Posts made in February 2017

Blu-Ray REVIEW: Wes Craven’s ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’


Frank Ford

Wes Craven’s ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ Blu-Ray Special Edition from Shout! Factory released this week.  As thrilling as it is to have one of the ‘master of horrors’ greatest cinematic achievements on a Special Edition Blu-Ray, I was left a little wanting on this release.

Note: this is a review of the Blu-Ray Special Edition disc only; not a review on the film.



Shout announced late last year that they were planning on putting out a Special Edition to ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’, to be released in late January – that date was pushed back until late February. This marked the second Wes Craven film to be released on Blu-Ray Special Edition since his passing last August.  The first was ‘Shocker’, released merely days after his death.  Serpent’s releasing on Blu-Ray completes the trilogy of films he did for Universal starting with ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ (1988), followed by ‘Shocker’ (1989) and finally ‘The People Under the Stairs’ (1990).  I thought the date had been pushed back to punch-up the extras on the Blu-Ray, or to pay respect to Wes Craven with an outstanding Blu-Ray that would leave fans drooling honoring the late director.  On paper (or computer screen) the extras looked fantastic, but in reality…meh.


My biggest gripe is the commentary track with Bill Pullman and Rob Galluzzo (Icons of Fright) who moderates the film with him.  Don’t get me wrong, the commentary is good between the two of them and they have a very good rapport, but the commentary abruptly ends because Pullman has to leave in the middle of the film do to other obligations.

Okay, Bill Pullman couldn’t stay to finish the film’s commentary track – not his fault and not a problem in my opinion, I get that work comes first, as well as commitments  – but that leaves us with only half of the film with a commentary track now.   Why didn’t the track continue with just Rob Galluzzo? Or get someone else to talk about the film along with Galluzzo and Pullman, so when Bill left there would still be a completed commentary track to finish out the film?  Maybe Shout! had reached out to other people who were connected to the film for commentary but were unable to get them? I don’t know.


The extras are very sparse on the Blu-Ray too:

A new making of featurette that includes interviews with: Author: Wade Davis, D.O.P: John Lindley, and Special Effects Artists: Lance and David Anderson.  A Theatrical Trailer. And a still gallery, which is quite good.


The making of featurette says that it contains new interviews with Bill Pullman.  This is true, yet untrue, as what he says in the featurette is pulled directly from his commentary track (questions asked by Galluzzo on the track) and laid into the video featurette.  Still, the featurette is decent with the participants reminiscing about Wes Craven and what a pleasure he was to work with, as well as the history of Wade Davis’ book of the same name, voodoo ceremonies they attended, the special effects of the film, and shooting on location in Haiti.


Yet, one of the biggest problems is the lack of Wes Craven’s commentary on the film or interviewed in the featurette.  I do believe if his insight would have been on one or both, my opinion would be vastly different about this releasing.  Craven had done commentary to almost all of his films, and if you have ever listened to his commentary tracks, you already know they are some of the best tracks to listen to.  Craven was both funny and incisive, and you couldn’t help but be enthralled by listening to him talk about the making of his films.

But I have to send compliments to Shout! Factory for dedicating the Blu-Ray releasing in memory of Wes Craven.  That shows a lot of class from Shout! Factory and the impact the filmmaker had on so many people in the business of movie making and distributing, and to his fans around the world.  This small gesture has a huge impact when you see it on screen, and it brings tears to your eyes knowing the master is gone…



As for the Blu-Ray 1080p transfer, Shout! Factory did a fantastic job restoring the film as they always do.  The colors are bright and vibrant and the darks are desolate and moody, which really enhances the whole voodoo madness feel of the film.  The sound in DTS is perfect and really puts you in the middle of the movie. I especially took notice to this when Pullman’s character, Dennis Alan, is being dug up from the grave after he’s been zombified; felt like someone was digging me out of a grave too, putting me right there with his character.


I know it sounds like I’m bashing this releasing, but really I’m not.  I’m glad that Shout! Factory put Serpent out on Blu-Ray Special Edition, especially since ‘The People Under the Stairs’ and ‘Shocker’ both got fantastic Shout! treatments – a great trilogy (unofficial) to have of Wes Craven’s films.  But this releasing just left me wanting more and a little bummed that we didn’t get what we should have.  For a film like ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ and the recent passing of a horror icon, Shout! should have put more effort into this disc.  Much lesser films, with a less notable director and stars, have gotten better Blu-Ray releases than ‘The Serpent and The Rainbow’ has.


7 out of 10 stars.


Halloween Returns with the Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers


Frank Ford

With Halloween 6: The Producer’s Cut finally getting its own Blu-Ray release it should make hardcore fans happy to finally have this lost version of the film in HD.

