Inside Pulse » Sam Raimi A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:30:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Sam Raimi Blu-ray Review: Darkman (Collector’s Edition) Wed, 05 Mar 2014 18:48:56 +0000 Darkman, director Sam Raimi makes the comic book movie that didn't have to leap out of the pages. ]]> The story goes that Sam Raimi wanted to make The Shadow except the producers wouldn’t consider him for the lofty project. So instead of pouting and whining, Raimi made his own version of The Shadow. Except his semi-hero would have nothing to do with Lamont Cranston so there would be no lawsuits. Raimi’s vision turned into Darkman. This was a rather big relief for filmgoers that were seeing way too many elderly superheroes being revived for the big screen. Raimi was creating an all new character that deserved to be in a comic book. Darkman: Collector’s Edition shows that Sam Raimi could make an exciting superhero film before he got his hands on Spider-Man.

Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist working on a realistic synthetic skin. He’s all focused on the project the skin last for 99 minutes. What’s it going to take to get over the hump. Even as a major egghead, he still has a wonderful girlfriend in Julie (Frances McDormand). What he doesn’t realize is that she’s in the middle of a turf war between her boss (Colin Friels) and mobster Robert Durant (Larry Drake). This mess explodes its way into Westlake’s lab. The aftermath leaves people thinking Westlake is dead. But he’s barely alive. He looks like The Incredible Melting Man. Westlake escapes from the burn hospital with pure revenge on his mind. He uses his skin invention and his ability to feel no pain to become a superhero. He won’t rest until he destroys all that ruined his life. No need to give too much away about the plot.

Darkman was a bit of a surprise coming in 1990 after the wake of Tim Burton’s Batman. The character was not the most compassionate of figures. His disfigured nature made him a bit more repulsive than suave Bruce Wayne. Even stranger was seeing Larry Drake playing a psychotic villain. For several seasons he’d been the mentally challenged Benny on LA Law. Fans of action films embraced the film. The film was a bit of a hit. This success allowed Raimi to get inside the Hollywood system after a decade of being a cult indie director of Evil Dead movies. He made the comic book movie that didn’t have to leap out of the pages.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the comic book dazzle of Bill Pope’s cinematography. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The new mix pops around the speakers during the major action scenes. The movie is subtitled.

Interview with Liam Neeson
(7:29) is a new feature with the star of Taken. He liked that Raimi showed up for work in a jacket, shirt and tie. He got into the operatic feel of the character.

The Name is Durant with Larry Drake
(15:59) explores how he went for the sweet guy on LA Law to being a ruthless mobster. There’s a lot of talk about the positive and negative aspects of being an actor that gets typecast.

The Face of Revenge with Makeup Designer Tony Gardner (13:21) breaks down the makeup effects. Gardener had worked on Evil Dead II. He explains what went into making Liam Neeson look frightening.

Henchmen Tales (12:57) pays tribute to the various heavies that went after the Darkman. Dan Bell looks like a retired rock star. How does one get cast as a villain’s goons. The Coen brothers hung out on the set.

Dark Design (16:46) interviews with Randy Ser and Philip Dagort about the production design and art. He and Sam went back to the old Batman comic books and classic Universal Horror to shape the movie.

An Interview with Frances McDormand (10:50) explains that she was Raimi’s old roommate along with the Coen brothers. She rather inspired her character in Darkman. Sam also cast her so she could pay her share of the rent. She would go on to win an Oscar with Fargo thanks to her other roommates.

Darkman Featurette (6:26) is the old Electronic Media kit from the original release. Sam talks about the film along with the rest of the cast.

Cast and Crew Interviews (8:59) is a second helping from the original media kit.

Vintage Interview Galleries include past chats with Colin Friels (12:14), Frances McDormand (20:43), Liam Neeson (28:02) and Sam Raimi (23:09).

Theatrical Trailer (1:47) is taken from a video transfer. Does let you know how good the Blu-ray looks compared to the VHS release.

TV Spots (4:24) keeps asking, “Who is The Darkman?”

Still Galleries includes Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects, Posters, Artwork, Production Stills and Storyboards.

Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Bill Pope. The cinematographer guides us through the film and his legendary career. This is a master class level breakdown. Michael Felsher hosts the conversation.

Darkman: Collector’s Edition brings together all the elements of what made this a special film when it was released back in 1990. The mixing of vintage and new bonus features gives the proper context to how it was received by audiences.

