Results tagged “Arrow Video”

The Dead Center Blu-ray Review: Mostly Effective Psychological Horror

Primer's Shane Carruth stars in psychological and supernatural horror tale, where a suicide returns from the dead... but not alone.
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A spiral is integral to The Dead Center's imagery and story. A spiral appears on the photographs of a body from a crime scene, some sort of scar or lumps of tissue on his person. It wasn't seen in the autopsy because none was performed - the man breathes back to life on the gurney in the morgue, sneaks out, and ends up in a psychiatric ward. He was long dead when the paramedics brought him in; now he's catatonic, staring, and has become two doctors' problem: the medical examiner whose corpse has gone missing, and the psychiatrist who wants

Flowers in the Attic (1987) Blu-ray Review: I Think They Wilted

The best-selling novel gets a neutered adaptation but an excellent release by Arrow Video.
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I have this memory in which my mother gives me a copy of V.C. Andrews’ 1979 novel Flowers in the Attic. I was in my early 20s at the time and my mother gave the book great praise. For some reason, I thought the book was about the Holocaust, that it was a story similar to Anne Frank’s, where a group of young siblings were hiding from the Nazis in an attic of an old mansion. For anyone who has read the book, you know how far my idea is from the truth. The actual novel is about a group

Ringu Collection Blu-ray Review: Ghostly Revenge, Again and Again

Four weird, gripping and often terrifying films of spectral revenge that began the J-horror boom are now on Blu-ray.
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Horror as a genre tends to go through brief periods of inspiration, followed by long slogs of imitation. If you're unlucky, the inspired breakout hit is something like Saw, and as a horror fan you have to sit through years of vile dreck until something better comes along to rejigger the landscape. In the late '90s, horror was in one of its down-turn phases: the mid-'90s crackdown on letting youngsters into R-rated movies had the effect (still felt today) that to get the primary audience for horror, the young, you needed to be PG-13, which means violence has to be

Apprentice to Murder Blu-ray Review: Graduated to Boring

This 1980s folk horror is light on scares and heavy on nothing happening.
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The early 1970s saw several British films being released that have been defined as “folk horror” by fans. These are films like Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man, which incorporated old folk tales and pagan rituals into horror movies. In the 1980s, movies like Children of the Corn moved the setting to rural America but the idea was the same. These films often dealt with isolated communities living in picturesque, yet somehow unsettling rural areas. They are inhabited by deeply religious people who incorporate pagan or satanic rituals into their daily lives. This mix of isolationism and “weird” belief systems

Ringu Blu-ray Review: One Ring That Started Them All

Arrow Video brings a new 4K restoration of this Japanese horror film that started a movement.
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Japanese folklore has long included ghosts who haunt the living because they died with anger, rage, fear, or some other strong emotion. Many of these myths include a young girl with long, black hair obscuring her face. In 1991, Koji Suzuki updated these stories in his novel Ring. This was made into a 1995 TV movie called Ring: Kanzenban and then again as a theatrically released film called Ringu in 1998 by Hideo Nakata. Ringu made some significant changes to the novel and became a huge hit, becoming the highest-grossing horror film in Japan. It found an international audience on

The Prey Blu-ray Review: Pray You'll Never Have To Watch

Arrow Video does an excellent job presenting this should-have-been forgotten slasher in a very nice package.
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The 1980s were a great time for horror movies in general and slasher flicks in particular. With the advent of home video and the booming popularity of video rental stores, there was suddenly a need for more and more videos to stock those shelves. Lots of studios specializing in cheaply made, straight-to-video movies sprung up overnight. Horror fans are a motley lot and easily amused. They are not known for snobbish attitudes, willing to take a chance (and often enjoy) films of lower budget and artistic caliber. As long as the film has plenty of violence, at least some blood-soaked

The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 Blu-ray Review: Flashback City

Arrow Video does a nice job spiffing up this movie that is so bad even the director disowned it.
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Wes Craven is often placed near the top of lists concerning the greatest horror filmmakers of all time, and rightly so. He was at the forefront of the gritty, ultra-violent new wave of horror films in the 1970s making such low budget classics as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. In the 1980s, he rejuvenated the slasher genre by creating the iconic Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street, then reinvented it with the very meta and very ‘90s Scream films. But while he deserves all the accolades, let us not forget he was