Previously the only way one could get their hands on a copy was to buy a bootleg DVD off the internet.  Let’s face the facts here, the bootlegs were not great.  They were hard to see, grainy, the sound was terrible, making one feel as if they were watching something filmed off a movie screen in the late 90s when pirated VHS were flooding the streets.

The only other way, until now, to get your hands on a Blu-Ray HD copy of Halloween 6: The Producer’s Cut was to shell out eighty-some dollars for the 10 disc Halloween Collection, or over one-hundred dollars for the 15 disc Deluxe Edition; both contained the Producer’s Cut of the film.  This was a rip-off in my opinion; Anchor Bay has been milking every last cent from the Halloween series for years, sometimes putting out crap copies like the Blu-Ray editions of Halloween 4 & 5 with limited special features (less than what their DVD editions had) and with a twenty dollar price tag.  Though one could argue that they were Blu-Ray HD, but I still find the price outrageous!

But this week brings the solo copy of Halloween 6: The Producer’s Cut, and I must say that I was impressed with how the film looks and sounds.  The 1080p Letterbox HD transfer is crisp, vivacious, and clear, really giving one the impression that the film takes place during Halloween.  The sound is great in 5.1 DTS-HD and helps give the film the mood and feel The Producer’s Cut needs to tell its story.  The one down side to owning the disc is that there are no special features on it, which would have been a lot of fun to have.  That being said, the film is still a must own for any true Halloween fan.

Now that I have some of the technical issues out of the way, it brings me to the part of my review about The Producer’s Cut of the film.   But before I dive into the movie, I want to bring anyone who doesn’t know the story behind The Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 up to date.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was written by Daniel Farrands, a die-hard Halloween fan who had the ugly task of trying to figure out who the man in black was in Halloween 5 and what that symbol tattooed on Michael Myers’ wrist meant.  What he did in his script was admirable; setting out to explain Michael Myers and the mythology around Halloween, a huge task while trying to tie all the films together.

Everyone liked Farrands’ idea and the script, including the producers and director, Joe Chappelle.

So they set out to make that film – somewhat.

Dimension sees the movie and lets a test audience see how the film’s playing, as is the model for a studio film.  The test audience does not like the movie, and Dimension wants to do re-shoots because they fear the film isn’t working in its current state.  They want more energy, more MTV-style music and editing, and more brutal killings in hopes to cash-in on the kids of the era going to see the movie – you have to remember this was the mid-90s, and underage kids getting in to see R-rated movies wasn’t really a big deal, unlike nowadays in our overly worried, PC world.

The re-shoots were ordered and over a third of the film was re-shot and edited.  The cult angle of the film was almost completely dropped, cutting a lot of Dr. Loomis’ and Dr. Wynn’s scenes in the process as well as changing major plot points in the film.  But there was a HUGE problem now.  Donald Pleasence (Dr. Sam Loomis) had passed away and they had to come up with a way to save the film and the more ambiguous ending was worked into the movie.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers came out on September 26 1995.  Though it had the biggest opening in franchise history to date, it was still a critical failure.

I will try to sum up the differences in the two versions of the film like this –

Theatrical version of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers:  chaotic, incoherent, mean, nasty, flashy, and fun.

Producer’s Cut version of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: story driven, more in-line with John Carpenter’s Halloween tone and feel, a thinking man’s Halloween.

To really compare the two is hard, as they are vastly different movies to one another.

I have always liked the theatrical version of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.   After Halloween 5, which is my least favorite, I found the new take on this movie refreshing and the flashy psychedelic cuts and music gave the film a breath of fresh air.  It was fast moving, yet very suspenseful at the same time.  To this day I still like the film, even though it has plot holes you can drive a dump truck through, and things are not fully fleshed out nor understood about the cult and Michael’s connection to them or Thorn in the theatrical version.

The Producer’s Cut solves a lot of these questions and gives backstory to Michael’s relation to the cult, Thorn, (the tattoo on Michael’s wrist) and why he’s unstoppable and wants to kill his entire family – starting with his sister Judith back in 1963.   The Producer’s Cut is very story driven, gone are all the flashy cuts, the gorier scenes (the exploding head, Jamie’s impalement) the whine of the guitar strings, and the fast pacing.  What we get is a fully enriched story that not only gives more insight to Michael and his actions, but dives into the mythology of Halloween itself – some of this is touched upon in the theatrical version of the film but it is just glossed over to quicken the pacing and get to the next suspense, action or kill scene.

The major difference in the two films is the aspect of the cult.  In the theatrical version of the movie, the cult is almost like a side note; you are never given a reason why the cult is in the movie or their agenda.  In the Producer’s Cut you find out how big of a role they played in Michael’s actions over the past four movies.

Sadly, dropping this aspect from the theatrical version of the film lost a lot of Donald Pleasence’s wonderful last performance.  He is truly astounding in this movie and has a lot of screen time.  In the theatrical cut of the movie, it’s almost like Loomis was a guest character – he has very little screen time and when he shows up in scenes they seem almost out of place.  Whereas in the Producer’s Cut, there is a reason for why he’s there – this is notable when Tommy runs into him at the hospital; in the theatrical cut it makes no sense that Loomis would be in the hospital the same time as Tommy.

Still the Producer’s Cut isn’t without its flaws.  As I’ve come to understand this was a working print of the film (first watchable cut) and when it was delivered to Dimension, the executives were told that work still needed to be done with the editing and some scenes needed to be tightened and fixed.  These flaws can be seen in the Producer’s Cut.  There are a few scenes that feel unfinished or out of place in the context of the film, and some plot details are still not fully fleshed out in this cut and leave you scratching your head in wonderment.

Do I think this version of Halloween would have made fans happier had they went with it for the theatrical release at the time?


I believe had they released The Producer’s Cut of the film, people would still have been upset with the outcome.  The hardcore fans may (I use ‘may’ very loosely) have liked it, but I seriously doubt that.  The pacing and tone of the movie are far too slow for the average horror movie watcher, and anyone coming into the series at this point would be wondering what the hell is going on?  For a horror movie, and especially a horror movie in 1995, there is way too much story, making you feel like you are watching Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen than a Halloween movie.

Had they been able to combine both the theatrical cut and The Producer’s Cut of the movie (and I’d love to see someone tackle this) into one coherent piece, we would have gotten one of, if not the best, Halloween sequels to date, and it could have really saved the franchise at that point.

All-in-all Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut is a really good, story-driven horror film that relies heavily on mood and tone, rather than flashy cuts and gore like its theatrical counterpart.  I highly recommend seeing it if you have not.  And even if you have seen one of the bootleg versions, I suggest picking up a copy on Blu-Ray and watch the film as it was meant to be seen.

8 out of 10

Friday the 13th: Figure Line


Westley Smith

What is it about the Friday the 13th figure line that is so attractive to countless people around the world?  Is it the love of the Jason character? Fond memories of when we first saw the hockey-masked maniac slashing up victims in the theaters or on VHS?  Or is it owning a small piece of film history that we all love so deeply and MUST have it on our shelves as a keepsake from times long past?

Whatever the case, Jason/Friday the 13th is a hot seller in the toy market with no signs of slowing down, so I thought it would be neat to go back and look at some of the Friday the 13th figures that have been created over the last fifteen to twenty years.  I will only focus on the highly detailed figure line(s) from Friday the 13th and believe me there are a lot.

As a kid, I would have killed for a Jason Voorhees figure.  I remember playing with my G.I. Joes and wanting a 3 ¾ inch Jason to slice and dice his way through countless Joes – I was a morbid little kid (whatever!) - but I had to settle for a G.I. Joe with a mask (similar to a hockey mask) and pretend he was Jason.  Hey, it worked and I had fun!

But back in the 1980s and early 1990s times were different and horror figures were something relatively unheard of unless they were in model form. Models were not all that fun, and if you were a kid, you couldn’t play with them with your G.I. Joes.

All of that changed in 1998 when McFarlane (creator of Spawn) released the first set of 7" Movie Maniac figures aimed at the teen and collector market.  The Movie Maniac figures were as highly detailed as the other McFarlane toys, including their Spawn line, and were fully poseable with arm, hand, leg, feet, and head articulation.  First up in their Movie Maniac line was: Michael Myers, Leatherface, Sil, Patrick, and (drumroll please) Jason Voorhees!


Finally there was a Jason figure that could be used for something other than just sitting on the shelf to look cool and scary, but otherwise useless as it was not poseable.

The first 7" highly detailed Jason figure was billed as Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees.  Though McFarlane’s figure hinted that it was pulled from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and included the backer with the Jason Goes to Hell movie poster, the figure really didn’t resemble Jason from the film.  What we got was kind of a hybrid Jason that has never been seen in any of the films.


McFarlane's Friday The 13th

Jason Voorhees

It is rather cool that McFarlane’s Jason Voorhees isn’t like any of the other figures out there today, and can stand alone as a one of a kind and isn’t directly linked to the series of films.  They would also later create Uber Jason from Jason X.


McFarlane's Jason X

Jason Voorhees

Now the floodgates were open as sales for these highly detailed horror figures sky-rocketed and every toymaker jumped on the horror bandwagon to create their own line of horror figures, and you better believe that Friday the 13th (Jason himself) was included in all of these upcoming lines.

Let’s start with the reigning king of Friday the 13th figure line as of right now: NECA.  Over the past fifteen years NECA had been producing high quality figures of licensed brands such as Alien(s), Predator, The Terminator, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.  It is no surprise that they got their hands on the Friday the 13th rights too, and they have produced some of the best Jason figures out there today and it all started with their Cult Classics Line.