Shout! Factory presents Darkman: Collector’s Edition. Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and Larry Drake. Rated: R. Running Time: 96 minutes. Released: February 18, 2014.

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Disc News: Dark Man shines on Blu-ray Fri, 03 Jan 2014 23:00:28 +0000 After achieving cult success with two Evil Dead movies, director Sam Raimi was ready to tackle a real Hollywood project. He got his chance with Darkman. The movie about a scientist out for revenge became a mid-size hit in 1990. The movie was seen as a smart approach to the super hero genre. Now the movie is getting the proper respect with Scream Factory putting out a collector’s edition Blu-ray packed with extras on February 18. Here are the details of the release from Scream Factory’s press release:

Crime has a new enemy, and justice has a brand new face. Fans of visionary director Sam Raimi (The Spider-Man trilogy) know well the story of Dr. Peyton Westlake and his tragic transformation into the action hero known as Darkman. Based on Raimi’s short story “The Darkman,” the popular crime-fighting master of disguises comes to life in the 1990 film adaptation DARKMAN, starring three-time Golden Globe® nominee Liam Neeson (Taken) and Oscar® winner Frances McDormand (Fargo). Directed by Sam Raimi, this explosive, action-packed thriller also stars Colin Friels (Dark City), Larry Drake (Dr. Giggles), Dan Hicks (Evil Dead 2) and Nicholas Worth (Swamp Thing) and features soundtrack by award-wining composer Danny Elfman. On February 18, 2014, SCREAM FACTORY™ will release DARKMAN COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-ray, featuring all-new interviews with Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake, Danny Hicks, make-up effects artist Tony Gardner, production designer Randy Ser, art director Philip Dagort and much more! This definitive collector’s edition also contains a collectible cover featuring newly rendered retro-style artwork, a reversible cover wrap with original theatrical key art. A must-have for loyal fans, movie collectors and pop culture and comic book enthusiasts to complete their entertainment library, DARKMAN COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-ray is priced to own at $29.93 SRP.

***Avid fans and collectors please take note: those who order DARKMAN COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-ray from will receive the exclusive 18″x24″ poster featuring the newly commissioned artwork! These are only available while supplies last.***

Pre-order link:

In the darkest hour, there’s a light that shines on every human being, but one….

Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand star in this explosive, action-packed thriller from director Sam Raimi. Dr. Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is on the verge of realizing a major breakthrough in synthetic skin when his laboratory is destroyed by gangsters. Having been burned beyond recognition and forever altered by an experimental medical procedure, Westlake becomes known as Darkman, assuming alternate identities in his quest for revenge and a new life with a former love (McDormand).

Music by DANNY ELFMAN Make-up Effects by TONY GARDNER and LARRY HAMLIN Production Designer RANDY SER
Director of Photography BILL POPE Line Producer DARYL KASS Story by SAM RAIMI
Produced by ROBERT TAPERT Directed by SAM RAIMI

Special Features:

Interviews with Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand
MY NAME IS DURANT – interview with Larry Drake
THE FACE OF REVENGE – interview with Makeup Designer Tony Gardner
HENCHMAN TALES – Interviews with actors Danny Hicks and Dan Bell
DARK DESIGN – interview with Production Designer Randy Ser and Art Director Philip Dagort
Audio Commentary with director of photography Bill Pope
Vintage “Making of” and interview Featurettes featuring interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and more…
Vintage full-length interviews, not used in the featurettes, with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Still Galleries – Posters & production stills, Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects and Storyboards

1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/ DTS Master Audio 5.1/1990/Color/96 minutes/Subtitles: English/Special Features are Not Rated.×120.jpg

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DVD Review: Evil Dead Tue, 16 Jul 2013 12:00:40 +0000 Evil Dead is one of many horror classics that have been rebooted for a new generation of genre fans. Some of these remakes have hit the mark (2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) whereas others have fallen flat (2005’s The Fog). Still, there’s no denying that they’re more often than not a proven source of profit for studios – even if they fail to set box-office ablaze – and because of that, no horror classic is safe, and the best fans can hope for is that justice is done when the screaming begins.

Now I’ve only seen Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead once before, and it was at an age where I found it to be more laughable than scary. That seems to be the case with a lot of horror films from the 1970s and ‘80s. Today’s audience is so desensitized to blood and gore that one has to remember that it’s been 30-40 years since many of these movies were made, and back then they did their job and gave moviegoers nightmares. So I don’t blame studios for taking these ideas from the vault and updating them in an attempt to once again scare audiences and make a quick buck while doing so.

