Sunday, January 31

The "Lost" Halloween Tapes

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Out of the three teen gullet opener megapowers of the '80s (Macho and Hogan being the unofficial fourth), Freddy and Jason seem to have dominated everyone's favorite analog home video format in the era of Reaganomics. It's not hard to walk down a swap met aisle without one of their films on VHS resting in a box somewhere within a constant six-foot radius of your person. Just look down in that one stained cardboard box by your left foot. Or you could bebop right now over to Amazon or eBay and drop $3 on any number of vintage Freddy's Revenges. Jason has especially captured (ripped out?) the hearts of our VCRs as it's a cakewalk to assemble the original eight cassette run of Paramount's series output--in great condition no less. And yes, I'm not referring those crappy EP-speed Paramount/Gateway tapes.

But what about Michael? Haddonfield's preeminent son that continually proves you can go home so long as you kill a fuckton of citizenry manages to be the most elusive on the ol' Video Home System. Excluding Curse through Resurrection, it's quite a task to dig up first run copies of Carpenter's Halloween to Revenge of Michael Myers. I'm talking about the real deals here, not the multitude of cheap tapes that flooded the market from Blockbuster Video, Goodtimes, Video Treasures, and finally Anchor Bay. Once Universal and 20th Century loosened their hold on these first five Halloween flicks; small VHS studios snapped up the licenses and rode the '90s wave of cheap tapes selling to sky high VCR ownership saturation before DVD exclaimed STFU at the dawning of the new millennium.

With Halloween, we're talking about three '80s VHS releases from Media Home Entertainment. The very first edition was a debut title for the studio in 1980, then known as MEDA, and is exceedingly rare and valuable when copies float on eBay. With Halloween II and Season of the Witch, MCA/Universal issued both in the '80s before Goodtimes Entertainment dumped them into EP-speed hell. Return and Revenge of Mickey Shatner Myers were both dropped by CBS/FOX Video before Anchor Bay went apeshit with releasing these two and Carpenter's original three dozen times. Actually, I'm fairly certain Anchor Bay have gained absolute control over the licenses of these three.

It may not seem too difficult to find these tapes, but trust me, it is surprisingly so. I have two copies of Media's second issue 1982 Halloween and a copy of CBS/FOX's Halloween 4 (the only other copy I've seen was mangled). I've never seen the "MEDA" Halloween or CBS/FOX's Halloween 5 and the few copies of MCA/Universal's Halloween II and Season of the Witch I've spotted have been heavily damaged. So be on the outlook, all of these are so oddly difficult to locate, it's almost as if you're saving a little something from the scrapheap of horror history if you hold on to them.

Unfortunately, my two copies of Media's Halloween are sealed away, but here's the CBS/FOX Halloween 4 which I found just yesterday.

Saturday, January 30

Some quick thoughts on Angel Heart (1987) and The Annoyances of Blu-ray

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A nuclear family-period private dick (Mickey Rourke) with a greasy Manhattan accent is hired to track down an elusive musician in Bayou country. As a trail of death begins running red, the disquieting man (Robert De Niro) paying for the job seems unaffected while the detective's psyche and memory starts collapsing around the mysticism of the deep south and horrifying forces beyond his control.

So I popped in the Blu-ray of Alan Parker's Angel Heart late last nigh...morning and it seems wrong that I still don't love the film. There is some bottlenecking with the story's fairly-not-hard-to-guess revelations in the final half, but otherwise it's an extremely well-made, voodoo-fueled creeper with a genre blended pedigree that's unusual for its time.

Mickey Rourke's performance, just a few short years from his near total career derailment, proves the man has born at the wrong time and is trading in the wrong profession. The stubble-faced, then only slightly facially scarred actor just exudes his character from every one of his loose pores. Lisa Bonet outgrows her Cosby Show training wheels along with ultra pissing off Cosby himself over her lecherous, blood-soaked sex scene with Rourke. De Niro was still firmly giving a damn back then in a devilishly minor but important role sandwiched between fanastic turns in The Mission and The Untouchables. It's simply good stuff, acting as an "in-spirit" sister film to Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder, but still Angel Heart doesn't resonant with me that well and each re-visit is almost like watching the film for the first time. That sounds bad, but shouldn't dissuade anyone from checking this one out pronto for themselves.

As for Lionsgate's Blu-ray, the 1080p transfer is only good, but not nearly as great as it could look. It's the kind of picture that doesn't seem that much better than the DVD, until you pop in the DVD with this Blu-ray's quality fresh in mind. It's clearly more detailed, solid, and richly colorful than the standard definition image. Still, it's a lazy job with a slightly processed appearance and clumpy grain structure. The almost perfect 5.1 lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track is better than the picture quality.

Here's the annoyance. This Blu-ray edition actually lacks some of the supplements found on the prior Special Edition DVD. Both share a director commentary, introduction, selected scene Rourke commentary, and interviews with Parker and Rourke. What's missing is an hour-long documentary on Voodoo, the 1987 behind the scenes featurette, and additional interviews with Parker and Bonet. It would have been no problem to fit this additional stuff onto this 25GB Blu-ray. Though strangely, Angel Heart's original theatrical trailer is on this Blu-ray despite not being on the DVD(?!?). I'm personally not the biggest extra feature watcher, but it just seems "right" to have all the material ported over when the DVD isn't that old and both are released by the same studio. At least there aren't twelve trailers and commercials at the beginning like many new release Blu-rays (i.e. - Saw VI) tend to have nowadays, argh.
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Friday, January 29

Can't explain why...

...but this might be my favorite shot in all of Dawn of the Dead.


Thursday, January 28

The Gates of Hell Announced for Blu-ray!

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Yes! My favorite Fulci classic is finally getting the royal treatment! Just PLEASE don't digitally noise reduce the existing gloriously grainy transfer, BU!

Via DVD Active: "Blue Underground has announced DVD ($19.95) and Blu-ray ($34.95) releases of City of the Living Dead for May 25th, 2010. The only extra material on the DVD will be a Making of City of the Living Dead featurette, the English trailer, the Italian trailer, radio spots, and still gallery. The Blu-ray release will include all that, along with additional featurettes: "Acting Among the Living Dead – Interview with Star Catriona MacColl", "Entering the Gates of Hell – Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice", "Memories of the Maestro", and a poster and still gallery."

