Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Halloween: The Complete Collection extras are amazing – If you’re a Michael Myers fan, odds are you were already lining up to get your copy of Scream Factory’s massive new 15-disc collector’s set featuring pretty much every Halloween movie in existence. However, if you were on the fence, I’m betting the newly revealed extras on this slasher extravaganza will seal the deal on a purchase.
The list of extras is too massive to post in its entirety, but the basic gist is that the collection features seven new featurettes, three new commentary tracks, and four new interviews to go along with the copious amount of other materials. You could spend a year watching all this stuff. Head on over to Halloweenmovies.com for the full breakdown, and get your credit card ready for the box set’s debut this September.
Scream Factory Reveals the horrors of war in The Squad – Scream Factory has become one of our go-to sources for awesome horror movies on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s continuing the trend with its plans to bring The Squad to American audiences just in time for Halloween.
The Colombian film is reminiscent of R-Point and Outpost in that it features soldiers uncovering an abandoned military installation where something has gone horribly wrong. The supernatural menace is real, and their weaponry is largely powerless against it. The film is due out on October 21, but you can check out the foreign-language trailer in the meantime.
Lost horror film The Poughkeepsie Tapes finally gets a release – It’s been seven long years since the Dowdle brothers made their debut film, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and now the feature is finally getting a release. It has been on torrent sites and YouTube in an unofficial capacity for years, but turned up on various VOD services over the weekend. If you’ve not seen it before, it’s certainly worth a look, particularly if you like faux documentaries and serial killers.
“They don’t make ‘em like they used to” is a refrain often heard when older horror fans start talking about the films of the 1980s. The Reagan era, thanks to the explosion of the VHS format, really was a golden age for genre films — a time when smaller B movies could reach audiences just as easily as the big budget Hollywood offerings.
In some ways, we’re living through another era not unlike the ‘80s. The proliferation of streaming services and digital media has made it so that there are a lot of ways for indie filmmakers to get they’re micro-budgeted film to the masses. On one hand, this is great because it makes the filmmaking open to a wider range of people. On the other hand, it’s a lot like the ‘80s in that there’s loads of product out there and wading through the less than stellar films can a momentous undertaking.
The effort is all worth it when you find a film that works. Such is the case with Joe Begos’s Almost Human, an alien-abduction-themed slasher film that doesn’t even try to reinvent the wheel but gave me nostalgia for the days of my youth spent scouring the bottom shelves of the horror section of my local mom-and-pop video store hoping to find a hidden gem.
In 1987, Mark (Josh Ethier) goes missing after what appears to be an extraterrestrial encounter. His best friend Seth (Graham Skipper) and fiancee Jen (Vanessa Leigh) are left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. That’s bad enough, but things get even worse when Mark reappears two years later with the plan of impregnating the entire human race with his newfound alien seed.
Almost Human’s script, written by Begos, isn’t particularly deep. The film wears its influences on its sleeve throughout, paying homage to classics like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, The Thing, The Terminator and Night of the Creeps regularly. There’s nothing here horror fans haven’t seen done in other films (and admittedly, done better – Begos selected some genuinely great films for inspiration), but there’s no denying the passion and charm brought to the table. You can tell early on that Begos loves this material, and his enthusiasm is infectious, helping gloss over many of Almost Human’s glaring rough spots.
Arguably the greatest shortcoming is the acting, which isn’t Hollywood quality but also isn’t community-theater bad. No one’s awful, but the way the actors deliver lines often feels a bit stilted. Some of this is due to Begos’s script, which features dialogue that probably could have used another pass for polish. Ethier is the film’s best performer, parading around like an Austin hipster version of the Terminator with his plaid shirt and bushy beard. Honestly, though, he has the easiest of the three parts.
Begos is not the sort of director who’s going to evoke memories of Sam Raimi or Robert Rodriguez when it comes to aesthetics. The filmmaker shoots most of the scenes in a relatively standard way. He does get a bit inventive with the climax, which features pod people, and shots that are very reminiscent of Halloween and The Shining. Those are nice moments, but Almost Human isn’t particularly flashy. It has a very workmanlike appearance in its visual presentation, at least until you get to the gore.
It becomes apparent early on that Begos loves the splatter, and as a fellow fan of the gory stuff I was pleased by Almost Human’s effects work. The ‘80s vibe comes through loud and clear with its practical appliances as opposed to the more common CGI. Heads splatter, there’s a weird umbilicus thing that shoots alien eggs into dead humans, and more. The effects work is certainly one of the film’s high points.
Those effects, the earnestness of the production, and the retro vibe are more than enough to make Almost Human worthy of recommendation to anyone who misses the golden age of VHS horror. Begos’ film doesn’t look to break away from its inspirations, but when those influences are some of the best, most beloved genre films of the past three decades, I don’t have a problem with that.
Horror on the Horizon
As summer marches on toward the sweltering month of August, the horror options at the box office start to dwindle. We were spoiled by The Purge: Anarchy and Deliver Us from Evil in July, but the calendar flips with only one new fright film in theaters: the limited release Cabin Fever: Patient Zero.
Things look a little more promising on the home front. The week of July 29 sees the arrival of cult classic Curtains on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as Blue Underground’s The Complete Blind Dead Saga, which features all four of Amando de Ossorio’s films about the undead Knights Templar. There’s no Blu-ray version, and the case is nowhere near as cool as the one for the old box set (a giant coffin), but these movies are worth owning for anyone who loves a good bit of Euro sleaze.
August 5 features even more goodies, including Blu-rays of Phantom of the Paradise and Without Warning, as well as the home debut of Oculus. And if you love Jaws rip-offs, you’ll definitely want to see Grizzly, which features Christopher George taking on a giant grizzly bear snacking on the locals.
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