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Nov 30, 2012, 5:17 AM

Photo courtesy: Twitch
I've admitted to this before but I have always found HALLOWEEN II to be one of my favorite horror films ever.  Obviously it could have never existed without John Carpenter's ground breaking original but the second one built upon that original perfectly and for my money there was and has been no better Michael Myers then the amazing Mr. Dick Warlock. 


I've had the honor to hang with Mr. Warlock on several different occasions and those opportunities hold a special place in this horror fans heart.  For me, Dick Warlock is Michael Myers and it's great to see his amazing work finally gets its due in this amazing Blu-ray release of HALLOWEEN II.


SHOUT! Factory, known by fans as a top-notch provider of assorted genre fare has branch into the horror only world with their new line going under the SCREAM! Factory banner.  They have an amazing slate of releases coming up for this Halloween season and they kick it all off with the much anticipated, much needed Blu-ray of HALLOWEEN II.  In this day and age it's hard to think of a title that fans want- no make that demand on Blu-ray but HALLOWEEN II was one such title.


As is the case with a lot of these older films that make their trip to Blu the biggest thrill for long time fans (me included) comes from viewing awesome special features and this disc has some of the best I have viewed in quite a while. 


First though, lets talk a little about the film itself.  Unless you are a complete tool you already know that HALLOWEEN II picks up right where the first one left off, with Dr. Loomis shooting Michael who falls off the balcony and vanishes into the night.  From there we travel the streets of Haddonfield and eventually end up at the local hospital where Michael slices and dices his way through the halls searching for Laurie.


As I stated above, what really sets this one apart for me is the way that Dick Warlock portrays Michael, the epitome of the mindless, stalking killing machine.


The disc itself comes in a 2 disc Collector's set.  Disc one is the Blu-ray with all the special features; Disc two is a standard DVD that features the TV version of the film with an alternate ending.  Very cool!  Some new artwork was commissioned for this release and it's awesome but it's also printed on a reversible insert sleeve and on the other side is the old artwork that features the pumpkin with the skull inside. 


The meat and potatoes of this disc though is the outstanding slate of special features that are literally crammed onto this disc.  There are the usual selection of audio commentaries and deleted scenes, also TV spots and still galleries. Where the coolness really kicks in is a feature titled THE NIGHTMARE ISN'T OVER!: THE MAKING OF HALLOWEEN II.  Put together by Michael Felsher and his group over at Red Shirt Pictures this really is a special look at the film.  It's obvious that Mike and his minions love this film and they really gave the project some love.  A great view that offers a lot of behind the scenes info and great stories, I really enjoyed the piece, worth the price of the disc itself.  Also included, Sean Clark and his great HORROR'S HALLOWED GROUND show.  For those not in the know, Sean travels around and brings fans to the shooting locations really giving us all a true behind the scenes look at where our favorite films where shot.  I've enjoyed all Sean???s travels and his trip to Haddonfield is every bit as fun and informational as all the others he???s done and it is the perfect addition to this exceptional Blu-ray release.


So, what does it all add up to?  For my money it's THE Blu-ray release of the year, so far but with that being said, SCREAM! Factory has an impressive slate on the way.  I've got the Blu-ray of HALLOWEEN III sitting right here next to me and it's looking to be every bit the disc that HALLOWEEN II is.  It's a good time to be a horror fan.


This is a disc set that is must have for any true fan of horror so run to the store and get this one now.


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Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Source: Jonathan Stryker

Nov 12, 2012, 3:0 AM

I must admit that I enjoy the WRONG TURN movies.  I cannot believe that I saw the first one nine years ago on its first release and while that premiere film was along the lines of a more serious "killer in the woods" movie (it is very similar to Wes Craven's far more depraved THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) though nowhere near as frightening), the follow-up, WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END, was made more tongue-in-cheek.  I talked to director Joe Lynch about it at press time.  I missed out on the third and fourth entries (which are both presumably in the same vein, pun intended of course) because...well, I honestly don't have a good reason, so I have to catch up with those.  WRONG TURN 5: BLOODLINES is the latest and probably won't be the last, which is fine by me as they are an entertaining series in the genre (the title card is very clever). 

