Mega DVD/Blu-ray Release Party – August 28 Edition
by Marc Patterson
I’m a bit of a day late and a dollar short with this article, but goddamn was the week of August 28th one hell of a week for horror fans, and it’s taken me a little extra time to put some thoughts together around this week’s releases. I’m already up to my eyeballs in releases for September 4th, so instead of reviewing a gagillion DVDs this week I thought I’d do a round-up of notable releases and why they deserve to be checked out (or not).
Warriors of the Rainbow (Well Go USA) – Technically this title was released a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still a fine place to start. Warriors of the Rainbow is an epic length (150 minute long) pseudo biopic about Mouna Rudo, a tribal leader of an early 20th century Seediq clan in Taiwan. When the Japanese invade Taiwan, they stomp their way into the jungle colonizing and enslaving whatever tribespeople they don’t kill. Many years later, after enduring endless humiliations at the hands of the Japanese, the warrior in Mouna Rudo re-surfaces and he leads a bloody rebellion to free his people and return to them their rightful hunting grounds. The Blu-ray sleeve claims Warriors of the Rainbow to be “Braveheart with a nod to The Last of the Mohicans”. It’s a fairly apt description that, for once, is not misleading. I’m personally not one for films that run longer than two hours, but I couldn’t help but be swept up into the gorgeous cinematography and moving story. The pacing made the film feel a lot shorter than it was and when the credits rolled I felt like I had just sat through something of real substance.
The Moth Diaries (IFC Midnight) – Mary Harron, director of American Psycho, writes and directs this story of psychic vampirism with mixed results. From the trailer The Moth Diaries appears to be moody, atmospheric with plenty of teen angst and estrogen-fuelled horror. The story follows that of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) who attends an all girl boarding school, and who is suffering from the emotional aftermath of her father’s suicide. It’s the start of a new school year and there’s a strange new girl in class, Ernessa (Lily Cole). Ernessa slowly needles her way into Rebecca’s relationship with best friend Lucie (Sarah Gadon), whisking Lucie away. With an unexplained rash of deaths suddenly taking place on campus, Rebecca begins to suspect that Ernessa is something more dark and sinister.
The Moth Diaries had so much potential that went unseen. Scott Speedman gets a top billing, but is sadly relegated to a generic two-dimensional role as a one of the literature teachers in the school, who turns Rebecca onto the idea of vampirism. Yawn. The real star was Lily Cole as Ernessa. She totally had a vibe reminiscent of Isabelle Fuhrman in The Orphan. Swapping out her familiar red hair for a dark and brooding shade of black, she’s haunting, strange and sinister. It’s just that I have to ask; what the hell happened with Mary Harron to make this such a snoozer?
The Moth Diaries starts off with a really strong, albeit trite, first act that I genuinely hoped would blossom into something powerful and explosive. However, the film never really finds its feet and seems to flounder in a land of PG-13 purgatory, a place that might appeal to genre newcomers and/or teen girl fans of vampires. Ironically, the R rating isn’t truly necessary. Lily Cole and Sarah Bolger were both convincing and wonderful to watch on screen giving this film its only bit of much needed charm.
Penumbra (MPI Home Video) – Adrian and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano are at it again with this terse thriller set in a crummy Argentine neighborhood. (I’ve previously reviewed the film, so won’t go in-depth much) here. You can read my full review HERE.
Essentially what you have is a highly effective mind-fuck centered around a solar eclipse, a death cult and an unsuspecting real estate agent who finds herself the unwitting victim in a very deadly game. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Cristina Brondo makes this film. She’s an amazing actress, portraying a lead character that is equally as despicable as she is endearing, yet never vulnerable. While I absolutely recommend watching this film, especially if you’ve been fans of the previous films from the Bogliano brothers, I question why the disc is so light on extras. There’s nothing to see besides a trailer. I felt like there was so much more to talk about that I’d have loved to see a commentary track, or interview extra, or just anything to round out what is Adrian and Ramiro’s best film yet.
Lovely Molly (Image Entertainment) – DVD/Blu-ray Release of the Week. Lovely Molly is hands down my pick this week. If you don’t buy another film from this lot, then grab this one. I’m always a little bit sketchy when a film props itself up on the success of a prior film. I want it to stand on its own without having to overtly lean on the success of another film that may have little, or nothing, to do with said release. In this case it’s Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) who pulls out the stops and creates a film that is genuinely frightening, and (here comes the kicker) actually has something smart to say! Tense, full of atmosphere, and at times heartwrenching to watch, this film about addiction and possession is both original and captivating enough to make even the most stodgy of horror fans take note. For a full review you can read Britt Hayes’ take on the film. REVIEW HERE.
The Viral Factor (Well Go USA)– Hong Kong action film fans rejoice! You’re going to love this fast paced shoot-em-up flick. The Viral Factor is a throwback to the kick-ass 90s Asian cinema, a place where Chow Yun Fat ruled the scene. The film features Jay Chou (The Green Hornet) as a special agent, Jon, who takes a bullet to the head and is given a mere two weeks to live. He returns to his home and in doing so learns he has a brother. He goes to seek out his brother Man Yeung (Nicholas Tse), but finds himself caught up in a terrorist plot that has his brother in a stranglehold. Together they join forces to stop a deadly viral outbreak, all before Jon drops dead.
The Viral Factor is full of action, but yet it never feels unbalanced, like more time should have been spent on story and script. It’s all in there, and there’s more than enough time to sink yourself into the story, pulling out emotional connections to the conflicted characters, as there is to get your juices flowing with the explosive set-pieces. Highly recommended.
Jersey Shore Shark Attack (Anchor Bay) – Ummm, yeah. So then there’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack. It’s cheesy, sleazy, full of ridiculousness. Do I even need to go into what it’s about? It’s from SyFy. It features a cliche cast of characters from Jersey, down at the shore getting drunk, laid, and partying, but mostly being attacked by killer sharks. What else is there to say? Those of you who will want to watch this know who you are. However, I’ll tell you… you can count me amongst those who wanted to watch this. It saddens me then to say that I was a bit disappointed by the superfluous dependence upon CGI effects, which were really poorly executed. They weren’t much better than some hand-drawn cartoons inserted for effect. That said, I loved the cast, and got into how cheeky and unabashedly fun the film could be. Book yourself a date with Piranha 3DD and dedicate a lazy day to losing every brain cell in your head.
Other notable releases: Halloween 4 & 5 hit Blu-ray for the first time this week. You’ll want to check out Eric Lefenfeld’s review of those discs HERE.