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DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE
1976 - R - 87 Minutes
D: William Crain
S: Bernie Casey - Rosalind Cash - Marie O'Henry - Ji-Tu Cumbuka - Milt Kogan
DVD Provided by VCI Entertainment
Anamorphic Widescreen/Dolby Digital Stereo
Extras: Blacksploitation Intro

Director William Crain's return to the horror/blacksploitation theme only four years after his success with BLACKULA is somewhat a mix bag. Oh, you can dig it, baby! On one side, you get hilarious moments of stereotypes and almost a biting satire of the times (it literally plays like a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of the 70's). On the other side, you get a pretty weak horror outing that drags in the middle and wishes it had the power of KING KONG by the time it ends. Bernie Casey plays a doctor who is formulating a serum that will cure liver damage. On his volunteer days, he works at a free clinic and decides to try his new batch on a dying patient, which ends up with disastrous results. So upset, he takes some home and tries it out on himself! Unfortunately, this turns him into a big hulking white dude (courtesy of Stan Winston) with an attitude and a penchant to kill prostitutes (his mother died from liver disease while being a maid in a brothel – do the math and you'll see his hang ups). He especially has his eye on a hooker named Linda, who he even tries to get to join him in his chemical experiments. This all ends in a silly climax when he climbs up the Watts Towers. Surrounded by onlookers and the police, the misunderstood monster wails away at society, drug abuse, pimps, whores, and one unfortunate police dog. Rosalind Cash is completely wasted in her role as the girlfriend/fellow scientist and hardly has any screen time. With Stan Winston around, you'd hope for some cool gore effects, but all you get is enlarged forehead and eyebrows on the doc when he changes. Speaking of that, when he does, he supposedly turns white, but you could have fooled me. Picture Bernie Casey with a 3 inch afro, protruding forehead and his face covered in white flour. When two street hustlers confront him about "being in the wrong neighborhood" only to get their asses kicked by giant honky cracker monster, the whole mess just gets downright silly. The print is a decent enough transfer with some aging problems, fading and print damage, but I didn't expect VCI to do much with a title such as this one. Overall, you get a fun enough movie for blacksploitation fans with a taste for cheese, but strict horror enthusiasts will probably want to avoid this one all the way around. – Mark Engle

BONNIE & CLYDE vs. DRACULA
2008 – NR – 90 Minutes
D: Timothy Friend
S: Trent Haaga, Tiffany Shepis, Russel Friend
DVD Provided By Big Atom Productions
Widescreen/Stereo
No extras

When I first saw the title BONNIE & CLYDE vs. DRACULA, I was overwhelmed with cynicism. Expecting a bloated mess of weak-minded cheesiness, I stuck the DVD disc into the player and prepared myself for 90 minutes of tediousness. But then I saw writer/director Timothy Friend’s name in the credits and I knew I was in for something weird but good. Friend also wrote and directed the strangely engaging CADAVERELLA, which I had the pleasure of reviewing for good old Cultcuts a while ago. Well, I’m happy to say that once again Friend doesn’t disappoint. The story is as it sounds. Bonnie and Clyde run into Dracula, not to mention a bunch of other vampires. And you know what? It’s a hoot. Forget the Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway version of the outlaw lovers, Friend brings us a duo that is far more cold-blooded and sociopathic, and the roles are played extremely well by Tiffany Shepis and Trent Haaga. A quick note about Shepis, she is absolutely beautiful, cutthroat sexy, and emotionally complex as Bonnie. Her performance alone makes this movie work. Jennifer Friend also does a great job with Annabel, a troubled lady who has a real freak show as a brother. Because I don’t want to provide any spoilers, that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. The writing, directing, photography, special effects, and production design are all surprisingly effective. While there are plenty of character and dialogue scenes, with even a bit of a lull in the second act, there is also a good share of crisp action, especially when Bonnie and Clyde begin kicking ass on the vampires. Genre fans shouldn’t miss this one. It’s a fun watch. – Craig Hamann