Doug Bradley (HELLRAISER's Pinhead) plays J. Odets Maynard, a complete creep and the head of three lunatic mountain men who stumble upon (what else?) a group of friends (Lita, Billy, Julian, Cruz, and Gus) who are in town for the 10th annual Mountain Man Music Festival on Halloween in the fictitious town of Fairlake, VA, founded in 1814 (according to legend, Hillbillies overran Fairlake three years later and wiped out the inhabitants; their bodies were never found). 

Flash forward to 2012 and the first casualty is an annoying news reporter who goes out for a jog in the woods sporting earbuds (she's just as dumb as an oblivious New York City streetwalker) and mistakes the killers for kids donning Halloween costumes. 

The three guys and two girls crash their car due to a ruse instigated by Maynard and several of them end up in jail.  Gus and Lita spend time at a motel until Gus is kidnapped and tied between two vehicles like Jennifer Jason Leigh in THE HITCHER (1986). 

The situation grows dire and begins to turn into something out of John Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) as the cell phones go dead and the electricity is knocked out.  The mountain men plan to break Maynard out of the jail while terrorizing the friends, going so far as to bury one of them up to their neck a la MOTEL HELL and running him over with a tractor; they use barbed wire to blow out the tires of a friend attempting to get help. 

One of the mountain men laughs like a lunatic, and reminds me of the cackle of the Headless Horseman on my "Famous Ghost Stories" LP that I was given when I was seven (you can hear the laugh here at the 2:30 point into the 7:37 track). 

If the film sounds like a pastiche of familiar over-the-top horror film kills, it probably is, but director Declan O'Brien (who has directed the last three films) keeps things moving and interesting, even though seasoned genre fans can see the ending from a mile away. 

The DVD and Blu-ray will contain the following cleverly-titled extras:

     "A Day in the Death"

     Hillbilly Kills

     Director's Die-aries

     Audio Commentary by director Declan O'Brien

The film can be ordered here at 


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Oct 18, 2012, 2:0 PM

GHOSTKEEPER is a film that I did not hear of until I saw it on a shelf in the horror film section of Blockbuster Video many years ago.  Originally released on VHS by New World Video circa September 1990, the film is listed under American Cinema Marketing for its 1981 USA theatrical release; I cannot honestly say that I even recall that.  If you have seen GHOSTKEEPER on VHS and weren't a fan of it I would recommend giving it another chance as that transfer was very dark and therefore difficult to follow.  The film has been released by Code Red DVD and is a nice spooky Canadian tale for a cold winter night. 

The film begins with a title card that reads "In the Indian legends of North America, there exists a creature called Windigo...a ghost who lives on human flesh."  Larry Fessenden made a very under-rated film about this subject in 2001 and it was called WENDIGO.  This film attempts to bring this subject to the screen, but apparently due to money issues this plot point never quite gets off the ground. 

Jenny (Riva Spier), Marty (Murray Ord), and Chrissy (Sheri McFadden) are several friends who end up at a closed up hotel while snow-mobiling.  They make their way in and make themselves at home.  It becomes apparent that the owner is there, and she's an elderly woman (Georgie Collins) who tells them they must leave. 

When the three friends partially convince her that they cannot leave in the storm, she sets them up in their own rooms.  The woman has two sons who live there, too, and one of them ends up killing Chrissy and dragging her to the basement to the Windigo creature. 

Marty and Jenny start to behave differently and their actions appear to be influenced by something in the hotel.  Before long, strange things happen and the film's ending raises more questions than it does answers. 

The film was shot in December of 1980 and while there are similarities to THE SHINING (1980) a lot of that appears to be coincidental. The DVD is a special edition and it contains a running commentary with the director and the two lead stars who play Marty and Jenny; the commentary is moderated by Jeff McKay.  This is the first time they have all been together since the film was shot, and they have a lot of fun reminiscing about their experiences making the movie in addition to commenting on the on-screen action. It's a highly enjoyable experience, so be sure to give it a listen after watching the film.

