Cult Movies on DVD

All the best in Cult Movies released onto DVD

Monday, 11 April 2011

“Sea Wolf” is a tense and action-packed two-part TV adaptation of Jack London’s 1904 novel. It concerns the exploits of a ruthless Captain called Wolf Larsen, his soon-to-be first mate Humphrey Van Weyden, and ‘Death’ Larsen, Wolf’s crippled and very bitter brother. The Larsen’s are competing tooth and nail in a Pacific hunt for valuable seal skins, and the welfare of their crews comes a distant second to a good haul.

Wolf (Sebastian Koch – “Black Book”, “The Lives of Others”) commands his sail ship ‘The Ghost’ with brutality, but his men - though terrified - are prepared to risk a mutiny when there is safety in numbers. ‘Hump’ (Stephen Campbell Moore – “Season of the Witch”, Ashes to Ashes) is rescued and thanks to his intelligence is soon promoted to first mate. Torn between Wolf and a back-stabbing crew, his survival hangs in the balance.

Monday, 28 March 2011

“Dream Home” is a horror/thriller movie about extremes - extreme obsession, extreme misfortune and extreme violence. Miss Cheng (Josie Ho – “Contagion”, “So Close”) and her poor family face the constant threat of eviction by underhand landlords keen to redevelop whole swathes of Hong Kong. Property prices are astronomical but Cheng dreams about living in the gleaming waterfront tower-block viewable from her window.

As the years roll by and things turn from bad to worse, her property fixation becomes an all-consuming obsession. Despite taking on three jobs to bring in extra cash, every time the trendy apartment is within her grasp, something happens to obstruct her. Driven mad out of desperation, depression and frustration, our anti-heroine resorts to deadly measures in order to secure her dream home; absolutely nothing will stand in her way.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Hammer Films, once a household name synonymous with great horror movies, are back! “Wake Wood” is their second release of 2011 (after “The Resident”), and it bears many of the hallmarks of classic Hammer features of the 1960s and 1970s. The film is a cross between “The Wicker Man” and “Pet Sematary”, steeped in Pagan rituals, sinister villagers and grief-stricken parents who dabble in dark arts, with dire consequences.

Patrick (Aidan Gillen – The Wire, Queer as Folk) and Louise (Eva Birthistle – Waking the Dead) lose their vivacious daughter Alice following a horrific dog attack. After relocating to the tranquil Irish village of Wake Wood, they stumble on a shocking, secret ritual being carried out by the villagers. It turns out to be a ceremony of rebirth and in spite of misgivings, the couple agrees to take part in the resurrection of their daughter.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I jumped at the chance to review this film, fighting off all competitors to the delights of this fishy tale of a hybrid shark/octopus killing machine. What’s not to like, the cover image on the DVD is homage to “Jaws”, the opening scene is homage to “Jaws”, there is even a producer cameo by Roger Corman which could be homage to Peter Benchley popping up in “Jaws”.  To say this film is a tongue in cheek spoof is to say that sharks are meat eaters. It soon became apparent that this film was not to be taken seriously.

Let’s get the negative bit over with.  Eric Roberts (“The Expendables”; “Doctor Who – The Movie”) would be that negative. Was he sleepwalking? His performance as the scientist responsible for the abomination that is Sharktopus, is wooden at best. He seems to be trying to chew the scenery but cannot quite pull it off. Sharktopus chews more convincingly.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The last film I reviewed (“The Beyond”) was a resurrected ‘video nasty’ that some critics felt had come of age and deserved a fresh look. “Island of Death” is the exact opposite. It is an ugly movie with few redeeming qualities and the director knows it. Nikos Mastorakis admits on the DVD extras that he deliberately made the $35,000 movie as outrageous and shocking as possible, primarily to make a quick buck. He succeeded.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The plot, such that it is, concerns siblings Christopher (Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) who take a holiday on the small Greek island of Mykonos. What follows is scene after bewildering scene of soft porn (often incest), hate-fuelled and senseless murder, rape and even bestiality. Christopher and Celia are on a mission to cleanse the island of depravity, and yet they are the chief instigators!

