Thursday 2 May 2019

End of Book One...

Hey folks and welcome to end or more precisely this chapter of the "From The Depths of DVD Hell" saga as while Blogger has been it's home for the last eleven years, the time has come to close the book and move onto greener pastures to continue this journey.

For far too long I have been unhappy with the look of the blog and the generally unweildy tools the platform provides only resisiting the urge to move due to the connections I had made with you my dear readership and the good friends I have made since I started out expecting to be writing for a year and then move onto somthing else only to continue finding great pleasure in hunting down films, while expanding into podcasting which has only added to the journey.

This blog will not be going anywere as while I could transfer the content across I would rather keep it here so that it can continue to be enjoyed by anyone who still wishes to read them and start on the new page afresh.

So don't fear this is far from the end as the journey continues HERE

Sunday 17 March 2019


Title: Leviathan
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Released: 1989
Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Lisa Eilbacher, Hector Elizondo

Plot: A group of deepsea miners discover a Soviet shipwreck, Leviathan only to bring back with their salvage an entity which soon begins working its way through the crew. 

Review: One of a slew of Underwater Sci-fi horror released in the wake of The Abyss alongside Deep Star Six a film which proved as tricky to get hold of. Unlike Deep Star Six this one actually proved to be worth the effort as it plays like a more horror focused version of The Abyss with a dash of John Carpenter’s The Thing thrown in for good measure.

Directed by George P. Cosmatos whoat this point was coming into the film hot after directing both Rambo: First Blood 2 and Cobra; here though he calms things back alittle as he introduces a crew of blue collar deep sea miners headed up by geologist Steve Beck (Weller) who like the rest of the crew is looking forward to the shift change in 4 days. However the chance discovery of the scuttled Soviet ship soon brings with it all kinds of problems when the experiment which was being tested on the unknowing crew is soon wreaking havoc on the mining team.

Despite the B-movie roots of the film each of the crew are given enough depth to help them standout more than disposable monster chow, though at the same time most of the crew for the first quarter are overshadowed by the pervert antics of Six Pack played here by Daniel Stern who spends most of his time in the film trying to hit on or just straight up sexually harass the two female crew members which is the kind of thing that you could never get away with now, especially with his boob mug and the centrefolds he plasters across his bunk. The crew in general though are a likeable bunch with Ernie Hudson getting a few great lines while Weller is enjoyable as the lead his performance remains as diversive as ever especially in the first quarter were he seems to actually be confused about what he’s supposed to be going while his payoff line of “Open wide Motherfucker!!” comes off a little more amusing than I think it was originally planned.

Shot on sound stages in Rome the layout of the Miner’s “Shack” is actually very similar to the Deep Core research station of The Abyss in that everything is raw steel and exposed pipes but at the same time we see throughout this station subtle details such as the screens playing footage of landscapes and sunlamps to strive away the effects of being underwater for long periods. Such a functional setup of course only works the better during the final were the high pressure of the surrounding ocean slowly crushes the station causing the internal structure to collapse and spectacularly implode. At the same time the lack of sterile work areas and clunky diving suits designed to deal with the high pressure really give the film a presence and memorable look which complements this crew of blue collar workers, striving off the boredom and cablin fever of their surroundings till the next shift change.

While the monster action is alittle slower than expected to start as what initially starts out seemingly as an infection after two of the miners consume vodka they fund amongst their salvage from the ship and because seemingly no one told this pair about why you don’t drink things you find on sunk ships the film soon mutates into body horror before the film just turns into a full blown monster on the loose movie. Much like as in Alien though the crew also have to deal with the shady plots of the company higher ups here represented by an almost otherworldly Meg Foster who communicates with Beck via the station video monitor, though it’s soon becomes clear that they might be working their own agenda as always seems to be the case in these movies.

With Stan Winston handling the creature effects they still look impressive if never going as crazy as Rob Bottin’s effects for The Thing. However watching the film now it doesn’t really matter as with these kind of movies now just being the preferred output of the Asylum and the SYFY channel to actually have a half decent film with practical effects leaves you feeling kind spoiled to not be subjected to subpar CGI. At the same time the monster does have a few unique quirks of it’s own as we see crew members absorbed into it’s skin adding a nice moral quandry for those attempting to fight it as they are faced with the prospect of having to kill their friends in order to kill the monster.
A fun throw back which serves as a reminder as to how far this sub-genre has fallen and while it might not reach the same heights as The Abyss it’s a notable step up from Deep Star Six and perhaps if the tension was built upon more it might be more fondly remembered. Regardless there is still plenty for genre fans to enjoy here.