Blue Underground's listing
also states the inclusion of 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, and Original Mono audio tracks. You're the one who got me out in the armpit of the world chasing your...galloping cadavers.
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Wednesday, January 27

Some quick thoughts on Saw VI (2009)

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I have no shame in saying that I've fully embraced the Saw series despite what was originally a low budget wonder being corporately ballooned into an annual Halloween cash register for Lionsgate. Well, or at least that's what the studio thought before this installment's rather dramatic drop in box office performance compared to previous trips to the flesh-rippin' well. An even more cheaply made indie (by a vast margin), Paranormal Activity, laid ol' rickety Jigsaw out for the '09 spooky movie season's dollar. Not to mention this sequel's absolutely piss poor trailers that might as well just said "fuck it" and then flashed the title and release date. That's a shame really, because Saw VI is the best sequel in the franchise since the underrated once-trilogy-ender Saw III. Though it's perhaps even more shameful that it took the series two limp-dick sequels to climb upon the more solid ground witnessed here.

You gotta wonder what got into the water of writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton this time around after also scribing the purely wheel-spinnin' fourth and fifth sequels. It's akin to getting to a section of an otherwise boring novel that seems to immediately spark up as if the author was just filling pages while looking forward to writing that exciting portion. You get the feeling Dunstan and Melton wrote their three sequels with getting to IV in mind all along. At the same time, IV has the most connective tissue in flashback to III as we see Jigsaw, Amanda, and the then "heavy-lifter" Hoffman setting up some of the particulars behind Jeff's game. Hoffman has a bit of blackmailing on his mind involving Amanda and John's main squeeze.

One constant complaint from Saw haters is the disposability of characters that inhabit its grimy, insular, and logistically impossible world. Before you know it, characters both minor and seemingly major get gorily knocked off left-and-right. That doesn't change much with Saw the Sixth, but we do finally get some meat on Costas Mandylor's Hoffman. I never cared for Mandylor as the man continuing Jigsaw's legacy. Though the character is shored up with the added pressure of his fellow investigators getting closer to his true identity as they run into inconsistencies with the dead Agent Strahm being pegged as the new killer. Betsy Russell is back as Jill Tuck and comes into conflict with Hoffman over the contents of the mysterious box left for her by John. This is Mandylor's best performance so far in the four Saws to his credit and that empty feeling left by Tobin Bell's Jigsaw is the least lingering in this latest entry.

It also helps that we get more Bell here than in the prior two sequels. The veteran character actor's cameos in IV and V usually felt trite; however, Bell's scenes in VI provide him with what he's fantastic at--monologue. When Bell as either John or Jigsaw clicks, he easily stands with other greats of the genre, and his character's "forced" absence after III (but what could ya do?) is one of the worst moves in the past decade's worth of mainstream horror. Shawnee Smith reprises Amanda in snippets taking place mostly from III as we see additional motivation behind her ultimate choice at that sequel's climax. Watch for an after end credits tidbit involving Amanda that might speak to something we'll see explored in this year's upcoming sequel. The presence of Bell and Amanda only further solidifies their place as the best thing the series had going and it would have probably been best to let Saw conclude as a trilogy.

This time around, the thrust behind the game is the dickish health insurance agency that denied John pursuit of an experimental gene therapy that might have saved his life. You guessed it, the head of the company (television vet Peter Outerbridge) ends up in a rusty trap run having to decide between the very lives of his employees. This provides some underlying commentary, albeit hackneyed (this is a Saw flick after all), on the timely American healthcare scheme. At the same time, this direct connection to the "living" John adds greater weight to the purpose behind the traps (think Dr. Gordon a la the first Saw) instead of random strangers facing the true measure of their animalistic desire for life.

This is definitely an improvement over the last two years and a few steps in the right direction for everyone's favorite torture porn soap. With adjustments, this should have been the fourth film. I can remember some saying they were disappointed that VI didn't actually "end" the story, it does, the arc that began in 2004 is cleverly closed here. No spoilers, but the survivors will be going rogue in VII and this could potentially breathe entirely fresh life into the franchise. The next film could be radically different from Saw norms if its creators wished...that is if the gimmicky 3D thing doesn't get in the way.
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Much Thanks and BD's Horror Blogger Awards

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Before all else, I'd like to give a belated thank you to Evil Dead Junkie of the great Things That Don't Suck for a Fantastically Frightening award, or as I like to call it, the Skeletor Sexual Assault award. I'm very sorry about being such a drag-ass in my appreciation for this boobilicious award. Also thanks goes out to Professor Brian O'Blivion of The Cathode Ray Mission for linking to me through his thoughts on The Zom's Halloween 2. I'm always appreciative and proud to have you guys as readers!

Bloody Disgusting is running a Horror Blogger Awards with BoGD included (as Ghoul Basement) and for that I'd like to recognize with much gratitude Mike over at From Midnight, with Love for the selfless nomination. To be truthful, I'm not particularly looking for recognition in this fashion, and I'd take a more Marlon Brando-way of award acceptance if I won. Like I've said before, I wanted to create a site/blog I'd personally want to visit and read daily. I'm proud to say Basement of Ghoulish Decadence is this place through-and-through and I only hope readers have as much fun reading as I do writing this little blog.

This is actually why I stopped submitting to HorrorBlips, as the whole thing started to feel like a popularity contest. I'm confident in my creation. Those who know, know, and each visit, follower, award meme win from my fellow bloggers, link here, and bookmark are more important to me than winning a contest between my blog peers. So while I'll appreciate any votes BoGD happens to receive, I'm not going to shout it from the rooftops or shove it down your throats to vote for this blog. As I said to the left, I'm humbled to just be nominated and it's great to be mentioned on such a big site as Bloody Disgusting even though I personally very rarely visit the big Horror news destinations. Again, thanks and stay tuned!
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Tuesday, January 26

Check These Out!

Monday, January 25

First Blood (1982 / Thorn EMI VHS)

Love this cover art, the DVDs can't compare...

Sunday, January 24

More Baffling Video Dealer Behavior; or you aren't Best Buy, man...