Evil Dead takes the same rough outline of Raimi’s film and adds its own spin on the characters and story itself. There’s still a secluded cabin, a book of evil and an ancient curse. But instead of five friends looking to get away from it all and have some fun, this time there are four friends having an intervention to help their drug addicted friend, Mia (Jane Levy), quit cold turkey by locking themselves away in this cabin for a few days. We’re also informed that this isn’t the first time the group has tried to do this for Mia, and the last time she quit the process eight hours in and overdosed soon after. Because of this, the group vows to keep her out there no matter how much she wants to leave, or how often she complains.

This idea is one I really liked, as right away it gives the film a great dark atmosphere, and a reason for not up and running away right when things start to get a little weird. Okay, maybe there’s one point when they should’ve upped and run away before things got “demonically” weird (finding a trail of dried blood that leads to a dark, locked up cellar can never be a good thing), but overall the idea fits in perfectly with the story.

Everything takes place in the cabin and surrounding area at night (or in the very foggy day), so it’s a very eerie setting, and it’s one of the films major highlights. In fact, the atmosphere and set design are both incredibly well done throughout, and give the film a very unsettling feeling from very early on.

The direction by Fede Alvarez is really well done, and it pays homage to quite a few of the shots from the original Evil Dead (such as the POV of “Evil” moving through the forest) while coming up with quite a few intense shots of his own. He’s also come up with some great old-school horror tricks with the special effects crew, not relying on CGI, which helps give the film a raw, gritty feel that it needs.

On the violence front, this film is extremely graphic, with buckets of blood, loads of gore, constant stabbings and plenty of dismemberment. Some will enjoy this, while others will cringe at certain aspects of it. Lets just say that if you’re squeamish when it comes to this type of thing, well, steer clear of Evil Dead.

One of the main places the film falters is in its characters. Now this is a horror movie, so it’s easy to write them off as simple demon fodder; however, even films in this genre benefit greatly by creating characters audiences care about or don’t want to see die. Here, nobody really matters. The closest person audiences have to care about is Mia, and that’s really only because Levy does such a great job playing her.

The rest of the characters are there to simply go through the motions until their time is up. Because of this, the film relies heavily on scares in order to keep you interested, and unfortunately if you’ve seen even a handful of horror films, odds are you’ll know when the scares are coming long before they happen. That’s not to say the film isn’t creepy at all, it’s just not one that will have you jumping out of your chair, or leave you making sure the nightlight is turned on before going to sleep after watching it.

Evil Dead isn’t a complete misfire; it simply proves that when you hype up your film with promotional posters that simply say, “The Most Frightening Film You Will Ever Experience,” you better deliver on that promise or you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

The film looks fantastic, with a great DVD transfer that keeps things looking gritty and atmospheric, while never feeling grainy, or poorly lit. The audio is also really well done, with both the music fitting in perfectly, as well as the dialogue coming through nice and clearly.

Making Life Difficult – This featurette comes in at just over eight minutes in length and sees Alvarez and Levy talking about some of the more difficult tasks they faced on set.

Directing the Dead – This featurette comes in at just over seven minutes in length and mainly sees Alvarez talking about taking on the franchise, and the hardships and joys of directing such a film.

Being Mia – This piece comes in at just over nine minutes in length and sees Levy take viewers on a tour via a camera she’s holding. It’s a bit like a day in the life on set, though it’s pretty brief on just how daunting certain aspects must have been. Overall it’s still an interesting watch, and definitely shows how tiring filming parts of this film would’ve been on cast and crew.

If you’re looking for buckets of blood and a solid level of gore, Evil Dead is for you. While it lacks in character development, the film delivers in atmosphere, set design and make-up and effects that help make it a passable re-imagining of the 1980s classic.

