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with all the documentaries and art-house faves I've been covering,
things have gotten far too serious here in Bottom
Shelfland lately. So let's lighten things up with a trio
of horror-themed movies with an international bent, starting with an
Italian director you should already be plenty familiar with.
of Horror: Pelts
2006 (2007) - Starz/Anchor Bay
The concept behind the TV series Masters
of Horror is a good one. A weekly anthology series
(horror has a long, successful track record in this format) with
each episode directed by a filmmaker who has made a significant
contribution to the genre. Unfortunately, I don't get Showtime,
the cable network that airs the show. I didn't see an episode
until a few months ago, the second season entry Family
directed by John Landis. The first episode you see of a TV show
colors your perception of the series as a whole, for better or
worse. Family... well, it
didn't make a good impression. Let's just leave it at that.
Pelts, directed by Dario
Argento, is an improvement.
Meat Loaf stars as furrier Jake Feldman, a sleazy low-life obsessed
with a stripper named Shana (Ellen Ewusie). Jake gets a call from a
trapper (John Saxon, something of a Master of Horror in his own
right) with a supply of gorgeous hides from some strange
raccoon-like animals. But when Jake shows up to collect them, the
trapper and his son are both dead, victims of the pelts. Like they
say, fur is murder.
As you might expect, Pelts is
about as subtle as a bucket of red paint thrown at a fashion show.
The highest compliment that can be paid to the film is that it feels
like a Dario Argento movie and not just another generic TV episode.
Much of this is owed to the score by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin
fame who previously worked with Argento on many of his best films.
But the movie's look (shot by Attila Szalay) and the insanely
over-the-top acts of self-mutilation that the pelts drive people to
committing also bear Argento's stamp. Meat Loaf is well-cast and
it's fun to see him in the lead. There's not a whole lot to the
story but at just under an hour, it hardly matters.
On disc, Pelts is given a good
if not great transfer and both 5.1 and 2.0 audio options. There's a
smattering of extras, fewer than appeared on the first year's worth
of Masters of Horror discs but
still more than you'd likely get from a comparable TVD release.
There are two featurettes, one called Fleshing
It Out featuring interviews with the cast, members of the
crew, MoH executive producer
Mick Garris and Argento himself (speaking both his native Italian
and giving English the old college try) and another focusing on a
key effects sequence called All Sewn Up.
There's a storyboard gallery, a photo gallery, a bio for Argento and
an audio commentary by screenwriter Matt Venne. His track
occasionally sounds a bit too scripted but still has some good
information about adapting F. Paul Wilson's short story and how
Argento then translated that screenplay to film. Venne's script is
also included as a DVD-ROM extra.
Pelts wasn't the season two
opener for Masters of Horror
but it is the first to hit DVD and it seems like a good choice.
Dario Argento isn't the most consistent filmmaker in the genre
(especially lately) but his movies are usually worth at least a
look. Pelts certainly is not
his finest hour but it's fun and delivers the goods in the gore
Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B-
of the Living Dorks
2004 (2007) - Anchor Bay
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Someone has finally
combined 80s-style teen comedies like Sixteen
Candles and Revenge of the
Nerds with zombies. I just didn't think that when it
finally happened, it would come from Germany.
The story is straight from the John Hughes playbook. Philip is
a sweet loser in lust with the most popular girl on campus and
doesn't realize his childhood friend Rebecca is in love with
him. Philip and his two equally uncool friends go to a voodoo
ritual Rebecca is participating in, getting doused with zombie
ash in the process. On the way home, they get into a fatal car
accident and are resurrected shortly afterward in the morgue.
Once they realize they now have zombie-strength and can't feel
pain, they finally stand up to the bullies who've tormented them
for so long.
admit, that's kind of a clever premise. Writer/director Mathias
Dinter pretty much nails the teen comedy part of the movie.
Unfortunately, I just didn't think it was all that funny. The tone
is perched somewhere north of waaaaaay over-the-top and if you can't
get into the cartoony mind-set required, you'll have a rough time of
it. And at the risk of sounding crass, I kind of wanted the movie to
be grosser. This may sound odd considering there's a scene where
Philip's decomposing testicle rolls out of his pant leg. But even
that's done in the same junior-high style that could offend
virtually no one. There's hardly a drop of blood in the whole movie
and the zombie makeup is basically white pancake and bags under the
The DVD looks and sounds quite good, with audio in either 5.1
German or a 2.0 English dub that I didn't bother with, assuming it
probably wasn't going to help this movie's case any. Extras include
some video interviews with the cast, director and producer, a brief
behind-the-scenes snippet, some deleted scenes, outtakes (or "fun
scenes" as they're debatably described here), and the trailer
in both German and English. The best extra is a lengthy alternate
ending sequence substantially different from what they ended up
I know some folks were won over by this movie's goofy charm, so
maybe I'm being too hard on it. Night of
the Living Dorks does seem to accomplish what it sets out
to do and it could be that my love of teen comedies began and ended
when I was a teen. But even if that's so, I haven't outgrown zombie
movies yet and this one just didn't do it for me. I know Shaun
of the Dead and you, sir, are no Shaun
of the Dead.
Film Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C+
2006 (2006) - Tartan
If you're any kind of horror fan, you've probably already seen a
movie (or several) just like Sheitan.
It has a large spooky house, a weird village inhabited by
possibly in-bred oddballs, creepy dolls and horny young people.
But what you haven't seen is a performance as delightfully
unhinged as the one Vincent Cassel gives here.
As the movie begins, three guys pick up a couple of hot young
girls at a club. One of them suggests they go to her family's
house in the country. Once they arrive, they meet Joseph the
housekeeper (Cassel). Joseph welcomes them in, taking a
particular shine to Bart. As the day wears on, Joseph's behavior
gets more and more peculiar as the guys hear stories about
devil-worshipping and start to catch glimpses of Joseph's
the surface, Sheitan is pretty
standard horror movie stuff but Cassel, all crazy eyes, manic grin
and crooked teeth, barrels through it with a performance that can
only be described as eccentric. He's clearly crazy from the get-go
and while you're waiting for him to snap, Cassel manages to elicit
genuine laughs. When violence inevitably erupts, it does so with
shocking ferocity. When Cassel is off-screen, director Kim Chapiron
keeps our interest by filming the proceedings with visual style. The
young actors are all fine, certainly better than you'd find in most
American movies of this type, and if they can't match what Cassel is
doing, that's hardly their fault.
Tartan's DVD looks just OK but sounds terrific with audio in either
Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1. There's only one extra to speak of but
it's a good one, an approximately half-hour making-of structured
around an interview with Cassel (who also produced the movie). It
explains just what the hell he's doing in this movie in the first
place and shows some rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage. The
disc also includes trailers for this and other Tartan releases.
Sheitan treads some familiar
territory but does so in such a unique way that it's easy to
overlook the movie's flaws. Horror movies only work when they
present something that's unexpected. Thanks to Cassel's performance
and Chapiron's eye, Sheitan
certainly accomplishes that.
Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/C+
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