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Blu-ray Review: Same Gore, Less Story

Follow up to Hellraiser has the same aesthetic, same cast, much the same crew, but not enough story or ideas.
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It's strange that so many horror movies spawn enormous franchises when the surprise and the unknown are central to the effectiveness of a good horror story. Shock and dread are two of the desired outcomes of horror: to be surprised by something you didn't want to see, and to be slowly drawn toward something you don't want to see, but just have to look. Hellraiser as it stands doesn't make a great candidate for a sequel in any case. It's primarily a twisted love story - the main characters are the undead Frank and his lover Julia who supplied him

Hellraiser (1987) Blu-ray Review: Clive Barker's Semi-professional Debut

An erotic and grotesque twist on a haunted house story, with an unsettling horrific vision that supersedes some film-making fumbles.
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Roger Ebert hated Hellraiser when it came out, giving it half a star. He starts with the money quote Stephen King gave the director/writer on his literary debut: "I have seen the future of horror, and it is Clive Barker." Ebert quips: "Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker." Cute, but it ignores the strengths that Barker was bringing to the horror game, which in the mid-'80s literary world was becoming big business. First, Clive wrote with style. There are decent stylists in the horror world at the time (Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell) but there was a

In The Aftermath Blu-ray Review: An Odd Mishmash of Live Action and Animation

An art-house Japanese animated film gets a terrible American treatment.
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In The Path to Aftermath, an extra included in Arrow Video’s new release of In The Aftermath, producer Tom Dugan explains that in the mid-1980s it was easy to sell low budget, straight-to-video movies because video stores had lots of shelf space and not enough VHS tapes. He goes on to say that he spent part of his career filming show trailers and creating eye-catching cover art for films that didn’t even exist. He’d sell the movies based upon those things then get someone else to make the movie on the lowest possible budget. He’d also keep an eye out

Alice, Sweet Alice Blu-ray Review: Has Surprisingly Aged Very Well

Alfred Sole's underrated shocker gets a new, superb upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
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When it comes to horror cinema, I think 1970s horror stands at the top for me. Everyone, even those who don't particularly care for the genre, has to have at least five or six favorites from that decade. There was something for everyone, meaning that every film, even the not-so-good ones had at least some type of theme to them. The '70s was a decade of hopelessness and uncertainty, and its horror flicks reflected that. Even more so, there were a lot of often overlooked gems that flew under the radar, including Black Christmas (1974), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977).

Klute is the Pick of the Week

A gritty '70s masterwork leads a week of interesting releases.
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The 1970s was a hugely groundbreaking decade for film. During this decade, Cinema reflected on the aftermath of Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, women's rights, and the uncertainty of more political unrest. Director Alan J. Pakula reflected this with his unofficial 'paranoid trilogy', which included 1974's The Parallax View and 1976's All The President's Men. However, his 1971 neo-noir thriller, Klute, started it all. It's a film about menace, uncertainty, but also a woman's place in the world. That woman is Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), a self-liberated call girl who's given one trick too many, and finds herself on the wrong

Double Face Blu-ray Review: Could Have Used a Face Lift

A subdued Klaus Kinski stars in this krimi/giallo mashup that is never thrilling but often quite dull.
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I am officially on the record (more than once as anyone who has actually followed my writing in these pages can tell you) as being an enormous fan of what are sometimes called "boutique Blu-ray labels." Companies like Arrow Video, Severin, and Kino Lorber are putting out really nice sets of odd, obscure, low-budget, and forgotten films. As someone who spent great swaths of his teenaged years staying up all night with USA’s Up All Night, and renting ridiculously bad movies from my local VHS shop, I appreciate that so many of these types of films are getting new lives