Monday, 14 March 2011

This, in short, is a film about a bunch of teenagers stuck on a plane as it slowly ascends to the heavens. Think bunch of teenagers stuck in a log cabin as all around them descends into hell and you are pretty much there. But this film has much more to it than your usual run of the mill teen horror. In fact, it is hard to squeeze it into a genre at all. Part horror, part SF and part fantasy “Altitude” mixes everything into its pot of aviation flavoured soup.

Our story begins with the mid air collision of two light aircraft, leaving a young family and the pilot dead. We then skip forward to the present day and meet our heroine, Sara (Jessica Lowndes – “The Haunting of Molly Hartley”; “Autopsy”) a fresh faced college girl who has just got her pilots licence and has agreed to fly her friends to a concert. We learn early on that the pilot killed in the opening scene was her mother.

Monday, 07 March 2011

In “Phenomena”, Dario Argento mixes swarms of flesh-eating flies, a chimpanzee nurse, a mutant child, a serial killer and a teenage girl who can commune with insects. Ironically, the movie also feels like one of Argento’s most mainstream movies, albeit one that has a tendency to go heroically off-piste at times. Set in the very scenic Swiss Alps, most of the action takes place in and around a girls’ boarding school.

Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly – “Dark City”, “Labyrinth”) is sent to the school by her famous actor father; her mother left for another man many years ago. On arriving, Jennifer learns that a serial killer is loose in the area and has been preying on young girls. Before she has settled in, our heroine starts suffering from horrific nightmares and dangerous sleepwalking episodes, much to the amusement of the other boarders.

Monday, 07 March 2011

It is not often that you come across a film about bird watching, aka twitching. To the uninitiated it probably sounds like a rather dull topic involving lots of sitting around in the damp, staring incessantly through binoculars on the off-chance that a rare bird might appear. In spite of this perception, director Karl Golden has created an excellent independent film full of drama, obsession, fascinating characters and wildlife.

Based on a novel by Cris Freddi, the movie stars Harry Treadaway (“Control”, “City of Ember”) as Nikko, and Emma Booth (Underbelly) as Stevie. As we join the story we discover that the young couple entered a disastrous suicide pact a few years ago. He tried and failed whilst she backed out. On Nikko’s release from a mental institution he bumps into Stevie again, and their tumultuous relationship threatens to reignite.

Friday, 25 February 2011

No biographical film of Adolf Hitler is ever likely to be a sympathetic portrayal of the man. The subject carries too much historical baggage. The man's exploits are too well known, even if they are not always clearly understood. As with other historical figures who attract such ire, the most we can hope for is a balanced look at the forces and circumstances that shaped Hitler.

Most existing film depictions focus either on his rise to power, from leader of the Nazi party to Chancellor, or his erratic decline as the tide of war turned against him. “Dawn of Evil – Rise of the Reich” concerns itself with the early years of Hitler's life, centring on his failed attempt at gaining entry to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Tom Schilling portrays the young Hitler, initially as somewhat naïve and argumentative, but already spouting anti-Semitic dialogue.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bill and Ben (no, not the Bill and Ben!) are fishing by the side of a sun-dappled pond in the woods. Their tranquil repose is rudely interrupted by a flaming meteorite that strikes Bill in the head, killing him instantly. Moments later he transforms into a slobbering, growling zombie and snacks on his friend’s cranium. Yes folks, it is alien-infected zombie time again, and there are plenty of cute young things in the woods to feast on!

“Brain Dead” (not to be confused with Peter Jackson’s 1992 effort) is a multi-award-winning independent horror film that resembles the “Evil Dead” trilogy in its fast-paced, splatter-laden and humorous approach. The cast includes the usual range of nubile hikers, a religious zealot and lady companion, two escaped convicts and assorted lawmen. They all find their way to a remote cabin, and have to fend off a zombie siege.

Monday, 14 February 2011

There have been many spoof movies over the years which have used wartime as a backdrop. Spielberg’s “1941”, Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker’s “Top Secret”, Peter Richardson’s “Churchill – The Hollywood Years”. That trio all had a unique approach to their storytelling, and were brave enough in their execution to only partially succeed – rest assured that these were films you either loved or hated, never somewhere in between.