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Awhile ago I detailed the annoying practices of video dealer "in-betweeners" and this morning I ran into an even more totally baffling ideology from a swap meet DVD seller. Today I could have scored an authentic, factory sealed copy of Zombieland, exactly nine days before its official release date. The guys selling these are there every weekend and peddle a strange mix of "real" discs, obvious bootlegs of real discs, and throwaway bootlegs of UFC events and Bumfights. When I first spotted this crew setting up shop a number of years ago, they carried nothing but bootlegs, though I guess over time the fear of that whole up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 fine-thing caused this real/fake release mixture. I seldom see people actually buying stuff from them, but they manage to usually have Tuesday's new blockbuster releases like clockwork. Sometimes they have real releases way ahead of their street date and this is where this morning comes in.

There it was, Sony's brand new Zombieland DVD, sitting there next to bootleg copies of Gran Torino and the Platinum Edition of The Lion King. Now, this occurrence isn't new to me, and realizing there was only one copy on the table threw up alarms. So I put on my idiot face and tone as I coyly asked how much the DVD was. I was quickly met with "It's not for sale, it will be next weekend." Huh? I didn't press the reasoning because these dudes look like they have friends on C-block, but what possible advantage would there be to not sell the product you have out...to sell?

I don't give a flying damn if you'll have it for sale next week. I don't want it next week, but I will buy it now. What, I'm just imagining that I'm holding this DVD in my hand? What's for sale and what isn't? Pre-release swag is awesome (well, with movies that are worth it) but the thing is this thrill dramatically decreases with the arrival of the street date. So yeah, I could wait and buy it from these dudes next weekend...or just wait three days more for February 2nd and pick it off the bountiful retailer tree anywhere. There's almost no incentive to buy it from these guys if they won't break street dates by a substantial margin and this should be obvious even to them, right? Chain stores and e-tailers can indeed face hefty fines for breaking street dates, but you aren't Best Buy, man. I'm sure Mr. Police Officer will notice those badly-printed covers on your Drag Me to Hell bootlegs before those real factory-sealed DVDs already out or not resting on your table. Maybe it's just me...?
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Saturday, January 23

This one doesn't even deserve "quick thoughts"

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Talk about an utter piece of garbage, even by trashy Italian living dead standards. Bruno Mattei's 1980 Night of the Zombies (Virus, Hell of the Living Dead, Zombie Creeping Flesh) is definitely one of the worst zombie flicks ever. A waste of 35mm film stock so rancid, so full retard, that it surpasses personal preference into a realm of condemnation usually only reserved for Nazi propaganda. Sure, we all have our own dislikes others would be puzzled by, but I'd hope for the sake of horrordom we could all ban together in unison and let out a big "what the fuck?!?" at this pinnacle of bad zombo pictures.

This is coming from someone who fancies himself some Mattei every now-and-again. The director honed his own "unique" bad filmmaking style over the years and while never making a true great like some of his Italian brethren, shit dude, he made Strike Commando. There's plenty to appreciate and laugh along with in his filmography, but
Night of the Zombies is mind-grindingly tepid.

It's not just the fact Goblin's iconic music from Dawn of the Dead and Contamination is lifted wholesale for use as the soundtrack. For that, this is the ultimate motivator to re-watch Romero's masterpiece as a way of cleansing the dog shit taste out of your mouth afterward. It's the distinct impression that no one cared at all about what's on-screen; from Mattei, the three writers, the actors, and the effects crew. Might as well shoot continuity in the face five minutes in as we agonize with unsympathetic characters bouncing around through jungle stock footage. Oh boy, bland titties amongst stereotypical Mountain of the Cannibal God natives and more stock footage of tree monkeys and water diving cranes. More badly-executed gore, everyone seemingly making it up with each scene (hey, let's have a SWAT member dawn a tutu!), and an uninspired apocalyptic ending.

I'm understating how terrible the whole experience really is and this abomination to all that is undead has the gall to exist for an entire 101 minutes. To be honest, I got to about the thirty minute mark before mostly fast forwarding to the end. I can't see how I survived through it all years ago with Anchor Bay's DVD. The nearest film in spirit to Mattei's dreck is Umberto's Lenzi's Nightmare City, but that would be a insult to Lenzi's roving encrusted radioactive maniac epic. Either see that one instead or seek out superior Mattei product in the aforementioned Strike Commando, Robowar, Cruel Jaws, or hell even Zombi 3.

The picture quality of Vestron Video's VHS is extremely rough and noisy despite being produced a mere four years after Night of the Zombies's ungodly birth. Colors are rich and the sound is serviceable, but the framing is a dead center full screen crop that never pans to accommodate the action on-screen. The film appears to be uncut, and it probably is, since the studio was usually quite reliable at providing full versions of their horror titles.
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Friday, January 22

More H2 thoughts after Zombie's thoughts

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Imagine you're walking across a flat prairie feeling rather ill to your stomach after a blackout during one helluva drunken party. To your surprise, the more you walk, the better you feel. So you're humming along and come across a enormous pile of cow shit. I mean ja-fucking-normous. So wide and tall that in order to continue forward, you gotta hitch up your shit kickers and climb this mighty mountain of feces. You get to the crest slicked in nature's smelly nutrient-rich slurry. You peer down and see your car looking like a Tonka toy just beyond the last brown clump. The sun peaking up over the horizon speaks to relief if you just slid down the hay-riddled manure for a speedy drive home, extensive shower, Pepto, and sixteen hours of sleep. Though you find yourself standing there in complete awe of your situation and the four-story heap of housefly ecstasy you're resting upon.

Stupid allegory? Yes, but this seems to be the prevailing attitude by those who haven't outright condemned the new Halloween 2. One ends up straddling a line between low expectations and genuine appreciation with a morbid fascination of the film's flaws. Zombie himself might have experienced something similar as a director coming out on the opposite end of these two features. At least we can only hope so.

I watched H2 again last night with Zombie's commentary (spoilers ahoy). The first thing noticed was the director's muted temperament. Maybe Zombie was on the edge of a head cold, sounding a little nasally, but he sounded disinterested and focused more on production woes like omnipresent rain, extremely short shooting nights, and even a portion of canned film destroyed from airport x-rays. The only performance that receives personal praise during the commentary is Dourif's Sheriff Brackett. When Zombie does expound upon his motivations; the most pressing questions are left unanswered.

