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Everything You Need to Know About Horror on DVD

The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue and a chance to win!
42nd Street Forever Vol. 3We're starting this installment of DVDStalk with a special treat. We've been able to score five copies of 42nd Street Forever Vol. 3: Exploitation Explosion from the good folks at Synapse Films for a giveaway! Enter now for your chance to win one a copy!

With 42nd Street Forever Vol. 3: Exploitation Explosion, Synapse Films presents another volume in their best-selling series of classic exploitation trailers! Another mind-numbing , ball-busting, fist-punching and horror filled collection from the bygone days of New York City s classic 42nd Street theaters. This explosive collection, transferred in high-definition, will blow you through the back of your home theater! You'll have a blast watching these amazing film trailers! Trailers include: SUDDEN DEATH, JENNIFER, KILLER FISH, SAVAGE STREETS, THE YOUNG NURSES, BEYOND THE DOOR, DEVIL TIMES FIVE, KING FRAT, PRISON GIRLS, SURVIVE, THE ONE ARMED EXECUTIONER, JAGUAR LIVES, DEMONOID and many, many more! Be sure to read Paul Mavis' rave review of the disc and then click here for your chance to win a copy on DVD!

Recent Horror DVD Review Highlights

Horror releases have slowed down a bit over the last couple of months, which is typical once the holiday season comes to a close, but DVD Stalk remains dedicated to digging even deeper and working a little harder to find those releases that fans need to know about, be they good, bad or ugly. This time around, we get a little bit of each. Here's the latest...

The good? Blue Underground's excellent two disc re-release of Jorge Grau's seminal zombie film, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue. While it isn't as well known a efforts from Lucio Fulci or George Romero, Grau's take on the walking dead definitely holds its own. Here's what Ian had to say about this double dip from Lustig and company: Suspenseful and very tense, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue holds its own alongside genre giants like Romero's Night Of The Living Dead and Lucio Fulci's Zombie but, like Jean Rollin's Grapes Of Death (a film it shares some themes with) it doesn't seem to get the recognition that it deserves. Grau directs the film with style and skill, moving the action along at an appropriate pace ensuring that we get enough character development to matter but not so much as to overshadow the action and carnage. Once the zombie attack begins and the sub-plot with Kennedy's character really picks up, the film will have you on the edge of your seat. The noticeably improved transfer and the wealth of extra features make this one worth the double dip for fans of the film. Horror movie buffs who don't already own a copy of the previous releases should do themselves a big favor and pick up Blue Underground's fabulous two-disc special edition release of The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue a.s.a.p. - highly recommended!" It's not often that re-releases are given as much care as this puppy, and Blue Underground has given fans every reason they need to upgrade rather than rehash what's come before.

For those who like their horror movies animated, Todd Douglas highly recommends the Sony DVD release of Blood+: Volume One, which hits shelves this week. Todd got to look at the disc a little earlier than the rest of us and he definitely liked what he saw. "With five episodes on the first disc, the opening volume of Blood+ gives us a decent look into the series. If you watched Blood: the Last Vampire then you'll almost instantly recognize the character of Saya. She's an amnesiac school girl with short hair and a penchant for feeling déjà vu over things from her previous life. Her life seems to be relatively normal as she goes to classes, hangs out with friends, and lives with a seemingly loving adoptive family. The blissfulness doesn't last long and eventually a bloody curtain is drawn to unveil her true nature. Blood+ was a series I had been eagerly anticipating for quite some time and I'm happy to report that it didn't let me down in the slightest. The first volume was as good as anyone could have asked for and though the series gets off to a somewhat slow start I have no doubt after watching the quality here that it only gets better. I can't wait for the next installments and find myself very tempted to pick up the series box set that is already available. I rather like being given the option to buy a whole series or only a few episodes at a time. Kudos to Sony for releasing the show in that manner and I hope it's something other publishers take interest in. Highly Recommended!"