And so, joining this merry band of genre-busters is “Jackboots on Whitehall”, a film that is populated by a collection of progenies from the illegitimate liaisons of Action Men and Barbie dolls. Featuring the voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Alan Cumming, Timothy Spall, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Richard E Grant, Alexander Armstrong, Sanjeev Bhaskhar, and many more, this is WWII revisited from the angle of “Toy Story”. You have high hopes for it, but it could have been so much more.

Sunday, 06 February 2011

This bold new take on the legend of Sinbad stars Manu Bennett of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and “30 Days of Night” fame. Sinbad and his merry band of ruffians track down the chronicles of pirate Captain Minos, an ancient parchment detailing the location of the golden head of the Colossus of Rhodes. Hot on their tails is evil sorcerer Al-Jibar (Steven Grives – Beastmaster, “Highlander II: The Quickening”).

Sinbad steals the map from Al-Jibar and rescues a buxom princess called Tara (Holly Brisley – Home and Away, “Scooby-Doo”). Together with Sinbad’s crew they must locate Minos’ trap-ridden labyrinth on a secluded tropical island, defeat the terrifying minotaur that lurks within and outwit Al-Jibar and his malevolent henchmen. The rewards are great, but the risks are greater. To give you an idea of the tone and production values of this movie, imagine a feature-length episode of Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, with a marginally higher budget and slightly bloodier action that a ‘12’ certificate affords.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Set 500 years ago in Japan’s late Muromachi period, “Tajomaru” is a familiar tale of greed, betrayal, love and honour. Society is in decline and the forces of law and order are struggling to cope. Two young brothers in a high ranking family graciously save the skin of similarly-aged thief. Little do they realise that this act of kindness will have a profound and deadly influence on their lives a decade or so later.

The elder brother, Nobutsuna, is in line to become the Shogun’s deputy, a position of real power. The younger brother, Naomitsu is content with his lot, especially as he is in love with Ako, the local Great Councillor’s daughter. Roll forwards ten years, and the Shogun puts a massive spanner in the works; he will only permit one of the brothers to become his deputy if they marry Ako and inherit her father’s wealth and status.

Monday, 31 January 2011

A young film director and an aspiring, sexy actress called Hyun-ah get peckish on a road trip, and stop off for some tasty chicken soup at a guest house. Unfortunately for them, their host is demented, and consequently the director ends up garrotted and gets a spade through his head, and the lady is drugged with chloroform and put through a number of demeaning, misogynistic rituals that probably will not end well for her.

Hyun-ah (Jeon Se-Hong) realises that her time left on this Earth will be short unless she can escape, but – caged like a dog - that seems impossible. Meanwhile, her sister Hyun-jung (Choo Ja-Hyun) senses something is amiss and starts pestering the disinterested local police and sniffing about for clues on her own. Unhinged kidnapper Pan-gon (Moon Sung-Keun) is considered harmless and his unspeakable acts continue under their noses.

Monday, 24 January 2011

"A bad trip down memory lane" reads the tagline for this new British movie, and it is spot-on. Joey Frisk’s life is already in tatters. Joey (Stephen McCole – Single Father, High Times) is a stand-up comedian with a serious drug problem. He owes his estranged partner and landlord money and his act is becoming more and more strained. Then a face from the past enters the scene, and everything is turned upside down.

Frank Archer (Malcolm Shields – “Death Defying Acts”, Rebus) is a long-forgotten friend from the military boarding school they attended 25 years ago. Frank appears to want to reconnect with Joey, but the comedian is abrasive and dismissive. That does not stop Frank repeatedly asking Joey to attend a school reunion. When Joey finally agrees, he has little idea what he has let himself in for. The winner of BAFTA Scotland’s Best Film of 2009 award, writer/director Justin Molotnikov’s Edinburgh-set drama is based loosely on terrible, real events from Malcolm Shield’s life, and it absolutely pulls no punches.