Sunday 3 March 2019

The Cult of Chucky

Title: Cult of Chucky
Director: Don Mancini
Released: 2017
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Michael Therriault, Adam Hurtig, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Douriff

Plot: Four years on from the events of Curse of Chucky Nica (Fiona Dourif) has been confined to a mental institution after being framed for the murder of her family by Chucky (Brad Douriff). Now transferred to a medium security unit, only to soon find herself tormented once more by the killer doll.

Review: The Seventh instalment in the Chucky franchise its actually quite staggering that there is still any life left in this series and while the other icons at this point were heading to space, crossing over to other franchises or in the case of Pinhead just constantly feel like has just wandered into the wrong movie. Chucky on the other hand has just become a more grotesque visage over the course of the films to the point were he has just been now reduced to a heavily mutated head being kept in the wall safe of series mainstay Andy (Alex Vincent) or has he?

Certainly it’s clear from the start that Mancini much George Romero with his zombie saga that he making these films for the fans rather any kind of critical audience but despite this it’s fun seeing him trying to sew the series together by giving Andy more of a cameo as he’s opens the film on a date which quickly turns sour when his date discovers his troubled past of being tormented by the killer doll with mention of his babysitters murder giving us a flashback to her demise in the first film. Sadly we don’t get to see any more of these classic even though Andy does mention them in the same scene.

Focusing once more on Nia as we pick up her story four years on from Curse of Chucky were she has been confined to a mental institution and now left questioning if Chucky was even real. However being moved to a medium security unit it’s not long before Chucky is up to his usual antics helped largely by the fact that somehow these good guy dolls keep showing up at the facility. Initially as a therapy tool if one which is soon being passed around the residents as Mancini somehow manages to play the long game in dragging out the inevitable reveal that Chucky is very much alive. Considering how we are so deep in the series the fact that he is able to still pull off such mind games with this character really is a credit to Mancini as he really builds the tension by having the usual methods of having Chucky reveal himself such as burning the dolls hand all fail.

The location itself is suitably isolated to make such a small cast effective while the sterile whiles and snow covered landscapes make nice change for the series even if we are denied a rewarding show of blood sprayed across snow. Equally considering that the majority of the potential victims are all paitents helping with the early mind games as a early murder is written off as suicide.

Curse of Chucky had felt in many ways like a reboot for the series and a chance to rework its formula  with the more obvious slasher shocks being traded out for genuine tension so it feels like something of a step back in many ways to see the film slipping back into old habits even though the revel of what the cult of the title is certainly an interesting move for the series. Of course with the upcoming remake it did leave me wondering if we’d ever get to see this angle come to fruition especially ending on the cliffhanger of sorts it does. Seeing Andy though potentially being setup as the franchise’s Dr. Loomis is an exciting prospect which sadly doesn’t come to fruition thanks largely to Andy kind of failing in the hero department.

Thankfully the character of Chucky still feels as fresh as ever with Dourif seemingly showing no kind of acting fatigue from playing the character for so long there is certainly fun to be had, more so when he’s as creative a lil psycho as ever giving us an incredible kill sequence involving a skylight and a compressed air cylinder finally delivering the payoff that was sorely missing from the greenhouse kill in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle . The main issue here is that Chucky is clearly here a character being crushed under the weight of his own mythology which is certainly not helped by Mancini’s determination to make everything tie together rather than starting the journey afresh as the previous film had seemingly set things up to be this especially coming to a head when Jennifer Tily’s Tiffany has to confirm that she’s not actually Jennifer Tilly, which is infact a throwback to Seed of Chucky than the kind of baffling logic seen in Oceans Twelve were Julia Roberts imitated Julia Roberts! Regardless it was only after I looked it up on IMDB that this plot element became clear, while certainly not helped by Seed being the forgettable mess that it is.

While Cult is far from the worst entry in the series it’s unquestionably a step down from the previous film and with remake on the Horizon it’s unclear if Mancini’s vision for the franchise will ever materialise despite claims of more film and a TV series to follow whether this will happen or not remains to be seen.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

The Bullet Vanishes

Title: The Bullet Vanishes
Director: Lo Chi-leung
Released: 2012
Starring: Nicholas Tse, Sean Lau, Yang Mi, Boran Jing, Wu Gang, Liu Kai-chi, Jiang Yiyan

Plot: Song Donglu (Lau) an eccentric detective and expert in criminology is teamed up with Guo Zhui (Tse) who has a reputation for being “the fastest gunman in Tiancheng”. The pair soon finding themselves trying to solve a series of mysterious shootings at a bullet factory were no bullets can be found.