There are some nice extras included on the disc. In addition to some behind-the-scenes shots there is an extended interview with Georgie Collins, the woman who plays the elderly woman who runs the hotel. In her mid-80's when the interview was conducted, she is very sharp and highly engaging.

The film to DVD transfer has been done from what is reported to be the only known existing 35mm print of the film. It is in fairly decent shape, and the imagery is a lot clearer than the VHS transfer.

The film was shot at the Deer Lodge at Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The director mentions that he would like to begin shooting a sequel to the film next month, believe it or not!  He has an intriguing premise for that film starring the people who are in this film. 

GHOSTKEEPER is not the usual type of thriller associated with Halloween, and there are those who have probably seen it and contend that it's a boring film. But, give it a chance, as it is different and provides the perfect sense of creepiness for Halloween. 

The film has a terrific score by Paul Zaza who also scored CURTAINS - these are two scores that should be released on CD.  He is best known for PROM NIGHT and MY BLOODY VALENTINE.  Some of the music in PROM NIGHT has appeared again both here and in CURTAINS. 

Interestingly, there is a completely different opening to the film on the Spanish videotape that can be seen here on Youtube, and no mention of this is made on the commentary. 




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Oct 9, 2012, 3:30 PM

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is one of the more bizarre genre offerings of the last few years. Filmed in 2009, the film was originally supposed to be released by MGM which, unfortunately, had to file for bankruptcy, leaving CABIN in limbo for the past three years. Only now, as a result of new distributor Lionsgate, has the film seen the light of day. I honestly wish that the same fate would befall ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, a 2005-lensed teen horror offering that is still not released Stateside.  While MANDY LANE offers up horny high schoolers at a house in the wilderness, that film has a nice twist ending that the audience does not really see coming (plus, it has Amber Heard!).  CABIN, on the other hand, offers no such surprise because the audience is in on the plot twist from the get-go. While we are kept in the dark as to why things happen the way they do in CABIN, by the end of the movie we've been on a roller coaster ride that, while running the expected hour and-a-half-length, the film feels a lot longer.

Part TRUMAN SHOW and part "Twilight Zone" episode, CABIN, reviewed here on Blu-ray by our very own Dave Dreher, does what horror films have been doing for a good long time: giving us horny, attractive young adults in the form of The Jock, The Slut, The Intellectual, The Pothead, and the Virgin, archetypes befitting of a Peter Greenaway outing.  However, the filmmakers are in on it and they want us to be in on it, too. This is an over-the-top wink at the audience.  For a while anyway, it's a fun ride. Parts of CABIN even remind me of 1981's HELL NIGHT. 

From the start, all of the action is controlled by some sort of government-like agency, for reasons that become apparent by the film's end.  The lead characters are led into a basement within the titular dwelling and find all sorts of knickknacks and anecdotes supposedly containing a maniacal history of horrific events that occurred on the first floor. This sequence is actually beautifully lit.  In reality, of course, all of this has been scripted by the government-like agency in an effort to get the aforementioned characters to sink further into their trap for nefarious purposes.

If all of this sounds confusing, it really isn't. It just isn't particularly interesting. Some who have never seen this type of scenario in a film before will no doubt be wowed by it, and that's fine. I don't want to sound like I'm poo-pooing the whole affair, but going into this movie on the basis of word-of-mouth of a few trusted confederates, I suppose I was anticipating more than the filmmakers were willing to give us. There is a great deal of bloodshed in the film for those with a taste for such fare, as well as a good deal of computer-generated imagery. By the end of the film, I was taken aback by the appearance of Sigourney Weaver, the last person I would have expected to appear in the film such as this.

The film is available on DVD, on Blu-ray, and in a digital copy, but it's not the sort of thing I could see myself watching more than once. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS comes off more as an interesting curiosity than as the groundbreaking horror film I was led to believe it was.  I can honestly say that I share Dave Dreher's sentiments on this one.

