You can't say Arrow Video isn't unpredictable! From gory horror to hard-boiled action and a biopic, Arrow has a cadre of films worth buying right now! Here are a few below:
The Bride of Re-Animator (1989)
Re-Animator (1985) is one of my favorite horror films. Its splatter-filled gruesomeness and Lovecraftian origins take the Frankenstein tale to Grand Guignol-level highs. Until now, I didn't realize a franchise built up around the story of brothers in blood Dan Cain and Herbert West. Thankfully, Arrow's new release of the 1989 sequel will do a lot to help fans discover it, or revisit it.
Taking place a few years after the events of the first film, Dr. West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dr. Cain (Bruce Abbott) are helping soldiers in foreign wars and testing the limits of their reanimation drug. The glowing green serum is back, as well as rather well preserved severed heads, and Jeffrey Combs' patented brand of droll one-liners ("My god! They're using tools!"). Based on those recommendations, it's evident that The Bride of Re-Animator, again, blends the horror with a bleakly dark humor. Combs and Abbott are great, and the "bride" of the title leads to a lot of gory hijinks. This is a film that wears its classic film love on its bloody sleeve! This is a must buy for genre fans or those who loved the original Re-Animator.
The Stuff (1985)
This 1985 creature feature from the director of It's Alive (1974) is probably the best of the recent spate of Arrow titles. A Rifftrax episode in the making, director Larry Cohen explores a landscape of unresearched organic materials in our food, the blind drive to consume what's trendy, and more in an obvious homage to Dawn of the Dead (1978) that would definitely play well in our current world of GMO fears and gluten diseases.
A popular dessert known as The Stuff is sweeping America. A retired detective/corporate spy named Mo Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) is tasked by the ice-cream companies to figure out what's in The Stuff. Unlike It's Alive, Cohen and company spend a lot of time winking at the camera, both through dialogue and narrative. The Stuff marketing campaign looks like a 1970s world of choreographed street dancing, while the eventual takeover by The Stuff leaves you wondering if this is Attack of the Oreo Filling. Cameo appearances by Paul Sorvino, as a misogynistic, Commie-fearing colonel; Danny Aiello, terrified of his vicious dog and vowing to the animal he'll "buy more;" and the recently departed Abe Vigoda (and the infamous "Where's the Beef?" lady) all create a world where people are obsessed with the hip and trendy.
I can only imagine how The Stuff played in 1985, but with our current spate of constant food recalls, celiac disease, and questions about GMOs and other hormones, The Stuff seems like an exaggerated fear we should take seriously...but it's hard not to laugh at scenes of people running away from foam. Gory and satirical, you gotta get in with The Stuff!
Hired to Kill (1990)
I don't think we properly appreciate the early '90s action film. Breaching the chasm between the 1980s blow 'em up actioners and the more serious-minded films of the 1990s, Hired to Kill is the best example of what the early '90s gave us. The tale of a mercenary tasked with infilitrating a fictional Latin American country to take out corruption and a freedom fighter is perfectly suited to those who loved Sunday morning films on local cable.
Our hero is Frank Ryan (Brian Thompson) sent to Cypra with a cover story of being a top fashion designer. But, in order to maintain his cover, he can't go in with a group of guys. No, this soldier for hire is sent in with a team of...girls! Despite a predominately female cast, itself a rarity in the 1980s-2000s action world, the gender dynamics remain mired in hilariously misogynistic tropes but, oddly enough, that's half the fun of Hired to Kill. Thompsons' acting is stale and wooden, leaving the ladies to stand out with their various talents, as well as killer ability to rock a bathing suit! Hired to Kill is one of those movies worth watching with a group of friends and just having fun!
John Milius' directorial debut is a brash, competent biography on the life of outlaw John Dillinger (Warren Oates). With obvious influence from the likes of 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger sees Oates as the grinning, menacing figure who desperately wants to be remembered more than anything. Along for the ride is Michelle Phillips as girlfriend Billie Frechette. Phillips enjoyed starring in biopics - between this and Valentino - and presents a subdued, demure character despite the script's questionable "relationship" between Billie and John. Suffice it to say, this is a love where assault is common and just accepted. Milius doesn't particularly glorify Dillinger and crew's lifestyle, nor does he side with G-Man Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson), deciding to go the straightforward route of simply presenting the facts and allowing the audience to make up their mind. It's one of the more serious-minded films in Arrow's output, but considering where Milius went directorially, it's worth a view.
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