Zombie states the change from the events occurring "one year later" in the theatrical to "two years later" in his director's cut was always intended because "it makes more sense." How? He never explains that directly, but he makes a lot of Laurie's descent into crazytown, so I can only assume making Laurie's slide gradual is more realistic to Zombie. The shift in Myers from the embodiment of unalternated evil to a human being is acknowledged, but at the same time, it's made clear he was indeed shot point blank in the face at H1's conclusion. Wha? Where's the head trauma both physically and mentally? How could have Michael survived if he was merely a psychotic human? The radical changes made to Laurie and Loomis also aren't explained, other than a desire to make the two different from '07's Halloween. In a sidenote, according the English subtitles, some of the opening paramedic's post-accident "fucks" are actually him calling out for his very-dead partner, "Hooks".

From these inconsistencies, Zombie wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted to stay loyal to his revisionist take and small shreds of the original mythos--even if the result was nonsensical. Though all this director malaise and half-baked explaination might trace back to the man not actually wanting to write or direct a sequel in the first place. Plans fell threw, the studio's rules were erased, and the director wanted to protect his vision. If Zombie strictly adhered to his first Halloween's logic, we'd have a sequel without Michael Myers. Sorta like Season of the Witch...or more aptly The Blob without the Blob?

Zombie does point out all the director's cut differences (the theatrical version's DVD has to be a different commentary), which is always nice, and thoroughly explains the finality of his director's cut conclusion. Loomis's death is kinda debatable on-screen, but Zombie does say Laurie, Michael, and Loomis are meant to be dead with only the devastated Brackett remaining the sole survivor. The final shots of Laurie in a dream-like hospital hallway are meant to be her dying thoughts and the photographs of the dead from the two films that appear during the credits are meant to emphasize the tragedy of the entire story. Zombie even lets a few pregnant pauses of emotion slip into his thoughts when reflecting upon these intentions. Much like The Devil's Rejects, even if you hated this sequel, you gotta respect the decision to end the characters right here. Of course, Patrick Lussier (the ridiculously Virgin Group-sponsored Dracula 2000) has been tapped for a third film, so they'll figure out a way. Perhaps we'll see a re-birth of The Shape...or just another 3D pile o' shit.

Taken as a whole with complete disregard for the original series, what Rob Zombie was trying to do can be appreciated somewhat overall, what these two features desperately needed was a partner in the screenwriting phase serving as a check and balance for Zombie's wild tangents. Hell, even Carpenter wisely had the late Debra Hill behind the screenplays of the first two entries. Ultimately, Zombie and Carpenter were in the same boat with their respective Halloween 2s. Both wanted to let their initial works stand alone, begrudgingly participated in second installments, and intended to kill off vital characters for good. At one point in the commentary, Zombie says he and those behind H2 never set out to make a slasher, and I'd say they've succeeded in more ways than one--good and bad.
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Thursday, January 21

MGM is screwing with VHS-only mavens...

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The Video Dead, Terrorvision, Twins of Evil, The Tomb, and now Robot Holocaust have sprung up in glorious high definition thanks to the studio in the past few months on their HD channel and VOD...not that I'm complaining...

Wednesday, January 20

The Little Known Alternate Cut of Murder-Set-Pieces

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Still not feeling too great, so I'm going recycle a little something I posted way back on Film Talk for the sake of keeping the word out there for anyone interested as this tidbit doesn't seem widely addressed.

Many of you fellow gorefreaks are probably already aware of Nick Palumbo's infamous Murder-Set-Pieces. A 2004 sickie packed with extreme misogyny, wanton slaughter, disgusting rape, and even child murder that divided opinion and pissed off many of the actors involved upon seeing the finished product. Not to mention Palumbo apparently being a dick, known for fighting on message boards over even slight criticism and allegedly selling gifts received from those in the industry on eBay. I'm still out on Palumbo's creation myself. On one hand, the flick would probably be revered as something of a rough exploitation classic nowadays if produced back in the early '80s, but at the same time all the varied violence seems crammed in merely to guarantee everyone who sees it will at least find one aspect deeply offensive.

I did "like" the flick more the last time I persevered through the director's cut and what largely saves this abhorrent exercise (aside from the impressive splatter from Toe Tag) is the strange, cold feeling of being a fly-on-the-wall as we follow The Photographer (Sven Garrett) gorily tear Vegas's female population a new asshole. If this is your thing, the director's cut of Murder-Set-Pieces is the sickest American-made horror outing of the previous decade by a good margin.

But then, after Palumbo self-released his director's cut onto DVD, the feature ended up in the hands of Lionsgate for their own straight-to-DVD release. I can remember first hearing of this and immediately advising to buy Palumbo's disc because there was no way in hell Lionsgate would have the balls to throw this one uncut in stores nationwide. My assumption proved correct. The studio submitted the film to the MPAA to be slashed down to an R. According the IMDB's trivia page, an unbelievable 23 minutes of cuts took place. That should be it, right?

Not entirely, despite the Lionsgate release scorn of globs of vileness that might have resulted in the studio facing lawsuits from traumatized soccer moms and their kids who mistakenly rented it, the resulting R-rated cut is actually a hybrid version that includes unique footage only seen in Palumbo's theatrical release and workprint. Every snippet described on the IMDB's alternate versions page is included. I haven't memorized the director's cut so there might actually be more. The screenshots to the right reflect the "new" footage on the R-rated disc. Of course, the director's cut is the proper way to experience Murder-Set-Pieces and it can still be found for sale online (here for example), but those genuinely smitten either by Palumbo or this film might want to track down a cheap copy of Lionsgate's DVD as a curious supplement.
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Tuesday, January 19

Sick Day Odds and Ends

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I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so here's just a few tidbits that might be of interest. First off, I wanted to congratulate and welcome Erik to the horror blogosphere with his new blog, Ramen, Robots & Red Sauce. I've known Erik for quite sometime from DVDAficionado's now gone-with-the-wind Film Talk forums. The man's goo-ry people with a taste for morose vintage cranial violence and it's great to hear another voice in our expanding community.

