The Arts

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2016)



tenebrae_bluwebTENEBRAE (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): Dario Argento’s 1982 shocker (also known as Tenebre and released in the US in abbreviated form as Unsane) is one of the filmmaker’s weirdest, kinkiest outings – which is saying a lot.

Inspired by an actual event in Argento’s past, the film follows best-selling novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) on a book tour to Rome, where a series of brutal murders – inspired by the killings in his brooks – immediately commences, with everyone around Neal either a suspect or a potential victim … and frequently both.

Luciano Tovoli’s gorgeous cinematography and a pounding score by “Goblin” members Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante and Fabio Pignatelli are major assets, as the film features some of Argento’s most vividly gory screen murders. Indeed, almost every character ends up butchered – some more than once! In the end, however, Argento has too many tricks up his sleeve, dealing one twist too many before the trick denouement.

Nevertheless, Argento aficionados won’t be disappointed, and one of his better casts includes reliable John Saxon (as Neal’s agent), Argento’s former muse Daria Nicolodi, Veronica Lario (who would marry controversial Italian tycoon and later prime minister Silvio Berlusconi), Mirella D’Angelo, Giuliano Gemma, and John Steiner.

Both the DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) include audio commentary, feature-length documentary Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo, international trailer, and more. **½


APPROACHING THE UNKNOWN (Paramount): Taking a cue from Gravity (2013), writer/director Mark Elijah Rosenberg’s award-winning but ponderous sci-fi drama showcases hard-working Mark Strong as an astronaut on a solo mission to Mars, with Luke Wilson and Sanaa Lathan occasionally appearing on computer screens. Rated R. **

COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE (Olive Films): Judd Holdren dons the steel helmet and rocket-pack of the title character, battling the forces of evil in this 12-part 1953 serial, originally made for TV and one of the very last to enjoy a theatrical release, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

THE CONJURING 2 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga again play parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in director James Wan’s effective (but overlong) sequel to the 2013 hit – this time investigating the notorious Enfield Haunting, in which a poltergeist terrorized single mother Frances O’Connor and her children (newcomers Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley and Benjamin Haigh) in ’70s London, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail). Rated R. ***

INTO THE FOREST (LionsGate): Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood headline screenwriter/director Patricia Rozema’s award-winning, R-rated adaptation of Jean Hegland’s best-selling novel as two sisters struggling to survive after a worldwide power outage, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail).

JEKYLL AND HYDE … TOGETHER AGAIN (Olive Films): Mark Blankfield (of TV’s “Fridays”) plays the brilliant but bumbling scientist and his wild-and-crazy alter-ego in this scattershot 1982 send-up of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, which marked screenwriter Jerry Belson’s feature directorial bow, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). Rated R. *½

MAI-CHAN’S DAILY LIFE: THE MOVIE – BLOODY CARNAL RESIDENCE (Redemption/Kino Lorber): Writer/director Sato Sade’s adaptation of Uziga Waita’s controversial manga (originally titled Mai-chan no nichijo) stars Kochi Ann in the title role of a maid with remarkable recuperative powers who indoctrinates a new maid (Akane Miyako) into a brutal, sadomasochistic relationship with their twisted employers (Maruyama Shogo and Roman Soaka). In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Producer/director Charles Band’s award-winning (!), supremely silly sci-fi farrago depicting a battle beyond the stars, with a cult-friendly cast including Jeffrey Byron, Tim Thomerson, Kelly Preston, Mike Preston and Richard Moll. The special-edition 3-D Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes a retrospective documentary and more. Rated PG. *½

THE NEON DEAD (Wild Eye Releasing): Director Torey Haas’ goofy, award-winning horror spoof (originally titled Invasion of the Undead) stars Marie Barker (in her screen debut) as an unemployed college graduate who hires “paranormal exterminators” D. Dylan Schettina and producer Greg Garrison to rid her new house of voracious demons. A sequel (Siege of the Cat Goblin) is touted at the end. **

“PENNY DREADFUL”: THE FINAL SEASON (Showtime Entertainment/Paramount): The award-winning Showtime series that unites many classic characters from Victorian fiction and expands upon their stories, comes to a close in all nine episodes from the 2016 season, with a star-studded cast including Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Simon Russell Beale, Rory Kinnear, Billie Piper, Wes Studi, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney and Patti LuPone, and earning four Emmy nominations. Both the DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) boxed sets include special features.

PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS (InterVision/Severin Films/CAV Distributing): A special-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) of writer/producer/director Erica Benedickty’s “do-it-yourself” (to the tune of approximately $250!) 2004 feature debut, originally broadcast on Canadian television, starring co-writer John Rubick (in his debut) as an humanoid alien soldier – replete with mullet haircut – tracking the titular being (Merv Wrighton, in his debut) on Earth. Citizen Kane it’s not, but not without its cheesy charms. **

THE SHALLOWS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Sexy surfer Blake Lively’s Mexican getaway turns into a fight for survival when she is stranded 200 yards from shore by man-eating sharks in executive producer/director Jaume Collet-Serra’s effective thriller, which was a surprise box-office sleeper and is distinguished by Flavio Libiano’s excellent cinematography … although who knew a Great White shark was so agile? The DVD retails for $26.99, the Blu-ray for $34.99, the 4K Ultra HD for $45.99. Rated PG-13. **½

SLUGS (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A Blu-ray special edition ($34.95 retail) of director Juan Piquer Simon’s award-winning, gruesome 1988 shocker (originally titled Slugs, muerte viscosa), based on Shawn Hutson’s novel, about flesh-eating slugs on the rampage in a small town. Pretty trashy, but it delivers the gory, gooey goods. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, original theatrical trailer and more. Rated R. **

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (Paramount): This sequel to the PG-13-rated 2013 reboot and the sixth in the screen franchise overall reunites Megan Fox’s April O’Neil with those “Heroes on the Half-shell,” again called to action to battle the nefarious Shredder (Brian Tee), assisted this time by Stephen Amell’s hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones. Will Arnett, Tyler Perry and Laura Linney are other humans involved in the sci-fi shenanigans, available on DVD ($29.99 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($48.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($48.99 retail).

VAMP (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) of writer/director Richard Wenk’s 1986 feature debut, an uneven but occasionally inspired horror comedy starring Chris Makepeace, Robert Rusler and Gedde Watanabe as college buddies who visit a Los Angeles strip club where the star attraction is alluring bloodsucker Grace Jones. Dedee Pfeiffer, Billy Drago and scene-stealer Sandy Baron (as the sleazy emcee) also appear. A box-office flop that found a following on home-video and cable. Special features include a retrospective documentary, Wenk’s 1979 short Dracula Bites the Big Apple, and more. Rated R. **

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “”