TORONTO AFTER DARK REVIEW: SUBURBAN GOTHIC

DELIRIUM is at the 2014 TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL and will be reviewing new horror and cult films right from the front lines of the festival. Here’s our first entry from critic and writer Cheryl Singleton.

By Cheryl Singleton

As a fan of Richard Bates Jr.’s deliciously disturbing 2012 debut EXCISION, I was anxious to feast my eyes on what would follow. A first taste via the trailer for SUBURBAN GOTHIC did not disappoint. With a super-saturated bubblegum palate, snappy dialogue and a killer cast including Matthew Gray Gubler (CRIMINAL MINDS), Kat Dennings (NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) and the fan favourite Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS) I was ready to take another bloody ride with the director.

Having missed the World Premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival back in August, I was delighted to see it would be playing on the opening night of the 9 day Toronto After Dark Film Festival along with Gerard Johnstone’s popular genre mash-up HOUSEBOUND. The two were a perfect pair of oddly hilarious horror films that left a smile on my face for the rest of the night.

While not in the flesh at the screening, Bates Jr. provided a video intro where he warned that this film would be “totally a complete departure from my last movie” Noting that he was unable to get a film made after the graphically disturbing EXCISION, he fell into a depression that led him to revisit things from his childhood that made him happy including watching ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK and SCOOBY DOO cartoons and reading THE HARDY BOYS. With that in mind I was ready to sink into this “children’s film for adults” that he had created.

Unable to find a job in upper management after completing business school, Raymond (Gray Gubler) has no choice but to move back in with his parents in the small town he thought he had escaped years ago. Once an overweight kid obsessed with the supernatural and prone to ghostly visions and high-pitched screams, Raymond has shed the pounds and stopped communicating with the dead, though he remains an outsider thanks to his “European” style of dress and hair that is a character unto itself. Raymond’s parents are split on his return. His mother Eve (Barbara Niven) channels the perfect 50’s housewife and is thrilled to have her little boy back home while his ridiculously bigoted football coach father Donald (Wise) couldn’t be more embarrassed by the arrival of his jobless metro-sexual son.

Bonding with the local bartender Becca (Dennings) over too many drinks, regrettable tattoos and the shared disdain for their town, the snarky pair become fast friends. When Raymond begins to experience strange paranormal occurrences at home (including a particularly cringe worthy piano/ toe nail duet) the two form a misfit ghost hunting team armed with Becca’s trusty crowbar to get to the bottom of it. Gray Gubler and Dennings each bring a crackling energy to the screen which is at its best when they are together. The end of the film suggests more mysteries are in store for the duo and I can only hope to see these explored in some fashion.

While the pace slows at the end of the second act, some secondary characters including the local bullies feel unnecessary and Donald’s prejudices begin to feel a bit heavy, it is not enough to derail the overall fun of the movie.

SUBURBAN GOTHIC is a grown up SCOOBY-DOO mystery complete with characters disguising themselves as ghosts by wearing bed sheets, but by no means is it childish. Between the razor sharp dialogue, the over the top costuming (kudos to designer Anthony Tran), the punk rock energy and the amount of time the characters spend speaking directly into the camera, this film is in your face from start to finish.

EXCISION and SUBURBAN GOTHIC could not be more different yet I was equally enthralled with both. I can’t wait to see what Richard Bates Jr. does next.

DELIRIUM REVIEW: 9/10

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FILM REVIEW: DRACULA UNTOLD

Editor’s note: The world of DELIRIUM deals with counterculture, eccentric, indie and European horror, cult and exploitation film. A PG-13 blockbuster film like DRACULA UNTOLD would normally not fit our bill. BUT we are running this review because it is filtered through two Canadian ladies, siblings who love weird stuff and live together and call themselves “The Spinster Sisters”. Sometimes it aint the song, it’s the singer, so let’s sit back and take in some words from our latest critics…

By The Spinster Sisters

First things first: if for some misguided reason you’re expecting DRACULA UNTOLD to be even remotely based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula, let us save you some time. It’s not. If that’s what you want…well don’t watch this film. Go read (or reread) Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But if you want to be entertained for an hour and a half, well then this might be for you. And in the interest of full disclosure, we should mention that in September 2013 Spinster#2 was lucky enough to go on a set visit of DRACULA UNTOLD and talk to the people involved. They were so excited and passionate, she left crossing her fingers it worked out for them. Personally, we were quite looking forward to seeing this film.
And you know what? We did enjoy it. Quite a bit.
The story starts out basically grounded in history: there was a Vlad Tepes, he was a prince of Wallachia (modern Transylvania) and he was a royal hostage given to the Turks. He was trained to fight for the Turks, gained the reputation as “Vlad the Impaler” for his, some would argue, unhealthy penchant for skewering men on stakes, then returned to Wallachia to rule as Prince. At this point fact grinds to a screeching halt and fantasy takes over with a flourish. This Vlad (played stoically but handsomely, often shirtlessly, by Luke Evans) is the quintessential happy family man. He has perfected the 9-to-5 beloved prince gig so that he can go home at the end of the day to his beautiful (read: perfect) wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son Inderas (Art Parkinson). Then the Turks come, demand their annual tribute…and 1000 boys for their army. Including Inderas. This is Gadon’s chance to show some emotion, apart from blissfully happy wife, and she does it well. As for Inderas, other reviews have accused him of being wimpy. We have to disagree, and here’s why: children in horror/fantasy movies often suffer from TSTL – To Stupid To Live. It’s often a side effect of being written as “plucky”. In their stupidity, these children usually end up killing one or both of their parents. So does Inderas run and hide behind his mother and father when Turkish soldiers attack? Yes! Because that’s what you do when you’re an even halfway intelligent 11 year old (We don’t know how old Inderas is meant to be, but Parkinson would have been 11 during filming). At no point do either Mirena or Inderas do something so mind-blowingly stupid it’s a crime they aren’t taken out then and there. To his credit, Inderas shows backbone when it matters most.
This is not a deep movie, but it moves at such a rip-roaring pace that you’re left with the definite impression there used to be more, but it had to be cut down for time. And we know from the set visit that much of the back story was cut. Seriously, there was a whole subplot with the witch Baba Yaga – and Charles Dance wasn’t the Master (a character who wasn’t even “the Master” at the time). As it stands now, director Gary Shore wastes little time transforming our hero from a Transylvanian prince with understandable and incredibly well managed PTSD to the classic blood sucking fiend you came to see. Vlad’s decision to move from Plan A: acquiesce and give the Turks what they want to Plan B: kill everyone and risk your soul in exchange for evil superpowers, took less than a minute. Go big or go home seems to be Vlad’s motto. Luckily for the film and the audience, the evil Master vampire (played delightfully by Charles Dance) trapped in the conveniently nearby Broken Tooth mountain is only too happy to help, and in doing so provides a little exposition and back story (gotta keep that plot a-movin’!) For an ancient monster feeding on the blood of man, the Master is surprising upfront about the deal: Vlad gets the complete vampire package for a three-day trial period. If during that three days he succumbs to the thirst, it’s permanent. Oh, and the Master’s freed from his mountain prison to continue waging some ill-defined eternal war and he will call on Vlad to help, BTW (but they’ll save that for the sequel). But if Vlad can control his appetites, then he gets to go back to happy, family-man Vlad with a crazy-weekend story that will never be rivalled. And, as one would imagine as the film progresses, some awkward questions from his people.
Is this a horror movie? Not really, it’s restricted by a PG-14 rating. Is it scary? No. Not in the slightest. Do all Transylvanians speak with British accents? Of course. But if you like vampires or stories with people facing internal struggles against evil, it’s a fun hour and a half. We hope there’s a sequel.
And a final parting thought:
Vlad’s bats. We imagine people will be split on the bats, but we actually thought the bats were pretty cool. We’ve always considered bats to be some of the less useful creatures of the night in Dracula’s arsenal (unless then plan is to spread rabies, then bats are freaking terrifying), but you have to give credit where credit’s due. The bats were well done. And except for one close up scene of a Turk being wing-slapped into submission by three or four particularly determined little flappers, they didn’t strike us as silly.
The Spinster Sister Review: 3/5 stars

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: STAGEFRIGHT

By Jerry Smith

Michele Soavi’s 1987 film STAGEFRIGHT is a favorite to many horror aficionados and now the Italian classic gets the Blu-ray treatment from Blue Underground with this release and boy oh boy, does it look better than ever.

