Goon Review – Resident Evil: Revelations

(Submitted by his Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Resident Evil jumped the shark long, long ago past the point that the story lines are convoluted and downright stupid and the characters act like they were born without brain stems, making the most idiotic decisions anything person could ever make all for the sake of moving the story along. Resident Evil: Revelations is the epitome of that.

I think this game is supposed to take place before Resident Evil 5, seeing as Chris and Jill are partners, but I’ll try to sum up the plot of Revelations; So, the game begins with Jill and her new partner, Parker, looking for Chris and his new partner, Jessica, but it turns out Chris and Jessica are looking for Jill and Parker, but neither party knows exactly where the other one is and is always one step behind… and these are the people that are committed to stopping bio-terrorism across the world.

Well, if this is the best and brightest, we’re fucked.

Of course, that crew looks like a bunch of Einstein’s when you compare them to BSAA’s bumbling pair of jackoffs, Keith and Jackass. For real. That guy’s name is Jackass. These two are basically the C-Squad when you know a mission is gonna fail, but you’re obligated to try anyway, you send them. They are so insipid and Jackass’ voice is like nails on a chalkboard. He’s always fumbling, tripping over something and dropping an important item or forgetting it. You have to wonder if it was like Police Academy when they were hired. Were the crime rates too high and the recruitments too low? I know, I’ve been arguing semantics for the last few paragraphs, but I want to impose the question; who is this game (or these multiple games) targeted at? The gore insists that it’s for adults, but the language is toned down and these characters are written to act so it’s slapstick type humor for a younger audience and the plot requires no thinking and a child could figure it out. Even the villains monologue about their evil plans.

This isn’t even going into all the backstabbing and obvious double crosses that you can expect from Resident Evil. Revelations takes place on a cruise ship, which at first admittedly sounds amazing. Zombies and other gross monsters aboard a luxury cruise ship, complete with a casino and swimming pool? Yes, please! This is going to be awesome! But slowly it dawns on you that none of this is actually really all that great. This setting is never used to its full potential. Also as the game progresses, you’ll most likely grow tired of the surrounding seeing as you’ll be backtracking through every section several times.

I enjoyed this game for the first hour, but then I began to notice the repetition and all of the unfavorable survival horror tropes (that began with the later entries in Resident Evil oddly enough), such as the overpowered boss battles, given you mass amounts of resources only to throw you in narrow hallways with far too many enemies (of which there is a very little variety of) just to dwindle down the resources you were just given, running around in circles with no clear direction and facing constant timers instead of allowing the player to explore the environment and become frightened to be in it. In a few words, I dislike Resident Evil: Revelations.

It’s a game that doesn’t fully understand the potential it had. You have a survival horror game that takes place on a cruise ship that offers up plenty of opportunities for scares and the use of claustrophobia, but instead it has you running back and forth doing predictable tasks. Like if you see an elevator, you know it’s not going to work. You’re gonna have to travel back to the other end, do a small, unchallenging puzzle and then travel back only to have something block you along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the setup and groaned loudly. It becomes so tiresome and makes the game feel like a chore when you know what’s coming and you have no desire to play. It’s like taking the garbage bag out from the can and leaving it in the kitchen then going to work. I know I’m gonna have to take that out when I come home, I just don’t want to. The game often pits you against a timer or makes matters seem urgent, forcing you to rush through the areas instead of exploring them and figuring things out for yourself, regardless of the lack of puzzles that have been replaced with fetch quests. Some portions of the game take place under water, too. Yes, the cruise ship is sinking at some point and you’ll be deduced to rushing through areas faster as you don’t want to run out of breath, so once you get certain keys, you better be damn sure to backtrack to all those locked doors and get the goodies inside, because once this thing floods, there’s no going back.

But the two biggest offenders has to be the controls and, as always a problem in Capcom games, the piss poor AI. In the game, you work alongside a partner, but unlike Resident Evil: Revelations 2, you can’t switch and play as your partner to help you advance through a level or even for fun. Enemies will be surrounding you, bosses will be dominating you and your partner may… MAY… pop off a couple shots to help. They mostly stand around and do absolutely nothing. It boggles my mind that even back in 2012 that a game company so revered as Capcom would release a game with terrible AI. Then again, they did make Dead Rising which came out a few years prior and that has some of the worst AI I have ever experienced. The lesser of the two evils is the controls. The game is playable as in you can control it, but something about them doesn’t feel right. They feel a little… clunky, I guess is the word. I would often get hung up on objects, corners and especially on the edge of levels when underwater. Maybe it controlled better on the DS, but I can’t say the same for the PS4.

The one real positive thing I will say about it is that the Raid mode is a lot of fun. Just like with Revelations 2, the Raid mode stands out far better than the actual story mode. You can play Raid mode right from the start, but unfortunately you have to play the story mode to unlock more skins, levels and weapons. However, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has been out for sometime on current-gen consoles and has a far superior Raid mode that is more refined (especially with the weapon upgrade system… and the game is far more fun), so that even doesn’t make the $20 price tag worth it. In fact, the stories aren’t at all related, so you could easily skip this game and pick up the sequel.

 

Goon Review: The Walking Dead – A New Frontier Episode 5 – From the Gallows

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Well, it’s been a long journey, but it’s finally come to end. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier wraps up in its final episode, From The Gallows, and along the way we’ve gotten to know the new protagonist, Javi, quite well. We’ve watched his relationships take shape with all the characters and if you’re like me, I chose for Javi to be caring and thoughtful towards others, especially those in his group. He’s been guiding Gabe on the right path as a father figure, even though for the most part, Gabe has been the prototypical angsty, brooding teenager with daddy issues. By this point, Gabe has actually matured past the point of annoying and is making some wise decisions and most importantly, sticking up for himself against David. I gotta hand it to my parenting skills.

From The Gallows is probably the most emotional and strongest episode of the game or at the very least on par with the first episode, including a moment that could be more emotional than Mariana’s death back in the first episode. Being the conclusion to A New Frontier, while not having the strongest plot in the series, does wrap things up in a more positive light (at least in my playthrough). Yes, no matter how bad things seemed to get in the faces of his adversaries, I never allowed Javi to walk down a dark path or allowed him to take revenge or act out of violence or become selfish no matter how hard he was pushed. In the event of an apocalypse, there needs to be some kind of hope, regardless of how far fetched or negative the situation may be and it was actually heart warming to see everything come together in a positive way. Usually, The Walking Dead games end on grim, depressing notes, but with A New Frontier there was a lot of hope and happiness. This episode isn’t without its choices, those moments you know aren’t going to end well or even having to make a decision between one thing or another, but for the most part, you’ll get the ending you that you set out to get.

For me, I just wanted to stop seeing cartoonishly portrayed power struggles, people versus people in a zombie apocalypse. It’s like all of a sudden during a catastrophe, people degrade to being brainless cavemen and begin hitting each other over the head with clubs for ownership of food and women. I dunno, maybe that’s accurate once they don’t have access to their Twitter accounts. Anyway, shit had really hit the fan in the previous episode if you recall. Tripp (or Ava depending on your decision) just got executed, Kate ran the truck into the wall which then caused Richmond to become overrun with zombies and Joan’s crew were in a firefight with Javi and his people. This makes an excellent way to open the episode, right in the middle of the action. Unfortunately, it’s about the only action in From The Gallows, but it’s memorable and manages to still be intense. Hell, it even manages to do an ol’ swaperoo. Remember how Kate ran that truck into the wall, as I just mentioned? Well, David and Javi spot a walker in the same clothes and are in total disbelief when all of a sudden, Kate comes out of nowhere and kills it. Gotcha! I was actually glad to see Kate alive, because even though they had finally admitted their feelings for each other and to tell David, they hadn’t yet and so I didn’t feel like that situation was yet a closed book.