Schlock fan extraordinaire Bill Gibron found an unlikely gem in the Elite DVD debut versus of The Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Rock 'n Roll Musical. While some of you might scoff at DVD Stalk's decision to cover a musical in its pages, there's definitely method to our madness! Want proof? Bill's got it! "The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rock and Roll Musical is either the most misguided attempt at putting songs to a classic story - in this case, the famed Robert Louis Stevenson saga - ever, or it's the bravest 'almost-success' crafted by a wide-eyed motion picture innocent. Imagine wicked Uncle Ernie from The Who's Tommy given his own 90 minute showcase, complete with simplistic lyrical interludes and mock horror dynamics and you get a general idea of how this Jekyll and Hyde plays out. Bernhoft is not out to use his music as a means of unearthing the character's deeper emotional or psychological issues. Instead, this is outright operetta, straightforward narrative making up the majority of the songs' significance. As with any review of an unknown quantity, the bottom line becomes this: was the movie effective in making its point without being too amateurish, too ambitious, or too awkward? While suffering from a small amount of entertainment ego, The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rock and Roll musical manages to (more or less) avoid all three failings. Therefore, it earns an easy Recommended rating, and for those of you who are a tad more adventurous, something a little 'High'-er may be in order. Clearly, Alan Bernhoft is a man with talent, and Andre Champagne is a director and music producer of some skill. If you give The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Rock and Roll Musical a chance, you'll find your song and dance desires readily rewarded."

Bill also had the (bad) luck of checking out the Lionsgate straight to video release of Primal, a hokey take on the rather tired Bigfoot sub-genre of monster movies. What'd he think? Never one to mix words... "When it comes to homemade horror movies, Primal is a great big batch of pickled turds. It's a hackneyed excuse for terror that doesn't understand the first thing about film. As a genre or means of cinematic expression, it is obvious that writer/director Steffan Schlachtenhaufen just doesn't get horror. He believes that one note characters, thrown into a vague and unexplained situation, can be made macabre by simply adding some guy in a gorilla suit. While the credits proclaim the individuals in charge of the creature effects, it looks like something the local costume shop rejected as too ratty. Our fiend never looks realistic, barely functions as a source of evil, and ends up spending more time onscreen than the majority of the cast. Add in some Commodore 64 CGI, a horrendous post-production effect (it renders the attack scenes like old fashioned silent film footage - huh???) and you've got the most trying direct to DVD experience since Disney stopped making their unnecessary animated sequels. It's easy to dismiss a movie like Primal as being the poorly accomplished byproduct of some feeb's wildly inappropriate ambitions. It just has absolutely nothing of value going for it. Yet a quick glance at Steffan Schlachtenhaufen's IMDb page indicates a healthy career as a production assistant. From A Mighty Wind and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to Van Wilder, he's been involved in some fairly high profile efforts. This doesn't excuse Primal, nor does it explain it. All one can do is say Skip It and go on with their life. And here's hoping Bigfoot is successful in any future civil action. After a movie like this, whatever good name the prehistoric throwback had has been damaged irreparably."

While Robert Englund may have secured himself a place in horror movie history, and rightfully so, as the only true Freddy Kruger, his directing career hasn't done the genre as many favors as his work in front of the camera has. Case in point, his latest effort, a horrible horror-comedy mix called Killer Pad. Ian suffered through this one so that you didn't have to. "The movie follows three friends - Doug (Daniel Franzese), Craig (Eric Jungmann) and Brody (Shane McRae) - who are moving to California after they come into a few bucks at the expense of their dog, Ballsy. They get a deal on a house to share - a deal that seems to good to be true. They arrive at their swanky new digs and are amazed at not only how great the house is, but how friendly the local girls seem to be and how keen they are on getting to know them all a little bit better. Our three friends do what any trio of horny college-age guys would do, and that's plan a party. The rap group that the guys have hired as entertainment go over like gangbusters and everyone seems to be having a blast but what the three pals don't realize is that there's definitely a reason they're getting such a great deal on this house - it lays over a gateway to Hell! This film is basically an hour and a half of crass toilet humor, bad hone liners, and horrible acting with a few mildly amusing moments and some surprisingly good (if underused) effects and make up work thrown in for good measure. While the pacing is fine and the movie lets us know what kind of ride we're in for very early on, the performances from the three male leads are universally terrible and the editing is so haphazardly done that there are moments in the film that will literally leave you wondering what just happened. The script is a predictable and juvenile mess and while Englund ensures that it all moves quickly and Milonakis' bit part is amusing, it can't help this ship from sinking fast. While Lionsgate hasn't done a bad job on the DVD, Killer Pad is, unfortunately, a pretty terrible film. The premise is fun but the acting is bad, the script is bad, and the film misfires time and time again. Skip it."