Next up, if you're an independent horror blogger, be sure to scope out Pax Romano's newly devised Union of Independent Horror Bloggers, which is a pledge of maintaining journalistic integrity in the face of free stuff like movie screeners and passes. This is certainly something all of us should be able to stand with, so be sure to throw it up on your blog. I tweaked Pax's design below (scroll down/to the left) and I don't mind if one decides to take whichever image, but it's a good thing to get behind either way.

Blu-ray.com put their Zombieland review up today with direct 1080p screenshots and as usual Sony hits it out of the park with another stellar transfer. On this note, anyone whose been a long time BoGD reader is probably aware of my liking for grilled queso action, and Sony has just released the mecca of action blockbuster bombs, Last Action Hero, onto Blu-ray last week with zero fanfare. I have no confirmation on this, but I believe the film was never properly transferred to DVD. Every release across the globe, even the Japanese Superbit and broadcast HD versions, has a prominent reddish-purple haze over the image. This screenshot comparison between the German DVD and Sony Blu-ray proves the studio re-transferred the film for the format resulting in a properly color-corrected picture. Finally. You know this one is already on the way to my mailbox! Jou wonna be a faormor?

That's about it for today, I have some interesting titles enroute including a few tapes from a country who recently had their first citizen achieve spaceflight, so perhaps I'll be luckier and feel better tomorrow.

I miss White Zombie...




Monday, January 18

Some quick thoughts on Halloween 2 (2009) or: My Public Apology to Rob Zombie

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In a surprising revelation, I'm officially shifting my prior "don't buy" recommendation to "check it out when dirt cheap used copies start appearing on the 'net and swap meets from those with buyer remorse." I was ardent in my stance that I simply wouldn't like this follow-up to Zombie's previous mutilation of a horror genre sacred cow, but I'll be damned if I wasn't pleasantly surprised by the experience. Halloween 2 honestly reeks of Zombie struggling to grow and craft something meaningful for the first time as a director, obvious warts and all. One could deem The Devil's Rejects that, and while great, it's great from the memorable cast's absolute conviction barreling forth on sheer gritty momentum. In contrast, H2 sloppily thrusts Rob Zombie up a notch (perhaps two) as a filmmaker largely by his own hands and that deserves praise even though Halloween purists will just continue to shit bloody, orange, pumpkin-flavored bricks.

Zombie is obviously blazing his own trail here, doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks, and your own reaction to this sequel is predicated on to what regard you hold the original Halloween series/mythos. I've only seen bits of Return of Michael Myers through Resurrection, so I don't feel much investment in the series proper. For your humble blogger; John Carpenter's Halloween is the final word, the sequels are superfluous, and Zombie's initial re-imagining basically pissed on perfection. But, if 2007's Halloween was a horrific trainwreck of orphaned children with down syndrome; 2009's Halloween 2 is a clear derailment with some bruises and screaming that screeches to a stop within spitting distance of the terminal. On the other hand, if you're a diehard, you'll still want to spit in the face of Zombie after sitting through this second offense.

H2 is a work filled with earnest, good-hearted attempts at molding a unique vision of the Halloween universe. No bullshit. The problem is that along with most of the positives, there are annoying negatives riding the coattails. Zombie tries to fashion Laurie as an emerging psycho being brought to boil (something made clearer in this 119 minute director's cut), but as per his usual style, it's delivered with extreme heavy-handedness. Scout Taylor-Compton largely fails to bring Laurie full stride or circle, giving off the impression of a little girl even while spouting "fuck" a mile-a-minute. The notion of Laurie being Michael's sister is pummeled over your head in two dream sequences, but for some reason it takes seeing a photo in Loomis's tell-all book for Laurie's mental state to shit the bed. One suggestion would have been to have the photo dated by twenty years to serve as another indicator of Laurie's deepening psychosis regardless of reality. Alas, Laurie's descent is up-and-down rocky at best, but such focus on an individual character is a commendable first in Zombie's cannon.

After hating what happened to the Loomis character in 2007, Malcolm McDowell's even newer Loomis is a complete asshole. I mean, if you're going to do it--do it big. This adds something totally new over Pleasance's superb pensiveness and McDowell the actor specializes in being a pompous jerk-off anyway. Of course, with this comes odd shifts in the therapist turned money-grubber's mentality. Why would Loomis essentially grow old with Michael, suddenly decide to wash himself of the situation, then awash himself in easy money from the whole ordeal? Then suddenly decide to take action again when Laurie finds herself in peril...again? Yeah, it's problematic, but McDowell's performance here suits him better and the scene involving a disgruntled father at a book signing is deliciously meaty.

What about Michael? His rage-induced grunts/arghs are annoying (though not with every kill), and yes original Myers does breathe heavy while slaughtering, but there's still distinct power in the monolithic silence of his original concept that completely sours once you hear him. Especially since it's pretty much established Michael is more human than human after resurrecting to full power from direct bullets to the head. That's really the only thing I didn't care for, seven foot unshaven unmasked murderous hobo and all. Zombie's characterization of Michael is undoubtedly challenging, but it's all fantastic once he gets down to the business of getting intellectual with his knife and smashing whoreface into mirror 10x.

There's one final troubling aspect of Michael that's symptomatic of an ongoing issue in Zombie's filmography--dealing with time. According to the director's cut, "present day" in the film is two years almost to the day after the events at the end of Halloween. We see Michael walking through scattered forest and farmland towards Haddonfield, but where has he been all this time? At one point, two hicks (Mark Boone Junior and Duane Whitaker in a match made in awesome heaven) shout at Myers to once again get off their land so I assume he's been walking through crops and eating animals all this time while skipping one Halloween, which seems stupid. Also Loomis bending the space/time continuum to save the day at the climax after hearing of the situation as if he was just up the street. There's a bunch of little quibbles like this throughout H2 and it's a shame Zombie continues to fail in defeating this problem with flow which can be seen in every one of his films so far.

Aside from the problems mixed with marbling of quality; the redneck white trash shtick, overt cult cameos at every turn (though Brad Dourif proves a damn good investment), and countless '70s tuneage are all turned way down for the good. Judging by this sequel, Zombie just might be ready to bust out and gloriously tackle the full kickass potential of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Halloween 2 has renewed a good size chunk of my faith in Rob behind the camera and nearly makes one want to revisit his Halloween with the fresh perspective gained.
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Sunday, January 17

Something's going to happen...