The opportunity to tell David comes later, but for now our characters have to deal with Richmond being completely overrun with zombies. Sadly, that’s also the weakest part of this episode; whether or not to save Richmond or to bail. That’s primarily the focus here and the reason it doesn’t really work on an emotional level is because we don’t give a rat’s fuzzy ass (that’s something I heard my dad say when I was a kid when he was yelling at me and I started laughing) about anyone from Richmond. Everyone who we’ve encountered from there has been a total dickhead or a murderous sumbitch, so the actually feeling of wanting to save those people just isn’t there, but you know Javi. He’s the beacon of light in this mess or whatever, so of course my purpose is going to help these people. David, however, feels that they should all leave and I actually agreed with his reasoning. He has his family back, he’s now amended things with Clem, so why keep everyone at risk and just move on?

This also comes after Ava (if she’s still alive in your game) supposedly meets her end. They brush past it likes it’s nothing that I thought I should bring it up, because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel or what the game wanted me to take from it. After trying to cross a chasm and helping Javi, she’s pulled down by a zombie, but we never see her fall all the way or hit bottom. Everyone just goes, “aw, man… oh, well,” and moves on. She was such a cool character and for her to exit in such an underwhelming way, I realized she was really a missed opportunity. Something could’ve really been developed with her character, but I’ll never know.

 

This is where the game’s only real, but big choice comes in. This is where the big divide in your ending will be and we see who you’ve really become. You can flee with David or stay with Kate. Kate believes they should stay and help everyone, help clear out the zombies and seeing that I’ve been shaping Javi to be a decent person and to guide others to do the same, I agreed with her and the time finally came; the time to tell David about their feelings.Seeing as how he’s a brash and angry man, he didn’t take the news to well and begins to beat the shit out of Javi, but I, as Javi, made a promise that I would be the best man and take care of people. This is arguably the most emotional scene ever since we saw Mariana get shot in the head as you can continuously tell David that you love him no matter what as he continues to pummel you. Or you can fight back. Your choice. At the end, he takes off with Gabe and Clementine agrees to chase after them while you head back with Kate to save Richmond. That involves a bulldozer and pressing a random button to shoot zombies. It’s not very exciting.

And then literally like a knight in shining armor on a horse, Jesus reappears with his crew, cutting off the heads of zombies and helping the people of Richmond. A guy with long hair and a beard that sounds like Christian Slater doing an impression of Jack Nicholson coming back to save the people… seems like a pretty thin allegory. Not much really happens after that. Not that the episode wanders off or dwindles away, but at this point I guess everything that needed to said has been said. Final respects are paid, we catch up with the survivors in your group (including Conrad, who regardless of being shot in the head during the second episode seems to have made peace with the loss of his loved one). For me, it was nice to see Kate and Javi as a family with Gabe and plans to have another. They are finally feeling at home for the first time in a long time and are able to move on, because of your guidance. While not the strongest episode, it has very strong moments and seeing everything pay off was totally worth it. I thought the second season of The Walking Dead was alright, but I felt it fell into the the trap of pandering to the audience, aping the TV show and giving its audience exactly what they want and Michonne was just pointless and boring, so to have A New Frontier be entertaining, pretty emotional and have characters you cared about for the first time since the first season makes the game totally worth playing.

With Clem riding off into the sunset on her own mission, I can only hope she finds what she’s been looking for, but more importantly is able to finally able to settle down someplace and feel at home. I think we’ve seen the last of Javi, I feel like his story has already been told and things wrapped up rather nicely for him (well, as nice as they can in this situation). Another season (and I believe final) has been announced and I really, really hope that everything works out for poor Clementine. But I guess that’s up to me.

Goon Review: Contra Soundtrack

(Submitted by His Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Much obliged, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxox)

Contra has the honor of being the first video game that left it’s opening screen impressed in my head. Everyone remembers the title card coming in from the right to the left as those few notes jingled and finally exploded when you pressed start (after frantically trying to enter the thirty lives code, of course). Immediately, you’re dropped into a jungle warzone, one that might remind you of Predator with the beat of the music synced perfectly with the action as you worked your way through HR Giger inspired levels and enemies.

Mondo’s recent release of Contra is one for the collection, without a doubt. There’s no considering it, if you’ve played the game or know anything about Nintendo, you need to grab this iconic soundtrack. Side A is the classic NES soundtrack you’ve come to know and love, starting with the aforementioned Title Card track and then creating a creepy mood with the Introduction before setting the action pace with the Area 1: Jungle track (I know, catchy track titles). This is the one we all know and love the most, I think, because of how many times you dropped into that beginning level when starting the game. Not only that, it also rocks more than most other NES tracks out there. My favorite track was always Area 6: Energy Zone which combines both the run and gun action and the creeping terror. Plus, that name is just perfectly ‘80s, it should have been a club somewhere.

 

I have to admit… I totally forgot this was an arcade game, but for a very good reason; not many people played it once the Nintendo version was out there. To be honest, the reason I don’t recall the arcade version is because I found the NES version to be superior in every way, especially with the music. This is one exceptionally rare cases where the Nintendo soundtrack is better than the arcade version. Yes, Contra’s NES music is better than its arcade counterpart. I know it’s hard to believe, but when you listen to Side B of the vinyl, which is the same tracks in the same order with the exception of Track 2: Introduction missing and Track 12: Ranking as a new addition, you will hear the difference. Now, one of these will work better for you and I’m sure for most of you it will be the Nintendo version. The arcade version is actually something more of a cleaner, perhaps a bit more clear Genesis version, what with a very metallic sound and tin clanks. You could argue that better represents the game, but for me, nothing will compare to the NES version.

With Mondo, the artwork is just as important as the actual soundtrack itself. Afterall, it’s all about presentation and Mondo usually always nails it. Usually. Eric Powell’s artwork on the cover is cool and kinda has a comic book style to it, showcasing the two heroes, Lance and Bill, albeit muted colors and to be honest, that’s the start of my disappointment with it. Contra is bright and colorful, full of Alien-esque creature designs and very little of that is present on the cover. Sure, the background behind the two muscle clad, gun toting protagonists shows a little bit of that, but there’s more negative space to be filled that should have been used with HR Giger imagery. It seems like halfway through creating an awesome cover, the artist ran out of time or just called it quits. Again, I’m not complaining about the quality, because I think it’s quite phenomenal, but underwhelming when you consider the source material.

The inside of the jacket is something that would jump at you out of your nightmares. Fold it open and the mother or queen, whatever it was called, dominates both sides and looking to be ready to jump out at you. I really like being able to see the sketchy pencil marks underneath the finished product, giving it a grittier look, but again, it’s just muted colors. Maybe I’m misremembering Contra, but the back cover shows maybe I’m not. That is more in line of what I’m talking about.

San Diego Comic Con goers had the option of getting an exclusive tri-color vinyl with red, orange and yellow, but personally I prefer the pressing that is available which is the classic blue and red. It represents the Player One and Player Two colors that dominated Nintendo games. It’s bright, vibrant and basic. It works so well.

I could go on forever about the Contra soundtrack, but then I would just be going in circles. For most of us that grew up with the arcade and Nintendo, this is one of the most definitive soundtracks to your childhood. I think it goes beyond playing into nostalgia… it’s just a kick-ass soundtrack that every collection needs.