Following a somewhat troubled musical number that ends up being quite the deadly experience, STAGEFRIGHT establishes an excellent tone from the very beginning, setting forth a downright beautiful look full of color and style, before even getting to any real danger within the film’s plot. By the time the film’s heroine twists her ankle and heads to a psychiatric hospital to get it fixed (strange I know) we’re already on board with not only the look of the film, but also its characters, a group of needy and overly dramatic theater actors who each bring a really fun presence to the film. Soon after arriving at the hospital, one thing leads to another and a mental patient, guilty of slaughtering a dozen people, escapes and hitches a ride back to the theater, where the troupe is being subjected to an intense rehearsal by the show’s director.

Everything leading up to that point in the film, is all about setting forth that tone and feeling, allowing STAGEFRIGHT’s viewers to get hooked into a question of what’s coming next. What does end up coming, next is that the entire group gets trapped inside of the theater, with the killer hiding within and he soon dispatching them, one by one.

What sets STAGEFRIGHT apart from every other slasher film released at the time, is how tense it can feel, all while also feeling very playful and visually striking at the same time. It’s one of the few great horror films set within a theater-setting (Bava’s DEMONS and Herrier’s POPCORN also sitting comfortable side by side with it), something that gives you as a viewer a very confined and sometimes claustrophobic feelin. Topped with some excellent kills, with everything from axes, chainsaws, drills and everything in between used as ways to off each cast member one by one, STAGEFRIGHT also boasts one unforgettable killer, wearing an owl-head costume while chopping people to pieces, and trying to stage his own stage piece. It’s one of those horror films that really stands out in pretty much every capacity, with a fun plot, over the top performances, great kills, and last but definitely not least, an excellent electronic-based score by Simon Boswell (DEMONS 2, SANTA SANGRE).

Blue Underground really did one hell of a job with STAGEFRIGHT’s Blu-ray debut, as it looks absolutely stunning in high definitely, making those beautiful colors and shots stand out even more than they always have. Add the disc’s 5.1 DTS sound to it, and you’ve got by far the best the film has ever looked and sounded. Also on the disc, is over a half dozen interviews with everyone from Soavi himself, to stars of the film, make-up effects artist Pietro Tenoglio, as well as composer Simon Boswell. Each interview is well over the ten minute mark and not a single one feels like the short EPK’s that fill up so many releases these days.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of STAGEFRIGHT or if you’re just in the mood for something new, this is one hell of a release and something that should be in every horror fan’s collection.

DELIRIUM REVIEW 9/10

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UK DVD REVIEW: UNHINGED

by Matty Budrewicz
88 Films dig their heels further into the UK genre market this week by unleashing yet another cult favourite, with Portland indie journeyman Don Gronquist’s moody slasher mystery UNHINGED receiving a welcome DVD reissue. It’s without doubt a step up from any previous disc too, from Platinum’s discount PAL VHS transfer, to Brentwood’s Stateside release – you know, that one with the obnoxious ‘comedy’ (in the loosest sense of the word) commentary. Bleurgh…

Don’t be expecting anything swanky though. For those spoilt by the pin-sharp picture and high-end sound of the recent slew of spiffy special ed blus from Arrow and Scream Factory et al, 88’s no-fuss package will likely horrify; Unhinged is just as rough and ready-looking as ever, thanks to no HD elements being available to create a new master. Still, with two presentations of the film to choose from – a 4×3 open matte or an upscaled anamorphic widescreen version – and an informative talk-track with Gronquist himself, it’s definitely the way to go. Its rock-bottom price tag is just the sweetener.

One of Blighty’s infamous Video Nasties, Unhinged’s inclusion in that notorious line-up is just as nonsensical as the rest of its condemned compadres; perhaps even more so as, unlike the grue excess of CANNIBAL FEROX and FACES OF DEATH, Unhinged eschews artery-splitting mayhem in favour of a handful of off-screen blood splashes. As noted by critic Calum Waddell in 88’s liner notes, its undue attention was probably more down to its stunningly morbid artwork – lovingly reproduced here – than anything particularly explicit within the film itself.