The extras consist of:

Audio commentary with writer/director Drew Goddard and writer/producer Joss Whedon

"We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods" featurette

"The Secret Secret Stash" featurette

Marty's Stash

Hi, my name is Joss and I'll be your guide

Wonder-Con Q&A with Joss and Drew

"An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects" featurette

"Primal Terror: Visual Effects" featurette

Definitely worth a look for no other reason than to hold your own and admit familiarity with the film while in mixed company discussing the genre.


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Oct 7, 2012, 11:0 AM

DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is one of the most revered made-for-TV thrillers ever made. Originally broadcasted on CBS-TV on Saturday, October 24, 1981, I completely missed out the film's initial airing (how this happened I honestly can't recall; I was already a fan of the genre having seen BURNT OFFERINGS on NBC-TV two months prior, so I don't know where my head was at). Apparently, so did a lot of other people as this became the film that most of us caught up with in the mid-1980's and 1990's during our trips to the video store after it was released on VHS on Key Video.

I had seen TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) and DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982) so I knew that TV terror could very often be far more frightening than theatrical fare.  The very fact that home video has made films like DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW available to the ancillary market has given many fans the opportunity to see it for the first time.  Thirty years later, the film has thrown out its old, Macrovision-riddled magnetic self for a shiny new optical facelift on Blu-ray. 

Written by screenwriter J.D. Feigelson, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is a tale of the consequences of short-sightedness, misjudgment and vigilantism.  Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake of DR. GIGGLES, DARKMAN, and television's LA LAW) is a mentally-challenged adult who is falsely accused of accidentally killing his little friend Marylee (Tonya Crowe) after she is attacked by a dog. 

Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning), a postal worker with a hot temper and an air of superiority, rounds up several confederates to hunt down Bubba and administer their own form of justice.  Though Bubba may be simple, he is smart enough to hide within a scarecrow's costume in the middle of a wheat field.  The close-up on his eyes hidden under the scarecrow mask is very creepy. 

His cover is blown by several bloodhounds who lead the mob to him, and they all fire their guns upon him, killing him instantly.   

After the killing, the men are bewildered to discover that not only has Marylee survived her attack, but that Bubba had no hand in it.  In fact, he helped save her life by rushing her back to her mother in time.  This realization stuns Otis and his gang, and they do their best to hide their guilt and complicity from Bubba's mother (Jocelyn Brando).  Unfortunately, someone begins to knock them off one by one, until Otis is the only one left, and he soon comes to realize that it is in indeed the spirit of Bubba that is seeking revenge. 

By today's standards, the film is very tame.  However, I think it was probably a bit violent for 1981, especially the scene where Marylee is attacked by a dog, which is a common fear among children. 

Charles Durning gives a terrific performance as the ringleader who tries his best to keep the mob's actions under wraps, but soon his plan spirals out of control with disastrous results. 

This is a movie that is best viewed around Halloween, and its Blu-ray presentation is exceptional.  The disc's extras include:

Commentary track with the director and the writer, ported over from the DVD

CBS World Premiere Promo from 10/24/1981, ported over from the DVD

New to the Blu-ray: Bubba Didn't Do It - 30 Years of the Scarecrow (31:41)

New to the Blu-ray: CBS Network Re-broadcast from 09/07/1985

New to the Blu-ray: Cast Reunion at the 2011 Frightfest Film Festival in Louisville, KY (46:04)

Behind-the-Scene Photo Gallery

The Blu-ray can be ordered from the fine folks at VCI Entertainment.  A standard definition DVD with the same bonus materials is also available. 

I would love to see VCI get their hands on 1972's WHEN MICHAEL CALLS (aka SHATTERED SILENCE and based on John Farris's 1967 novel of the same name), one of the creepiest TV movies ever made that has never been properly represented on home video. 

A soundtrack album for DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW has been released as a download and is very creepy, atmospheric and highly recommended.



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