Goon Review – The Zodiac Killer (1971)

Sometimes, the reason behind how or why a movie got made is far more interesting than the movie itself. Take, for instance, The Island of Dr. Moreau: Total trainwreck of a movie that started with blaming director Richard Stanley, an incredibly talented filmmaker, for any issue that arose (including monsoons that delayed production). Throw in a coke-fueled Val Kilmer who didn’t get along with Stanley and was pressuring the studio to replace him, mixed in with a no fucks left to give Marlon Brando who refused to learn his lines and was constantly making script changes. The film actually has a documentary that’s longer than the film and far more interesting. It’s such childish bullshit and so insane that you have to wonder how shit gets made sometimes. And then you have 1971’s The Zodiac Killer that was actually made in attempt to catch the actual Zodiac Killer.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures and apparently the Zodiac was something of a cinephile, so it was so crazy that it just might work. But alas, it did not, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The plan was to get him into the theaters by making a movie about him and premiere it at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco, which was rented out by director Tom Hanson. With Kawasaki sponsoring the event offering a prize to the lucky theater goer who could answer the question, “I believe the Zodiac kills because…” on a card. However, a team of experts would be analyzing the handwriting on the cards to that of the Zodiac’s and snatch them in the lobby. Pretty ballsy and clever plan, but maybe the Zodiac was smarter.

Again, the making of this movie would be far more entertaining than the actual movie itself. The actual film is more or less just a series of random events. You could argue that’s how the murders seemed, but the film makes an odd choice of giving the Zodiac an identity part way through the movie. The film then switches over to following him around as he goes about his day, attempts a little murder and then to the police or reporters trying to catch him. It’s not a bad idea, except the Zodiac’s identity was never discovered, so this ‘based on a true story’ story now becomes majorly fictionalized. It wasn’t like they used a possible suspect as the Zodiac in the film, but a totally random made up guy. You have to wonder if it was done to anger the Zodiac in hopes of drawing him out, but from my research, he never even attempted to contact the filmmakers.

Regardless of the subject matter, this isn’t a serious movie (or at least that’s what the tone is trying to tell me), but rather a madhouse hippie romp that’s light on the gore, yet still has a layer of filth like an early Frank Henenlotter film would have. Satanic hippie driven violence, like I Drink Your Blood and bad b-movie sexy go-go shlock, like The Girl in Gold Boots are easily comparable… and more entertaining. Not to say there’s nothing to take away from The Zodiac Killer, given that it wasn’t a big budget picture. The performances, while not the greatest in the world, aren’t half bad and actually go hand in hand with the cheesy tone.

The beginning of the film focuses on an old, dumpy, balding white guy named Grover (honestly, a pretty fitting name). Grover likes to put on a wig and lie to women about being a businessman to get some random strange. The movie depicts this man as a sexy, irresistible poon hound with a knack for violence and a revolver. Of course, any viewer automatically recognizes someone like this as a red herring, especially when moments later we see a man burying a rabbit under a giant cross. This man is Jerry, Grover’s friend, and he isn’t given much to do until Grover makes an exit at the halfway point in the movie, when he rushes over to his ex-wife’s house, makes some threats, waves a gun at the cops exclaiming that he’s the Zodiac Killer and is instantly gunned down and splashes his fat, dead corpse into the pool.

Now Jerry steps into the spotlight of the film, talking to his pet rabbits that are all named after Zodiac signs. In case you didn’t catch onto the fact that he’s the killer, he then begins chanting to an altar about his “slaves,” which are his murdered victims that would accompany him to his after life. After that, there really isn’t much of significance going on. Well, nothing that would really be called a story, but rather random reenacted murders to move the scenes along and pad out a run time. The film does seem to try and accurately portray what happened at the murder scenes, at least when there was a survivor to recall the event. Other times when there was no survivor, the movie just makes up what they think happened and that discredits the true story angle more, especially considering there isn’t much proof that those murders were done by the Zodiac. I know, this isn’t the first film based on a true story to make things up, but this was all still going on at the time.

More murders happen, the cops don’t seem to have any clues, and then the movie decides it needs to give the Zodiac some motivation towards the end when he confronts his father in a mental institution as he cries out for attention like a baby. At this point, I don’t think they cared about accuracy of who the Zodiac was, but rather were looking to rustle his feathers by calling him a whiny bitch. He then storms outside and pushes a man in a stretcher down a hill and then a flight of stairs. I know he’s trying to kill the guy, because he’s cackling the whole time like a Looney Tunes villain, but even the guy on the stretcher looks like he’s having a blast. Nothing but a big ol’ smile. Then the movie ends on Jerry strolling down the street, narrating that he will continue to kill while laughing to himself…You know know, typical bad guy stuff.

If it weren’t for the subject matter of the actual Zodiac Killer and the zany bongos and horns blaring during the murder scenes, this would be a pretty boring movie. There isn’t much substance to the characters and even Jerry, the film’s Zodiac Killer, has little to do when he’s not killing random people. Most of the characters rarely interact with each other and when they do, it’s mostly arguing, especially coming from Grover. Grover at least gives the film some sleaze, as he’s always drinking, doing drugs and womanizing, so it makes the film feel like a drive-in staple. That’s another thing to the film’s credit, it does have some personality, even if it’s not well shot. As I said, it feels a bit sleazy, a bit trippy and definitely enhanced with that hippie music. I actually found it surprising it didn’t relish in the gore, going over the top and loading the screen up with its bright blood red, but it instead rarely shows gore. I don’t know if that was done out of respect for the victims and their families or if it was just a budgetary thing.

I will give credit to AGFA and Something Weird for restoring this film in 4K from the only surviving blow-up elements, even if it doesn’t look like 4K quality. But that’s alright. A film like this needs dirt and scratches to help with the grimey feel it has. Director Tom Hanson and producer Manny Nedwick provide an audio commentary as well as an interview and some trailers to round out the special features on the disc. There’s some liner notes and director interview from Temple of Shlock’s Chris Poggiali and some reversible cover artwork. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a bonus film, Another Son of Sam from 1977, which was actually called Hostages and filmed in 1975, but changed the title when the film was being released around the same time the actual Summer of Sam killer was caught to capitalize on that. Nope, nothing sleazy there.

If you want to watch a really great movie about the Zodiac Killer, then watch Zodiac by David Fincher. It’s beautifully shot, colors are muted and yet they jump out at you and fit the tone of the scene. The characters are well acted and interesting enough to follow through a two and a half hour movie with and it makes the randomness of the murders and the unknown identity of the Zodiac feel like a frightening boogeyman. If you want the exact opposite of that, watch The Zodiac Killer. I will say that you won’t be bored, even if it’s not very well made. Or accurate.

Ho-stess’s PS- Here’s a sneaky peak at the Island of Dr. Moreau doc Goon mentioned. Highly rec adding this one to your #MustViewQueue. 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review – Madhouse (1981)

(Submited by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew W. Peters…Thanks, Madman Magee! 🙂 xoxo)

Ovidio G. Assonitis, like most Italian film directors, had a wide variety of films he’s directed, including the Jaws cash-in Tentacles and the Exorcist cash-in Beyond the Door. Hey, it’s Italy in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and cash-ins or rip-offs were their thing. He’s also produced a number of films like Piranha II: The Spawning, The Curse, the excellent and often underrated The Visitor, as well as American Ninja 4 and 5. Needless to say the guy knows horror and he also knows movies, so I was psyched when Arrow released Madhouse, an overlooked slasher film from 1981, in a brand new 2K restoration.

