Friday, October 21, 2011

The Film Connoisseur and Direct to Video Connoisseur's Straight to DVD Horror Choices!

Well, hope you guys have been enjoying the supernatural themed reviews I’ve been posting this October, but things get better! I’ve got a couple of awesome MONSTER BLOG POSTS lined up for the next couple of days. So expect one of these MONSTER BLOG POSTS every Friday of October! For today The Film Connoisseur and Matt Poirier of Direct to Video Connoisseur have joined forces to bring you a couple of choice straight to dvd films for you to enjoy this Halloween Season. So you get two Film Connoisseur's for the price of one! Matt’s blog is awesome if you want to read about some of the most obscure straight to dvd films in the planet, from the truly awesome ones, to the truly crappy ones. Matt reviews them all, so be sure and check out his blog! It’s fun times!

Some of these films had a short theatrical run and went to dvd superfast, some got the shaft from the studio and didn’t even get that, and some are a pure product of the straight to video market! Some people don’t give straight to video films the time of day and will only watch films that have been released theatrically. I guess the logic behind that is that some might think that it didn’t make it into theaters because it’s not good enough for theaters, but the truth is this is not always the case. Sometimes a film is plagued by production woes. Sometimes its studio execs that mess up a films chances to make it into theaters. Truth, there is a lot of straight to dvd crap out there (and Matt's included one of these in his choices, and let's face it these can make fun films to watch as well!) but sometimes hidden gems get lost in the shuffle. I like to watch straight to dvd films because of that chance. Sometimes a film wont make it into theaters because they are considered too horrifying or gory for theaters, this is the case with most Stuart Gordon’s films. They might be great (and they are!) but they never make it to theaters because of their gory/graphic nature, or for example with films like The Human Centipede (2010), where the idea behind the film might be considered too offensive or repulsive. Still, direct to video does not equal bad! This is why Matt and I have joined forces to bring you some cool films you might have missed! Without further ado, I leave you with our choices, enjoy!   


Title: Terrorvision (1986)

For years, Terrorvision has been my biggest guilty pleasure. Ever. This movie is cheap, it’s low budget, but it is also loads of fun, fun, fun! I always mention this one in my lists because I have such fun memories of watching this one and laughing at it with my brothers. It tells the story of a family who installs one of these big ass satellite dishes people used to have to put in their backyards in order to get cable television during the 80’s. Through their satellite dish an alien being arrives and wrecks havoc on their suburban home. Is this creature a cute little alien being like in E.T.? Or is it a hungry creature like the Critters (1986)? Strangest thing is that I would say the alien creature is a mixture between good an evil, actually, he is closer to a dog. Clumsy, always hungry and destructive if left unattended. Funniest part of this movie are the characters, a war crazy grandpa, a naïve teenager, a Madonna wannabe and her metal head boyfriend called O.D., these guys will have you laughing constantly. Add to that the gooey make up effects and creatures, and you got yourselves a winner my friends. Sadly, it’s not available on dvd yet, but you can see it on Netflix through their streaming service.   

Title: Midnight Meat Train (2008)

I never understood what problems the studio had with this film. It’s so stylish, and so well made. I’m sure it would have made some cash at the box office. But instead, for whatever the reason the head honcho at Lionsgate decided to give this one an extremely limited theatrical run, releasing it only in 102 theaters and dumping it on dvd a couple of months later. That’s really a sad story because it’s such a well shot horror flick. The director behind the flick (Ryuhei Kitamura) filled the movie with tons of gory and visually interesting gags. Midnight Meat Train seemed destined for success: It was based on Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood”, it was directed by a flashy Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura known for films like Versus (2000) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and it starred Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones. So what the hell happened? Why didn’t this one get the treatment it so very well deserved? Apparently, it was all due to a change in administration over at Lionsgate. New producer in, old producer out. So the new guy throws the old guys projects under the rug. The project that got the shaft was Midnight Meat Train. Still, don’t let that horror show of a story stop you from seeing this stylish and visually complex horror film. 

Title: Castle Freak (1995)

Stuart Gordon has always produced some of the goriest horror flicks out there. I mean, this is the guy responsible for Re-Animator and From Beyond, two awesomely gory and gooey horror films. Castle Freak is another one of Gordon’s demented creations, it is loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Outsider’, a story about a horribly disfigured creature who’s lived all his life locked up in a dungeon by his family. This film is all about a family who inherits this huge castle, only to discover after they’ve moved in that the castle is inhabited by the murderous, mad creature. Ultimately, it’s a story about the redemption of a mans guilty soul. This film is a Re-Animator/From Beyond reunion of sorts. It reunites director Stuart Gordon with Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. It has some truly gruesome moments that should test your limits. It was shot for very little money, but thematically and story wise the film holds up. And it was shot in a real life castle in Italy, which by the way is owned by the president of Full Moon Pictures Charles Band! I guess making straight to dvd movies can bring in a pretty penny! 

Title: Trick R Treat (2007)

Trick R Treat is one of these purely halloweenish horror films, every single frame on this film screams Halloween! Sadly, this one got lost on its way to theaters. Studio execs were pissed off because Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) didn’t make as much money as they expected and since Synger produced Trick R’ Treat and Michael Dougherty (this films director) helped write Superman Returns as well, the studio decided to give their next film Trick R’ Treat, the cold shoulder. Studios are vengeful that way! You don’t make money for them, they give you the boot! This films an anthology film consisting of four Halloween related horror stories. One is about a murderous teacher, the other about werewolves and vampires, another one about an urban legend about these kids that were killed while by a bus driver, and finally one of them is like Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, about an old scrooge who hates Halloween. But this old guy will be taught a lesson when he gets visited by the spirit of Halloween! This is a beautiful looking horror film, lots of care was taken in this films visual style and color palette. This whole film has a very fun vibe going for it, because it’s all about a night filled with murderers, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, hallowed pumpkins, pranksters, you name it, if it’s Halloween related, it’s on this movie! Originally, I didn’t like this movie so much, but after a couple of watches I feel like it’s grown on me. Now I think it’s the perfect film to watch on Halloween night.

Title: Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane (2007)

Now this is a really fun direct to dvd film that surprised me with how entertaining it was. My big question after seeing this one was why would they release a stinker like Snakes on a Plane (2006) theatrically, and not this one which is obviously a far superior horror film? Oh yeah, Samuel L. Jackson. But whatever, this movie was a cool zombie movie. Sure it’s concept and basic premise has been done a million times before, lock a bunch of people in a plane, put them in some sort of peril and watch the craziness that ensues, but it’s the sheer energy with which the story is told that counts. On this one a group of scientists are working on a biological weapon that could create soldiers that never die. But one of their team mates has gotten infected by the virus and they are transporting him to France in an attempt to cure him. Unfortunately, said virus also re-animates the dead! As you might expect, the virus breaks out on the plane and all hell begins to break loose! Lot's of gooey gory mayhem lies in store for you on this one. Highly recommend it if your in the mood for a fast paced fun zombie flick!  

Title: Dagon (2001)

Yeah, I know, another Stuart Gordon flick on my list, but what can I do? The guy directs some truly awesome direct to dvd films! On this one we meet a group of American tourists who are on their boat, sailing through Spain when suddenly a storm emerges out of nowhere and smashes their boat on some rocks! Thankfully, they have a raft that they use to get to the shore and get some help, unfortunately, the town they end up in is populated by a strange religious sect that worships an underwater god called Dagon. This movie is all sorts of creepy and gory, the weird cult that worships Dagon is enough to creep anybody out! The gore factor is pretty high on this one thanks to Stuart Gordon’s usual brand of gory moments. I call them Gory Gordon Moments. In my opinion, this is one of Stuart Gordon’s best horror films, right up there with Re-Animator and From Beyond, and same as these last two movies I just mentioned, Dago is also based on two of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories: Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This movies dreadful atmosphere is so all encompassing that every single frame in this movie is wet, dirty, and slimy! Gordon really maintained a certain type of mood for this one. Lovecraft fans will surely love this one.


(Click on the film titles to go to Direct to Video Connoisseur's in depth review of the film on his own blog) 

Title: Hallettsville (2009)  

Hallettsville is a great low-budget indie flick shot entirely in Austin and the town for which the film is named.  It follows a group of teenagers, led by Tyler, who takes them to a family house out in the country.  When they start turning up dead, though, he realizes something isn't right.  This is a really fun film, for me what DTV is all about, finding movies I might not otherwise get a look at by earnest film makers with small budgets and big ideas.  It also stars Gary Busey as the local sheriff.  

Title: Lake Mungo (2008) 

Lake Mungo is told TV documentary style, and looks at a family dealing with the tragic drowning death of their teenage daughter.  Then strange things happen around their house.  Is this her spirit coming back to haunt them?  This is an exceptional piece of film making, DTV or otherwise.  It builds the tension in a very Hitchockian and Lynchian way, which isn't graphic, doesn't hit us over the head, but keeps us at the edge of our seat just the same.  And the TV documentary style is done so well, you'll have trouble believing this isn't a true story.

Title: The Ward (2010)

The Ward stars Amber Heard as a girl who is sent to a mental hospital after burning down a farm house.  Strange things start happening there though, which turn horrific as her fellow inmates are killed off one-by-one.  This is a John Carpenter flick, and though technically not DTV because it had a European theatrical release, it's DTV here in the States, which is crazy when you consider it was directed by a horror master.  I don't want to give too much away-- there's a movie that this is kind of close to, and if I tell you what it is, it'll give everything away (and this is better than that one too)-- but you can see here why Carpenter is as good as he is.  Everything is dripping with tension and creepiness, and when he needs to get brutal, he does that well too.

Fragile is about a children's hospital on the Isle of Wight that's about to be closed.  All that remains are some boxes and about ten kids, one of whom sees a mysterious Charlotte character.  Calista Flockhart joins the hospital after another nurse quits on short notice, and while she too doesn't believe the girl's stories at first, as stranger and stranger things happen, she realizes that something isn't right there.  I had some trouble with this, in part because I thought a ghost that breaks' kids legs is a bit too brutal, but also because this devolves into every other bad supernatural thriller we're used to in the theater.  Director Jaume Balaguero is solid, and Calista Flockhart was a revelation, but overall I'd put this some notches below the three films above that I've looked at so far.

As much as I love really solid movies, usually at the Direct to Video Connoisseur I'm looking at films that leave quite a bit to be desired, and Soultaker is one of those (though it did win a Saturn award... wonders never cease).  Soultaker is about a group of kids who die in a car accident, but some of their souls are displaced and they can walk around and stuff.  Joe Estevez is a Soultaker, and it's his job to track them down, but when one of the girls reminds him of a lost love, he sees a chance to rekindle an ancient romance.  This is bad, very bad, but if you see the MST3K version, it can be very entertaining.  Either that, or watch it with you buddies and make your own MST3K night.  That's about all this is good for, but sometimes that's all you need.


ian!!!! said...

I loved the Midnight Meat Train story, and the movie was a descent take on it. Plus Vinnie Jones always adds some nice creep factor to most movies.

Terrovision I haven't seen since I was a lad. I had almost forgotten of its existence.

Some good items in this list!

Sarah E. Jahier said...

Great choices!

Gotta love Terrorvision! That film is just so...weird that it really must be seen! And I really enjoyed Dagon, though I haven't seen it in a while. Lake Mungo was extremely creepy and underrated in my opinion.

Midnight Meat Train, Castle Freak and Trick r Treat are great choices, too!

Franco Macabro said...

@Ian!!!: Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed the choices. Terrovision is always a pleasure to watch, right now I think the only way to own the dvd is by buying the Charles Band boxed set which by the way also includes another excellent straight to dvd film I love: Stuart Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum. That movie is awesome yet it's not available on it's own. I blame Charles Band for not selling them separetely.

@Spooky Vegan: Thanks Spooky Vegan, the love for Terrovision is never ending on the blogosphere, it's not that well known, but those who've experienced it understand its awesomeness.

I'll see if I can type up another straight to video horror article, there were a lot of choices I left out. Glad you enjoyed the choices.

Unknown said...

Nice pick with DAGON. The gory face scene is really hard to take but a great film that really does ol' Lovecraft justice.

Franco Macabro said...

Everytime I show that scene to my friends, somebody always looks away. A very effective sequence, so well achieved! It rivals the breast biting scene in Castle Freak!

I also loved how fiercely Ezra Godden's character reacts! He's all like "you want this face! Come and get it motherfucker!" Ha, loved that reaction.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

Hey Francisco, great stuff, it was cool to work with you on this, and I hope we can do something similar in the future!

Franco Macabro said...

Sure dude, no doubts about it!

Kev D. said...

I have a Quebec release of Flight of the Living Dead that is French Language only. It honestly adds a whole new level to the film.


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