BLACK SHAMPOO
1976 – R – 85 Min.
D: Greydon Clark
S: John Daniels – Tanya Boyd
DVD Provided by VCI Entertainment
Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 / Dolby Digital Mono
Extras: Commentary – Text Interviews – Audio Interviews – Bio – Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery – Trailer – Other Exploitation Trailers – Deleted Scenes – Easter Egg

Best to get this out of the way right off the top… Aside from the similar title and profession of the protagonist, this has no connection to Hal Ashby’s 1975 Shampoo. Now then, Mr. Jonathan (Daniels) runs a salon where most of his clients are rich females that crave plenty more than a fancy new wig-do. He has a couple of hilariously flamboyant employees to handle that boring sort of business for him. Mr. Jonathan also has a new receptionist, Brenda (Boyd), who’s trying to start her life over after running out on a nasty criminal type not unwilling to go to unpleasant extremes to get her back. Brenda goes back by choice after the salon is trashed by a colorful group of henchman and somebody ends up getting hurt, but it’s all a set-up. She waits for her chance, steals important papers that will send the bad-guy to the stoney lonesome, and heads out to find her man, her real man. This is when it all hits the fan. There’s so much wrong here it’s difficult to compile a complete list; the acting is beyond sketchy, performers often stumble over their lines, the uniformly un-PC stereotypes are hilariously over the top, the script is banal at its best moments, and it plays like the speedy cash-in that it is. I LOVED IT! Black Shampoo’s problems are plentiful but they all contribute to a pleasurable experience of the guiltiest kind. All critical observations aside, this gritty title is exploitation, sexploitation, blacksploitation, and all those other great sploitations that people who pick up a DVD called Black Shampoo are looking for. It’s loaded with excessive nudity, sex, sleazy situations (a hot curling iron gets jammed WHERE?!), mayhem laden confrontations, and towards the violent finale a chainsaw even comes into play. Yep. I used the “C” word. Here’s an example of how this thing plays out… Mr. Jonathan makes a house call and, instead of being greeted by his client, is met by her two underage daughters who quickly pin him down and start sucking on his chest while simultaneously stripping to the bare nothings. Right when the situation is about to become critical, Mommy runs out and whips them silly with a big-ass belt until they leap screaming into the pool for safety. Mom can’t swim you see. Then SHE climbs on top of the studly star and begins grinding away to teach her daughters a lesson while the girls on the soundtrack moan in harmony behind a funky wakka-wakka guitar lick. Wow. Awesome. Just awesome. Listen, nobody is going to press play on this sucker expecting the next Amadeus. However, if you’re in the mood for some trashy 70’s style insanity, you’ve come to the right place. The disc is pretty good looking for a budget title and the plentiful extras and inexpensive price complete the seduction. The slick menus don’t hurt either. Greydon Clark strikes again! - Michael Mackie

THE BLACK ARROW
1972-75 - NR - 500 Minutes
D: Peter Croft - Bob Leng
S: Simon Cuff - Dorothea Phillips - Gordon Rollings - Williams Squire
DVD Provided by VCI Entertainment
Fullscreen/Mono
Extras: None

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same name that tells the story of Richard Shelton during the War Of The Roses in England. Well the first part of the series is. This collection actually has all three seasons of the series in it and the second two are more influenced by Robin Hood than the Stevenson novel. That being said, this is a decent adaptation and typical British television from that time period. Seeing as the one television I remember from this time period would be Doctor Who, Benny Hill, Are You Being Served and Monty Python, this falls into the others listed here in looks. When it’s an outside shot you get the slightly washed out look typical of many of the series from that time period. The interior scenes are obvious anytime it changes to one of them. The British have always been masters at period costume dramas and THE BLACK ARROW is no exception. Unfortunately, there is also a ton of people just talking to each other which is also common in British period costume dramas. Sure, this might be alright when you’re doing Shakespeare, but The Black Arrow is a swashbuckling book. The swashbuckling seemed to take a back seat to all the stretches of dialogue. The one good thing here is that VCI Entertainment is mining British television for television series to release. While BBC will make sure that all the popular ones will be out there in box sets, VCI will take care of the ones that tend to fall through the cracks. Like they did with American serials. I can hardly wait to see what they have in store for us in the future. Sure, THE BLACK ARROW was far from ideal, but that’s just one series. - Douglas A. Waltz