However, upon revisiting it, I understood why it’s possibly overlooked. It’s not that I hated, in fact I’m probably one of the few people that rather enjoy it, but I can see why people might find it so underwhelming and that’s because, well, it is. It’s a well made movie and it does have a very interesting premise, but for an Italian made slasher flick, it’s actually kinda tame and falls into cliched trappings and then there’s the reveal of the killer… hoo boy, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who the killer is and you really hope they don’t “go there,” but, yeah, they do. It’s not only that it’s painfully obvious, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear motivation and honestly it kinda dampers what they were setting up. I gotta say and sorry for sounding like a broken record, but for an Italian made slasher in the early ‘80s, this film feels kinda like it’s playing it safe.

I keep calling it a slasher flick when Italy was more commonly known for suspenseful giallos and while Madhouse toys around with the idea of being a giallo, it doesn’t commit to being one. The same can be said about it being more of a character drama between two twin sisters, one evil and the other good. There’s a fine variety of different ideas here, but the movie can’t seem to decide on which one it would rather be and ends up being a moderate, ho-hum horror flick and for being Italian produced film, a country known for reveling in gore, it’s pretty tame. I don’t know if this was due to budgetary problems or perhaps Ovidio G. Assonitis thought it would make his film more suspenseful and to his credit, it is wonderfully shot and full of dark shadows, so it at least has a very ominous mood.

It opens up interestingly enough; two young girls sit still and silently in blackness as the camera pans in until one starts smashing the other one’s face in with a rock. Alright, movie, you have my attention. I’m interested in finding out what that was about, but unfortunately, we never do. At least, not really. Fast forward years later and the girls are all grown up and you could say they took different paths. One grows up to be a school teacher for the deaf and a stone cold fox, Julia, played by Trish Everly. Who’s Trish Everly and what else has she been in? Exactly. According to IMDB, this is her only credit and she never forayed into the world of acting again which is a shame, because she puts in a terrific performance.

Her sister Mary, on the other hand, has been less fortunate, living her life in a mental institution with a skin disease that has left her disfigured. Talk about drawing the short stick. Mary is under close observation by Father James, a friend of the family who Julia refers to as Uncle. Father James seems a little too pleasant and a little off kilter, so if you know anything about slasher films, I’m sure you’ll be able to see what direction they are taking this character. About halfway through the film, after the reveal of the killer, his character takes quite a silly turn as he’s nonchalantly hauling a body bag into a basement and chasing Julia’s landlady around the her building, skipping and singing children’s nursery rhymes. It’s kind of a whiplash in tone of character and I’m assuming it’s because people are under the impression that just because children’s songs are in a horror movie that makes it’s creepy, but they forget it needs to have context. That’s not the case here. It seemingly comes out of nowhere and I found more puzzled instead of interested and laughed at this reveal. If anything, this dampens the Father character’s motivation for everything happening. In fact when questioned about it, he just giggles and spouts a nursery rhyme that has no bearing or meaning on the situation. It explains nothing or maybe it does. Either way, it doesn’t ever explain why he’s doing what he’s doing.

 

The big red herring or twist of events happens when Julia receives word that Mary has escaped the asylum just in time for their birthday. The birthday doesn’t really play into the main plot, but give a reason for something to happen (I guess), but it just echoes of desperation for the film to take place during a holiday or event to mirror something like Halloween. To the film’s credit, the slasher does have a very interesting weapon of choice; a rottweiler. Yeah, I bet you’d never see the day a slasher film uses an animal as their knife. I was worried for the dog’s health and safety when remembering this is an Italian production, but luckily Ovidio here takes the dog’s well being into consideration. You figure a dog tearing apart the victims would result in a blood bath and mangled body parts, but if there is one thing really disappointing about the film, it’s that it lacks gore. I know gore doesn’t make a horror film, but spectacularly bloody deaths in a slasher makes a better viewing. At most, it’s blood smeared all over someone’s face and the most shocking death in the movie, the death of Julie’s favorite student, takes place off screen, but there I actually feel it gives it more of a punch, especially when she has to break the news to the other students at school. It’s a scene, however, that involves the dog being put into a headlock by Julie and putting a power drill through it’s head that this film is most likely notorious for. Even with a noticeable puppet in use, it’s still a rough scene to watch listening to the dog squeal.

During the finale of the film, I couldn’t help but think of Happy Birthday to Me (a slasher film I like, but find it a tad overrated) and that may be because Madhouse feels like it’s borrowing from other popular slasher movies of that time rather than try to be something original or experimental. That’s kind of surprising for being an Italian horror film, in a way, because while they were more known for ripping a film off, they still took the idea in a wild direction and made it it’s own beast. This feels more of the American cash-in variety where it takes no risks and spends no money on the gore budget. To the film’s credit, it’s the finale where you see what is most likely the goriest moment in the movie where a character takes an axe to the back, spraying chunks of flesh and squirting blood. You can’t help but wonder why this approach wasn’t taken during the rest of the movie. Maybe Ovidio wanted to make not necessarily a classier horror film, but maybe a more suspenseful one with more dignity. It’s unfortunate that’s not what happened.

Along with this being a new 2K transfer, Arrow also includes a new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues. That’s sort of confusing as to why they would have the people from a comedy/horror podcast do the commentary for the film rather than the original cast and crew when they were able to get new interviews with them. You can also check out the alternate opening if you’d like and the theatrical trailer. I think the show stealer in this whole package is the newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. Seriously a talented artist and that’s one hell of a spooky cover.

It’s not boring, but rather predictable and subdued. It is at least pretty to look with some creepy cinematography and it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in a supposed haunted house in Savannah, Georgia. It’s more upsetting seeing what this movie could have been and what it turned out to be instead of it being an actual bad movie. It showed so much promise with a murderous twin angle and the classic black leathered gloved giallos and the end result is so disappointing. It’s tolerable and worth watching for a typical ‘80s slasher, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

Goon Review: Cyberjack (AKA Virtual Assassin)

(Submitted by our Goon Reviewer, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Well, the future didn’t quite turn out the way the ‘90s thought it would, did it? Computers, as advanced as they are, can’t quite do everything we thought they would do, especially make a computer virus biological and giving the host the ability to shoot it out of their eyes. Kinda missed the mark on that one just a bit. Black leather jackets with random pieces of plastic armor stapled to them didn’t quite become the fashion trend we expected them to, nor did using way too much hair gel and spiking it in random directions. You know what else didn’t work out? The cynical, snarky attitude of these movies that seemed to scream, “fuck you, grandpa! You’re too old and slow and we’re hip!” I don’t really know where I’m going with this and my segway isn’t really going to work the way I thought it was going to, but I think regardless of how bad these movies got, we always remembered them; Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, The Net, or any movie that featured someone frantically typing a keyboard spouting nonsense, really… I could go on.

And then there are the films we have forgotten, until you see them and then you wish you could forget all about them. Movies like Game Over, aka Maximum Surge and Cyberjack, aka Virtual Assassin (I can never tell which is more stupid’ the actual title or the alternate title), the latter of which I recently picked up at a pawn shop for sixty cents and no matter how many times I stick a fork in the light socket, I can’t short circuit my brain and burn the memory of this movie out of my head. I don’t know how else to explain how generically stupid it is, but this is one of those instances where that makes it more enjoyable. How else to explain it? Well the film is pretty much Die Hard mixed with every bad ‘90s cyberpunk movie, complete with bad wardrobes and goofy techno-babble and there isn’t really anything to comment on without making fun of it since it’s wildly ridiculous… so let’s just do that, shall we?