Monday, 17 January 2011

What do you get if you cross Supernatural, Being Human and the films of Shane Meadows? British horror movie “Outcast” is the answer, the debut feature from director Colm McCarthy (Spooks, Murphy’s Law). Brothers Cathal (James Nesbitt - The Deep, Jekyll) and Liam (Ciarán McMenamin – Primeval) are on the hunt for Fergal (Niall Burton), a boy with a deadly secret. He just wants to blend in and lead a normal life.

Fergal and his protective mother, Mary (Kate Dickie – The Pillars of the Earth) stop running and settle into a grotty high-rise apartment in Edinburgh. Mary happens to be a witch, and she uses her occult powers to put protection runes on the walls to ward off unwelcome attention. Fergal quickly makes friends with sexy neighbour Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge – Lip Service), but risks exposing his location and his true nature.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

There’s an old saying that goes: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. If ever there was a movie that this statement was designed for, then “A Serbian Film” is it. Amongst the extras on this release, you will find some incredibly lame attempts by the Director to suggest this film somehow is a statement, apparently artistically made, to show, in effect, that we are all prostitutes, enslaved by the powers-that-be from birth, and this is a kick against the system.

Absolute garbage.  That sums up both this film and any outrageous attempt to justify the work of incredibly sick minds.  In fact, we weren’t going to cover this release at all, save for the fact we were sent a review copy anyhow. Indeed, just talking about this film is giving it publicity it doesn’t deserve.  Whilst a few in the conspiracy world will perhaps try and find a justification for applauding the Director’s alleged attempts to expose the system, this isn’t a movie that will open eyes.  In fact, it does exactly the opposite.

Sunday, 09 January 2011

Trapped underground in a subway train station, a handful of people desperately try to raise the attention of rescue parties by hammering out a 2-5-2 SOS-style distress call, indicating survivors need assistance. This movie is set several days after an earthquake, when a terrifying tsunami hits Tokyo and causes widespread destruction. To make matters worse, a thundering typhoon is predicted to follow in its wake.

One survivor is Yuji (Hideaki Itô), an ex-fireman who left under a cloud of guilt having saved his brother from a towering inferno, at the expense of his buddy. Forced to act, Yuji rises to the challenge in the face of adversity, whilst others buckle or even oppose his efforts. Yuji’s wife and daughter were also in the tube station at the time the tidal wave hit, complicating his bid for survival. Meanwhile, the weather and crumbling buildings hamper rescue efforts.

Wednesday, 05 January 2011

The shadows of two figures dance on a wall in an unknown dining room. Suddenly a piercing scream splits the air as one of the figures plunges a knife into the shrouded outline of the other. In the foreground the bloody knife clatters to the floor, and the legs of a child step into view, hovering over the blade. This is the chilling opening to Dario Argento’s “Deep Red”, an early Giallo masterpiece by the Italian horror genius.

David Hemmings (“Barbarella”, “Blowup”) stars as Marcus, a jazz pianist who witnesses a different, grizzly murder in his Roman apartment block. Rushing to the scene of the crime, Marcus is too late to save his ill-feted neighbour Helga (Macha Méril), a famous psychic, or apprehend the fleeing killer. Intrigued, Marcus embarks on a personal hunt for the murderer, putting his life and reputation in serious peril in the process.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

“Believe” is a documentary that tries to peel away the layers of the enigma that is Eddie Izzard, celebrated stand-up comic, actor, marathon runner and transvestite. Covering events from Eddie’s childhood up to his “Sexie” tour in 2003, the film features a blend of home movie footage, interviews with friends, colleagues, teachers and family, classic clips from his famous shows and revealing behind-the-scenes show footage.

Fans that followed Eddie’s epic 43-marathon challenge in 2009 on behalf of Sport Relief, and the companion BBC series Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man will be familiar with some of the themes raised. Overshadowing his entire life and career is the premature loss of his mother, Dorothy Ella, when he was just six years old. Since then he has strived to find his calling and the journey, though fascinating, has evidently been far from easy.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

“Little Big Soldier” stars the indomitable Jackie Chan as a lowly soldier fighting for the honour of the Chinese territory of Liang. Set in ancient times, China is in a state of turmoil as rival provinces wage endless war against each other. This is not a war film, however, but rather an endearing, action-packed adventure featuring bold characters, stunning settings and Chan’s familiar but effortless brand of slapstick humour.