BLACK NIGHT

Also Known As
Nuit Noire
Belgium/2005 – NR – 90 Minutes
D: Olivier Smolders
S: Fabrice Rodriguez, Yves-Marie Gnahoua, Philippe Corbisier, Iris De Busschere
DVD Courtesy of Cult Epics
Widescreen, Dolby Stereo
Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette, Director interview, short film

There are two reasons why genre fans should be interested in BLACK NIGHT (actually Nuit Noire, which is the real and better sounding title) by writer/director Olivier Smolders. First, there is the unbelievably beautiful imagery in every scene. Second, this is a SOV movie that blows most projects shot on film into the weeds. Oscar (Fabrice Rodriguez) is a conservator at the Natural Sciences Museum. He constantly works with bizarre, sometimes grotesque-looking, insects and lives in a world that has literally turned dark (there is a mere fifteen seconds of daylight every day). What’s more, he’s undertaking treatments for a series of disturbing dreams that he’s been having. As weird as his dreams are, they aren’t much more out there in left field than his regular life. One day he comes home and finds an African security employee from the museum lying in his bed. She’s ill and pregnant, and she needs his help. I’m not talking about help delivering a baby either. He has to help her as she mutates into a big insect cocoon and then transforms into…something. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, so I’m stopping there. Filmmaker Smolders says in his interview that he is deeply interested in dreams and that’s the reason why this production happened. Well, “dream-like” would definitely be a good description of this movie. It is profoundly imaginative and magnificently shot, with every single scene containing moody but natural lighting and excellent composition. This is a quiet but strangely powerful experience to behold. Genre fans, particularly those who like Kafka and maybe even David Lynch (though I personally much prefer Smolders’ work here over Lynch’s films) should enjoy this visual experience. – Craig Hamann

BOTTOM FEEDER
2006 – NR – 86 Min.
D: Randy Daudlin
S: Tom Sizemore – Amber Cull – Martin Roach – Wendy Anderson
Genius Entertainment DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Trailers – Making Of

Vince (Sizemore) leads his maintenance team into some tunnels (under false pretenses) in order to snatch abandoned loot he was tipped off about in an effort to make a few extra bucks on the side. problem is that people have already visited the tunnels today, people who left a geneticist locked inside filled with his own experimental serum. Those particularly unpleasant people didn’t quite understand how it was all supposed to work and, long story short, the doctor transforms into a ravenous flesh-eating hybrid with an ever increasing blood lust and the ability to heal itself when harmed. Vince, along with his niece, his best friend, and a few unexpected guests, do their best to fend off the beast and escape the tunnels alive. Unfortunately, the monster is not all they’ll have to contend with along the way. Reviews of this have been extremely harsh. That’s puzzling and here’s why… People keep asking for so-called ‘old-school’ horror. They are often promised ‘old-school’ horror. They rarely ever GET ‘old-school’ horror. You’d think that such a spirited non-CG creature feature would be, to say the least, thankfully received. It’s not flawless by any means, but it sure has got an awful lot going for it; steady camera, nice gore, plenty of lively dialogue, (just slightly) over the top characters, and even a touch of government conspiracy. Your humble reviewer cheered out loud when the bodyguard character broke out with double blades to face off against the rat/dog/man/thing mano-e-thingo. Bottom Feeder fits in well with titles like The Terror Within and Xtro 2 so it’s not a classic, okay, but it ain’t half bad either. - Michael Mackie

THE BURNING
AKA Buryure
Japan/2008 – NR – 72 Minutes
D: Kenta Hayashida
S: Rika Nakamura, Mika Nakamura, Taichi Hirabyashi
DVD Provided by Pathfinder Home Video
Fullscreen/ Stereo
Extras: Making-of featurette, trailer