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Dammit...

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Well, upon encountering a nice price™ on a sealed copy of Halloween 2 at the swap meet (thank you nefarious K-mart employee!), I bought it despite advising everyone not to while wishing Rob a happy birthday a few days back. I'm hypocritical! Hehehe. Actually, I figured I'd give Mr. Zombie another chance even after despising his prior ruination since this sequel is pretty much completely separated from the original series. Now it's his own baby to run over with his Dragula or get up and kill. Though I will watch with the full benefit of the doubt. That and the grisly throwback goodwill from his Firefly family adventures is still there for me.

I also snagged Angel Heart on Blu-ray at Sam's Club. As an FYI, also for $12.88 they had My Bloody Valentine (1981), Cujo, Frailty, Near Dark (shitty picture quality), Red Heat, and Way of the Gun. For $9.88, I spotted The Monster Squad (excellent picture quality), Amusement, and Midnight Movie. Just in case if any of you guys are members and want a little extra Blu-ray incentive to go and grab that three gallon bulk tub of popcorn butter and thirty pack of Irish Spring. Hey, anyone else see the sexual innuendo in the cover of Halloween?

Saturday, January 16

Some quick thoughts on Colin (2008)

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A young man, Colin (Alastair Kirton), is infected in a sweeping zombie apocalypse and is damned to shamble ever rotting around the dreary streets of London where he's met with chaos, prior loved ones, and some living being just as deplorable as the undead.

Marc Price's Colin is purported to have cost a staggering £45 ($65, for a crowbar and tapes) and is generally sold as being "the first zombie film from a zombie's perspective." I doubt the validity of the first claim and the second isn't true (Andrew Parkinson's mega-depressing I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain (1998)), but that doesn't diminish Price's achievement. This is one of the most impressive real no-budget wonders of the last decade, just not for the expected reasons.

Given the lack of cash, Colin doesn't lean on the better odds of embarrassing itself with a cavalcade of DIY cheapjack zombie mayhem that we've all seen before. Instead, Price wisely focuses on the humanistic qualities of the titular character's reactions to the madness his kind has wrought against humanity. We see Colin search for fleshly sustenance, feel shades of his former self through objects and locations, and encounter an array of humans from hideous deviants to street marauders. Familiar zombie vs. human societal ideas also explored elsewhere in zombiedom are touched upon, but it's the wealth presented here and how they're weaved into the narrative's fabric that sets Colin apart.

It's all very personal and that's genuine if this brand of apocalypse were to actually occur. The rest of the world wouldn't matter in the face of the world that you know completely collapsing whether you're alive or...undead. The character of Colin is ultimately a decomposing yet walking corpse much to the horror of his victims and sorrow of the humans that once called him family. One feels empathy towards Colin for a plight he didn't ask for with most of those around him terrified by his very presence. All too often low budget zombie flicks only flirt with these considerations, feel required to have forced badasses saving the day, and become transfixed with the glory of exploding squibs and blood-slinging hammers. The emotional basis Price builds Colin upon is what saves his debut feature from the scrapheap of living dead also rans.

Price's direction and editing have an obvious Leone or Peckinpah grounding with long sequences of relative quietness punctuated by sudden moments of loud, chaotic tension. The filmmaker isn't given to crass bravado with his skill only working to mask the production's limitations. It would be wonderful to see what Price could do with more resources as his ability to hold attention with very little action for long periods is extremely impressive. Jack Elphick and Dan Weekes' score, which a film of a much higher budget would love to have, also has to be commended for greatly helping the impact of the visuals. If I had to quibble, the film feels a little long at 100 minutes with some scenes running a few steps more than they should, but this isn't new with films of this ilk and with so many positive attributes this indulgence is fine. Overall, Colin exhibits aspects that one would hope to see trickle up through the subgenre and you'd be well-served to check this one out.

Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment's British 2-Disc Special Edition (Region 2/PAL) is a bit of a puzzle. With the inherently poor image quality of the 1.33:1 full frame transfer (no Blu-ray for this one), you'd expect the second disc of fifty-one minutes of supplements to fit onto just one disc. I haven't checked out the extras, but there's a Marc Price/cast commentary, a forty minute making-of, and eleven minutes of deleted scenes with Price commentary. Amazon.uk currently has the single disc and this double disc for the same price which converts into a tidy $14 shipped to the U.S., probably cheaper than a (still unannounced) stateside DVD release.
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Friday, January 15

Speaking of Cronenberg's The Brood...

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Toshiba's Japanese VHS landed in the mailbox as I was typing that yesterday.


Thursday, January 14

What does Breck Eisner mean to Horror, if anything?

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A few weeks back it was reported that The Crazies remake director Breck Eisner would also be at the helm of a remake of Cronenberg's The Brood after the completion of what sounds like a potentially giant misfire in the form of a Flash Gordon revisit. Eisner was also set to reprocess The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but bowed out for the gaggle of mutant children in winter wear.

Like most fresh horror genre news that I actually hear, I was mostly indifferent, but was tinged not by the more obvious aspect of the tidbit. Yes, the industry's continued insistence on remaking every damn thing, from classics to just already solid efforts, is stupefying. The Crazies "re-imagining" judging by the trailer looks to be a marriage of The Happening and Twister...or something. Though what about the prospects of one director behind two nearly-consecutive horror remakes?

Being the beginning-of-Rocky Rocky Balboa of horror blogist commentary, I'm unsure if this distinct occurrence being a precedent or not. I'm fairly certain this sorta thing has happened in the screenwriting world, but can't point to any examples. So working under the basis of a director overseeing two scary remakes being a precedent, the future implications for the genre seem ripe to ponder.

What happens if Eisner is successful with both features? Will emerging directors see horror remakes as an (even more) appealing way of breaking into the top end of the business? Or will there be directors who wallow in nothing but these bloody revisits? Either way, horror fans are still in for a screwin' with more "been there" dreck for possibly years to come, that is if Eisner succeeds at generating enough box office bank for studios to take note and if one personally feels malcontent towards this ongoing redo trend.