Review: I’m not sure what it is about Asian cinema but it’s not only proven to be a surprising source of great Westerns such as The Good, The Bad and The Weird and Miike Takashi’s Sukiyaki Western Django especially for someone like myself who never cared for the Western genre. The other surprise has being these Sherlock Holmes style mysteries which we saw so memorably reworked in Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame and now here with this film which takes place in a sumptious vision of 1930’s China.

While our lead might not own a deer stalker hat or even smoke a pipe, there is an unquestionable Holmes like air to Detective Donglu who is introduced testing out one of his theories by hanging himself so that he can compare his own injuries to that of the victim. We also get to see him trying to understand how Fu Yuan (Yiyan) a woman convicted of killing her husband pulled off the murder as he demonstrates as keen a mind for criminology and the criminal mind as he does for detection.

His partner Guo Zhui on the other hand is on first appearances more of the muscle of the pairing and while he certainly gets to demonstrate some impressive shooting skills, he also comes with an indepth knowledge of firearms and balistics which certainly come in handy in this case especially in figuring out how the owner of the bullet factory was able to win a round of Russian roulette refered to here as “Fate of the Heavens” and makes up one of several mysteries that the film presents over the course of it’s runtime including a locked room mystery. At the same time director Lo Chi-leung even brings his gunslinger knowledge to the action scenes as memorable seen during a shootout were he must work out the range of the badguy during a tense stand off.

Of course when it comes to these kinds of mysteries there is the tendency to provide far fetched explanations to solve the mysteries being presented and thankfully Lo Chi-leung never resorts to such thing as every mystery has for the most part a logical explanation. That being said if the solution for the Phantom bullets actually would work or not if unclear but certainly it atleast seems plausible. Still it’s an intoxicating blend of mystery and action that we get here and which works only the better due to the skills set of the films two detectives.

Heading up the villain quota for the film is Liu Kai-chi as the factory owner Boss Ding a truly odious cigar smoking villain who is more than happy to send his thugs to impose his will on not only his workers but anyone who opposes him and certainly Lo Chi-leung wastes little time in establishing just how ruthless he is as the film opens to him forcing a female worker he has accused of stealing bullets to play him in a game of Russian roulette or “Fate of the Heavens” as he refers to it as and what will be seen as the catalysis for the phantom bullet murders which start befalling his men. Even with such an obvious lead villain the film still manages to work in numerous other twists as it soon become clear that this is a mystery that goes a lot deeper than Boss Ding’s questionable business practices.

Sadly while we do get a lot of strong male characters, here the female cast are rarely given as much to do, other than to pop in and out of the story to provide a clue or uncover a piece of evidence to keep the story running. That being said Yang Mi is great as the fortune teller Little Lark. Sadly used to lesser effect is Yumiko Cheng as the coroner who for some reason also keeps an Ostrich in her lab, the reasons for frustratingly never being revealed.

A gorgeous looking mystery if one which will no doubt draw comparisons to Guy Richie’s take on Sherlock Holmes, despite the film constantly proving that it’s able to stand on it’s own merits even if it does choose to break up the pair just when I was looking forward to hopefully getting a series of adventures with them which is sadly dashed in what very much felt like was a tacked on epilogue to the story as Lo Chi-leung opts for one last twist instead of ending the film at it’s logical end point. Despite this what remains is a fun mystery complimented by action scenes which are as often as inventive as the detection methods.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Title: Pacific Rim Uprising
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Released: 2018
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, Zhang Jin, Charlie Day

Plot: Ten years after the events of the first film, society has begun to rebuild itself believing that the Kaiju threat has long been defeated. Jake (Boyega) the son of the now legendary Stacker Pentecost and now a disgraced former Jaeger pilot makes a living selling Jaeger parts on the black market only for a chance encounter with Jaeger enthusiast Amara (Spaeny) to see them both being drafted into the PPDC as the threat of the Precursors and their Kaiju creations threatens the world once more.