Real life siblings Rika and Mika Nakamura play twin sisters Minako and Hinako in an interesting but sometimes misleading film that studies a few, but not many, questions about life and death. After a long separation, Minako comes home to spend time with Hinako. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time to spare, because Minako is dying from a brain tumor. There is also the fact that both girls are pyromaniacs who have been responsible for a lot of property destruction. As a result, the twins take off, running away to reconnect while learning new things about each other. Filmmaker Kenta Hayashida utilizes his own unique vision here, offering a quiet movie that is beautifully shot but powerfully realized artistically. The fire imagery is fascinating, serving as a metaphor for the characters and life itself, as it appears both dangerous and comforting at the same time. There is believable natural acting, especially by the Nakamura sisters, though the character development, like the plot, doesn’t really have a complete arc. Is this a cinematic masterpiece? No, but it is a signature study by a good filmmaker, and it’s a sweet but unapologetic film that genre fans really should see. On a side note, sadly, young director Kenta Hayashida passed away shortly after the film’s release. – Craig Hamann

BLOODY BIRTHDAY
1981 – Rated R – 85 Minutes
D: Ed Hunt
S: Elizabeth Hoy – Andy Freeman – Michael Dudikoff – Erica Hope – Billy Jayne
DVD courtesy of VCI Entertainment
Anamorphic Widescreen/Mono
Extras: Producer Interview – Director Bio – Trailers

On the night of Saturn’s Eclipse, three children are born in a small suburb at the same time. Ten years later, they are complete sociopaths teaming up together for thrills and chills as they murder anyone who doesn’t let them have their way. Heck, they don’t even need that much of a motive! Nobody in town thinks it’s the kids because they are only 10 years old. When the sheriff (one of the fathers) gets suspicious they off him too. This sometimes effective early 80s chiller has some fun playing the evil kids to the hilt, but it all feels like a 70s Telehorror film with some nude scenes added as a bonus. The murders are sometimes quite creative, but only mildly PG gory including arrow to the eye, gun shots, skateboard on stairs, etc. Surprisingly however, these kid actors are believable enough to pull it off, unfortunately the direction and adult actors don’t hold up as well. Definitely worth a shot since VCI has released it on their bargain label, but best saved for a rainy Sunday. – Mark Engle

THE BUTCHER
2005 – R – 84 Min.
D: Edward Gorsuch
S: April Gilbert – Tom Nagel – Bill Jacobson – Annie Mackay
Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0

Several youths on a joyride to Vegas are taunted by a menacing figure in a menacing truck. They hit a trap in the road and suffer only a flat. After they change the tire and catch up to the truck (for vengeful taunting and flashing) an accident leaves one of them cut in half and their vehicle disabled. They look for help at a nearby farmhouse, a sinister place that’s home to more terror than they could possibly imagine. A large disfigured maniac begins to violently pick them off one by one. Worse yet, he is not alone. Sound familiar? It should. The Butcher is a shameless assemblage of just about every well-known backwoods horror movie ever made. And a few others besides, just for good measure. The characters are all alarmingly stupid and the story is preposterously clichéd. Still, there is an undeniable energy displayed that keeps you watching, the acting is solid enough, and there are (against all odds) a few surprises in store for those who push through to the climax. A moldy shock ending pulled right out of the 80’s furthers my suspicions that The Butcher is the way it is entirely on purpose. Some mild nudity, plenty of violent deaths, a little gore, a fair amount of atmosphere and a brisk pace help this one turn out a lot more fun than it probably should be. Recommended for adventurous risk-takers coming up otherwise empty at their favorite rental haunts. – Michael Mackie

BORN INNOCENT
1974 – NR – 99 Minutes
D: Donald Wrye
S: Linda Blair – Kim Hunter – Joanna Miles – Richard Jaeckel
DVD Provided by VCI Entertainment
Fullscreen/Mono
Extras: Bios – Trailers

