Saturday 12 February 2011

DVD Reviews

Vampires Suck
Starring: Diedrich Bader, Matt Lanter, Jenn Proske
Director: Jason Friedberg
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 14th February - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Becca, an angst-ridden teenager at a new high school, finds herself torn between two supernatural suitors: a moody vampire and an extremely hairy werewolf. A vague attempt at hilarity ensues.

To say that I found Vampires Suck woefully unfunny would be an overstatement. There are a couple of good gags in here; a few moments that raised a smile. One laugh every ten minutes isn’t a particularly good ratio, granted, but at least it’s something. Furthermore, Proske’s Kristen Stewart impression is spot-on.

The main problem lies with its presentation and its pacing. The gags are about as subtle as a shark to the face, and they have none of the deadpan delivery or timing that Mel Brooks or David Zucker would have brought to the project. These gags are loud, crass and...well...kind of annoying.

Firstly – and as the co-creator of Dickass DM, I appreciate this may sound a little weird – there is more to modern observational comedy than just breaking the fourth wall every now and again. Sure, you can reference Twilight, Stephenie Meyer and so on in your spoof. That’s cool. One of the funniest moments in anything-ever-anywhere is the scene in Spaceballs where they watch the movie whilst they’re still filming it. However, that was a masterstroke of timing, performance, writing and legendary comedy genius. Mentioning that you discovered a major plot point on Stephenie Meyer’s Twitter is just glib and annoying.

Then there’s the cramming in of every other pop-culture reference you can with all the grace and poise of Shirley Crabtree being electrocuted. We get Gossip Girl gags, Lady Gaga gags, Black Eyed Peas gags, Kardashian gags...if it's featured in popular culture sometime in the last eighteen months, then they cram it in. These kids like everything! Okay – and as a forerunner of “geek comedy”, I appreciate this may sound a little weird – there’s more to modern observational comedy that “Hey, remember that? Wasn’t that weird”. It’s gotten to the point where people are making jokes about the guys who do those sort of jokes.

See what I did, there? I referenced jokes about comedians making reference jokes. That’s how you think outside the box, sunshine.

Lazy writing and sloppy direction destroy a good cast and a great source for parody. It should be a 3/10, but I’m bumping it to 4/10 because Matt Lanter is in The Clone Wars.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some comedy hyperviolence and blood.
Sex/Nudity: Several protracted knob gags.
Swearing: Infrequent and mild.
Summary: For a franchise that’s ripe for a parody, this is a really wasted opportunity. Even Twi-Hards will find little to enjoy here. 4/10
I Spit On Your Grave
Starring: Jeff Branson, Sarah Butler, Rodney Eastman
Director: Steven R. Monroe
Anchor Bay Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD), £19.99 (Blu-ray) & £19.99 (Double DVD Pack with 1979 Version)
Review by Brad Harmer

Writer Jennifer Hills takes a retreat from the city to a charming cabin in the woods to start on her next book, but her presence in the small town attracts the attention of a few morally deprived locals who set out one night to teach this city girl a lesson. They break into her cabin to scare her, but what starts out as terrifying acts of humiliation and intimidation, quickly escalate into a night of physical abuse and torturous assault.

Before they can kill her, Jennifer sacrifices her broken and beaten body to a raging river that washes her away. As time passes, the men slowly stop searching for her body and try to go back to life as usual. But that isn't about to happen. Against all odds, Jennifer Hills survived her ordeal. Now, with hell bent vengeance, Jennifer's sole purpose is to turn the tables on these animals and to inflict upon them every horrifying and torturous moment they carried out on her...only much, much worse.

I always said that they’d never re-make this. Sure, they could do A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and so on...those are just classic American horror movies. The original version of I Spit On Your Grave, though, is a masterpiece of grindhouse nastiness. There’s no way that that film could ever get made today. It just couldn’t be done. It would be like remaking The Last House on the Left. Oh, right...

So, here it is. Despite all my advice, they re-made I Spit On Your Grave. And scarily, terrifyingly, pants-crappingly...I really liked it.

The new version of I Spit On Your Grave won me over for one reason: it does not compromise. There are no pretty girl, high school kids dropped in. There are no cutaways before the big, nasty, gory death, splatterpunk moment. There was no crap one-liner or hint for a sequel before the credits rolled to the sound of a shitty nu-metal band playing way too loud over the gore soaked, possibly backwards scrolling lettering. It’s a nasty, grindhouse flick, and it feels good for it.

The torture sequences stretch out, but in the best way. They don’t feel over long – they feel inexorable. They feel as painful as they’re supposed to be.