Tristar Pictures FilmDistrict and Ghost House Pictures Present Evil Dead. Directed by: Fede Alvarez. Written by: Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: R. Released: July 16, 2013. Available at×120.png

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New Posters For Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful Revealed With James Franco, Mila Kunis and More! Mon, 28 Jan 2013 11:00:19 +0000 Four new posters have been released via Facebook and Digital Spy for Oz: The Great and Powerful. You can view them below.×120.jpg

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Just Seen It Industry Interview: The Possession [Video] Fri, 14 Sep 2012 20:47:19 +0000 Rachel has the pleasure of chatting with Natasha Calis, Jeffery Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick, the stars of the new horror film, The Possession. Starring Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick and Rachel Appelbaum Edited by Ken Thompson. Produced by David Freedman(@ShowRunnerDave), Aaron Fink(@AaronEvanFink), Pedro Raposo and Cooper Griggs. Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale. But the box is inhabited by a malicious ancient spirit that takes her over. So her father must team up with his ex-wife in order to end her curse. Starring Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. Directed by Ole Bornedal. Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. Produced by Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and J.R. Young. Genre: Horror. WATCH US ON PBS OC SATURDAYS AT 6PM!

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Just Seen It Movie Review: The Possession [Video] Thu, 13 Sep 2012 20:45:38 +0000 Teresa, Salim and Rachel review this movie from Jewish folklore about the demonic possession of a young girl. Starring Teresa Lo (@TeresaLo_Tweets), Salim Lemelle and Rachel Appelbaum. Directed by Sean Wright. Edited by Brian Jahns. Produced by David Freedman(@ShowRunnerDave), Aaron Fink(@AaronEvanFink), Pedro Raposo and Cooper Griggs. Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale. But the box is inhabited by a malicious ancient spirit that takes her over. So her father must team up with his ex-wife in order to end her curse. Starring Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. Directed by Ole Bornedal. Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. Produced by Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and J.R. Young. Genre: Horror. WATCH US ON SOCAL PBS SATURDAYS AT 6PM!

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Blu-ray Review: Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except Mon, 21 May 2012 01:00:23 +0000 Before starting this review I need to clarify that this film is probably a whole lot more fun to watch with a little alcohol and a group of like minded friends. Those like minds being huge fans of low budget B films.

Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except was written and directed by Josh Becker who was childhood friends with the likes of Scott Spiegel (who produced and co-wrote the film), Sam Raimi (who acted in the film) and Bruce Campbell (who helped develop the story and starred in the original Super 8 short film). They all used to make 8mm films together in high school. Raimi went on to make Evil Dead, Spiegel directed Intruder and Becker made this.

Thou Shalt has the same low budget look and feel of the other two above mentioned films, but sadly it doesn’t really quite stand up to them in quality. The film opens with a group of soldiers in Vietnam. Our hero, Sgt. Stryker (Brian Schulz), takes two bullets in the leg and is sent home. He returns to his small town in middle America to lead a nice quite life. All that changes when a Charles Manson inspidered cult (lead by Sam Raimi) kidnap his girlfriend, along with a couple dozen other townsfolk. At this same time a bunch of Stryker’s Army buddies show up so the group head into the woods to find the cult and save the day.

The opening scenes in Vietnam are hilarious because it’s very obvious these were shot in middle America. In fact, the same middle America where the climax takes place. But the action special effects are pretty good here for the budget. They do their best to make you feel like your in Vietnam and they don’t totally fail. The middle of the film is pretty slow and not much happens. However, the last 20 minutes or so when the soldiers go after the cult are a blast!

Sam Raimi is hilarious as the cult leader. He actually gives a pretty good performance delivering some very hilarious lines. What kills it (and you can take that in a good or a bad way depending on who you are) is the horrendous wig that Raimi is wearing. It’s so ridiculous fake you can’t help but laugh everytime you see it. Ted Raimi also shows up in a small role as Chain Man. The best performance in the film comes from Robert Rickman who was a local Mr. T impersonator and completely channels that character and his scenes are some of the best in the film.

What Raimi and his pals do better than anything is low budget gore. And while Thou Shalt doesn’t have anything scary in it, the gore in the cult slaughter at the end is pretty fantastic. People get impaled on all sorts of fun things in this film.

It’s impossible to say that Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except is a good film. However, if you like low budget films with cheesy acting and some good gore, then this film is right up your alley. This film apparently has a pretty big cult following and I can understand why. But watching it alone without a beer in hand left a little something to be desired.


This film is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. For an 80’s extremely low budget film the transfer here looks and sounds pretty darn good. As good as you’d want it too. And the soundtrack is really good. Technically speaking, it’s the best part of the film.