When runaway Linda Blair is caught for the sixth time in two years, she’s shipped off to jail for the night and eventually sent to a home for troubled teen girls. Just when you think she’s learned her lesson, the bureaucracy puts her into harms away again. Her parents don’t want her and her dad (Jaeckel) is abusive, but her fellow inmates are even worse! After raping her with a wood plunger, she runs yet again. Her only hope is Kim Hunter, a teacher in the system who sees Blair for the true potential she could be. Will she make it to the outside and be successful, or will she end up as tough as nails and uncaring as her prison peers? Acting aside, which is very credible by the leads, not much else goes on here that doesn’t resemble an old episode of an After School Special. The rape scene (shorn from some prints, but restored here) is brutal for all you Linda Blair exploitation completists, but these bad girls don’t even curse making The Bad News Bears seem like Jackie The Jokeman in comparison. Worth a rental at best for all you Linda Blair fanatics, but all else may just want to re-watch Savage Streets, Chained Heat or Hell Night instead. Of interesting note: Janie Baldwin plays an absolute psychotic here, and three years later played in the Exorcist-styled Ruby as Piper Laurie’s possessed daughter. Sometimes exploitation is a small world. – Mark Engle

BEAUTY QUEEN BUTCHER
1991 – NR – 130 Minutes
D: Jill Zurborg
S: Rhona Brody, Jim Boggess, Kimberly Ann Kurtenbach, Kathryn A. Mensik
DVD Courtesy of Camp Motion Pictures
Fullscreen/Mono
Extras: Behind the Scenes Featurette, Trailers

Picture Brian DePalma’s Carrie being shot on video by some amateur with the reject cast of Saved By The Bell, and that about best describes Beauty Queen Butcher. Overweight and clumsy Phyliss Loden is tricked into the local high school beauty pageant as a joke. She doesn’t understand why, but her only friend outside of her cat talks her into going through with it. When the beauty pageant coordinator (a guy in drag no less) gets wind of it, she talks the other contestants into tormenting her to get her to quit. When they kill her cat and comes in last place, she goes psycho and starts knocking off one beauty at a time working her way up the beauty queen ladder. Will she make it to the top? I wanted her to so the movie would be over. An okay slasher premise with horrible acting and production values, this almost bloodless film doesn’t have much to recommend it to genre fans. Obviously meant to be humorous, the jokes are there, but the laughs are not. Whether or not I could recommend some of the other titles by Camp Motion Pictures, I could say I enjoyed them on at least an entertaining level except for Splatter Farm and now this exercise in tedium. Don’t vote on this dud, there’s nothing to win here. – Mark Engle

THE BODYGUARD/SISTER STREET FIGHTER Welcome To The Grindhouse Double Feature
1976/1974 – Rated R - 89/86 Minutes
D: Simon Nuchtern/Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
S: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Masashi Ishibashi
DVD Courtesy of BCI Eclipse
Widescreen/Stereo/Dubbed In English Only
Extras: Grindhouse style trailers and theatrical goodies

Sonny Chiba takes on drug lords in two action packed martial arts classics! BCI Eclipse is back with another double feature as part of their Grindhouse series. This time around, we get Sister Street Fighter uncut and exactly the same as they originally released it in their Sister Box Set last year. In other words, a gorgeous anamorphic print. The Body Guard, unfortunately doesn’t fair as well. It’s anamorphic at 2.35:1 but some of it is faded and seen better days. It also seems to come from several sources with parts of it containing Japanese subtitles while other whole scenes do not. It does contain several scenes from the U.S. version as well as scenes from the original source. Still a great movie, but not a definitive version to say the least. Fans of either film still may want to pick this up if they haven’t already. Most stores carry this for a measly 10 bucks, barely a couple of bucks over a rental for both movies. Or better yet, buy the original Sister Box set and tell BCI to put together grindhouse double features of movies they haven’t released yet. -Mark Engle

BAD BLOOD
AKA COISA RUIM
2006 – N/R – 97 Minutes
D: Tiago Guedes, Frederico Serra
S: Adriano Luz, Manuela Couto, Sara Carinhas, Jose Afonso Pimentel, Joao Santos
DVD Provided by Tartan Video
Widescreen/Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Extras: Making of Featurette, Original Trailer, Other Tartan Trailers