Of course, that’s not to say Unhinged is an easy ride. It’s far from it; a dark, tonally depressing cocktail of familial madness, repression and aberrant sexuality. Like Ruggero Deodato’s landmark gut-muncher CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and Romano Scavolini’s harrowing proto-HENRY, NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN – two of the smartest, and most uncompromising, of the Nasty canon – there’s much more going on thematically than just simple, box-ticking exploitation. Unhinged is elevated cheapjack horror.
Drawing too from the old dark house and psycho-biddy subgenres, Unhinged finds a trio of totty (Laurel Munson, Sara Ansley and Barbara Lusch) sheltering at an isolated, brooding mansion after a car accident. Their hosts, the Penroses, are hospitable but off, with prudish daughter Marion (J.E. Penner) domineered by her screeching, man-hating mother (Virginia Settle). Soon, a killer is prowling the Penrose grounds and, as the body count slowly starts to rise, so too do the skeletons that come creeping out of the deep, dark family closet…

It’s not quite classic stuff: Though atmospheric and showing a great flair for uncomfortable detail, Gronquist’s direction is, even with such a scant seventy-odd minute run time, a touch lax; especially so during Unhinged’s more standard dramatic moments. The performances too range from the overdone to the undercooked, with only Penner (who’d later appear in, of all things, HOMEWARD BOUND) producing a thoroughly credible turn. Nonetheless, Unhinged remains a minor of gem of sorts; it may be a little unpalatable for anyone expecting a FRIDAY THE 13TH-style popcorn crowd-pleaser, but for us schlock nuts who like our stalk and slash a little left of center a la FUNERAL HOME and THE UNSEEN, it’s just the disquieting tonic.
DELIRIUM REVIEW – 6/10

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UK BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE VISITOR

by Dave Wain
Throughout the seventies, Egyptian mogul Ovidio G. Assonitis shot a handful of brazen pictures that were not too dissimilar to successful Hollywood fare. BEYOND THE DOOR prompted a Warner Brothers lawsuit due to its similarity to THE EXORCIST, while TENTACLES capitalised on the success of JAWS with delightfully schlocky results. THE VISITOR, meanwhile, is a not-so-subtle nod towards THE OMEN and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND as well as a legion of other box office winners.

As with his previous film Tentacles – which saw John Huston and Henry Fonda fending off a giant octopus – Assonitis once again utilises his knack for casting iconic actors; Huston stars again, alongside such golden-era talent as Glenn Ford and Mel Ferrer. Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters and Sam Peckinpah – in a rare front-of-camera role – also appear.
The film’s narrative centres around Katy (Paige Conner), a young girl whose heritage leads an alien elder (Huston) to be sent to Earth by a Christ-like figure (played by Franco Nero) as it turns out she’s a scion of an evil alien race complete with the power of telekinesis. In the midst of this is her single mother (Joanne Nail) who’s being wooed by baseball team owner Raymond (Henriksen) who in turn is being pressured to impregnate his new found love by some shady conspiratorial characters in order to add to the extra-terrestrial lineage.
With the risk of damning it with faint praise, The Visitor’s certainly never boring. Its Atlanta based setting – thanks to an attractive tax incentive – is vibrant, while Assonitis’ direction entrances and bewilders in equal measure, initially spectacular stunt sequences segueing into sniggering fodder. The sight of legions of shaven-headed clones staring from the top of skyscrapers at a bewildered Huston, and Franco Micalizzi’s ill-fittingly bombastic score, add to the lunacy. It’ll never be considered high art.

The extra features on this Arrow Blu-ray are ported over from the Drafthouse Films edition that saw an American release earlier this year. They include interviews with Lance Henriksen, screenwriter Lou Comici and also cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri. UK folks are, however, the recipients of an illustrated collector’s booklet with writing from critic Mike White who includes excerpts of cast interviews given to his Podcast. With a VHS release through Warner Brothers back in 1987 being the only time The Visitor has entered the UK home entertainment market, upgrading your dusty tape to Blu-ray will be an essential manoeuvre, primarily because this Arrow disc runs twenty minutes longer.

A total oddity and an awkward recommendation to the uninitiated, The Visitor is a film impossible to dislike, be it due its cast, its misguided ambition or its grand air of disjointed madness. Whatever the case, it simply demands your attention.