She-Devils on Wheels Blu-ray Review: I Just Don't Get It

She-Devils on Wheels has nothing going for it.
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So, when She-Devils on Wheels came across my desk for a potential review, I will admit that the title had me somewhat intrigued. I had never heard of Herschel Gordon Lewis and was not familiar with his other work, but I enjoy a good B-movie now and then, and the promo material certainly did its job: “Have you ever heard the saying it's a man's world? Well don't dare repeat that to The Man-Eaters, a raucous, rowdy, and randy gang of female bikers who ride their men just as viciously as they do their motorcycles. When they’re not racing each

Yakuza Law Blu-ray Review: Gory Fun Yakuza Anthology

Three fun but gory short stories of the Yakuza taking the law into their own hands, filled with bloody torture.
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Yakuza Law is not even in the top-five craziest movies made by Teruo Ishii, and in it, a man rips out his own eyeball and throws it as his former boss, a thief is tortured by being dragged on the road by a helicopter, and a Yakuza is punished by his friends for stealing is tied to a tree, urinated on, and practically eaten alive by mosquitos. These are just a small sampling of the various horrible goings on in this anthology of short Yakuza stories, each about how the crime syndicates employ their own seedy form of justice. Teruo

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire Blu-ray Review: Confusing and Dull

This giallo/poliziotteschi has too much confusing plot and not enough style to be interesting to anyone but fans of the genres.
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Following the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Italian cinema was awash in lurid crime stories with baroque titles featuring one animal or another. The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire came out about one year after Argento’s quintessential giallo, and it's clearly aping some of that films tropes while also blending in Poliziotteschi crime elements. It has a masked killer, graphic violence, and lurid sexuality, but it's told in a much more conventional way without the typical giallo camera flourishes and wild color schemes. It is much more centered on the crime, catching the killer,

Terra Formars Blu-ray Review: Miike Can Do Better

Takashi Miike's sci-fi adventure on Mars should have stayed on Earth a little longer.
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Japanese director Takashi Miike is probably best known for his ultra-violent splatter films like Ichi the Killer and Audition. Or perhaps for his deviant, bizarre films such as Visitor Q (featuring incest, rape, and something known as lactation sex) or MPD Psycho (about a detective with multiple-personality disorder working on a case in which the killer makes flower pots out of severed heads). But with over 100 films to his name, he’s made films in nearly every genre including westerns, samurai flicks, and even a family film or two. Not all of them are great, in fact quite a few

Strip Nude for Your Killer Blu-ray Review: Keep Your Clothes On

Salacious 1970s giallo is quite dull despite being packed full of sex and violence.
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There are certain expectations that come with genre films. What is a genre except a set of criteria that help define different types of films? Once in a while, a film will come along that is so inventive, so creative that it breaks free of a genre’s expectations which then sets the standard for all films in that genre that come after it. When a film is so inventive, it sometimes creates its own subgenre. Afterwards, many subsequent films try to imitate the first film's success with diminishing returns. Eventually what was inventive becomes cliche and films can slip into

Scared Stiff Blu-ray Review: Bored Silly

Low-budget 1980s horror flick waits until the end to get interesting, but by then it is too late.
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A little free critical advice to anyone planning to make a low-budget horror film: don’t put all of your money, your scares, and inventiveness into the last twenty minutes of the movie. You might think you need to have a grand finale so that your audience leaves the theatre with a bang, but if they are bored for the first half, they might not stick around to see what crazy stuff you can throw at them in the end. Richard Friedman (the auteur behind such classics as Doom Asylum and various episodes of Silk Stalkings and Baywatch Nights) did not

Keoma Blu-ray Review: The Spaghetti Western's Last Breath

Franco Nero stars in this later-period spaghetti western that's got a lot of style, and little else.
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With his Dollars trilogy, Sergio Leone revived the failing western genre, infused it with European sensibilities, and created his own subgenre, the Spaghetti Western. With their scruffy, loner heroes, off-kilter visual design, and unusual scores, Leone’s films gave the western a new and distinctive style. Their worldwide success created a numerous imitators, some more successful than others. By 1970, the genre had slipped into parody or outright slapstick. By 1976 it had all but died out. With Keomo, director Enzo G. Castellari along with star Fraco Nero gave it one last gasp, but by then we had all moved on.
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