Chan’s unnamed character comes to on a dormant battlefield littered with the dead bodies of fallen soldiers. As he tries to get his bearings, he spies a wounded general stirring, and – having made sure the enemy combatant is not about to die – resolves to ferry him home to claim a sizeable bounty. They have a lot of dangerous land to cover, and this is only the beginning of the duo’s daring escapade. The core of the story centres on the evolving relationship between Chan’s peasant and the rival Wei general (Leehom Wang). Initially full of inbred hate for each other, shared adversity gradually brings them closer together and engenders a modicum of mutual respect.

Tuesday, 02 November 2010

Set in contemporary London, “Temptation” tells the story of Isabel (Caroline Haines), the tragic victim of rape and attempted murder at the hands of a minicab driver. At death’s door, she is saved by coven of female vampires. Isabel wakes the next morning with amnesia, an inability to eat normal food and strangely accelerated healing powers. As her shocking memories creep back, the realisation dawns that she is now a vampire.

The police make headway on and tie together multiple murders and missing persons cases that include the cabbie, and their attention turns to Isabel. She must piece together the whole puzzle before they do, but more importantly decide whether she is going to surrender to the dark desires of the demon that is taking her over inside. If she relents, her soul will be lost. The only alternative is death, and the clock is ticking. This is a low budget British horror movie which is being marketed on the back of crude images of scantily-clad lesbian vampires. The vampires’ main haunt is a striptease club called ‘Temptation’, and the DVD cover features a sexy vamp with blood dripping onto her bosom.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

There has never been anything like The Magic Roundabout.  Its success as the bridge between children’s television and the BBC Six O’clock News was never quite matched by any of the other five minute formats which would frequently fill in for it.  The subversion within the series even boiled down to how the English soundtrack was crafted.  Narrator and re-interpreter Eric Thompson wouldn’t even reference the original French version, making up stories that fitted Serge Danot’s original visuals.

And so, the same technique was applied to the 1972 cinematic version of the 1970 original “Pollux et le chat bleu”. Playing out at the cinema rather than on telly, the technicolour of the production is positively psychedelic and of its time. The narrative is creepy, sometimes positively disturbing.  The references that would play well to adults were carried over, and the canvas for the movie is adjusted to justify the big screen treatment.

Friday, 29 October 2010

As soon as the name of the director of this new martial arts movie is mentioned, you immediately know what to expect: Yuen Woo Ping. His name (primarily as action choreographer) is synonymous with some of the best-known kung fu movies of the last decade including “The Matrix” trilogy, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2” and “Kung Fu Hustle”. And those are just the films familiar to Western audiences.

On “True Legend” Woo Ping returns to the director’s chair after a 14 year hiatus, and yet again stamps his authority on ‘his’ genre with some of the most innovative and thrilling fight sequences ever. Credit for this is also due in no small part to star Vincent Zhao, an actor renowned in China for parts in numerous martial arts TV series such as Once Upon a Time in China. He plays Su Can, Master of Wu Shu and Drunken Fist styles.

Monday, 25 October 2010

With vampires enjoying continuing popularity on television and in books, we are being presented with variations upon a theme, some of which seek to treat vampires in a more sympathetic manner.  These include the idea of realism as applied to the concept of a blood-sucking night-dweller.  “Let the Right One In” painted a picture of the vampire as more a victim of its state than as a predator.  “Not Like Others” compares itself to the earlier film, but fails to match either its atmosphere or tone.

The realism in NLO is really no more than the absence of either a fantasy or horror element.  Are the sisters actually vampires?  Apart from the Swedish title, “Vampyrer” (translated as NLO) there are no mentions of the 'V' word, nor is there ever indication that the girls are anything other than seriously disturbed individuals with a penchant for drinking blood.  

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