The movie’s only real weakness is the acting which – with the exception of Butler – is pretty ropey. Of course, the acting sucked in the original, so we can’t really hold that against it. In fact, taking that into account, this just might be better than the original.

Up next, remakes of Night of the Bloody Apes, The Driller Killer and Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS...

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Both realistic brutality and torture, and cartoonish ultra-violence. Protracted and gross. And a penectomy.
Sex/Nudity: In-your-face depictions of rape, sexual abuse, anal rape...and a penectomy.
Swearing: Frequent, strong swearing.
Summary: I know I should hate it, but they’ve done such a great job with it that I can’t. A fantastic, cringe inducing, gorge rising, revenge movie. If people could manage this with an original story, then the golden days of exploitation horror would be back. Fingers crossed. 8/10
The Open Door
Starring: Ryan Doom, Catherine Georges, Sarah Christine Smith
Director: Doc Duhame
Second Sight Films

Available from Monday 14th February - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

Angelica is a normal American teenage girl. Her parents are way too strict, she has a best friend who uses her for her “talents” with the guys, and she is torn between the romantic advances of two hot jocks at her school. Like every other teenager, Angelica is frustrated by what life has turned out to be like, and when it seems that everyone is having all the fun without her, she finds comfort from an unlikely source...

Calling a pirate radio station while her friends are at a party, Angelica expresses her deepest desires to the “Oracle” and makes several wishes that will change her life, she hopes, for the better. What Angelica doesn’t realise is that the saying “be careful what you wish for” really does apply, and as her wishes begin to come true she learns that a haunting force is taking over. Will Angelica and her peers survive the full moon, or will they succumb to the power of her desperate wishes?

Sounds kind of cool, right? Believe me, it’s not. The American High School thing has been done time and time again, and so has the house party setting. They are good clichéd settings for horror movies, but really, haven’t we exhausted them by now?

The acting, overall, is pretty disappointing. It’s cheesy “American” acting (wow, America is really taking a hit today, sorry guys...) and none of the characters are believable even for a second. Apart from the pretty cool and shocking opening scene, nothing remotely supernatural or haunting happens until we are forty minutes in. I know what you’re thinking; it’s going to be like From Dusk til Dawn! They're going to trick us, let us get settled and comfortable in a movie with a generic plot and then BAM! Suddenly there’s an epic bar fight between man and vampire! But, no. When we finally get to see anything remotely scary...well, it’s just not scary. At all.

The ending will piss you off. I promise. But, it can’t be all bad. There are some cool stabby bits, and one decent jumpy bit. It’s kind of like a new age Carrie, but done really shoddily. But hey, it’s generic, it’s silly and it’s worth a watch if you’re at all curious.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some bloody scenes.
Sex/Nudity: Making out. That’s about as wild as it gets.
Swearing: Nothing remarkable
Summary: The concept of the movie is pretty cool, and the plot is bearable, but it simply won’t scare you. 4/10
Decision Before Dawn
Starring: Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill, Oskar Werner
Director: Anatole Litvak
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Claiming he wants to help save his country, German prisoner Karl Maurer offers himself as a spy to the American forces. But shortly after he is sent behind enemy lines, his overseer Lt. Dick Rennick begins to have serious doubts about whether he can trust the new recruit. With Rennick becoming ever more suspicious about Maurer's motives, the pair soon find themselves in the thick of battle, but uncertainty remains as to who the common enemy is.

Decision Before Dawn is, in every possible sense, a resoundingly average war movie. There’s the hard voiced, clipped style of acting. There’s the dull thuds for explosions. There’s...well, there’s everything you’d expect out of a black and white war movie that you’ve never heard of and stumble onto in the middle of the afternoon on Channel Four, to be honest.

The DVD is pretty lazy. Grain, scratches and blips abound. There has been literally no effort to clean anything up for this release at all. Hardly excusable when you want people to pay money for a film of this age. It’s not like it will never be on TV for free...

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Contains mild war.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A war movie by numbers. No effort made to clean any of it up, and no real incentive to buy as it probably runs on TV once a year. 4/10
Cannibal Girls
Starring: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin
Director: Ivan Reitman
Nucleus Films

Available from Monday 14th February - £14.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The legend of Anthea, Clarissa and Leona is still told with relish in the isolated town of Farnhamville. It tells of three stunningly beautiful girls who seduced handsome men to their farmhouse, lured them to grisly deaths, and then ritualistically consumed their flesh in a strange rite to keep them young and beautiful forever.