Michael Dudikoff, who must have been taking a break from “starring” in all those American Ninja movies, stars as ex-cop turned janitor, Nick James. Oddly enough, at no point does he shout at anyone, “I’m Nick James, bitch!” Can we pause for a second and ask the real question at matter here; does anything really star Michael Dudikoff? I mean, sure the guy kinda knows martial arts, but let’s face it… he’s kind of a weenie, with his prepubescent teen voice and his, erm, beautiful head of hair. Alright, so the guy may not quite be at the level of B-movies, but I would say at least C to higher grade of Z-movies.

Anyway, he’s the janitor at this high tech, super lab place that makes all kinds of techy, computery things. You know, the kind that doesn’t matter, because even for made up mumbo-jumbo it’s total bullshit. It’s here that a scientist, Dr. Royce and his way too hot daughter, Alex (Suki Kaiser), are developing some kind of a computer virus that is becoming too intelligent (I think, seeing as it’s kind of unclear) and is the first virus that can also become biological that will give the host supercomputer powers, I guess since it’s heavily foreshadowed that’s what will happen later. This calls the attention of an elite hacker terrorist group led by Brion James who sports a black leather jacket with shoulder pads that only could have existed in the ‘90s and created by Rob Liefeld and hair styled after Dragon Ball Z’s Gogeta. He and his goons storm the place and take it over, threatening to execute everyone inside if they don’t get control of the virus. But there is one slight oversight to their plan… their roster of employees fortunately doesn’t include the janitorial staff, which seems to only compose of one man. And that man is none other than Nick James, who is almost immediately discovered and shot in the arm, but luckily he’s a tough guy in a ‘90s action movie, so he just walks that shit off. He kinda just hides in a vent for a while and watches as some of the hostages get wasted and Alex’s father gets shot dead for trying to shutdown the virus. Come to think of it, he’s kind of a lousy hero.

He eventually does come out of hiding, take out some of the terrorists using gimmicks like a hologram where he uses multiple images of himself to outsmart a goon and sock him right in the nose. It’s a scene that tries to make the hologram scene from Total Recall more artsy, like 2001 with strobing lights that follow people running down a hallway. It actually makes the action scene a little confusing. Anyway, Nick finally gets a gun and mows down the stereotyped thugs, including the black guy who speaks with a Rastafarian accent, because his trait is that he’s the black guy. There’s also the wildman with bleach blonde hair named Numb who is constantly cackling madly to himself and intently staring at people and saying off putting, creepy things in an attempt to be, well, creepy, but he’s more annoying and I wish I could repeatedly kick him in the nuts until he’s crying so hard that he can no longer cry and make noise. He could not exit the movie fast enough. But that’s just me.

Finally, they break through the firewalls, hack the mainframe and Brion James hooks himself into the computer and uploads the virus into himself and, boy, do I feel stupid for writing all of that out. Brion James can now shoot green computer energy from his eyes and hack into things, like SWAT team members that are apparently androids and has them attack the police so he can make his escape. However, he didn’t count on the resilience and martial arts training of a computer engineering conglomerate’s janitorial custodian! The final confrontation is extremely flaccid. It’s like sex lasting only a few seconds and you’re like, “oh, that’s it?” But, you’re happy it’s just over. That’s this movie.

I did skip a few things, like how Brion James is the one who caused Nick to lose his job as a police officer, but once you see how lousy he was at his job, I would say that it was overdue or he was gonna be on his way out the door sooner or later. There’s also a subplot that involves a sportsball team (they never say which sport, but I would guess that it’s baseball) and Nick and Alex constantly make jokes about how their outfield sucks or whether or not this team won the big game, but it’s just trappings. Nick has also lost a lot of money betting on this team and owes some mobster a ton of money who eventually comes after him, but Nick runs away and then it’s dropped faster than Cannon Film’s Masters of the Universe 2. I think it was just a way to show off their pointless technology, like the CRT videophone.

You know what? Let’s talk about the technology for a second. In these type of movies, there is this needlessness to overly complicate something that is already fine and simple. Take for instance a security card you scan through a reader on a door. You swipe it, the reader accepts it, the door unlocks and you go through it. Simple and effective. Toward the beginning when Nick goes to work, he swipes his card and then a monitor in front of him has to display his own photo and personal information – which I’m sure he’s more than well aware enough of – and then it has to read it back to him. Why? Because, computers! And technology! Look at how advanced it is! Isn’t that more impressive than just swiping a goddamn card? It does give Michael Dudikoff the opportunity to throw out a one liner. Here’s a spoiler; it sucks.

First of all, how the hell did this movie cost two million dollars? I don’t even see half of that on screen, which is something that seems to be a staple of these movies; over expensive that doesn’t perform at the box office or goes straight to video and is almost immediately forgotten about. I mean, this is a film that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry nor are there any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems that the whole world doesn’t know about this movie, so allow me to be one of the few to introduce you to this direct to video dreck. Sure, the plot is nothing more than a rip-off of one of the greatest action movies of all time, but the aesthetic of putting it in an overly complicated and silly cyberpunk world makes it fun simply for the aesthetic. And its overall badness.

Goon Review: Super Castlevania IV OST

(Submitted by our Happenin’ Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew J. Peters…Thanks, Music Manster! 🙂 xoxo)

Mondo continues the Castlevania soundtrack bloodline with Super Castlevania IV, which marks the game’s soundtrack first foray into the 16-bit era. While music on the Sega Genesis had a tin, metallic clink sound to it, the Super Nintendo was much more bombastic, energetic and honestly, more clear and able to emulate a more orchestral score. Aside from Symphony of the Night, Super Castlevania IV is my favorite game and coming off the 8-bit games, I remember this soundtrack very well and couldn’t wait to listen to it again.

Immediately, it did not disappoint. The memory of running home from school on a Friday night and heading to the video store, picking this game up and playing it with the step-father late at night (we were big into playing the right games at the right times). I remember the eerie music droning over a black screen, keeping you anticipating what you are about to experience, followed by the opening text crawl over fog to the opening of the game. Not only did the visuals set the mood for a very ominous playthrough, but the music really brings it altogether. Combined with the graphics, you know that this is going to be a spooky experience with some action and right from the start when the Theme of Simon Belmont slowly starts as you make your way inside the castle and upon entering, the game brightens and the music kicks into full gear. You get a rush and feel like the ultimate vampire killer.

I just wanted to illustrate a picture in your head about how impactful soundtracks are to a game, especially something like Castlevania. Now that it’s on the Super Nintendo, it’s much more grandiose, allowing it pack much more of a punch. This is a soundtrack that really showed off the SNES’ musical capabilities and was just as much of an experience as the gameplay, because honestly, I don’t think this game would have totally worked if the soundtrack, well, sucked. When there are cooldown moments in the game, The Cave stage’s song is very relaxed, but something about it says that danger could still be lurking around the corner. The Waterfall has a very dooming and ominous tone to it, like you’re already at your funeral. The boss fight tunes are incredibly hair raising and nearly give me an anxiety attacking, making it harder to control the game. It adds a certain panic to the already difficult boss fight. Even Bloody Tears makes a return with much more gothic organ vibe with electronic drums, making it an interesting combination and although it’s not my favorite iteration of the track, it’s still pretty cool. Overall, I would say that this soundtrack has a very Fabio Frizzi vibe going on, making it feel like if Fulci had made the game in his prime.

