You have to give it to Synapse films. With the decline of physical media, more studios are open to delivering movie buffs the classics, and the obscure titles. Let’s face it, until now, no other major label would have ever made the “Violent Shit” collection available for mass consumption. At the end of the day, this five movie collection of shot on video horror gore films from Germany are strictly a niche release, but they’re at least there for everyone to view. While the “Violent Shit” movies, in fact, complete shit, they are also important cinematic relics. Back in the eighties, when Germany enacted heavy censorship on all film releases, including horror movies, that were cut for mass consumption, a bunch of indie filmmakers got together and made their own gory, graphic, and obscenely splatterific horror movies.
Wes Craven’s survival horror film is a bit rough around the edges in terms of editing and acting, but that’s also why it’s so stark and creepy. It’s a gritty and grimy film much like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and its tone lends it something of a semi-documentary aesthetic. Everything, right down to the final shot feels so probable and possible of happening in this universe. It’s the destruction of the nuclear family by the ultimate clan of what society would normally deem the antithesis of the traditional family. Not to mention it’s the society cannibalizing one another right down to the very last man. I initially didn’t enjoy “The Hills Have Eyes” when I saw it a decade ago, but watching it again has allowed me to really enjoy what Craven intended and how soaked in dread and violence it is.
On the anniversary of Richard Kelly’s unparalleled masterpiece, “Donnie Darko” is given a wonderful treatment a la Arrow Video. The set features not only the theatrical cut, but the extended director’s cut, as well as a plethora of special features and unique collectibles for fans of the universe he’s created. Except for “S. Darko” (Kelly has publicly denounced that alleged “sequel” to his film). That said, “Donnie Darko” from Arrow depends on your enjoyment of the movie, since the original film was given a nifty release years ago, as well as the Director’s Cut, but both cuts differ vastly in quality and pacing. I’ve expressed my love for “Donnie Darko” in the past, as it’s a stunning and gripping labyrinth of mystery that combines horror, fantasy, surrealism, and existentialism in a tale about parallel universes and fate.
I think most people go in to a movie that’s labeled a found footage anthology film might be expecting something like “VHS,” but directors Michael McQuown and Vincent J Guastini have so much more ambitious in mind. While the aforementioned horror film garnered a small assemblage of horror stories with a framework, “The Dark Tapes” tries to add more cogency. Everything in “The Dark Tapes” is cryptic and complex, and what we’re watching ends up making more sense the more we think about it. The directors obviously aspired to make a movie you have to watch more than once to understand. And of course they invite audiences to go to the movie’s website to perhaps convey their own theories about what the movie entails.
Would you rather have two bad monster movies or nothing at all? I agree: two bad monster movies. Shout! Factory offers up two bad monster movies for the price of one for movie buffs that appreciate the schlock and awe of giant badly designed monsters wreaking havoc within budget limitations. First up there’s 1977’s “Tentacles” directed by Ovidio G. Assoninitis and is one of the many Jaws-sploitation movies to come out of the decade. This time around there’s an all star cast of John Huston, Bo Hopkins and Henry Fonda, all of whom reside in a seaside resort town.
Frank R. Strayer’s 1933 feature offered a bewildering mix of horror, mystery and low comedy. The setting is a small German village where a series of murders involves vampire-type punctures on the neck and the draining of the victims’ blood. The superstitious villagers suspect that a local half-wit with a fondness for bats is the culprit, but the real villain is not that difficult to unmask – after all, when you have Lionel Atwill playing a mad scientist, it is obvious his laboratory is not being used for therapeutic research.
I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to “The Void.” Not only have I not been a fan of what Astron 6 has put out there for audiences, but “The Void” seemed generally like a vain attempt at Lovecraft. I’m glad to admit, though, that “The Void” is so far the best film Astron 6 has ever put out there. While the fan boy winks and nods are still there, it’s considerably toned down and doesn’t bog “The Void” down too much. Directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski are damn good at taking a miniscule budget and building with that, as “The Void” is an incredibly creepy survival horror film that feels like a nightmare from beginning to end. Even when the film has seemingly closed, “The Void” is never done choking you with its mesmerizing imagery of another world, and assures you that it will indeed return to haunt the audience once more.
Twenty years later, and Rusty Cundieff’s horror anthology “Tales from the Hood” is probably the most socially relevant horror anthology ever created. 1995 gave way to some pretty tame horror entries, but “Tales from the Hood” doesn’t just try to scare, but has a good time delivering some schlock, and sneaks in a lot of social commentary about the race and class warfare that divided us then and continues to divide us more than ever, today. It’s too bad the movie never caught on as a cult classic, since re-watching it years later has allowed me to appreciate it so much more. “Tales from the Hood” tells four horror tales centered on an urban setting and social problem that ensues to this day, incidentally, and they end up being rather compelling and often very creepy.