A deliberate slow paced thriller as a family moves out into the country after inheriting an ancient family mansion. Unfortunately they inherit the family curse as well. Seems several generations ago, their relative bought up the entire area except for one house whose owners refused to sell. One night the owner’s entire family is wiped out while he was out. Completely devastated, he goes stark raving mad until God gives him the power of monstrous revenge. So the legend goes! Back to modern times, the entire town is wary of our family as they slowly start going paranoid. Only the local priest, who teams up with a clairvoyant can save the day. Once the son is possessed, it turns into a sort of Amityville 2 right down to the implied incestuous rape of his own sister. Unfortunately, too little happens too late. There’s some decent tension and atmosphere, but the entire thing doesn’t quite pay off. Good enough for a rainy day rental, we’ve seen better, but we’ve also seen much worse. -Mark Engle

A BOTHERED CONSCIENCE
2006 – NR – 87 Minutes
D: Dennis Smithers Jr.
S: Stephen Martin, Dennis Smithers Sr.
DVD Courtesy of Brain Damage Films
Widescreen/Stereo

What a cool surprise! I really like this brutal but fascinating backwoods SOV flick by talented young writer/director/cinematographer/producer Dennis Smithers Jr. The story is about a father and his son protecting their property from trespassers in whatever violent way they deem necessary. When something (I won't say what) happens to the father, then it's up to the son to live up to his dad's expectations and guard the property by himself. But something weird happens, as the past victims come back from the dead. Or do they? There is plenty of stark violence and many truly gory scenes, plus a good deal of creepy suspense. The acting is far better than expected, with Dennis Smithers Sr. and Stephen Martin being spot on as the father and son, respectively. The Arkansas backdrops are breathtaking and the movie itself is exceptionally well-crafted. A big round of applause goes to Doug Johnson for providing a wonderful music score, definitely one of the best I've ever heard in a SOV movie. I enthusiastically recommend this project from the Smithers clan. – Craig Hamann
BLACK ROSES
1988 – R – 84 Min.
D: John Fasano
S: John Martin, Karen Planden, Julie Adams, Carla Ferrigno, Sal Viviano
Synapse Films DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0
Extras: Commentary – Trailers – Audition Tape Excerpts

Make no mistake… Any pleasure to be had watching this one should be clearly identified as the ‘guilty’ variety. A quintessential 80’s theme is at work here; Heavy Metal is evil and must be stopped or all your children will be infected by infernal darkness, damned, lost etc. etc. etc. How many times have we heard that? Well, in Black Roses, all of those PMRC style paranoid delusions come true. Damien (Viviano) brings his sinister band to a small town intending to possess and control the local youth. The demonized teens begin killing their parents, counselors, and any other unlucky citizenry that happen to offend them and it falls to ‘cool’ teacher Matt (Martin) to stand, fight the evil and save his students before they fall pray to the unholy headbangers from hell. This heroic defender of the righteous confronts demons with various tennis-rackets, fuzzy gong bangers, and road flares. Yep, that’s the type of force ‘cool Matt’ brings to his epic battles with the minions of the underworld, often attacking with semi-retarded abandon. There’s a fair amount of nudity, a little blood, and a lot of creative monster F/X, but there’s also a feeling of things transpiring veeeerrrry slllloooowwwwly. Mildly entertaining at times, though often for the wrong reasons. In the end you get a sometimes fun, sometimes annoyingly sluggish creature feature that takes itself a lot more seriously than most horror fans will. Synapse has honored fans of Fasano’s sophomore effort admirably with a truly attractive DVD; it has never looked better. Still, Black Roses is certainly no Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare. Then again, what is? Maybe Synapse will release The Jitters next? You never can tell… - Michael Mackie
BOARDINGHOUS
Also Known As:
BOARDING HOUSE
Also Known As:
HOUSEGEIST
1982 – R – 98 Min.
D: John Wintergate
S: John Wintergate – Kalassu
Code Red DVD
Fullscreen / Dolby Digital Stereo
Extras: Commentary – Interviews – Trailers