Moving down the bloodline, so to speak, Mondo has been slaying (okay, okay, I’ll stop with the vampire puns) their video game soundtrack releases with the Contra series, Silent Hill and, of course, Castlevania and since we are moving on down the line with the sequels in this particular series, we finally get what is arguably the best Castlevania game’s soundtrack, Super Castlevania IV. The artwork is very, erm, eye catching, but not in the sense that you would think. Now I don’t dislike the artwork, in fact I think it’s fantastic and has a very Metalocalypse aesthetic to it, but it doesn’t look or feel like something of Mondo’s caliber… or Castlevania. Going to box art of the game, it’s very action oriented and features creatures as well as some of the castle in the game. It screams what a Castlevania game should represent. I’m not really sure what to feel here. The image on the back is lot more in the direction of what you would expect from a Castlevania game and the inside of the jacket is the map (keeping with that tradition as with all the Castlevania soundtrack releases), but I feel like this artwork misses the point. Even had said all of that, keep in mind I do like it, but I just don’t feel it properly represents the game.

The record itself is more representative of the game, with a flat grey that reminds of the rocks the castle would be built from or the oppressive nature of the game, splattered with blood red. It’s simple and maybe some would say dull, but I like the simplicity of it. It says more without saying too much and by that I mean it doesn’t need loud or wild colors to look attractive. As I look at it, I can’t help but think of the violent Gothic Hammer horror clicks and the old black and white monster movies with spider-webs and bats. Mondo really did their job here or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.

Super Castlevania IV’s soundtrack is one prime example of just how important a soundtrack can be. It walks a fine line between chilling and action oriented, appealing to both the horror and action genres. Fans will be pleased with this two 12” 180 gram LP set, featuring all 29 tracks from the game. It’s exciting, it’s haunting and I can see folks playing it at Halloween parties instead of spooky noises soundtracks. Artwork aside, I feel like this one is a masterpiece that is needed for every horror or video game aficionado’s vinyl collection.

So, what’s next? Rondo of Blood (always loved that title)? Symphony of the Night? Fans are clamoring for what should be next and the series seems to be getting released in order, so I guess we will have to lay in our coffins and wait.

Son of #WerewolfWednesday: Teen Wolf Too (1987)

(And here’s Mr. Goony Goon, aka Andrew Peters, with the conclusion of our Wednesday Were-stravaganza…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie, and enjoy the rest of your hump day, freaky folks! 🙂 xoxox)

All the teens were howling for more Teen Wolf, so alright you sons of bitches, you want more? You’re gonna get more and I’m not just talking about a Saturday morning cartoon that’s only gonna last one season, I’m talking about a sequel. Not just any sequel, but the worst kind of sequel. You know the ones where they couldn’t get the starring actor back because he hated it so much, so they just rewrite the character to fit into the script. Not the story, just the character and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not and if you think they are gonna do something different this time, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. Teen Wolf Too is nearly a literal carbon copy of the first film, but instead of Michael J. Fox in highschool, you get Jason Bateman in college and instead of basketball being the sport, it’s boxing. Bingo, bango, presto. Now you got a film without working too hard and it’s easy money.

That doesn’t mean it’s boring or terrible. It just means that you’ve seen it all before, beat for beat and this is the best example of a film that doesn’t need to exist. When you think about how lazy this film actually is, it’s practically a cinema sin. You know what? The more I think about it, yes, yes it is a terrible movie. I get the feeling this movie was made as a starring vehicle for Jason Bateman, seeing as how his father Kent Bateman is the producer of the film and probably thought it would be a safe choice for his son to star in a sequel to a popular comedy. Or maybe this is the silver bullet this franchise needs before it gets out of control.

Jason Bateman replaces Michael J. Fox’s character Scotty Howard as his cousin Todd Howard who is well aware of the family curse or secret or whatever you want to call it. Point is, he knows that people in his family can turn into werewolves, but since his parents can’t, it doesn’t look like Todd will either… or so he thinks. James Hampton returns to his role as Harold to drop him off at college, not because it really makes sense, but because the filmmakers need shoehorn in the cameo as a connection to the first film. Like, remember they’re werewolves? Harold drives around as a wolf and nobody really seems to care or be surprised and I’m guessing this is pretty much how the audience feels. The cameos don’t stop there, however. As luck would have it, he’s not only going to the school as these two cool dudes, but he also happens to be rooming with Chubbs and Stiles from the first film! What are the odds. Mark Holton returns to play the loveable eating machine Chubbs, but I barely recognized Stiles. Not only because he was recast for whatever reason, but also because he has one of the most hideous mullets this side of the ‘80s.

Turns out Stiles had pulled some strings to get Todd roomed with them, because once again he wants to exploit The Wolf, to which Todd tries to assure him that he doesn’t have it in him. The wolfness that runs in the Howard bloodline is what got Todd into such a prestigious school in the first place, seeing as how Dean Dunn also wants to exploit him for the werewolves naturally gifted sports ability and giving Todd a free ride via a sports scholarship. Immediately, the Dean is established as a snobbish, one dimensional cartoon spoof of the Dean from another teen comedy, like Animal House. I will say at least he’s giving more dialogue and interaction than the principal from the first Teen Wolf film. Todd reluctantly agrees to all this, but the poor guy just wants to take science classes and chat with the brainy, cute girl Nicki who instantly falls for him and pursues him even though he’s a total dick to her and later bails on her to have threeways with the popular chicks while alienating his friends. Sounding familiar? I actually don’t understand why Chubbs and Stiles are excited for Todd to become the wolf when they know what a selfish asshole it turned Scotty into.

During a boxing match when Todd is getting trampled, that’s when he finally transforms into the wolf and whoops some ass, but this should come as no surprise. I mean, Teen Wolf Too mimicks the first one pretty much beat for beat, so this should come as no surprise. However, with Scotty in the first film, his character at least alluded to being kind of an asshole and you saw how the wolf was creating a massive ego, but here it just happens. Like, zero to one hundred. Luckily the Dean is giving him a free ride and all his teachers are giving him passing grades, except for his science teacher, Ms. Brooks (played by Kim Darby who I’ve always had a strange attraction for), who also has a secret of her own, but there’s also this weird sexual tension between the two and you half expect it to turn into wolf porn. Gotta say, that would have made the film more original. Todd was all focused on science and shit with the help of his teacher and then once he’s the wolf, he’s a total dick and it’s such a whiplash. There’s no build up or progression, it just happens. The film also does a sudden shift in time, like, all of a sudden it’s the end of the year and he’s failed his science final. It feels rushed, but hey, movie’s almost over.

Once again, the performances are fine and Stiles is surprisingly less annoying this time around, even taking credit for Todd becoming such a jerk, although you don’t really see much of Stiles marketing the wolf. Jason Bateman was a fine replacement and felt more like a geek than Michael J. Fox did, but I think that was the point. Scotty was just so average that nobody noticed him, whereas Todd is much more of a nerd, so his wolf-ism was supposed to be more of a surprise, but again, the film doesn’t explore this. Once he’s the wolf, he’s driving fast cars, doinking the babes and really good at boxing. Another element coming out of nowhere is Todd confessing his love to the geeky girl toward the end. In fact, she mouths the words “I love you” to power him up for the final match with the jock dude, who again, has no character development and is just there for the hero to have a villain to fight. Once he becomes the wolf, she’s pretty much out of the movie until the end and yet she sticks by his side while he’s off getting STD’s and treating her like shit. Of course at the end, he’s allowed to redeem himself once he realizes he needs to be himself and not the wolf. Gee, didn’t see that coming.