Review: Pacific Rim Uprising was unquestionably a film I was looking forward to, even if my general lack of desire to pay for overpriced cinema tickets has meant that it's taken me until now to actually watch it. Needless to say with Del Toro not returning for this sequel there was certainly an element of doubt if it could love up to his original love letter to the Kaiju genre and for the most part I feel that Steven S. DeKnight's follow up continues to build upon the world Del Toro had established. In the years which have passed the Pan Pacific Defence Corps have once more become recognised as the key defence and as such no longer the rag tag band of pilots scrabbling for resources through black market deals for Kaiju parts.

At the same time it should be noted that this is a much more busy and louder film as DeKnight revels in the chaos and destruction compared to the Del Toro pacifist approach which focused more on the battle between giant robot and monster than potential collateral damage. Now while both movies certainly provided the same buzz and excitement from these scenes I wanted as a life long Kaiju fan there is an unquestionable feeling that the DeKnight's is lacking something.

Plotwise there is a real mish-mash of ideas at play and while seeing the PPDC turned into a heavily funded war machine is a welcome evolution for the series even if one potentially set to be made obsolete by a new drone program. At the same time Jake the son of rousing speech maker and leader Stacker take on the hero duties this time as he finds himself drawn back into the fold as the Precursors launch their latest offensive which sees the film working more of the enemy within angle which ties it nicely to the original film aswell leading to a more meaty role for one of the few characters who make their return when their betrayal is inevitably revealed. The rest of the film though is this weird mix of Kaiju fun with an undeniable and unneeded and not mention unwanted Top Gun vibe as Jake and his former co-pilot Nate (Eastwood) play out a Maverick / Ice Man dick swinging contest which would have honestly worked better if they were rival pilots ultimately forced to team up than co-pilots from the start. Throw into the mix an unresolved love triangle and it just feels like it's padding out the run time.

One of my initial concerns regarded how both Jaegers and Kaiju were shown in the trailers, which honestly left things looking like a reskinned Transformers movie, here the camera work is just as impressive as the first film even if the action is alot more hectic than the lumbering intense battles of the first film. It's just a shame that the film suffers from some truly horrible sound design which only serves to cheapen and detract from the film as radio mics crackle and weapons would sound more impressive if you just made your won Pew Pew sounds. Thankfully the action sequences are still fun to look at with plenty of Jaeger tech being showcased here and sure while no one might be using a cargo ship as a makeshift bat the new set of Jaegers all come with their own fun toys to battle not only the Kaiju monsters this time but also the new drones which perhaps might feel alittle too close to the aforementioned transformers, but thankfully it’s given enough of a spin to work.

While Del Toro's absence is certainly noticeable here, it's still a fun (if flawed) experience that I enjoyed my time with, while DeKnight's own additions to the series like the mini Jaeger "Scrapper" and the rival Shao Corporation only help to make this a fuller and more exciting world which I hope that they continue to explore with further films.

Saturday 5 January 2019


Title: Rollercoaster
Director: James Goldstone
Released: 1977
Starring: George Segal, Richard Widmark, Timothy Bottoms, Henry Fonda, Harry Guardino, Susan Strasberg, Helen Hunt

Plot: When a bomber (Bottoms) plants a device on the tracks of a rollercoaster causing it to derail, it soon becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse as Safety Inspector Harry (Segal) attempts to stop him before he strikes again.

Review: A film probably best known for its rather spectacular opening roller coaster crash than the film the footage was taken from this would be one of the few feature films that director James Goldstone directed spending most of his career directing TV Pilots for Ironside and the original Star Trek were his work was not only noted for its momentum but also the “fifteen-minute cliffhangers” he brought to them. A film equally noteworthy for being one of the four films which Universal presented in “Sensurround” were selected theatres were low-frequency bass speakers were used to create vibrations at key moments, which ultimately proved to be so successful that it cracked the plaster of some of the theatres which choose to use it.

Despite the impressive opening crash this is surprisingly a much more subtle film than I was expecting as Goldstone instead here chooses to craft a tense thriller with the rest of the film plays off the tension of not knowing were the bomber has hidden his next device let alone the mind games between Timothy Bottoms unnamed bomber and George Segal’s Safety inspector Harry. Bottoms however was criticised for being too boring as a villain in reviews for the film when it was originally released but here he gives a performance reminisant of Kevin Spacey’s John Doe in Seven which here really works for the film, especially when he is spending the majority of the film taunting Harry over the phone or a walkie talkie, all the time knowing that he holds the power in this situation with Harry left to play the unwilling puppet in the proceedings.