Stryker’s War (48 min.) The original short starring a young Bruce Campbell. I almost like this one a little better. What’s most interesting about watching this is how many of the gags made it into the feature film. Made In Michigan: The Making of…: (32 min.) This is one of the making ofs that makes you want to like the film more than you do. Great interviews with the cast and crew. It’s a shame to find out Bruce Campbell was supposed to star, cause it would have been a better film with him in it. Commentary: You get two of these: One with director Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell, the other with Brian Schulz and Michael Felsher. Bruce Campbell always keeps the commentary lively and informative. Thank you Mr. Campbell for not wasting my time. Interview with Bruce Campbell: (9 min.) On the set of My Name Is Bruce Campbell talks about the making of the film and shares some interesting stories. Deleted Scene with Commentary: (1 min.) Dude vomits in a helmet. Alternate Title Sequence: (1 min.) The film was originally called Sgt. Stryker’s War and this showcases that.Original Trailer: DVD copy.

Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except certainly has a place in the history of film. It’s by no means a great film and doesn’t stand up to other films by this creative crew, but it’s got some great moments and some solid performances for a film of this budget.

Synapse films presents Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except. Written by: John Becker and Scott Spiegel. Directed by: John Becker. Starring: Sam Raimi and Brian Schulz. Running time: 83 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released: April 10, 2012. Available at×120.jpg

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Blu-ray Review: Intruder: Director’s Cut Tue, 27 Dec 2011 18:00:48 +0000 Evil Dead 2 on the box you instantly have a very high expectations.]]> Scott Spiegel grew up making movies with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and was a co-writer on Evil Dead 2. In 1989 Spiegel finally got the opportunity to direct his own low budget horror film and he turned to a short film he’d made as a kid. The result was the gore-fest known as Intruder.

The story is about as simple as it comes. A group of employees working overnight at a convenience store start their night out rough when a psycho ex-boyfriend shows up and picks a fight. Next, the crew find out they’re losing their jobs in less then a month. And if that wasn’t enough, the crew starts getting brutally murdered one-by-one.

The cast does a good job for a low budget horror film; almost all the characters are enjoyable. You even have Sam Raimi and Ted Raimi playing two of them. Evil Dead 2 fans will also recognize Dan Hicks. Then there’s Renee Estevez whose brother has been making some news lately (ahem, “winning!”). Bruce Campbell even shows up for a cameo at the end of the film as a policeman.

But what really makes Intruder work is two things. First is the quality of the special effects that make all the bloody deaths happen. I squirmed quite a few times while watching this. Second is the cinematography, which is the most fantastic, over the top camera work I’ve seen in a long time. There are crazy shots like from the point of view of the rotary phone or the shopping cart. Almost all the shots are very specific and executed on a very technical level. Sometimes they can be a little too much and they take you out of the film so you can appreciate the shot. But then something gory happens and you get sucked right back in.

The plot, what little there is, certainly has some serious holes. Characters appear and disappear exactly when the story needs them too. If you think about it too much you wonder how all these loud gruesome murders can be happening without anyone else noticing. But if you’re thinking too hard about this film then you’re missing the point. However, despite it’s plot holes, it’s got a pretty good twist at the end.

What’s really great about the gory deaths is not only are the some of the most grisly one’s you’ve ever seen, but they’re very clever as well. So on one hand you’re viscerally grossed out by what your seeing, but on an intellectual level you stop and think “damn, that was impressive. I really like the way they showed that.” And that’s why this film is unique and worth watching.

This film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and DTS-HD MA English 2.0 Mono. This is an all-new 2k HG transfer comes from the original uncut, uncensored film. Apparently the film was highly cut and edited upon it’s release, so now you can see it here are Spiegel and crew meant it to be scene in all it’s bone crunching gory goodness. And on blu-ray it looks great, the blood really shines on the screen.

Audio Commentary: with Scott Spiegel and Producer Lawrence Bender. It’s fun to here how excited these guys are to revisit this film. They provide some fun and interesting tidbits. A pretty good commentary all-in-all. Slashed Prices: The Making of…: (38 min.) This is a really great making of that talks about all aspects of how the film was made with some wonderful interviews with the cast and crew. Extended “Murder” Sequences from the Original Workprint (10 min.) Interesting for hardcore fans, but kind of boring. Outtakes from the now lost short film, Night Crew (7 min.) Sadly, the full 20 min. film has been lost forever, but these seven minutes show us where Intruder came from. Apparently Bruce Campbell was the cameraman on this film. The Slashing of Intruder (3 min.) Director Vincent Pereira tells a great story about how he wrote a letter to Fangoria magazine about the editing of the film and how Scott Spiegel sent him an uncut copy of the film personally. This one is cute. Original cast audition footage: (11min.) This stuff is kind of fun. Lastly you get a Behind the Scenes Still Gallery:, Original Theatrical Trailer as well as a DVD Copy of the film.

