video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Writer/director Stevan Mena, who scored with his 2004 feature debut, the stark shocker Malevolence, returns to the horror genre — not to bury or praise it, but to spoof it in the best mockumentary tradition.

David Naughton, a little beefier than when he played An American Werewolf in London nearly 30 years ago, enjoys one of his best roles as Harry Penderecki, a hack horror director (past triumphs include Bowel Movement and Killer Koala — “the first slasher movie for kids!”) desperately attempting to make a comeback with his latest slasher epic, Brutal Massacre.

Naturally, everything goes wrong: The production runs out of money. The locals are unfriendly. The actors and crew are ham pered by a severe lack of talent, Harry chief among them (though it’s a tight race)… and all of it is being captured on film by documentary filmmaker Bert Campbell (Vincent Butta), whose camera always ends up in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending how you look at it).

The cheerful cast includes Brian O’Halloran as the assistant director, as well as some familiar faces from horror films: Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) as the grip, Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead) as the producer and Gunnar Hansen (the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) as a loony local. At the end, a sequel is promised… well? We’re waiting. Rated R.


B-GIRL (Screen Media Films): Few surprisesin this hip-hop soap opera starring Julie “LadyJules” Urich as a dancer attempting restarther life on the West Coast after surviving anassault in New York. A feature-length remakeof first-time writer/director Emily Dell and producerElizabeth Dell’s 2004 short film, whichalso starred Urich. Rated PG-13.THE BLOOD ISLAND TRILOGY (AlphaNew Cinema): A re-release of the populardrive-in trio of low-budget shockers made inthe Philippines, all starring John Ashley anddirected by Eddie Romero and Gerry De Leon(sometimes in tandem): Brides of Blood (1968)co-stars Kent Taylor and “Beverly Hills” (AKABeverly Powers); Mad Doctor of Blood Island(1969) co-stars Angelique Pettyjohn; and Beastof Blood (1971) co-stars Celeste Yarnall. EachDVD includes an audio commentary withSamuel M. Sherman, president of Independent-International Pictures, which distributed them,and each DVD retails for $5.95. These are fondlyremembered from my late-night TV memoriesas a kid. Hard to believe they were all rated PG!BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRES (Alpha NewCinema): Director Gerry De Leon’s awardwinning1966 Filipino shocker (released in theUS in 1971 as Curse of the Vampires) sees anaffluent family decimated by an outbreak ofvampirism. Sluggish pacing works against thepotentially interesting story, which occasionallysmacks of soap opera in the Dark Shadowsvein (no pun intended).CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (Anchor BayEntertainment): Michael Moore strikes againwith his latest award-winning documentary,this one taking (as the title implies) a hardlook at the impact of corporate dominancein the United States. Not as sharp or as emotionallyhard-hitting as some of his previousefforts (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit9/11), but important and insightful nonetheless.Rated R.DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): You maywish you hadn’t. Hugh Grant and Sarah JessicaParker flounder helplessly in this high-concept,no-impact comedy as a bickering couple forcedby the FBI to relocate to a hick Wyoming townafter witnessing a murder in New York City.From the obligatory culture-clash jokes to theinevitable arrival of the killer (Michael Kelly),this is embarrassingly predictable through andthrough — but it’s almost never funny. MarySteenburgen, Sam Elliott and Wilford Brimleyare wasted, as is the viewer’s time. One of2009’s worst films. Rated PG-13.DIE HARD DRACULA (Alpha New Cinema):Writer/producer/director Peter Horak’s ultracheap,ultra-campy 1998 feature debut, “distinguished”by its hilariously low-rent specialeffects, sees Count Dracula up to his old tricksin Transylvania, pursued by a bumbling Dr. VanHelsing (Bruce Glover, also an associate producer).Three actors are credited with playing theCount, with