Wednesday, September 12, 2007


everyone who collects movies has a little list in their heads of stuff they love that isn't out on DVD at all. yesterday i was finally able to scratch one off of mine. FROM BEYOND finally came out yesterday.

i can't really complain about how much they changed the classic poster art. the original gave away the monster in pretty close-up detail so now it at least has somewhat of an air of mystery (even if the new image doesn't really represent anything in the actual film). and even though they put the director's name above the title without an apostrophe + S so it looks like he's the star or something, it's what's inside that matters. the new DVD features footage that was ordered to be removed by the MPAA in 1986 so it could get an R rating - - only MGM inexplicably ponied up the time and cash to digitally clean up the lost bits so they look perfect enough to put right back into the film seamlessly where they belong (rather than in a "deleted scenes" feature). gordon is joined on the commentary track by producer brian yuzna and stars jeffrey combs and barbara crampton, and although there are dead spots they share a lot of information that fans like me just eat up. like a gingerbread man.

in the 80s, director stuart gordon made three horror movies for empire pictures: one is the legendary RE-ANIMATOR (one of my top 5 movies of all time!), one is the forgettable DOLLS and the other is FROM BEYOND. RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND share much in common. they both star combs and crampton (who would re-untite with gordon in the 90s for the downbeat monster drama CASTLE FREAK), they're both based on stories by h.p. lovecraft and they both feature loads of awesome special fx and perverse sexual overtones (i'd like to read a paper psychoanalyzing these two). it's obvious when they made FROM BEYOND they tried to tone it down a bit, which is why RE-ANIMATOR will always be better, but it's still one hell of a great horror movie. you don't see anyone giving performances like combs and crampton anymore, definitely not in the same movie as leads. he wasn't scared to go over the top as a character, she wasn't scared to get totally naked and wrestle with gooey monsters!

little things like this can make my entire week. so even if you don't care, you should at least know i'm happy like christmas morning.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Twin brothers Mark and John Polonia have proven themselves several times over since 1987's SPLATTER FARM as masters of ultra low-budget monster moviemaking in its 100% purest form, and their latest SPLATTER BEACH proves they are still no couple of slouches when it comes to flat-out fun schlock entertainment. Camp Motion Pictures, up to this point known for restoring and rereleasing 1980s video gorefests on DVD chose the Polonias as directors of its first in-house production. With the assistance of Pop Cinema (formerly EI Cinema) alumnus Misty "Erin Brown" Mundae and Erika Smith (SEXY ADVENTURES OF VAN HELSING) along with cameraman (and monster film maker himself) Brett Piper, the brothers have created their own cheap modern homage to cheap bikini creature features of the atomic age. Sexy girls on the beach? Check! Tireless reporter whom no one believes? Check! Guy in a green monster suit? Check! Light on bloody special fx but heavy on b-movie cheese, SPLATTER BEACH only comes up short living up to its title. But that in itself is a hallmark of old-school low-budget horror, is it not? Erika Smith is once again outstanding, making a throwaway bimbo role her own as she plays it like she walked right out of a 1960's drive-in movie, and the bizarre Ken Van Sant is a riot as a ridiculously homophobic bodybuilder.

The highlight of this DVD is a well-produced career retrospective on the Polonia Brothers that features photos of the boys with their very first cameras as they chronicle their life of b-filmmaking via detailed interviews. This is great stuff not only for fans of these guys but for anyone who wants to make their own movies, or anyone who ever tried. Their passion is obvious, their enthusiasm is boundless, and their dedication is seemingly eternal. With this release, you get a real sense of Mark and John Polonia getting their due for all their years of hard work.


It came as no surprise to me after watching this film that Susanne Hausschmid won a best actress award at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival for her performance as "The Woman" in Mark Savage's absolutely gut-wrenching DEFENCELESS: A BLOOD SYMPHONY. Without the use of dialog, the film tells the story of a woman (Hausschmid) who loses absolutely everything when she becomes the target of a group of land developers who want to destroy a beautiful beach so they can build a vacation resort. You will not believe the lengths that these men go to, you will not believe what the woman endures. Murder, humiliation, torture and rape are just the beginning in the first film I have ever seen that elevates the revenge genre above its grindhouse roots and manages to create a truly emotional experience without skimping on the elements that make up this kind of movie. Is there nudity? Yes, and very matter-of-fact. Is there gore? Buckets and buckets full. But along the way there is so much soul, so much sadness, and so much beauty that cuts just as deep as any of the abhorrent violence shown. DEFENCELESS is at times difficult to watch, as it should be given the subject matter, but Savage and Hausschmid are an amazing team that have managed to create a film I believe is the first one of its ilk to actually strike the correct balance of crime and punishment, character and action, horror and heart. Highly recommended.


After reading so many positive things about Jim Hemphill's BAD REPUTATION and having it recommended to me by multiple friends, I was ready for the second coming of rape-revenge cinema. Despite a couple of spot-on performances and an inspired script, the film itself I think suffers from a split personality crisis. What is being sold as a sexy, bloody thriller is more like a Lifetime television movie with moments of harsh violence and amateur gore effects. Angelique Hennessy is excellent in the lead role as Michelle, a withdrawn high school girl who becomes the object of adolescent cruelty and torment when she's branded a "slut" by the popular girls after being brutally assaulted at a party by their jock boyfriends. Hemphill and crew do a fine job of setting up a very realistic scenario and making the viewer really feel horrible for Michelle, it's when they decide to throw in graphically detailed moments of exploitation in the rape and subsequent revenge that things really go south for me. Thematically and tonally speaking, BAD REPUTATION would have worked so much better had they either not tried to make it like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (victim returns as a sexpot to lure the guilty to their deaths) and instead kept the realistically dramatic feel that the film's first act pulls off so successfully. By the time Michelle decapitates a classmate at a Halloween party, the movie is just impossible to take seriously due to the corny way each of her tormentors meets his or her demise, nearly ruining a well-acted and intense closing scene. To put it simply: I wish the filmmakers would have chosen either the exploitation route or the afterschool special route, not such an off-balance mix of both.