As a fan of horror films I wonder how some films slip by my radar and this was one of them. I’d never heard of it when I got it to review and got instantly excited as I read about who was in it and who had made it. When you see the co-writer of Evil Dead 2 on the box you instantly have a very high expectations. Intruder fully live up to those expectations and is essential viewing for any horror and gore fan.

Synapse Films present Intruder: Director’s Cut. Directed by: Scott Spiegel. Written by Scot Spiegel and Lawrence Bender. Starring: Elizabeth Cox, Renee Estevez, Danny Hicks, Sam Raimi and Ted Raimi. Running time: 88 min. Rating: Not Rated. But contains adult language and extreme violence and gore. Released on DVD: December 13, 2011. Available at×120.jpg

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HorrorPulse – Hobbits Have Stolen Peter Jackson Sat, 17 Dec 2011 05:03:17 +0000 Lord of the Rings put away his silly rings and return to the world of horror?]]>

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations. In the decade since The Fellowship of the Rings‘ release, Jackson has established himself as one of the top tier directors working in escapist film today — sitting on a shelf slightly below Lucas, Spielberg and Cameron. While his follow-up films to the Lord of the Rings trilogy haven’t exactly lit the world of film on fire, it’ll take at least a few more Lovely Bones to trample the goodwill from geeks that Jackson has built up with his Middle-Earth fantasy films.

With Jackson currently filming an adaptation of The Hobbit, many genre fans are left wondering when we’re going to finally see the filmmaker return to the world of horror. Sam Raimi, another horror director that left the genre for many years for the world of big-budget Hollywood films, showed fans that he still had what it took to scare with Drag Me To Hell. Is it too much to ask for a similar smaller-scale horror film from Peter Jackson?

From his earliest feature-length film Bad Taste, Jackson showed a proclivity towards gross-out gore. It was in his early work that Jackson displayed a knack for combining slapstick humor with enough fake blood and puss to make even the most iron-stomached of horror fans feel a little nauseous. Jackson’s horror films weren’t merely gross, though. They showed a creativity born from love and respect for the genre. Jackson pushed through obvious budgetary and technical restraints to show audiences something new and exciting and to give his horror films an epic feel that would one day not be out of place in one of his Lord of the Rings movies. Jackson’s horror movies may have had small budgets but, thanks to their scale and gore-to-minute ratio, they felt larger in scope and size than they really were.

Perhaps one of the most seminal of his horror films, Dead Alive was recently released on Blu-ray from Lionsgate. Originally released in 1992, Dead Alive (or Braindead as it was known in its international release) is a tribute to the zombie genre birthed by the films of George A. Romero. Instead of heavy-handed political and social allegories, though, Jackson concentrated on making a zombie movie that was as fun as humanely possible. He mixed the innovative visual look of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn — full of flashy camera moves and an abundance of gore — with the sensibilities of a live-action Looney Toons short film.

Dead Alive ignored the constraints of reality in favor of a world where zombies could have sex and birth zombie babies and undead intestine could continue to fight once separated from the rest of its body. Dead Alive didn’t let logic get in the way of a joke and the end result is a movie that’s perhaps more funny than scary but is, all the same, a horror classic.

Timothy Balme stars as Lionel Cosgrove, a nebbish mamma’s boy who finds himself at the epicenter of an undead outbreak when his mother is bit by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey.

I’d like to take a break from talking about Dead Alive to briefly discuss the Sumatan Rat-Monkey, a very important part of Jackson’s film lexicon. The monster comes from the result of plague rats raping the tree monkeys of Skull Island. The use of this island, an obvious reference to the original King Kong, would foreshadow Jackson’s eventual job directing the 2005 big-budgeted remake. The Sumatran Rat-Monkey would be referenced several more times throughout Jackson’s career — most recently in a throwaway line in The Adventures of Tintin, the upcoming Steven Spielberg animated movie that Jackson produced.

Lionel’s mother, post rat-monkey bite, is a dog-eating, puss-dripping monster in a floral dress. Her son’s desperate attempts to keep his undead mother under wraps and hidden from the public eye quickly leads, as such things will, to a full-scale zombie outbreak featuring one scene in which fake blood is pumped at five gallons a second.