This legend becomes a sickening reality for Cliff and Gloria, a young couple who are forced to spend the night in Farnhamville when their car breaks down. The couple visit the fancy restaurant which was the same house where the cannibal girls once satisfied their unnatural desires.

Cannibal Girls is a weird one, throwing surrealist glimpses of the supernatural into what is, at face value, a good slasher movie. The first act drags along a little too much, but with great performances and great direction, this doesn’t seem to matter too much. When the scenery is this good, you don’t need to drive all that fast.

There’s also a very good sense of comedy underpinning it – helped, no doubt, by the presence of both Eugene Levy and Ivan Reitman on the set. The gory/horror scenes are very good too, though. It’s a great little horror ride, if you’re into the grindhouse vibe.

Nucleus Films have done a fantastic job with the picture and sound re-mastering on this release, but there’s one sign of aging that not even they can really do anything about, and that’s the aging of the film itself. So many things that were original when Cannibal Girls was first released are now tropes, or even clichés of the slasher and horror genres. A modern audience, seeing this for the first time, will be rather less than impressed. Fans of the genre, though, will lap it up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Murderising, blood, gore. There are also these girls. ***spoiler***They’re cannibals. ***end spoiler***
Sex/Nudity: Some boobies.
Swearing: Not a lot, considering the genre.
Summary: A great blend of spookiness and gore that has – through no fault of its own – not aged well. Fans of slasher movies will appreciate the history lesson, but it won’t be turning any heads. 7/10
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown
Starring: John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo Del Toro
Director: Frank H. Woodward

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer Charles Dexter Ward

H.P. Lovecraft was the forefather of modern horror fiction. What leads an Old World, xenophobic gentleman to create one of literature's most far-reaching mythologies? What attracts even the minds of the 21st century to these stories of unspeakable abominations and cosmic gods?

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown is a chronicle of the life, work, and mind that created these weird tales as told by many of today's luminaries of dark fantasy including John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stuart Gordon, Caitlin Kiernan, and Peter Straub.

As you can see, that’s some high calibre talking heads we’ve got there. Sure, they’re heavyweights of horror but – most importantly – they’re obviously Lovecraft fans. Del Toro wants to make a movie of At the Mountains of Madness, John Carpenter has made his Lovecraft tribute In the Mouth of Madness, Neil Gaiman has written several Cthulhu Mythos parodies and Stuart Gordon seems to do nothing but make movie adaptations of Lovecraft stories.

As a documentary, this is very well put together and informative – but I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with how critical it was. Lovecraft’s flaws – both person and artistic – are discussed and dissected, and Neil Gaiman’s parody of Lovecraft’s writing style is nothing short of hilarious. It’s a tentacle sucking free zone.

If you’re a Lovecraft fan, then you will find much to enjoy here. If you’ve never read any of this stuff then...well, what the hell are you doing even reading this site? Get yourself over here. Even Blake’s read loads of Lovecraft, for god’s sake...

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild uses and some racial slurs (referencing Lovecraft’s work, not used directly).
Summary: An extremely well presented and impartial autobiography that will please hardcore Lovecraft fans and entertain and inform those who know nothing of him. 9/10


Earthrise is a post-apocalyptic science fiction MMORPG set in the distant future. In the aftermath of the Third World War, mankind has managed to survive and build a new society. Cloning, nanotechnology and quantum engineering are part of a new reality. Thanks to these technological advances, the human species has become immortal. Each individual's consciousness is stored in a data vault, ready to be uploaded into a cloned body as necessary.

There is a unified government that takes good care of those citizens who abide by its strict laws. Paradise, it appears, might really have come to Earth, and the people have embraced it. But not everything is as perfect as it appears. By exercising full control over the cloning process, Sal Vitas' government decides who will live and who will not, playing the role of God on Earth. Insurgent forces have accused the city's rulers of crimes against humanity. Armed factions fight for resources and power within the new system. And from the waves of discontent, a revolution has fomented and formed a rebel government: Noir.

Featuring a unique skill-based advancement system and player-driven economy, as well as extensive, meaningful player-vs.-player combat, Earthrise gives you innumerable choices to forge your destiny. Whether you're a noble soldier in the raging conflict between the government-run "utopia" and the rebellion opposing it; a criminal hiding from the law; or a world-renowned engineer whose power extends into intricate trade and politics, your actions will echo throughout the game world.

Thanks to our friends at Iceberg Interactive, we've got three copies of Earthrise to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 19th February, making sure to put "Earthrise" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy each!

Don't forget to put "Earthrise" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Earthrise is available now, priced £34.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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