The makeup design is the same, the sets are the same, the acting is the same… the goddamn story is the same. Teen Wolf Too doesn’t need to exist, nor do I think it’s worthy of a new high definition transfer, but Scream Factory went ahead and gave it one anyway. I’m guessing it was some kind of a package deal with the first film or maybe it’s for the small, small crowd that enjoys the film. Keeping in theme with repeating the first film, there are only a small amount of extra features included, although on this release all of the featurettes were separated into smaller bits rather than just one big documentary. Other than that, it’s just a still gallery and a trailer.

Having said everything I did, I actually prefer Teen Wolf Too over Teen Wolf, it’s just that it’s the same movie with a different lead, it makes it feel like a remake rather than a sequel. The humor doesn’t work at all, Todd isn’t a very likable lead and I don’t care about him. Or anyone else in the movie. I still can’t believe this spawned a cartoon and a remake TV show. Now I understand why the TV show has little do with the movies outside of the name. Teen Wolf is a franchise where I may never understand the popularity. I feel like once something somehow sneaks its way into pop-culture, there’s no questioning it. It’s there and you’re supposed to accept it. Or perhaps I’ve gotten too old.

#WerewolfWednesday: Teen Wolf (1985)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Andy, you Goonie!!! 😉 xoxo)

High School is such an awkward period in all of our lives. Maybe the struggles we faced weren’t nearly as bad as they seem now, but back then it would make or break you or shape who you would become. The scare of bullies, struggling to fit in and find your place, finding out who you are and who you will become, striving to be the very best on the sportsball team and then finding out your family is a bunch of werewolves. Well, maybe not exactly that last thing, but the Michael J. Fox teen comedy Teen Wolf explores that very idea. Perhaps it’s some sort of allegory for going through puberty and trying to fit in? If it is, it’s a rather thin one.

So, here’s an unpopular opinion. Have you ever really liked something or at least you thought you did, because of how it’s viewed in pop culture, but then you go back and revisit it and it’s not all that great? That’s Teen Wolf for me. Who doesn’t remember this movie and who didn’t love Michael J. Fox? He’s the charismatic underdog you want to see win the big game. You want to see him give the jerk his comeuppance and you want to see him get the girl. Along the way, he’ll discover who he is, where he fits in and that the girl for him was beside him the whole time. I know I just described every teen comedy ever, but did they all have werewolves? I think not! Does that make this a better film? Eh… well, no.

Michael J. Fox plays your average teen, Scotty Howard, and when I say average, I do mean average. He’s smart, but not brilliant. He plays on the basketball team and he does alright, but he’s no superstar, but he doesn’t completely suck either. He’s not invisible to girls, but he’s no Casanova either. I think you get my drift. Scotty lives with his dad, who seems pretty lame for the most part, but the guy cares about his son and you get the idea that there was some tragedy in his life seeing as how the mother isn’t around. I think maybe it was hinted at, but I don’t believe it was. He has a connection to the principal who has it in for Scotty, always harassing him, but the conclusion to that is rather lackluster. We don’t want the dad character to be too sympathetic and besides, we’ve already wasted the legal limit of cliches on Scotty.

When Scotty isn’t looking way too sweaty playing shooty-hoops at school, he’s hanging out and partying with his friend Stiles. I think everyone remembers Stiles from this movie. Stiles is, like, basically what an STD would be in human form. Actually, they may be an inaccurate description, because you would need to get laid for that to happen and I don’t see anyone or anything sleeping with Stiles. This is a character that was definitely written by an adult who thinks what kids perceive as cool. In every scene, he’s wearing not only different sunglasses, but different t-shirts with such eloquent phrases that in no scream ‘overcompensation,’ like “life sucks and then you die” or “what are you looking at dicknose.” He’s constantly bursting into whatever room it may be, slapping everyone’s shoulders and giving them unwarranted nicknames and trying to make jokes that fall flat. If Stiles were a real person, you would want to kick him in the dick so hard and watch him double over in pain and then just as the pain was starting to go away, you kick him again and repeat. There’s a particular scene that sums up his character perfectly when Scotty isn’t sure what to do about being a werewolf, so he turns to his friend Stiles for advice. Panicked and sweaty, Scotty tells Stiles that he has a secret he needs to tell him. This makes Stiles stop searching for his stash and put a defensive guard up and asks, “Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.” Scotty then has to quickly reassure his friend that he isn’t gay, but rather a werewolf, because that’s so much better. Don’t worry, homophobe, your buddy isn’t gay… he’s a mythical creature with brute strength and insatiable taste for people. Only in the ‘80s.

Also, Scotty can turn into a werewolf willy-nilly or whenever he’s angry (I guess?). The movie doesn’t really come up with a solid rule on when that can happen and he doesn’t really become a wild animal that goes around eating people. In Teen Wolf, he becomes really good at basketball and dancing and now girls want his hairy wolf dong. After slaying the hot cheerleader poon (who was secretly doing so to make her boyfriend jealous, because the film needs a human antagonist), this starts to get to his head and he understandably gets an ego about it. He parades around school and town as the wolf and everyone is high fiving him. He’s kinda become Stiles, who is now selling Teen Wolf merchandise. I’m not joking. This movie is meta. Also, I need to bring up the fact that the first time he turns into the wolf, nobody seems scared or shocked or at the very least, shitting their pants or screaming. They just look taken aback briefly and then once he starts doing fancy basketball tricks, they cheer their heads off and applaud. I’ve never seen a crowd latch onto something so positively so quickly.


Even though the film is about Scott’s struggles about fitting in by acting like he’s someone else, the person who is really getting shit on is his cute, adorable friend named Boof who has the hots for him. He’s constantly pushing her to the side to oogle over the cheerleader, but she still stands by his side and tells him they should be more than friends. Even after everything he does to her, she still sticks with him. I know it’s because she’s always liked who Scott really is and she can overlook the total dickhead he’s become as the wolf, but I find it inexcusable. I actually felt sorry for her character and wished she would’ve dumped him at the end for a hint of realism, but no. They live happily ever after. Girl, get yourself a real man.

If I were to sum up Teen Wolf in just one word after this recent revisit, I would have to say it’s underwhelming. Apparently, Scream Factory must have thought so too or perhaps anyone involved with the movie, because this Blu-ray release is pretty bare bones and, once again, underwhelming for a new release of such a former popular movie. Apparently, Michael J. Fox hates this movie and hated making it so much, I can see why he wouldn’t want to talk about this film for some extra features. To be fair to this release, it is a brand new high definition transfer that looks incredible, even if it reveals a lot of the faults in the makeup. There’s also an incredibly lengthy, in depth featurette called Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf that is nearly two and a half hours long. Other than that it’s the basic roll call of a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Not even a single commentary from anyone involved, which is kinda weird that Scream couldn’t find anyone willing to sit down and talk about this movie. Or they didn’t try to find anyone, because maybe they realized that nobody really cares about this movie.

I don’t want to take anything away from the movie, I don’t think it’s terrible (which I know must be hard to believe after my ranting), but I don’t think it’s spectacular or this monstrous hit comedy it seems to be selling itself as. Even though Michael J. Fox hates the film, he does a great job as a kid struggling with typical high school problems… and sweating a lot. Seriously, in every transformation or basketball scene, he’s drenched, even if he’s barely done anything. No human could possibly sweat that much. I also thought James Hampton and Susan Ursitti were great and very compassionate in their roles as Scotty’s support. The makeup effects are pretty decent and don’t look horrifying or grotesque like you would see in a horror film, but that’s kinda the point. It’s supposed to be cute and charming, but this makes the transformations scenes (if you can even call them that) suffer. Aside from his ears stretching a little bit, I don’t believe we see an actual transformation and this is during the era of werewolf movies, like The Howling or American Werewolf in London. However, those were horror movies showcasing the agony and the disfiguring transformation that would takes place, whereas Teen Wolf is more about a wolf being a cool thing. The shots will often cut away briefly and cut back to Scotty all wolfed out and ready to surf on top of vans. Oh yeah, he surfs on top of a van to The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA, because apparently the movie wanted to start an unneeded trend and set a spike in accidental deaths by stupid teenagers.