Jim (Wintergate) moves into a home with a history of violent incidents leaving all previous residents either dead or missing. He turns the place into a boarding house for young unattached women while taking every available opportunity to practice his cosmic telekinesis in the bathtub. History soon repeats itself; a malevolent force begins to mangle and mutilate its way through the cast. This thing has some of the most inconsistent editing ever laid down on film… Erm… Videotape. It’s difficult to get across just how poorly put together, or not put together, Boardinghouse really is. The commentary explains that, to paraphrase, the producers didn’t really get what they were shooting for and edited out a lot of footage. Three cheers for the producers. There is no way more footage could have made this better unless it was from an altogether different and significantly better project. What’s left switches between failed comedy and z-grade gore F/X, potentially at the cost of viewer sanity. There’s nudity, sexual assault flashbacks, kitty splatter, eyeball popping, garbage disposal tomfoolery, hopping hearts, and yet it’s all so damn boring. The disc illustrated that the makers of Boardinghouse had their hearts in the right place, but ‘good people’ doesn’t equal ‘good movie’. Code Red comes through again by putting together a great package for all the die-hard fans out there… I hope he enjoys it. Unless you want to leave your DVD player badly in need of a digital enema, skip it. Watch your own home movies instead. A Boardinghouse 2 is threatened… Now THAT’S scary! - Michael Mackie

BAGHEAD
2008 - R - 81 Minutes
D: Jay & Mark Duplass
S: Steve Zissis - Ross Partridge - Greta Gerwig - Elise Muller
DVD Provided by Sony Pictures Classics
Widescreen/Dolby Digital
Extras: Commentary - Interview - Trailers

What happens when four out or work actors get together in a cabin in the middle of nowhere to write a screenplay for themselves? Well, you get a sort of satirical look at friendship, sexual relationships, the Indy industry and slasher films. During all the fun, sexual innuendos, drinking and lack of working on the screenplay itself, the idea of a horror film comes to mind after one of the girls thinks she dreamt a guy with a bag over his head tried to attack her. Or did she dream it? Soon all four are playing pranks until the real baghead shows up, or was he there all along? Directors Jay and Mark Duplass manage to turn a low budget lark into a successful movie that was even picked up by Sony. And here's where I would normally start trashing the usual pretentious independent film to pieces, but this time I can't. While this project isn't for every genre fan, if you buy the concept, BAGHEAD will supply several laughs, some serious chills and a really messed up ending that I should have seen coming, but did not. What really makes it work however is not the smart screenplay but the actors themselves. Everyone came across so naturally, it really felt like a genuine situation, a true reality program if a camera was hidden. BAGHEAD never overstays its welcome at a short 81 Minutes and is one of the better "no-budget" independent pieces of cinema I've seen in quite some time. If you are looking for a true slasher or even a satire of one, this might not work for you, but for the more adventurous, make sure and check it out. - Mark Engle

BLACK TORMENT
1964 - NR - 86 Min.
D: Robert Hartford-Davis
S: Heather Sears - John Turner - Ann Lynn - Peter Arne
DVD Provided by Salvation/Redemption Films
Fullscreen/Mono

I'm a fan of a lot of Gothic horror, especially from the sixties and seventies. Whether from Spain and starring Naschy or from the UK via Hammer or Amicus studios. I've sat through many, so I guess my task here is to tell other likewise fans where BLACK TORMENT stands amongst the many well known titles out there. And the answer is...not too shabby. The story is very familiar as a local Baron returns home with his new bride after being away for three months only to find out from the locals, friends and loyal servants, that he's been spotted several times roaming the countryside. Meanwhile, a local gal was raped and murdered and upon the Baron's return, one of his maids has disappeared. If that wasn't bad enough, when he has been spotted, it is late at night while being chased on horseback by his late dead wife who supposedly committed suicide and she keeps shouting "murderer" in that eerie ghostlike slow motion voice that we all recognize and can send shivers down one's spine. What works in BLACK TORMENT's favor is tons of period detail and atmosphere. There's also decent acting and low budget yet lavish looking sets. What's missing is Price, Cushing or Lee as the Baron. John Turner does fine in the lead, but his character is written as such an angry ass that it is hard to find any sympathy for the guy despite all he is going through. A master like Cushing could probably make it work, but Turner plays the role straight through without much depth. On top of that, there isn't much violence or bloodshed and there's a couple of minor plot holes you could drive a horse and carriage through, but don't let that deter all you Gothic horror fans out there from at least checking it out. For most of us, or at least I can speak for myself, we never seem to get tired of this particular genre of horror. It is by no means a classic, but it does deliver the proper moody and dark chills. - Mark Engle