Dead Alive may not be the slickest zombie movie around but it most certainly is the wettest. Every inch of the film seems soaked in red and the movie, despite its amateurish acting and, at times, hodgepodge effects, has a genuine personality to its tone. The movie feels like the equivalent of a college roommate — a bit slovenly in its style, perhaps, but always comforting and willing to get high with you.

The Blu-ray, by the way, looks and sounds fantastic despite the film’s meager origins. A few special extras, or any at all, would have been nice, though.

It’s now been 15 years since Jackson’s last genuine dabbling in the horror genre. The Frighteners, the horror-comedy starring Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister, a conman who can commune with the dead, may have originally been a box office bomb upon its release but the film is certainly worth a rewatch if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it.

Originally planned as a theatrical spin-off from HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series, producer Robert Zemeckis saw enough in Jackson’s vision to give the film its own identity free from the television show. The end result is a tonally tumultuous horror film that dodges from being a light-hearted, often campy comedy to exploring some pretty dark subject matter.

After his wife died in a mysterious car crash, Frank found himself with the ability to see and talk to dead people. Instead of permanently freaking out, Frank uses this ability to team up with a trio of friendly ghosts to haunt houses and then promptly exorcise them. This racket has led to an emotionally and financially empty life and it takes a run-in with an evil spirit played by Jake Busey to remind Frank what it really means to be alive.

The Frighteners isn’t quite the same level of whacked out weirdness as Jackson’s earlier horror films nor is it the dreadfully somber affair that Jackson’s dramatic films have tended to be. The picture is a weird hybrid of tongue-in-cheek camp, special effects wizardry and often extremely violent and dark horror. There are traces of vintage Jackson peaking out from the corners of The Frighteners — especially in one murder scene that rivals Dead Alive‘s legendary zombie baby-induced cranium rip when it comes to disgusting head trauma.

The most interesting, and heartbreaking, aspect of The Frighteners is the glimpse at the theatrical career that could have awaited an adult Michael J. Fox if it wasn’t for his illness. No longer carefree Joe Cool from the Back to the Future films, adult Fox was a down-on-his-luck, yet still insanely likable hero. He had the downtrodden nature of modern Matthew Broderick combined with a plucky determination entirely reminiscent of vintage teen Fox. He was a hero you wanted to root for and could still relate to. The Frighteners is Michal J. Fox’s last starring role in a live-action theatrical movie. Watching the film today is a sad reminder of a talent cut down before his prime. It’s also a good excuse as any to remind people that Michael J. Fox isn’t dead yet and he is still continuing to do great work in his limited television appearances.

Peter Jackson has carved a nice niche for himself when it comes to fantasy film directing. With the success of Lord of the Rings, he has finally joined the ranks of his filmmaking heroes in combining emotionally rich storytelling with innovative special effects and filmmaking technology. That said, it sure would be nice to see what Jackson could do with the last fifteen years’ worth of experience and wisdom and a good horror movie script.

While we may never again see the seemingly artistically reckless director that made films such as Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive, it’s nice to know that deep, buried within that furry little man directing movies about hobbits, likes a gleefully sick chap who enjoys dumping fake blood on actors. Let’s hope that horror movie genius comes out to play again someday soon.

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Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn gets Blu-Ray release…. again! Fri, 02 Sep 2011 08:00:40 +0000 The Evil Dead Trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, just might be the most re-released series in history. Now, after a 2007 Blu-ray release, Dead By Dawn is getting released again for it’s 25th Anniversary.

Early reports list the following as the special features included in this release, many of them All-New!

* All-new – Audio commentary with cast/crew
* All-new – Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II documentary
* All-new – Road to Wadesboro: The Location of Evil Dead II featurette
* All-new – Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II” featurette
* All-new – Evil Dead II interactive archive, featuring production stills, marketing materials, production stills, and early effects tests
* Vintage featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage
* TV spots and trailers

Lionsgate recently released a press release, addressing an issue that many fans had with the previous Blu-ray release, stating that the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray will have “a thrilling new High-Definition 1080p transfer.” Recently Michael Felsher told Fangoria Magazine that “Lionsgate is aware of how dissatisfied people were with the transfer on the previous Evil Dead II Blu-ray, and are taking steps to solve that issue for the new edition.”

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn is expected to street on November 15th and is available for pre-order at


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