DELIRIUM REVIEW: 7/10

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DVD REVIEW: SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE

By Smitty Allenby

The fact that the first SHARKNADO was even made is ridiculous. The fact that it was a hit is astonishing. And the fact that they made a sequel is completely outrageous. And yet, here it is…

SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE isn’t a horror movie but neither was the first one. Rather it is like an absurdist comedic/violent episode of THE LOVE BOAT;  a cheap, tacky cinematic rust-bucket full of declining celebrities and wanton absurdity. But with sharks. LOTS of sharks, once more raining from the heavens and chomping their way across America.

Ian Ziering reprises his role as a former surfer bum Finn (har har!),  whose heroic efforts in the first SHARKNADO have cemented his iconic status. While on a plane to NYC with his ex-wife (a returning Tara Reid), the sky darkens and suddenly sharks are fudging up the engines and blowing holes in the aircraft. While passengers fly out and sharks fly in, Finn commandeers the plane, lands it and immediately sets out to warn the world that another Sharknado is afoot. Many people die and many familiar faces – from Andy Dick to Matt Lauer to a mocked-up version of Toronto mayor Rob Ford – show up to shake their heads and scream bloody murder.

And that’s about it.

You don’t watch a SHARKNADO movie for great cinema or lyrical screenwriting or even decent special effects. You watch a SHARKNADO movie to laugh and have a good time and, if nothing else, SHARKNADO 2: THE NEXT ONE is a great damned time. There’s no crime at giggling at/with writer/director Anthony C. Ferrante’s cheerfully moronic magnum opus. The man knows exactly what he’s designing and for what audience. Digital eating machines flying through the air battling chainsaw-wielding ex-BEVERLY HILLS 90201 stars is an acquired taste, to be sure, and we’ve certainly got the fever for its flavor.

DVD/Blu-ray Special features include a deleted scene, outtakes, making of featurettes and assorted distracting supplemental materials. Oh and make sure you sit through the closing credits, which are the fastest moving things outside of syndication hell and feature Ziering oddly and casually eating pizza.

Weird stuff, amusing flick.

DELIRIUM Review: 7/10

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Hurmee’s Horrors Looks at DELIRIUM #4

Here’s a page by page fan video looking at DELIRIUM #4!

DELIRIUM Release Party at Dark Delicacies: Vidcast

Our D-DAY OF THE B-MOVIES event at Dark Delicacies in Burbank celebrating the release of DELIRIUM #4, went smashingly, with guests such as Mick Garris, Nivek Ogre, Jeffrey Combs, John Lechago, Axelle Carolyn,  David De Coteau and more on hand to meet fans and sign mags.

Here’s our Vidcast report from the show!

And to order a copy of DELIRIUM #4 signed by every star at the show, go HERE.

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Italian Horror Legend Geretta Geretta to Attend D-DAY OF THE B-MOVIES This Weekend!

Legendary Italian exploitation actress Geretta Geretta  (DEMONS) was most recently spotlighted in our DELIRIUM #3, a wild interview in which the lady recalled making late director Bruno Mattei’s 1984 shocker RATS.

We’re now excited to welcome the lady to our INSANE “D-DAY OF THE B-MOVIES” celebration in Burbank this weekend (Saturday, September 27th, 1pm-3pm at Dark Delicacies), marking the release of both DELIRIUM #4 and the Blu ray release of DOCTOR MORDRID! Geretta will breeze into the event, say hi to fans and sign some copies of DELIRIUM #3 before stalking back to her table at that weekend’s DAYS OF THE DEAD convention.

Come meet Geretta Geretta and have a peek at the crazy awesome list of talent joining her at D-DAY OF THE B-MOVIES #4!

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DOCTOR MORDRID out now on Blu ray from FULL MOON

One of Full Moon’s wildest features, 1992’s Jefferey Combs-starring fantasy flick DOCTOR MORDRID is finally available on Blu-ray!

MORDRID

Get your copy today by visiting www. FullMoonDirect.com.

And don’t forget: Jeffrey Combs will be appearing at D-DAY OF THE B-MOVIES this Saturday to promote the release, sign Blu-rays and help celebrate the release of DELIRIUM #4!

See you at the show!

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