High Def Horror Highlights

While there hasn't been a whole lot of activity in the horror genre on Blu-Ray (or HD DVD for that matter) over the last month, Lionsgate has unleashed the latest in their Saw series on Blu-Ray and Adam Tyner took a look at it for us. Here's what he had to say... "I wouldn't exactly label myself a rabid fan of the franchise or anything, but I really was looking forward to Saw IV. I dug the hell out of Feast, which had been penned by first-timers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. Once word came that they'd been pegged to tackle Saw IV -- the first in the series not to be written by Saw creators James Wan or Leigh Whannell -- I was hellbent on giving it a look. The thing is, everything I loved about Feast...? Nowhere to be found here. Feast screamed ahead at an inhumanly fast pace. Borderline-zero characterization. No long, rambling introductions. No backstories or awkward exposition. No long-winded flashbacks or explanations where Feast's insatiable critters came from. It was just a bunch of folks holed up in a bar in the middle of nowhere, under siege by a bunch of unstoppable, flesh-eating monsters. Saw IV is just about the complete opposite. There's not much of a twisted sense of dark humor this time around; it's all deathly serious, which makes all the overacting that much tougher to stomach. It doesn't help that Melton and Dunstan don't have any sort of ear for dialogue; damn near everything sounds stilted and awkward. Despite the obnoxious jump cuts and hypercaffeinated editing, any scene where someone's not being tortured is...well, torture...just agonizingly dull. The past couple of Saw flicks made the mistake of overhumanizing and overexplaining damn near everything about Jigsaw, and Saw IV leaves almost nothing about the man left to the imagination. So much of the movie's told in distant flashbacks that even though Jigsaw is carved open in the first couple minutes, Tobin Bell still manages to be in damn near every other scene. Saw IV is the weakest and most tedious movie in the series up to this point, just a cash-in to guarantee another installment in theaters like clockwork every Halloween. Still, this is a franchise with a doggedly loyal fanbase, and if you've picked up the other three flicks and are eager to sop up some more of Saw's gruesome torture, you'll probably find this latest sequel at least worth a rental on Blu-ray. It's a poor starting place for the uninitiated, though, and fans whose patience was already wearing thin by the time part three rolled around would probably be better off giving it a pass entirely." Saw IV is available on Blu-Ray and standard definition DVD.


Recent Horror Titles That May Have Flown Under Your Radar!

Bill Gibron took a look a few other noteworthy releases these last few weeks, starting with The Sick And Twisted Horror Of Joanna Angel, starring one of the biggest names in porno at the time of this writing. A longstanding fan of Joanna's adult work, Bill was happy to take a peek up the skirt of this release, which is essentially a pair of softcore versions of two of her XXX horror spoofs. Here's his take "Consisting of two abbreviated clips from much longer Angel adult titles, we are treated to spoofs of Stuart Gordon's gonzo gore classic Re-Animator (here renamed Re-Penetrator) and William Friedkin's horror classic The Exorcist (The XXXorcist). In the first short film, our heroine is a dead body that a horny scientist brings back to life, and then screws. In the second effort, she is little Regan MacFeel, taking on Father Merkin. The priest uses an unknown religious ritual - the SEXoricism - to save the little whore's immortal soul. It involves fornication as well. Re-Penetrator is about eight minutes long. XXXorcist is 20. Both originally ran much, much longer. There are also three endings to the Devil possession piece, noted as "Happy" (everyone lives), "Sad" (like the original movie), and "F*cked Up" (something to do with pedophilia and the police). Though it pushes the edges of critical credibility to say so, there is still something inherently intriguing about this DVD release. Perhaps it's seeing Angel perform in something other than the usual explicit fornication with a well endowed meat puppet. Maybe it's the opportunity to see Sackmann do something other than rock and roll slasher spoofs. It could be the iconic nature of the movies being mocked. They are so ingrained in horror fans' heads that even the slightest satire has them making up their own jokes. Whatever the reason, The Sick and Twisted Horror of Joanna Angel earns a Recommended rating. There are elements here that will definitely tweak the non-porn devotee's desires. On the other hand, Angel is best viewed in her XXX domain - and this disc is short on such f*ck and suck ideals."  Bill also took a look at the recent release of Forest Primeval, courtesy of the Polonia Brothers, stating "When you see the names John and Mark Polonia on the credits of a film, you usually know what to expect - homemade horror delights peppered with a reverence for the '80s disposable direct to video mindset; production values hampered by budget but not imagination; topographical talent and acting; and just the right amount of camp cult schlock. So it may seem odd that, as they've aged (the boys have been in the outsider auteur biz for nearly two decades), the Polonias have both embraced and distanced themselves from their kitschy crap past. An example of their own internal homage was 2007's Splatter Beach. It was a gloriously goofy romp. Their latest effort, Forest Primeval, avoids said silliness, and instead tries to go the serious route. It doesn't quite work. If you want to see no-budget moviemakers on autopilot, John and Mark Polonia's Forest Primeval is a mighty good place to start. Avoiding the slapdash silliness of previous efforts (Feeders, Gorilla Warfare: Battles of the Apes, Peter Rottentail) and striving to combine the Evil Dead with a "something in the woods" storyline, the guys make a major misstep. No one expects this duo to deliver something somber and serious. What the typical Polonia lover longs for is groan inducing dialogue, shoestring special effects, clumsy camerawork, and just a wee nip of fever dream originality. After all, these are the filmmakers whose first movie, Splatter Farm, offered rape, sex with the elderly (implied, thankfully), feces fun, corpse grinding, and oral pleasure with a decapitated head. But somehow, when hooked up with Tempe as filmmakers for hire, their usual flair and finesse is undermined by a journeyman like junk couture."

