Arrow Video Blu-ray Review: “Deep Red” (1975)

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Arrow Video has a habit of knocking releases of Deep Red out of the park. Six years ago Arrow released one of, if not the definitive edition of Deep Red, only to be beat by yet another amazing Arrow Release.

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The special features between the two editions are almost the same, but the new edition comes with a beautiful new transfer from a 4K master, and a visual essay, analyzing Deep Red with a short comparison between Deep Red, and Argento’s earlier giallo The Bird with The Crystal Plumage.

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This set is a 3 disk (2 blu ray 1 CD soundtrack) set, featuring the directors cut, the much shorter export cut, and a CD soundtrack. It also comes with an awesome double sided posted featuring two original arts, and 6 original lobby cards, and a fairly large booklet.

If you weren’t one of the lucky people to score a copy of this new set, I believe Arrow is planning a non-limited edition later this year.

Overall, I would rate this set 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. I only wish we could have gotten more new features. That being said, I completely understand why they might not have been able to.

–Alex Aspin

Follow Alex on Instagram for an extra dose of slasher and giallo goodness!

Razor Blades, Books, and Insanity: “Tenebrae” (1982)

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To fans of Italian horror cinema no name shines brighter then Dario Argento. Born in 1940 to a film producer and photographer, Argento has gone on to have a prolific career in the world of Italian cinema, specifically in the horror subgenre of giallo. His work has gained worldwide recognition and praise and he has come to have a devoted cult audience that love his films for their stylish appearance and the grisly and gory nature of the violence showcased in his films. Argento is best known for the films Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977), and Inferno (180), however to his many fans these are only three of his works in a library of films that for the most part are considered to be some of the best horror films to be made. One of those films is the subject of this review.

After the success of his foray into the supernatural with 1977’s Suspiria and 1980’s Inferno Argento decided to return to the giallo style of film which he was mostly known for, a genre he helped popularize along with other directors such as Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Sergio Martino. The film which Argento would make and return to giallo with was 1982’s Tenebrae (A.K.A. Tenebre A.K.A. Unsane), a film which Argento claims he got the idea from after having a disturbing incident with a fan who would constantly call him and eventually stating that he wanted to kill the director. Regardless if this how the director came up with the idea for the film, Argento crafted another film which is hailed as being one of his best works. So how does the film fair? Let us journey into the darkness and find out for ourselves.

Tenebrae tells the story of Peter Neal (played by Antonio Franciosa), a mystery writer who travels to Rome to promote his new book titled Tenebrae. Upon arriving in Rome he meets up with his agent Bulmer (played by John Saxon), his friend Anne (played by Daria Nicolodi), and his assistant Gianni (played by Christian Borromeo). However he is not only greeted by his friend and co-worker but by Detective Giermani (played by Giuliano Gemma) who informs Peter that a young lady has been murdered with pages of Tenebrae stuffed in her mouth. At the same time Peter also receives a letter from the kill himself who states that Peter’s works have inspired him to begin murdering people and that Peter is on his list.

With the detective doing all that he can to solve the growing number of murders, Peter joins in on the investigation to help as much as he can. Will the detective and author be able to catch the killer before Peter himself is killed? What do these visions the killer is having mean? And just who is this woman following Peter?

Released in what many fans will call Argento’s best period of filmmaking Tenebrae differently shows the director at his best in a showcase which shows off all that he is known for in the best possible ways. It houses his typical extravagant violence, beautiful cinematography, a catchy soundtrack, and many other variables such as a twisty turning story and his then lover Daria Nicolodi. But are these factors as good as his fans make them out to be?

The acting in the film is very nice which helps give the characters a personality and life which helps giving the movie some depth. Franciosa does a very good job at showing Peter as an author who is struggling with the case at hand but is still able to put up a good front, seemingly not showing off being bothered that murders are being committed in his known (except for one line in which he states that “I wish I would have burned that book”). Nicolodi turns in a good performance as well with Anne coming off as genuinely warm and caring about Peter’s situation as well as highlighting their friendship. The rest of the cast themselves do a good job too, Gemma does a great job at playing the serious but slightly fanboyish/gleeful Detective Giermani, Saxon performs great as always, and the victims range from being very nice and inviting (Gianni and Maria) to a little on the irritating side. The characters themselves develop quite well to where they become easy to like and be cared for when one of them dies. Their relationships with each other are made clear and while not all of them are fully fleshed out (Gianni Maria seem to be friends but they share only one scene together) their motives and personalities are easy to spot and thus make them important to the plot…save maybe for Maria who is just kind of there and doesn’t seem to have any real relationship to the main cast.

Tenebrae’s story is provides a good mystery and is easy to follow. The murder’s reasoning for committing these crimes is made loud and clear; he’s been inspired by Peter’s works and with another motive which I won’t reveal for spoilers sake gives him another reason to do this as well. In fact the story is probably one of Argento’s most grounded and non confusing ones compared to some of his other works. However the story does become a bit off come the half way point and by the end it is unfortunately confusing. They state a reason to help relieve the audience of any possible confusion but personally I still find it to be a little out there and kind of kills the flow the film had going. But that’s only my personal gripe with the story and thus not everybody may feel as I do. Overall though, the story is definitely one of the most intriguing in the giallo subgenre and while the ending can be iffy depending on how you ask, the end product is one of Argento’s most grounded and best.

The actual technical side of the picture is very nice as well. Argento is known for his beautiful and complex cinematography and it’s in full force here. One of the film’s standout moments comes in a scene in which the camera tracks up and down the outside of a house for several minutes which is one of the director’s best scenes and some of the best camerawork I’ve ever seen. Surprisingly while tenebrae means “darkness” or “shadows” in Latin/Italian the film is quite bright and there’s very little darkness to it. Even when a scene takes place at night it seems to have this illuminating look to it making it easy to see everything evolving within the scene. The music for the film which is done by long time Argento collaborators Goblin is as great as always, the Tenebrae theme itself being really catchy and is something one might hear at a disco r dance club. Like many of the films Goblin have composed music for, the soundtrack is almost like a character upon itself. And of course how could one forget the violence of the film? In typical Argento fashion the deaths are gratuitous and over the top, a spectacle for those who relish in seeing people being cut, hacked, stabbed, and just all around decimated. The film’s violence got it into a little trouble with the censors, it becoming a Video Nasty in the UK and having ten minutes of footage (including all of the violence) cut in the US release. However since the film’s initial release, Tenebrae has been released uncut in both the UK and in the US, something which helped change a few critic’s opinion on the overall film itself.

Along with providing a great mystery, kills, soundtrack, and all around Argento goodness many people have found that the film includes many themes. In fact in a Fangoria interview Argento went into great depth about the themes of the film. I won’t go into deep about the themes of the film, but many people have noted the film to feature themes of aberrant sexuality, the impairment of vision, and even that of dark doubles. So for those who like to talk about themes in film and have a nice good deep conversation about it, Tenebrae gives you quite a bit to work with in that department.

At the end of the day Tenebrae is a great film which effective combines the horror, mystery, and thriller genres into one big melting pot of greatness. The story may divide some people on it’s ending but the acting, cinematography, music, and violence is sure to appease fans of the Italian maestro. Is it one of Dario’s greatest works? Yes. Is his best? That’s debatable. But in the end Tenebrae is a film that I highly recommend to fans of Argento, giallo films, Italian films, and horror in general.

–Morgan Moore

Morgan Moore is an online writer and aspiring filmmaker. He’s the creator and main contributor to the blog Unbalance Ramblings. He considers John Carpenter’s Halloween to be his favorite horror film of all time.

Great Giallo: Dario Argento’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” (1970) Review

Dario Argento is one of my favorite directors. He may not be great with plot and characterization but he makes up for that in adding to his films everything that makes a horror or thriller film entertaining, suspenseful, beautiful, and scary. His directorial debut is no exception.

He takes the basic premise we see in most of his films – an American hero, an artist, witnessing a crime scene and investigating. We have the black gloved killer, the amazingly executed death sequences, the absorbing and surprising mystery, setting it all in beautiful locations and including his stylish directing.

Contrary to what most people say, I don’t think all the actors in Argento’s films are terrible, they just usually have terrible dubbing which makes the actors look very bad. But in this film, actors such as Tony Musante and the gorgeous Suzy Kendall are great at showing their many emotions. I was with Sam all the way in his difficult and dangerous investigation. I too was obsessed with finding out what was behind it all, and every time he came to an obstacle, I felt just as frustrated and scared as he did.

We also have a pretty menacing villain. The trench-coat wearing, black gloved killer was very creepy, even if by now pretty clichéd. In the death scenes, it showed that this psychopath was a perverted, violent freak that loved toying with his victims. The creepy voices during those phone calls also helped a lot in making me fear the killer. Every death and/or stalk scene had me feeling exactly what the victim felt. Argento is amazing at this kind of thing. And yes, throughout the whole film you will be puzzled as to who is behind this trench-coat and why. When you find out, you will not be disappointed.

I’d also like to give special mention to Ennio Morricone’s haunting score. We all know that rock band Goblin usually score Argento’s films, and we love that. But we can’t forget that Morricone was responsible for the haunting scores of this, CAT O’ NINE TAILS, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, and the very disappointing PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

In conclusion, if you are an Argento fan, or a potential fan, this is definitely a film to seek out so you can see Argento’s directorial debut and see how he was on top of the thriller genre from the get-go.

–Brian C Tyler

Overrated Horror Directors: Dario Argento

As mentioned before, Slasher Studios Horror Film Club is taking on the overrated horror movies of the genre. Movies that, for whatever reason, we just never warmed up to. John Pata has decided to take it one step further. He is hunting down a director that genre fans LOVE but he has a few problems with. Are you ready for this John? This might not be pretty….

Stepping away from the original idea, so instead of going with one film in particular, I’m going with a director: Dario Argento (if we wanted to narrow it down to a film, I’ll go with Suspiria). I must not have the Argento-gene, I know many people who love Argento’s films, and I just cannot get into them. I will say, I have not seen ALL of his films, but a fair amount. To be exact, I have seen: Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebre, and Phenomena. Funny thing is, I’m a big fan of Demons, which Argento co-wrote. So apparently I can tolerate and enjoy when he is not behind the camera.

So what about Argento don’t I enjoy? Well, for starters, Italian horror is hit or miss with me. Most of the time, gore is the focus which is completely fine with me, seeing how I love gore. Usually the writing is crap, the acting is flat, the pace is slow as hell, and the gore is the redeeming factor. This is very true for the Italian flicks I do like, Burial Ground and Night of the Zombies as examples. I find Argento’s titles to be prime examples of this, too. It might not make sense for me to be okay with the lesser qualities in some Italian films, but not with Argento. I understand that, and I think what it boils down to is that some of these titles are held in such high regard. It’s not like people gush about Beyond The Darkness being one of the best horror films. But when Suspiria gets all the praise, I am dumbfounded.

I must also say, I am not much of a fan of art films, and Argento definitely has more of an artsy feel that other Italian directors. For me personally, it’s hard for me to see anything but pretentiousness behind an art film.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying, “I don’t understand why people like Argento”. Different strokes. He’s just not for me at all.

Guilty Pleasure Giallo: “Cat in the Brain” Review

Released in 1990 Cat in the Brain, which also goes under the title Nightmare Concert came out when Lucio Fulci had clearly seen better days. After the release of The New York Ripper in 1982 Fulci seemed to really lose it and started a major decline in his career. His later movies really lacked and even if they delivered on the gore most of these movies were rather dire and really the only late day Fulci flick I enjoyed was Zombi 3 due to how bad the movie was it ends up being really enjoyable some of the scenes for Zombi 3 were shot by Bruno Mattei, but even the Fulci scenes had a silliness to them, but even though I enjoyed the movie it was sad to see how far down Fulci’s career had gone. If your first introduction to Lucio Fulci came in his post-New York Ripper era I doubt many would have bothered to seek out his previous work and I really can’t say I’d blame them. Also when Cat in the Brain came out not only was Lucio Fulci making some of his weakest movies, but Italian horror in general really seemed to be in a rut and based on what was coming out at the time it really isn’t much of a surprise their film industry was dying.

It’s hard to really explain why I liked Cat in the Brain so much, but this is the only late day Fulci I really liked a lot and while this may not reach the heights of some of his earlier work I’d go as far to say I liked this more than City of the Living Dead & The Beyond. I really can’t defend the movie in terms of why I liked it better than some of his more popular movies or why this is even a good movie. I don’t have any response to debunk any of the negative reviews, but Cat in the Brain really won me over and while Fulci made a couple of more movies after this, Cat in the Brain makes for the perfect swan song and I personally see this as his last movie.

Despite popular belief Lucio Fulci was much more than a gore director with his movies such as Don’t Torture a Duckling and Seven Notes in Black, Fulci was a filmmaker who could tell a story and create scenes with suspense and tension. Even though Zombi 2 started his splatter era it’s also a movie driven by suspense and tension and some really great atmosphere. And while some of these qualities were in his splatter flicks of the 80s they were more of a showcase for over the top, but excellent gore F/X. Cat in the Brain is sort of a combination of both styles. The gore level is very high and most of the footage is taken from other Fulci directed or produced movies. Rather than use gore footage from his more popular titles, Fulci uses gore scenes from such movies as Touch of Death and Andrea Bianchi’s Massacre and Mario Bianchi’s Murder Sect, which Fulci supervised. Some have hailed this as one of the goriest movies ever made and even if most of the gore scenes are taken from other movies I suppose that doesn’t matter, but I don’t think this is one of the goriest flicks ever made, but gore-hounds surly won’t be disappointed.

The screenplay by Lucio Fulci, Giovanni Simonelli & Antonio Tentori was fairly interesting; the plot follows Lucio Fulci (sort of playing himself in a sense) and after years of making horror movies he’s starting to lose his grip on reality and is haunted by violent images and is beginning to have a breakdown on what’s real and what’s fantasy. The script in many ways can often repeat itself as the same scene basically plays out over and over again. Many of Fulci’s 80s work featured plots that were incoherent and while as director Fulci was able to create a nice use of atmosphere, but when there were lulls in the action the messy script and incoherent plots would in my opinion hinder the films whereas his 70s work was very much driven by characters and the story and the films would remain interesting regardless of action. Cat in the Brain is a bit incoherent and while I felt that hurt movies like City of the Living Dead and The Beyond here it really helps the movie since we’re seeing the breakdown of Lucio Fulci and when suffering a breakdown things often lack any logic so that works to the films advantage as Fulci is quite confused on what’s happening and it does add to some character development.

At times the script never really moves forward and like I said we often get the same basic scene played out a few times, but yet it still works and Cat in the Brain is very much driven by Fulci as he’s in almost every scene. The motivation for the killer is never really made clear and while the script at times does lack depth it was nice to see Lucio Fulci attempt a more character/plot driven movie like he did back in the 70s. Cat in the Brain is also sort of a satire of Lucio Fulci’s work and horror in general; it’s an interesting idea to see how years of horror films impacted Fulci and sort of drove him near the brink of madness. Cat in the Brain isn’t a straight up satire, but the satirical elements work very well and while Fulci, Simonelli & Tentori may not write the greatest script they do deliver an excellent movie despite the flaws.

Let’s be honest here Cat in the Brain is a movie by a director who is past his prime and clearly seen better days. As much as I enjoy the films of Lucio Fulci again I really had a dislike for the majority of his post-Ripper movies and I think even the most loyal of Fulci fans would most likely agree. But with Cat in the Brain, Lucio Fulci showed he had one more excellent film left in him. While Cat in the Brain may not have the eerie feel of some of his past movies, Fulci creates a movie that is weird, twisted and sometimes funny. The pacing of Cat in the Brain can be a bit sluggish in some spots as like I said the same scene often repeats itself, but Fulci still manages to keep things interesting with the exception of a few scenes that can drag.

Besides a few lulls in the action, Lucio Fulci is mostly able to deliver a really entertaining movie that while not his last film it does serve as a nice ending to a legendary career even if he did make a couple of more films after this. Cat in the Brain may not have anything really special going for it, but yet Fulci still is mostly able to deliver an excellent flick flaws and all. Based on the past few films he made I’m surprised Cat in the Brain turned out as well as it did and again this may not be the best Fulci flick, but its highly entertaining.

Cat in the Brain is sort of a highlight reel of gore F/X as I stated most of the gore is recycled from prior Fulci directed or produced movies. Cat in the Brain is really gory with body parts chopped off, slit throats, decapitations and even if most of the footage are from other movies it still works well and is enjoyable even if you’ve seen the movies the gore scenes are taken from.

Overall I greatly enjoyed Cat in the Brain, but I really can’t defend the movie as much as I’d like to since I very much understand the negative reviews, but regardless I really liked the movie and as long as you aren’t expecting Lucio Fulci to deliver what he did in his prime I think you’ll be pleased, but this movie is really only meant for fans of Lucio Fulci and this film is best watched after you’ve seen a majority of his flicks. Lucio Fulci actually claimed Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was a rip-off of this movie and while they have a few things in common I don’t think New Nightmare ripped this movie off at all. Also Brett Halsey plays a pretty big part in the movie, but yet all his footage was taken from previous Fulci flicks and he actually doesn’t appear in the actual production.

-Dave Kaye (Last Road Reviews)

To order from Amazon: Cat in the Brain

Eli Roth Selects His Fab Five Horror Movies

As writer and director of such films as “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel,” Eli Roth is one of the premiere filmmakers in the industry and a true student of the horror genre. Via Daily News Los Angeles, Slasher Studios is proud to showcase Eli Roth’s five favorite horror films.

“Sleepaway Camp” (1983): Ah, “Sleepaway Camp.” I remember watching this film at a sleepover with Lenny Mead and a bunch of friends in the mid-’80s, and when the movie ended we literally stood up out of our chairs and screamed at the top of our lungs until we ran out of air. I will not say why – and don’t go looking up the spoilers on the Internet because that will take all the fun away. Treat yourself to a wonderful surprise. Director Robert Hiltzik’s film is anything but a by-the-numbers, early ’80s, low-budget slasher flick set at a summer camp. The kills are fun, but the ending simply cannot be topped. Don’t read anything about it, just go rent it, pop it in, and watch your friends freak out. This will be the film you guys talk about for weeks after.

“Troll 2” (1990): In the past few years, this has become the most made-fun-of horror movie for many, many reasons, all of which are documented in the excellent film “Best Worst Movie.” The director, the inimitable Italian maestro Claudio Fragasso, had a script that had nothing to do with trolls, but he could get it financed if he changed the title to “Troll 2.” Fragasso let the financiers change the title but refused to change anything else, and as a result there are many goblins, but not a single troll in the entire film. It will take hours to get through this gem because you’ll keep pausing and replaying the lines over and over.

“Troll 2” is one of the rare sequels where you don’t have to waste time watching the first one, since the films have absolutely nothing to do with one another. It has such a strong cult following, it was recently rereleased on Blu-ray for you to enjoy in all its high-definition glory.

“Creepshow” (1982): George Romero was the king of horror then, having made the classics “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead,” Stephen King was the scariest author on the planet (and still is, as far as I’m concerned), and Tom Savini had upset nearly every parent in America by creating the goriest makeup effects in the nastiest horror films of the golden era. The three of them teamed up to create an old EC Comics-style scarefest that is “Creepshow.”

The movie, told in five stories, is designed to look like a comic book, but it is creepy. And disgusting. And really, really fun. Plus it’s an anthology so you don’t really have to pay attention, and if you’re not that into the story, a new one will be on in 10 minutes. I watch it now and find myself saying things like, “Look, Ed Harris with hair!” An amazing cast, incredible script, brilliant makeup effects and nonstop fun. A very underrated horror movie that’s a guaranteed good time.

“Zombi 2” (1980): One of those rare sequels that isn’t actually a sequel.

It was just called “Zombi 2” because, in Italy, “Dawn of the Dead” was released under the title “Zombi,” and the producers wanted to trick people into thinking this was the second one, even though the two films have nothing to do with each other. Other than zombies, that is.
“Zombie,” as it’s commonly known in the United States, has grown over time to be one of the most beloved zombie movies, with scenes of gore so spectacular and horrifying they still stand head and shoulders above any zombie movie made since. Lucio Fulci is one of my all-time favorite directors, and whenever I film a particularly gory scene, we all close our eyes and try to channel him for inspiration. “Zombi 2” has the greatest scene ever committed to celluloid, and is actually responsible for the modern movement of zombie films. Nothing comes close to it, which is why the die-hard horror nerds like me wear T-shirts that say “Viva Fulci!” A must-see for any zombie apocalypse fan.

“Pieces” (1982): Watching this film with a crowd is the most fun experience I have ever had watching a movie. I showed it to a packed house at a film festival I held a few years ago, and people had so much fun that, afterward, they were actually depressed they’d never have that good a time at the movies again. This was the movie where on the poster you saw a chain saw, a stitched-up dead girl, and the tagline: “It’s exactly what you think it is.” Some movies don’t exactly live up to their poster. Juan Piquer Simon’s does. But “Pieces” is also one of the craziest, most random and insane slasher films ever made. You think you have it figured out and then the film blindsides you. There are many, many classic scenes, like the infamous tennis match, which has some of the best extras casting in the history of cinema.

“Pieces” truly is my favorite slasher film of all time, and it’s the one movie that never fails to have the audience totally entertained from start to finish. It’s also got an ending to rival “Sleepaway Camp.” I am almost sorry you are going to watch “Pieces” because pretty much any moviegoing experience after will be a letdown.