Segal meanwhile is an engaging leading man as the frustrated safety inspector he works in humorous subtle digs at his incompitant bosses while also having to work with the local police chief and Richard Widmark’s tough FBI agent. While it might seem that his talents are perhaps alittle wasted here seeing how he spends most of the film talking to the Bomber over the walkie talkie while moving through a variety of amusement rides which for theme park fans provides its own enjoyment with the film being shot on location at Ocean View Park, Kings Dominion and Six Flags.

The Cinematography throughout is extremely impressive especially with the rollercoaster footage were large portions are shot from the front of the carriage creating that simulator feel of being on the ride which is a nice touch especially when Goldstone isn’t planning on giving the audience any more crashes. The fact that they are shot from so many angles including some impressive profile shots is really add to the excitement, especially during the finale were the cat and mouse games are played out on the opening of the six flags Revolution the world’s first coaster to use a clothoid-shaped vertical loop and more fun against the backdrop of a Sparks concert a gig which had rumoured to had been offered to both the Bay City Rollers and KISS the later turning it down in favour of doing KISS Meet The Phantom of the Park. Sparks would later recall doing the film as one of the worst things they have ever done which I had to wonder if this was before or after they did their 2006’s album Hello Young Lovers. Despite what they feel about it, the high energy performance here really play well against the tension of this final game between the bomber and police.

While it might initially be a little disappointing to see what seems to be setup as another disaster movie dissolve into a thriller it ultimately proves to be the right move here, especially with Segal’s performance certainly able to carry the film so that such shocks are never required even though the film had originally been planned to be a lot more gruesome with both the opening crash and how the bomber ultimately meets his demise, a plaque for which can still be found on the rollercoaster at Six Flags. While perhaps not a film that rewards repeat viewing it’s one still worth checking out especially for the opening crash as you wonder just how they pulled it off.

Friday 23 November 2018

The Midnight Meat Train

Title: The Midnight Meat Train
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Released: 2008
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart, Ted Raimi Vinnie Jones

Plot: Leon (Cooper) is a photographer with an obsession with the darker side of the city, however when challenged by gallery owner Susan Hoff (Shields) to find darker subject matter he by chance discovers a serial killer (Jones) using the midnight subway system as an abattoir.

Review: Another film to be adapted from Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” short story collection this film also marked the English language debut from director Ryuhei Kitamura who much like Barker is equally no stranger to blending genres. My main reason for checking this one out those was the memory of Vinnie Jones’ role as the sharply dressed serial killer who rides the midnight subway trains being compared to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” and its certainly a performance he nails here with him imposing form and ice cold demenor.

Bradley Cooper’s role as the photographer Leon meanwhile is kind of confusing as here he plays a photographer obsessed with exposing the seedier side of the city which we are lead to believe is for artistic purposes while at the same time he shows no qualms about putting himself in harms way when he chooses to photo graph a gang on the subway. Frustratingly the background or reasons for Leon pursuing this work is never made clear so why he’s willing to take such risks much less become so obsessed with tracking down this suspected killer.

Of course seeing how this is a film being based off a short story there is of course the requirement to pad out the story which here questionably adds Leon’s girlfriend who really doesn’t add a huge amount to the film in terms of plot and really only served to bring an element of melodrama to the final act. What is confusing though is how Kitamura manages to craft a film which is clearly in need of some trimming as while the additional elements certainly don’t detract from the story the film still felt like it overstayed it welcome especially when it passed the point I felt like we should be getting some kind of resolution.

Unsurprisingly for Kitamura and the fact this is based on a Clive Barker text the film is gratuitously bloody which can in some scenes work such as one potential victim attempting to craw across the blood drenched floor while other seem like bad 3D effects which made me wonder if this film has ever been scheduled for any kind of 3D release. Still there is still some inventive violence on show here as skulls are clubbed with a meat hammer and crimson sprays across the carriages. The highlight being when we get to see the nights quota of victims strung up like a human abattoir.
Outside of the gore which is the arguably the obvious draw here Kitamura also brings his underrated eye for detail in his settings as he bring a real feeling of sleaze to the subways, while a cat and mouse style chase through an abattoir bringing a real menace to Jones character as he stares down a corridor of carcasses. All of which rises it about the predicted disposable horror that the film is sold as, something also not helped by its throwaway distribution by the studio.

A frustrating film at time as it diverges from being an effective thriller to tedium but when it works it is an effective film but far from what fans of Kitamura have come to expect from the director who here feels at times like he's had his wings clipped.
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