On a related note, DVD Stalk sends its condolences to the friends and family of John Polonia, who tragically passed away in late February. While the Polonia Brothers didn't always make the best films, they had an undeniable enthusiasm and deservingly built a decent cult following over the years. The low budget independent scene won't be the same without you, John. Rest in peace.

Justin Felix also hit upon a pair of mediocre fright films, starting with Sony's release of Bats: Human Harvest, originally shown on the Sci-Fi Channel. "The original Bats was a fun B-movie romp with Lou Diamond Phillips. This in-name-only sequel isn't as fun, but it does efficiently follow the template set up by dozens - if not hundreds - of similar movies to premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel or get dumped direct-to-video. First, open with a dramatic kill. Here, we get a bunch of actors who speak English with bad Russian accents playing a military platoon wiped out by hordes of bats. Second, introduce the bat fodder, er, characters. This step takes about a half hour as we meet the US military members - fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq before globe-trotting around the world - and a Russian-born agent who's been on the trail of our evil doctor, a perpetually frowning guy genetically manipulating bats, presumably for military applications. Third, let the killer animal mayhem ensue. In this go-round, once the Delta Force are roaming around the Belzan Forest with machine guns drawn, the mad doctor's killer bats - hungry with the taste for human flesh - attack en masse. They also apparently have the ability to blend in chameleon-like with trees. Much R rated gunplay and blood-spewing enfold, while the evil scientist watches via a bunch of cameras. The last hour of Bats: Human Harvest provides enough cheap Sci-Fi Channel killer animal mayhem to entertain fans of this genre. I'd say rent it if you're into this type of thing and avoid if you're aren't." Also on Justin's radar was Catacombs, from Lionsgate. "The film's main character, Victoria, travels from Baltimore to Paris after receiving a postcard from her sister, Carolyn, inviting her for a visit. Victoria has some issues, including a nervous predisposition, and she's on prescription meds. It probably doesn't help that Carolyn treats her like crap. Not only does she stage a prank scare for Victoria at her apartment, but she also insists on taking her sister, exhausted from a transatlantic plane flight that she couldn't sleep through, to a rave underneath the streets of Paris. At this rave, she's told a story about a devil cult who raises a child on raw meat in the catacombs they're in. Supposedly, the kid is now berserk and kills the unfortunates who get lost in the caverns. Inevitably, the police raid the rave, and in the panic, Victoria gets separated from her sister and companions, and gets lost. Much running and screaming and waving of flashlights ensue, as do sudden encounters with swarms of rats and bats, until the final ten minutes when we're given an implausible ending. Unfortunately, the script is rather standard, and while there are some shocks, the plot is rather ludicrous. Ultimately, I thought the film was passingly entertaining, but not memorable. Catacombs is a watchable fright flick for hardcore horror hounds. Shannyn Sossamon's performance is pretty good, and the last hour of the film has a kinetic energy to it. Unfortunately, Lions Gate disappoints on the technical end of the DVD's presentation. Rent it if you're interested, but it's otherwise avoidable.