Looking back, I’m totally shocked that this movie was popular enough to spin-off a sequel, a Saturday morning cartoon and a reboot TV show in 2011. Sure, this movie is (or was) popular, but I don’t ever remember hearing people clamoring for more of it or talking about the same way we do something like Friday the 13th. When I was a kid, we all had heard about this movie, but we weren’t talking about it like it was the funniest movie ever, like Ghostbusters. It was often mentioned in passing with little enthusiasm. Maybe there is a secret underground cult that really, really loves this movie and that’s the reason it’s so wildly popular, because otherwise I just don’t see it. Teen Wolf is riddled with cliches that were already feeling tired by the mid ‘80s and the only reason this film sticks out from the slew of emotionless, characterless teen comedies of that time is because, I hate to say this, the filmmakers were smart enough to make its main character a goddamn werewolf. One little, odd change and that’s all it took for this move to apparently become a smash hit. I don’t hate the film, but personally I don’t see it’s popularity nor do I remember it. Hell, nobody is even really talking about this upcoming Blu-ray, so maybe it’s one of those movies that is trying to sell you its own hype. Stiles must be part of its marketing.

Goon Review: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thanks, Mr. Goon-y Goon! 😉 xoxo)


I do believe that Dario Argento, director of such stunning and inspiring movies like Suspiria and Phenomena, gets plenty of recognition, but I’m not sure if he gets all the recognition he deserves. I dunno, maybe he does, but I feel like we should be talking about him a lot more. Some argue that the giallo genre was shaped and molded by Mario Bava and I totally agree with that, but I believe it was when Dario Argento got his black leather gloves all over it, he perfected it.

Before his films were known for being brightly colorful comic book images come to life, Dario Argento worked more with shadows and lights. There’s something so chilling about the way he shoots a black leather glove, outlined by moonlight, tracing the contours of a knife. I could go on forever about how visually impressive his movies are, but I think visually being able to tell a movie is something that is being lost. Ironic, I know, but consider everything we can do to make any frame of a movie you are watching look fantastic. Obviously, it wasn’t always that way and it took creative people with a stylish, artistic vision to bring it to life.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is Dario Argento’s directorial debut and the only comparison is Reservoir Dogs and Quentin Tarantino. Coming out swinging and swinging hard, sister. When you look at the core story of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, it’s quite simple. I believe most of the greatest films are simple stories, but it takes a great director to tell that simple story. When you take a step back and look at it, it’s nothing more than a guy who witnesses a murder and helps with the investigation. Not too complicated, but once you introduce some interesting characters, a few sexy sirens, a killer that not only lurks in the shadows, but has taken an interest in the film’s protagonist who has reluctantly decided to help the police seeing as how he’s a material witness (because, you know, that’s totally acceptable). Argento will also start his notorious trend of the main character solving the murder by recalling clues through memory. It’s interesting how it’s used here, with no sound, playing over and over like a nightmare and seemingly getting closer and closer to the truth. As a viewer, you begin to feel like you yourself are reliving that horrible moment and I found myself on the edge of the seat, leaning in and intently staring at the screening, hoping to find some detail or clue Argento has left for his hero. And for us.

The answer is right in front of you the whole time, but you’ll never see it. When the film ends, it will become so obvious, but until then The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is an energetic thriller that has more than enough surprises and for the most part is easy to follow along. But before the end, you obviously have to start at the beginning, a theme that Argento’s giallos typically follow. Tony Musante plays an American (because that name screams America) ex-writer named Sam living in Italy who accidentally witnesses a murder on his way home one night. I just realized that the phrase “accidentally witnesses a murder” is an oxymoron, seeing as how I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention. And he was two days away from retirement, dammit, or in this case from moving! Seeing as how the inspector has taken Sam’s passport, he won’t be moving in the foreseeable future, so he may as well insert himself in the investigation and solve the case. Because, ya know, that’s something witnesses can do. It’s okay to meddle in police business and put yourself – the material witness – in danger.

By following some evidence, a left handed glove with cigarette ash on it, they connect this attempted murder to three other women that have been murdered, but there must be a bigger connection. Honestly, I don’t think there is between the victims or at least nothing that I recall. Partnering with his hot-to-trot vixen of a girlfriend (played by Torso’s Suzy Kendall, the film that is arguably one of the first slashers), they don’t necessarily connect the dots, but come across an interesting clue; the killer had bought a painting of a man killing a woman from a woman he murdered. Confused? Don’t be, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, but the way it fits into this puzzle as a whole may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I think it’s more of an interesting way to tie it all together. It also helps fill in the gaps when Sam isn’t being stalked by a figure in a trench coat and a fedora, like when he’s walking down a foggy street, totally unaware he is being stalked until he has a meat clever swung at his head! It’s a good scene and a cool shot, but I wouldn’t call it tense seeing as I don’t think the movie would try to kill our main character before is halfway over. This isn’t Executive Decision here.

The closer they get to discovering the identity of the killer, the more threats they receive, which is arguably understandable. At least from the killer’s point of view, anyway. That’s pretty much your movie right there, but like I said, it’s pretty simple at its core, but Argento throws in some interesting pieces to make it seem different or more complicated than it actually is. I do have to say that I wouldn’t say the ending is a twist since that’s pretty standard for giallos, but I will say regardless of the obvious red herrings, I didn’t see it coming and it was a hair raising revelation when Sam recalls the events correctly that night and identifies the killer.

Usually a director’s earlier works are noticeably weaker, but not Argento’s. This film looks just as beautifully directed as his later works, like Deep Red or Suspiria. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a strong, solid film that has a moderately suspenseful story with interesting, but not over the top characters (accompanied by great performances), sexy girls and amazing cinematography. The only thing it seems to be lacking is gore, something Argento would later increase with Deep Red and Tenebrae. The film isn’t a violent, bloody mess like you would expect from a murder mystery, in fact there is very little blood. Luckily, this isn’t a Fulci film, so it’s not like you’re expecting it or viewing it simply to watch people get their guts spilled or eyeballs tortured in some way. Then again, that’s where the two filmmakers are noticeably different; Argento was more about mood and style and Fulci – at times – was about atmosphere and gore.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage joins the ranks of other great giallos put out by Arrow Video and I’m happy the first time in about ten years I viewed this film was on a brand new 4K transfer that looked sharp and colors were vibrant and wild that it was like viewing a catalogue of models and trends in the ‘70s. Being an Italian film, you do have the option of seeing it with its original Italian audio track (with optional English subtitles). This release also features a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, new analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger, new interview with writer/director Dario Argento, new interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp). This release also features a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp, as well as a double-sided fold-out poster and 6 Lobby Card reproductions. I think the bonus fans will enjoy the most is the limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook. Lots of cool information to be found there.


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a classic, not matter if you see it as a giallo, horror or even as an Argento film, it perfectly represents all three. It may not be his best or bloodiest work, but it’s a great little thriller that doesn’t try to be bigger than what it is and still keeps you intrigued every step of the way.