BLOODY MOON
1981 - NR - 81 Minutes
D: Jess Franco
S: Olivia Pascal - Nadja Gerganoff - Jasmin Losensky - Corrina Drews
DVD Provided by Severin Films
Widescreen/Dolby Digital
Extras: Theatrical Trailer - Jess Franco Interview

Jess Franco's slasher epic gets a proper DVD release from Severin Films. This "everything but the kitchen sink" odyssey is only missing a Franco convent with masturbating nuns to make it complete. Someone is killing off several girls at a private college. Is it the incestuous niece or scarred nephew of the owner? Could it be the local stud or the foreign language teacher? Or is poor Olivia Pascal insane and imagining it all? It isn't too hard to figure out. But what is tough to chew on is the horrible dialogue! Nobody believes poor Olivia when she says she's seen her friend murdered, and that is understandable considering nobody can find the body. But later on, when she even runs into the police in broad daylight and they know nothing about her, they tell her to calm down, she's only having a nightmare?!? Yes, it's that bad, throughout the entire picture. But what is good about BLOODY MOON you ask? Gore, and pretty impressive gore for a Franco outing at that. A knife through the back until it punctures through the breast, a great decapitation, neck wounds and an electric saw to the gut are all highlights here for the gorehound/slasher fan. Other than that, it is all pretty substandard stuff and there are better gory slashers to be watched. The final 15 minutes are a lot of fun, but depending on one's patience will or will not break one's enjoyment factor getting there. Severin has done a top notch job with a great looking widescreen print and a fun Franco interview discussing the problematic production involved in making BLOODY MOON. Overall, this is for completists of Franco's work or slasher fans who have seen everything else. I'm glad I saw it in all its uncut glory, but it will take more than a full moon to get me to watch it again. - Mark Engle

BATTLER SIENNA MATRA
Also Known As:
EXCITING HEROINE: BATTLER SIENNA MATRA
2007 – NR – 64 Min.
D: Motoharu Takauji S: Mari Sakurai – Asami Sugiura – Akira Ideguchi – Morimasa Tanno
DVD courtesy of Switchblade Pictures (Section23 Films)
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0
Japanese with English subtitles
Extras: Trailers – Available on double feature DVD with Makiriko

As the second feature on the same DVD as Makiriko, Battler Sienna Matra is a bit of a surprise. Whereas the first had a polite innocence to it, this one revels in close-ups of cleavage and tight leather bikini bottoms; also, some gratuitous nudity is present. So, although the overall attitude of the two titles may be similar, the method in which they are presented is absolutely different. Matra (Sakurai) is a warrior training to become a battle master. Her master, Hanzo, (Ideguchi) claims that he can teach her no more but that she isn’t ready to learn the fabled ‘final technique’. Matra has a sister who left five years earlier because she could not conquer her dark and jealous nature. She’s back now, though, to force Hanzo (whose black hair never once ceases to poke out from beneath his white wig) into revealing the dangerous technique so that she can better serve her new master, the sinister Lord Grauzas (Tanno). Now, Matra must fight the evil forces that mean to do her harm so they can set their evil plans into motion, whatever they may be. Entertaining but silly story is lifted a few notches by just being fun. The soundtrack is catchy and watching the two sisters constantly try to pound the jiggle out of each other is more good than bad. The final showdown with the Power Rangers reject known as Grauzas would surely come across as blatantly goofy if you had enough blood left in your brain to really process what was going on while watching. Chances are you won’t. Matra spends most of the climactic fight scenes sans top so it’s a safe bet you’ll be distracted from any shortcomings. Besides, we should all have a fair idea of what to expect from Switchblade releases by now and for those of us who’ve come to love them for the gifts they bestow upon us, it’s simply business as usual. Once again, a buxom bikini model has been cast as the lead and, once again, does a respectable job considering what she’s given to work with. Either release would be a decent recommendation to Switchblade’s fans, but having them both together makes for a nearly irresistible package. - Michael Mackie

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