A lot can happen between now and The Brood 2011's final tally, but all this might be a more pivotal event for the Hollywood view of the genre than upon first glance. Maybe Eisner's Crazies will flop royally? Maybe The Green Hornet will prove average moviegoers don't give a shit about such obscure, old franchises and derail Flash Gordon hurting Eisner's status? Maybe Saw VII will be the 3-D sea change for the genre? Ugh.

Who knows, but you gotta wonder what the future of mainstream American horror holds? Not a new question by any stretch, though with Avatar digging ditches of Swiss bank cash, perhaps a string of ambitious epically-scaled horror features with actual budgets are the savior? Marc Forster's upcoming adaption of World War Z comes to mind. In this respect, The Battle of Yonkers could become analogous with the point the genre stood up again. If not, hell, it would still nice to see some ambitious epically-scaled horror features instead of Hollywood continuing to cart out the genre for first weekend monetary shots (with remakes only compounding the brutality) to finance bigger and better projects outside of horror.
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Wednesday, January 13

Some quick thoughts on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

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How do you make a sequel to one of the greatest modern horror films of all time? I have no idea, but here's Texas Chainsaw 2 anyway. I must admit to not liking this one for quite some time. The original is an unquestionable landmark that still ominously looms over the genre to this day. It's an impossibly grisly act to follow. Much like the almost childish-toned Return of the Living Dead Part II, this comedic take on the Family Sawyer punched my most formative horror watchin' years in the guts. It was simply a massive disappointment being fresh off the first experience high of Hooper's baby, but over the years and with subsequent viewings, my appreciation has grown in bounds for this Reagan era B-take on the Saw.

A good portion of this sequel's mediocrity is from meddling at the hands of Cannon Films who were shocked by Hooper's laugh injection in what the studio figured would be visceral horror piled atop a mountain of '80s-favored grue. The budget was slashed of over a million bucks, constant re-writes ensued, and Cannon excised expository chunks in favor of its horror elements. Dennis Hopper is a million miles of celluloid away from the likes of Easy Rider and really adds nothing special to the film aside from being a semi-bankable name. One can't go in thinking it'd be cool seeing Hopper with a chainsaw as many of the shots of his religiously vengeful Lefty Enwright swinging the tree killer are a stunt double. Even Leatherface, despite some stupid saw = penis innuendo, isn't terribly memorable with his other two members of the inbred 'fam running delirious circles around his whiny ass. I also actually just realized today the film was always released unrated, as the MPAA called for an X initially, and for the sake of deadlines Cannon just said fuck it sending the flick off into theaters lacking any rating. Not a bad thing, but "unrated" was and still is mainstream box office poison.

As for the good, the reprising Jim Siedow and then-newcomer Bill Moseley are hilarious in their respective, demented roles. Siedow has an undeniable grandpappy likability even when shouting "coon shit" as an insult or prattling on about rattling grandpa so as not to "ball up his shit." Moseley gets a surprising amount of face time, yet deserving so, Chop-Top is one of the most indelible minor roles in '80s horror whether it's all his little off-the-cuff gibberish or manically prancing about with his corpse relative screaming "'Namland!" to the annoyance Siedow's Drayton. These two are pretty much the sole reason to watch Texas Chainsaw 2 at least once, even if you don't think you'll care for it.

Caroline Williams as Stretch, a radio DJ sucked into the backwoods fray, is leggy and has a set of great lungs. Lou Perryman's L.G., Stretch's board operator, has what might be the best line in the flick and delivers it better than any other in history. Together they share the most affecting scene in the sense of approximating the hopelessness of the original when Stretch finds L.G. skinned alive by Leatherface's electric fillet knife. Tom Savini's gore feels restrained, but the crew wasn't shooting with a no rating release in mind. A shame, knowing that all along could have resulted in an disembodied intestinal extravaganza.

The cover above is actually a pre-release design MGM devised for their most recent Gruesome Edition DVD, which beats the hell out of the white photoshop quickie job ultimately released. As you probably know, this SE is overstuffed with commentaries, bad VHS dup-sourced deleted scenes, and ninety minutes of featurettes, but I have my qualms with the image quality. The transfer is one of the most color-boosted pictures I've seen. Trees and grass intensely radiate green, solid reds bleed all over, and everyone looks flush while wearing red lipstick. This is a very different appearance than MGM's initial no-frills DVD and I can't say it's all that appealing. Otherwise, the SE is the one to own even over Elite's old Laserdisc SE. Avoid the barely-audible Video Treasures EP VHS edition.
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Tuesday, January 12

Happy 45th to Rob Zombie


His latest abomination, Halloween II happens to arrive today on DVD & Blu-ray as well, don't buy it.


Monday, January 11

More Awards and the Shit-Eatin' Palance Award

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The hits keep coming with much gratitude. I'm much honored to receive a second mention over at Z for Zombies for another One Lovely Blog award. Fearfinder awarded a One Lovely Blog OF DOOM! for my techie tendencies and lack of writing acumen. There's a ton of gory imports I still need to check out reviewed there and his thoughts always entice. Also FF's masthead absolutely freaks me the fuck out being a pool of real blood...or at least the realest fake blood I've ever seen. The always impressively comprehensive Cool Ass Cinema mentioned BoGD in the same breath as The Scandy Factory, but Mr. Tangerine Man won the One Lovely Blogger for his addition of bountiful breastsies that inhabit the same space as gooey VHS goodness. Can't argue with that logic! Finally, always much thanks to Johnny at Freddy in Space for mentioning BoGD in his House of the Devil VHS entry. Thanks again to all those kind enough to praise my efforts here! I'll try and continue what keeps all you guys coming back!

Now for the unveiling of a new Basement of Ghoulish Decadence-approved award, the highly coveted Shit-Eatin' Palance. Named in honor of the Ukraine-born Western actor legend, this incredibly distinguished award is given to ten exemplary blogs that upon visiting plaster a big 'ol shit-eatin' grin on my mug whilst sipping on my nightly White Russian and splashing on some Hai Karate. This award will be bi-annual like the Ginger Bush, so if your blog isn't chosen this go-around, there will be a next time. Here are this round's recipients, if you wish, feel free to post this award on your blogs with pride!