Last but not least, Ian took a look at another straight to video release from Sony (who seem to be churning out a lot of this type of material lately, giving Lionsgate a run for their money!), Black Water. Sisters Grace (Diana Glenn) and Lee (Maeve Dermody) decide they've had enough fun hanging out with their mother and decide to grab Grace's boyfriend, Adam (Andy Rodoreda), and spend the rest of their vacation doing something a little more fun. First up on the agenda is a trip to the Crocodile Adventure Park, a farm that breeds crocodiles and shows them off to tourists before eventually using their skin to make garments and bags and other nifty trinkets. Foreshadowing? Yep. Our intrepid trio bunks down at a hotel for the night and then, the next morning, book a trip on a riverboat tour of the swampy area. Adam figures it'll be fun and while the girls are none too impressed with this idea, he talks them into it. They arrive and their tour guide, Jim (Ben Oxenbould), grabs his gun and a bunch of raw meat and off they go. Of course, no sooner have they gotten far enough away from civilization than they're attacked by an angry giant crocodile. Maybe bringing all that meat with them was a bad idea. The crocodile trashes the boat, and our tourists basically spend the rest of the film hiding from the cranky-croc up a tree where he can't get them. Written and directed by David Nerlich and Andy Traucki, Black Water has its share of problems, the bulk of which stem from the fact that the last half of the movie basically takes place in a tree. Granted, it's a tree near a giant crocodile and one that periodically tries to eat people, but it's still a tree and that doesn't lend itself to much excitement. If watching a pair of Australian gals sit in a tree and scream every few minutes sounds like your idea of a good time, then by all means, give the film a shot but unless you're a fan of the 'screaming Aussie gals in a tree' sub-genre, there are better animal attack films out there. While the presentation is fine and the supplements are reasonably interesting, Black Water just isn't interesting or frightening enough to work as well as it needs to. A few tense attack scenes and some nice camera work keep it from becoming a complete waste of time, however, and there are worse ways to kill ninety minutes on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Rent it.


Cineplex Scares: Current Theatrical Horror

Other Horror DVDs Released in the Past Two Months


Overlooked Horror Discs From The Past

Not everyone grabs the latest horror discs the day they're released, so out of the sheer goodness of our hearts, we've decided that with each DVD Stalk column we'll dedicate a section to quality horror DVDs that you might have missed the first time around. This month's choice is the Grindhouse Releasing special edition release of Cannibal Ferox. Here's what Scott Weinberg has to say about this controversial Italian gut muncher....

Arguably one of the most controversial imports of all time, Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) is an ugly, vile, and wholly unpleasant experience. But I guess that's kind of what they were shooting for, so it'd be hard to say the movie's actually a "failure." But really, and this is coming from a hardcore horror fan of 30+ years, this is one seriously nasty movie.

You're certainly not about to sit down with Cannibal Ferox looking for half-decent camerawork, interesting characters, engaging stories or anything resembling quality filmmaking, so let's cut right to the chase: This is the one with all the nasty-ass animal violence; rodents get squooshed by snakes, turtles get their poors limbs chopped off, gators get sliced & diced... Basically, one-third of this movie is a documentary about the culinary habits of Brazilian natives. Unfortunately, the other two-thirds contain dialogue.

Pay no attention to the three or four scenes that take place in New York; they have nothing at all to do with the movie. The main "plot" of the affair sees three Americans traveling into the wilds of Brazil, and get this: Their mission is to prove that cannibalism doesn't exist! Oh, the chinzty exploitational irony of it all! So these three young idiots run across a pair of amazingly vicious basards who've enslaved a tribe of natives! Then, after much animal violence, the natives strike back! And when I say "strike" and "back," I also mean "slice" and "genitals." If I told you that the castration sequence wasn't the ugliest scene in Cannibal Ferox, that's probably all you need to know. You'll either head out to the video store tomorrow or avoid the movie forever -- and unless you're a hearty horror expert like yours truly, I'd definitely recommend the latter option. (And when I say "expert" I really mean "monumental nerd.")

For all its infamy and well-documented nastiness, I seem to dislike Cannibal Ferox for a relatively novel reason: It's poorly-made, it's not very interesting, and it's really quite dull during the numerous stretches in which things aren't being stabbed, sliced, impaled, or disemboweled. From the gorehound's perspective, the thing's got gravy to spare -- but it's all so ugly and base and exploitative, there's really no good way to enjoy the misshapen little mass.

If your wife ever comes home from work and says "Oh man am I in the mood for an early '80s cannibal movie in which real animals are actually slaughtered and bad actors have their wangs sliced off," well, now you know what to get her for Christmas.

Upcoming DVD Scares For March 2008

DVD Stalk encourages you to check us out over at our MySpace page. If you've got a MySpace account, make sure you stop by and friend us. You keep reading and we'll keep writing. If there is anything that you, the loyal reader, would love to see covered in this area, please feel free to send us a note to [email protected].

We'd love to read your comments and feedback. Send us your thoughts on other things you'd like to see in the space, or even random thoughts about the world of horror. Drop us a line at [email protected]. Don't forget to visit the DVD Stalk Forum to chat about all things horror-related, and join us at DVD Stalk on MySpace.

DVD Stalk Editor: Ian Jane.
Contributors to DVD Stalk: Ian Jane, Bill Gibron, Stuart Galbraith IV, Daniel Hirshleifer, John Sinnott, Adam Tyner, John Wallis, Justin Felix and DVD Savant.


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