Art Vanik supplying the voiceover.Horak also appears in a supporting role. Thescore lifts everything from Wagner (“Ride of theValkyries,” of course) to the score from Caligula.As stupid movies go, there have been worse,but low expectations are advised.FALLING UP (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Apleasant romantic comedy with Joseph Cross asa young Manhattan doorman who finds himselffalling for the daughter (Sarah Roemer) of oneof the tenants. Not terribly surprising but attractivelyplayed by all concerned, including AnnetteO’Toole, Joe Pantoliano, Rachael Leigh Cook,Mimi Rogers, Gordon Clapp, Calvin Broadus,Peter Jason and Snoop Dogg, at his most likableplaying Cross’ unofficial mentor. Rated R.“LOCK ‘N’ LOAD WITH R. LEE ERMEY”:THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&E HomeEntertainment): Real-life Marine Corps drillinstructor-turned-Hollywood actor R. LeeErmey examines and explores a myriad ofmodern-day weapons in all 13 episodes fromthe 2009 season of the History Channel reality-TV series. This DVD boxed set retails for $34.95.THE LONELY SEX (Alpha HomeEntertainment): Writer/producer/cinematographer/director Richard Hilliard’s 1959 featuredebut stars Karl Light as “The Man,” a smalltownpeeping tom who abducts a youngwoman (Jean Evans) after committing a murder.Richard Nicholls plays the kidnapped girl’spsychiatrist father, and Leon Benedict plays aboarder in their house, who’s a voyeur himself.This lurid, low-budget exploitation melodrama(replete with brief nudity) isn’t very good, butit is weirdly watchable.NINJA ASSASSIN (Warner Home Video):Brainless bombast with Rain in the title role,battling (and beating) the minions of the sameNinja clan that trained, then betrayed, him.Plenty of action and not much else. Rated R. *SATAN’S SADISTS (Alpha New Cinema):Russ Tamblyn toplines producer/director AlAdamson’s 1969 drive-in favorite, as a sadisticbiker who terrorizes innocent motoristsalong a lonely stretch of California highway.This campy, mean-spirited, low-rent trash(reportedly filmed in 8 days!) hit the box-officejackpot and put its studio, Independent-International, on the map. The cast includesveterans Scott Brady, Robert Dix and KentTaylor, future directors Greydon Clark andJohn “Bud” Cardos (who supervised the stuntwork), and Adamson’s real-life wife, ReginaCarrol. Rated R.STAN HELSING (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Writer/producer Bo Zenga makes his directorialdebut with this horror send-up starring SteveHowey in the title role, that of a video-storeclerk (he works at “Schlockbuster,” get it?) wholearns on Halloween night that he’s the descendantof the great monster-killer Van Helsing,which comes in handy when he and his friendssquare off against a bunch of familiar moviemonsters and maniacs. Also on hand: KenanThompson (in a Superman costume), sexyDiora Baird and Leslie Nielsen (in drag). Thehit-or-miss barrage of jokes tends to burn off itsbest ones early on, but unlike a lot of spoofs atleast it sticks to the genre. Besides, any film thatboasts a karaoke version of Southside Johnny& the Ashbury Jukes’ “I Don’t Want to Go Home”can’t be all bad. Rated R.TRUCKER (Monterey Media): Writer/directorJames Mottern’s award-winning debutfeature provides a solid showcase for MichelleMonaghan (also an executive producer) as afemale truck driver who learns to bond with herestranged her young son (Jimmy Bennett) whenher ex-husband (Benjamin Bratt) falls ill. Wellactedby all, including Nathan Fillion and JoeyLauren Adams. A real sleeper. Rated R.“UFC: BEST OF 2009” (Anchor BayEntertainment): Like the title says, this is a compilationof last year’s most noteworthy UltimateFighting Championship matches, featuring thelikes of Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, GeorgesSt-Pierre, Lyoto Machida and others. The DVDretails for $19.97, the Blu-ray for $29.97.“THE UNIVERSE”: THE COMPLETESEASON FOUR (A&E Home Entertainment):The mysteries and secrets of outer space areexplored in all 12 episodes from the 2009 seasonof the popular History Channel documentaryseries, narrated by Erik Thompson. TheDVD boxed set retails for $39.95, the Blu-rayboxed set for $54.95.Mark Burger can be heard Friday morningson the “Two Guys Named Chris”radio show on Rock-92.’ 2010, Mark Burger !