The Scandy Factory - Mr. Tangerine's fantastical VHS-dedicated photo/video/nudie lady blog is the ying to BoGD's yang. His vintage tape-ripped videos are pure gold much like Richard motherfucking Dawson hailing Satan.

The Horror Effect - B-Movie Becky's a pimp...if girls can be pimps? I have no idea, but anyway her blog runs the gamut of modern horror with unique wit and opinion. She makes for a better read than the official Ms. Horror Blogosphere in my meaningless book.

The Cheap Bin (post-DOTS scandal) - Astro returned with a vengeance causing a 37% drop in DOTS candy stock. Covering with delightful mofo glee even worse trash than before, the cheap bin relocated into that one Chinese market in the bad side of town...yeah, that one with the seventy year old quad amputee mystic next to the K-9 meat market...

The Direct to Video Connoisseur - I just discovered this blog which places an unusual attention to both the good-and-bad of a slew DTV wonders. Or in other words, the kind of meanderings I desire to read before picking up that $5 DVD at the bottom of Wal Mart's dump bin.

En lejemorder ser tilbage - Jack has the same obsessive version control and import OCD as I. You know that one super rare Taiwanese tape that's the only uncut release of that one splatter epic that was banned in its native country? Jack either has it already or is on the constant hunt for it. Also check out his other blog, When the Vietnam War raged... in the Philippines.

Planet of Terror - Great, easy-readin' randomized horror blog that approaches blogging in a similar style as BoGD and I personally find his taste agreeable to my own, hope that's not too much of an insult! I'm unsure what this Cortez is crusading for, but you count on my steel.

Billy Loves Stu - Pax presents the "other" persuasion of horror comment and delivers a perspective that just might be wholly unique in the gory blogsphere...at least to my knowledge. He also undoubtedly knows of what he writes on a wide variety of genre topics. Plus I imagine he's probably more fit than all of us fatass bloggers.

The Horror Digest - Andre has a appetite for horror that seems only equivalent to Carl over at ILHM. Her individualistic attitude is all over her writing and she likes Session 9, Jacob's Ladder, Demons, and I "think" she likes Martyrs...so she checks out just fine.

The Jaded Viewer - Dude's a maniac who anchors a well-designed blog with great writing. He's currently providing readers with a great multi-blog perspective on the horrifying year that was. The variety of reviews and his lists are also spot-on excellent.

Lost Video Archive - A great (mostly) VHS-dedicated blog covering an always surprisingly diverse review spread of tapes, everything from
Sho Kosugi to Techniques of Stamping (hilarious review). A solid tapehead endeavor acting as another feast to my magentic obsessions.
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Sunday, January 10

Some quick thoughts on Audition (1999) on Blu-ray

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Takashi Miike's Audition missed an official premiere in the last decade by just a few months. Though if this seminal Eastern eyeopener had seen first projector's light in the '00s; del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (El espinazo del diablo) would be off my prior decade's Top 10, every selection bumped down one position, and Laugier's Martyrs dethroned. It's a watershed horror film that rode the crest of the rediscovery of extreme cinema to come flooding from Japan and introduced madman Miike to the world. At the same time, the film's marketing, ever featuring actress Eihi Shiina with syringe and menacing rubber garb, hurts the peripheral nervous system beat down hidden within. It's really no surprise anymore; the image on the left has become synonymous with J-horror much like Ringu's modern onryō and Hideshi Hino's horrifying manga.

Miike has an uncanny ability of tailoring his directorial style to given material. This allows the director to be amazingly prolific and diverse in his cannon while maintaining a distinctive flare. With Audition, Miike crafts one of his tamest films from the learned, textured perspective (or so he thought) of a well-off middle-aged business man (Ryo Ishibashi) longing to end lingering loneliness after his wife's death. Before Asami unfurls her dastardly instruments, the proceedings take on that of a drama that can be seen as agreeable to well-off middle-aged business men. Ryo Ishibashi (Aoyama) is perfect as a competent professional caught up in a lust he hasn't felt in years. Eihi Shiina (Asami) is also well, perfect as the quiet archetype of Japanese female obediency. The little mysteries surrounding Asami make the film's later hallucinatory tortures even more psyche-shattering. Essentially a very Japanese take on Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction with a (fictional?) worst case scenario that reaches far beyond a crazy bitch Glenn Close welding a knife. Audition comments upon the prevailing loneliness in the Japanese populous, yet offers not solace, but instead replaces all the piss and vigor of the dating scene with long needles and taunt piano wire.

A great write-up on the subtle nature of the latter half of the film can be seen here over at Freddy in Space. That entry inspired this viewing after not seeing Miike's classic in years and I agree with Johnny's assessment. The open-endedness of the conclusion is what makes the film rise above it's otherwise straight forward delivery into its highly memorable status. As for this recently released Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, the 1080p image quality is the subject of some mild controversy. The color cast of the feature appears to have been normalized, so instead of the warm "golden" appearance seen on previous DVDs, these new DVD and Blu-ray tenth anniversary releases have a more natural color tone. Further evidence of this change can be seen in the so-so grain structure having a bit of fleeting strange color mixed in throughout. It's a hard to describe, but nonetheless the transfer is certainly the best Audition has ever looked on home video. Even with the high def image having some minor damage and cue marks (the source being an internegative, or third generation from the original negative), the prior non-anamorphic Chimera and interlaced Lionsgate DVDs can't compare at all and it also easily bests the best standard def presentation in Tartan's British DVD. It looks pleasing at 52", but I imagine those with large projection screens will be less impressed.

The lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks sound crystal clear and highlight Kôji Endô's often unnoticed but angelic score. The extras feature a commentary track with Miike and Daisuke Tengan, new interviews with Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Renji Ishibashi, and Ren Osugi, international trailers, and small booklet by Midnight Eye editor and Agitator: The Cinema Of Takashi Miike author Tom Mes. Oddly, the interviews and trailers are featured on a second DVD disc, despite even a 25GB Blu-ray disc having the capacity to fit everything. This release isn't quite definitive on any terms, and Miike maniacs will want all three stateside releases for all available extra material, but it's nice to see Audition arrive on a decent looking Blu-ray well before anyone figured.
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...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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