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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits
page added: 5/30/07

Sittin' on a Dock

Doogan's Views - Main Page

Anchor Bay. We lovingly call it The Bay around The Bits' offices. They've given us plenty of good titles over the years - Evil Dead, Halloween, Romero's Dead Trilogy. All good stuff.

In the last few months, Bill's been taunting me with Bay titles. Always urging me, "Hey dude, stop working on our top secret projects and give me Bits content." And I'm all like, "When something of substance comes out worth talking about, I'll write about it. Meanwhile, you keep hammering at this bullshit format war and call me when it's over so we can start talking about movies again."

Well... the time has come for me to talk about movies again. The Bay has released my all-time holy grail, the one title I've asked and asked about. But they didn't just release it. They made an event out of it and gave us ALL of the early works of this master artist. What am I talking about? I'm sure Bill told you on the front page when he intro'ed this piece. But I'm going to pull a Seacrest and make you wait to see my thoughts. Of course, you can totally face me by just clicking to the second page of this review. You impatient bastard.

First, I'm going to appetizer with some other recent and fun Bay titles worth mentioning. Stuff that Bill has clogged my short list with. Let's start with two Masters of Horror titles...

Masters of Horror: Pro-Life

Masters of Horror: Pro-Life
2006 (2007) - Showtime (Anchor Bay)

Pro-Life is release number two from Season Two of the illustrious Masters of Horror line, from producer Mick Garris. This one focuses on a frantic young pregnant girl, who shows up at an abortion clinic claiming the spawn of the devil lies within her womb. But is she telling the truth, or is she hiding something far more sinister? Making things more complicated, her anti-abortionist father shows up at the front door demanding his to see his daughter, claiming that he hears the voice of God telling him to do anything necessary to protect his daughter's unborn child. Is HE telling the truth, or is he hiding something too?

Before you go looking for some deep meaning in those questions, let me help you out - there's nothing to be found here. The story is everything it appears to be: Yes, the girl's child is demonic and yes, the father hears voices... but they're not God's.

I think this film may have been more exciting if there was something more subtle or meaningful underneath all of the obvious here, but alas... no such luck. This is by the book storytelling. Still, for its disappointments, it's not a waste of time. Pro-Life has its moments and works in its simplicity. Written by the team behind one of the better episodes from last season (Cigarette Burns) and directed by John Carpenter (who also directed Burns), Pro-Life is a tight, violent Grand Guignol, with an always stellar Ron Perlman turning in yet another great character piece. Love that guy.

The audio and video on DVD is very good, in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Extras include a commentary track with the writers and Carpenter, a look at the special effects, a thorough behind-the-scenes featurette, storyboards, stills, Carpenter's bio and the script on DVD-ROM.

Masters of Horror: Family

Masters of Horror: Family
2006 (2007) - Showtime (Anchor Bay)

Next up is Family, from cult comedy director John Landis and the writer behind the acclaimed psycho-horror Frailty. Leaps and bounds better than Pro-Life, Family works on a lot of different levels even after multiple viewings. Like Perlman in Pro-Choice, George Wendt makes this episode with his performance.

The story to Family is quite simple and oh so creepy. A quiet suburban bachelor is literally building the perfect family. His means are to kidnap a person and, using a strong acid, burn their flesh off leaving nothing but bone. Then he dresses the skeleton up and bingo... he's got a loving wife, child or parent. In his madness, he has long and engaging conversations with the dead, who love and adore him. It's all incredibly creepy, but Wendt pulls it off beautifully. The true fun comes when a happy young couple moves in next door, and Wendt develops a major crush on the young wife, soon deciding to replace his old wife with the new one. But is everything what it seems? You have to watch to find out.

The best thing about Family is the depth involved in the story, that I found sorely missing in Pro-Life. There's a lot here and the twists actually work very well. The whole thing is scary, gross, funny and... in the end... very, very twisted.

The audio and video are both good on disc with anamorphic widescreen and both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 on board. Extras include a commentary with the writer, a "making of" doc, a look at the score, Landis bio, storyboards and the script on ROM.

Dead and Deader

Dead and Deader
2006 (2007) - Sci-Fi/Mindfire (Anchor Bay)

I really hoped I would've liked this better... but sadly, I did not. According to the "making of" featurette this was the Sci-Fi Channel's attempt at a zombie version of Blade, and it looks like it was a movie pilot for a potential series. I'm kinda glad it didn't go to series, because this would have been a lame show. I think the "idea" could work, but not in this form. It lacks what my new favorite metal band, Dethklok, refers to as "Zazz."

Dean Cain stars as a super elite black-ops soldier who is killed in a secret mission. However a mutant scorpion climbs into his skin and brings him back to life during the autopsy. Feeling it moving around in his circulatory system, Cain pulls it out and kills it. This act is a major thing to note as, if the scorpion makes it to your heart, you become a mindless zombie. If it doesn't, well... you become undead and "more human than human" as the song goes. Cain now has to save the world by going across country to stop his former mission comrades, who weren't lucky enough to kill the parasite.

Along for the ride here is motor mouth Guy Torry (American History X) and super-hot Susan Ward (Wild Things 2), as a military cook and film school nerd/hot bartender respectively. Also look for a shady Peter Greene as a mad scientist type who knows a lot more about the scorpions than he lets on.

As films from the guys at Mindfire Entertainment (Disclaimer: Bill and I have a column in Geek Monthly were we work with Mark Altman, a key player at Mindfire and co-writer of this film. Hi Papa Bear!), this one is actually a silly fun romp. But like the other films in the Mindfire stable, it's a far better idea than it is an execution. Does Dead and Deader suck? No. But it could have been a lot better than it is, and for that you feel a bit let down. And damnit Mark, if you're lucky enough to cast her, you just don't kill off Natassia Malthe in the first few moments of any film if you want me to give you a good review!

As with all Bay DVDs these days, the audio and video are both good, with anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Extras include the aforementioned behind-the-scenes doc and audio commentary (with writer Steve Krizere, Altman and composer Joe Kraemer), as well as a stills gallery and the script on ROM. The movie is worthy of viewing as a rental, so if you find yourself at Blockbuster scanning the shelves and happen upon this, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half, believe me.

Phantasm: Anchor Bay Collection

Anchor Bay Collection - 1979 (2007) - AVCO Embassy (Anchor Bay)

We've reviewed this film before (quite well, I think), so doing so again would be a waste of time and Internet space. That said, this new version is definitely worth mentioning since we're discussing Anchor Bay. So I'll approach it like this: If you're interested in knowing what we think of the film and the original DVD release, go here and read our review of this fine, fine tale.

Now then... this new DVD from The Bay IS a double dip, but is it a worthy one? Yes and no. Sadly, it's missing a few of the things offered by the original MGM release (namely a deleted scene, radio promos, an Aussie TV spot, a stills gallery and the original sound in mono). Everything else we discuss in the above linked review, however, is here.

Missing features aside, making it still worth considering is a new featurette (Phantasmagoria), a collection of deleted interviews from that featurette and, best of all (and maybe worth the dip in the first place), a luscious new anamorphic transfer with solid remastered sound. Given what's good and new here, in the end we feel it's a worthy addition to your classic horror film collection. If you're a Phan, it's worth the upgrade. Of course, if you have the original release, you'll still want to keep that sucker too.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead - Anchor Bay Collection

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
Anchor Bay Collection - 1994 (2007) - Starway Int. (Anchor Bay)

Making its domestic debut on DVD from The Bay is Phantasm III. Sadly, a Region 1 release of Phantasm II isn't out yet, so if you're not familiar with that film, you may be a little lost at first coming out of Part I and heading right into Part III. It's interesting to note that Part II came out from Universal, and the studio strong-armed Coscarelli a bit, leading to a few character holes with Michael's actions and motivations. This may stem exclusively from the fact that actor James LeGros was playing Michael (and playing him well actually). But for the Phans, everything went right with the world with Part III, when A. Michael Baldwin was brought back as Michael.

Part III picks right up where II left off. To help fill you in, here's a short summary of Part II:

Michael has spent seven years in an institution. He lies his way out, hooks up with Reggie and, after the Tall Man attacks Reggie's family, they go on a road trip hunting down the Tall Man and finding nothing but empty graves and empty towns. They hook up with a young girl named Liz, who has a connection to the Tall Man much like Michael has. They battle the Tall Man eventually and seemingly win, only to find that you can never win against something that can't die. Then the car/hearse they make their escape in crashes, leaving us with the question of who has survived?

Phantasm III picks up right there. After a short intro by Michael in V.O., we conveniently chuck out Liz and good ol' Reggie takes his patented quad-shotgun and destroys everything that moves, taking a comatose Michael to the hospital. Once there, we learn an interesting and helpful fact about the sentinel balls, and then jump right back into the thick of things. The new reunion is short lived, as the Tall Man grabs Michael and takes him away from Reggie, who is forced to join up with a young boy named Tim, a martial arts weapon wielding hottie named Rocky and Michael's dead brother Jody. With this film, the laughs come frequently, the gore is raised a bit, show mythology is raised too and alot of new questions are asked.

Phantasm III is a good horror film. It's not as "important" as the original and, because of the actor playing Michael, it's almost incomparable to Part II. It's sort of a do-over for Part II, except not really. Phans of the series should be excited to know that this DVD offers the uncut version, which has a bit more gore included.

Video and audio are both quite good on disc, again with anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio. Extras include a fun and informative commentary (with A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm), a vintage behind-the-scenes video reel, trailers and a deleted scene.

On to Part Two

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