposed hidden meanings than it is an
explanation of five different people's of
the film.Among the subtexts: the
strange layout of the Overlook Hotel; the significance of the number 42; the
architectural impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman's office; the silly
sexual reference in Mr. Ullman's first handshake with Jack; the Minotaur motif;
the references to the killing of Native Americans and even the Holocaust.
director makes the choice of not showing the faces of the narrators, and this
technique works to the film's
advantage since so much of it is about pointing out what the narrators
see.Cross-cutting between the narrators
and the points they want to make would have either reduced the film's running
time or would have left most of the best points out altogether.I can only hope that the forthcoming DVD will
offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes.
ROOM 237 uses the framing device of Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) and DEMONS 2:
THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES (1986) (both of which are due out on Blu-ray from
Synapse Films in the coming months) as footage of an audience viewing THE
SHINING in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain
points.Ideally, THE SHINING should be
viewed in a movie theater, although realistically that is unfortunately not an
option for most of us.The home video
revolution saved many a film from inevitable obscurity and this is where the
majority of us Shining enthusiasts had the opportunity to see it and thrill to
it to our heart's content.
screening information, take a look at the film's official
website.If the film is not playing
near you, you can also see it On-Demand for roughly $7.00.