Let’s start with the 7” inch plastic figures:



Friday the 13th: Part 2

Double pack Jason and Mrs. Voorhees and shrine playset.


Friday the 13th: Part 2

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 3

Jason Voorhees

(2016 edition)


Friday the 13th: Part 3

 Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

 Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Two variations of the figure - one with double headed ax (bloody) or machete (not bloody).



Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives

 Jason Voorhees figure and box.


Friday the 13th: Part 7: The New Blood

Jason Voorhees



Freddy vs Jason

 Jason Voorhees single pack figure and double pack including Freddy Krueger.


Friday the 13th (2009)

Jason Voorhees


NES Jason Voorhees and musical box

Alt Jason 1

Friday the 13t: The Final Chapter (2017)

As NECA has begun to branch out of just producing 7” inch figures, they also started including a line of retro figures as well.  Though they are not as highly detailed as the Sideshow Collectable’s figures, they are still very well made and the detail on each figure is high quality.


Friday the 13th

Mrs. Voorhees and Jason retro figures

Convention Exclusive.



Friday the 13th: Part 2

Jason Voorhees Retro Figure




Friday the 13th: Part 3

Jason Voorhees retro figure.




Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning

Roy Burns (imposter Jason) Retro Figure.



Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives!

Jason Voorhees retro figure.



NES Friday the 13th

Retro Jason figure

NECA also released several  ¼ scale Jason figures as well.


Friday the 13th: Part 7: A New Blood

18" Jason Voorhees


Freddy vs Jason

19" Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th (2009)

18" inch Jason Voorhees

MEZCO Toyz created their own line of Friday the 13th figures and were as detailed as NECA's.  They introduced their own line of horror figures in the 2000s called "Cinema Of Fear".


Friday the 13th: Part 3

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

 Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives!

Jason Voorhees


Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason Voorhees

A more accurate representation to the film than the McFarlane version.



Friday the 13th (2009)

Jason Voorhees

There were two different versions - bag and hockey mask.

Mezco also released a 12" Friday the 13th (2009) figure and a 3 3/4 inch figure in that time.


Friday the 13th (2009)

12" inch Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th

Jason Voorhees 3 3/4 inch

Recently, a 3 3/4 retro figure line was released from ReAction Figures that threw back to toys of the 70s and 80s such as the Star Wars line.


Friday the 13th

Jason Voorhees 3 3/4 inch figure from ReAction

Sideshow Collectables line of Friday the 13th sixth scale figures are probably the most detailed (not to mention the most expensive) and they also feature the only representation of Jason from Jason X before he becomes Uber Jason in the film.


Friday the 13th

Mrs. Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 2

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 3

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 6: Jason Lives!

Jason Voorhees


Friday the 13th: Part 7: The New Blood

Jason Voorhees


Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason Voorhees


Freddy vs Jason

Jason Voorhees


Jason X

Jason Voorhees

There are a ton of other figures to talk about that have been created over the years, (bootlegs, POP!) some I may have even missed in the above sections, but these are the ones I know about, and at least for myself and some collectors, that I feel need to be concentrated on as they are the figures with the highest amount of detail for your money and collectable enjoyment.

Let us hear what some of your favorite Jason figures are.

And if you like our blog, help keep us going by donating.  By donating as low as $1.00 YOU can help us continue to bring you awesome articles, reviews, movie and toy news.   Thank you!

The Witch (Review)


Westley Smith

The Witch (2015)

Director: Robert Eggers

‘The Witch’ directed by first-timer, Robert Eggers, is not for the normal horror crowd going out on a Friday night looking to have a good time with some laughs and scares while eating their popcorn and clutching onto the person sitting next to them – though the latter is absolutely going to happen, but only if you like psychological horror movies.

Scary and extremely tense at the same time, The Witch falls back onto old-school story driven horror without all the flashy cuts, cheap jump scares, and big name actors to draw you in.  Much like last year’s It Follows and The Babadook, The Witch delivers on the creepiness without showing you much and relying on strong storytelling, mood, and atmosphere to suck its audience in and scare the hell out of them.


The story revolves around a devout Christian family banished from their settlement and sent off into the wilderness to survive on their own.  After finding a piece of the earth to harvest, they build their home and begin to settle in.  But all is not what it seems and soon their youngest child goes missing, literally vanishing right before Thomasin’s (Ann Taylor-Joy) eyes as she is playing a game of peek-a-boo with the child.  It soon becomes apparent that there is more going on in the forest that surrounds their homestead, and that there is something in the woods casting its evil upon the unsuspecting family.


The creepiness of the movie comes mostly from the slow-burn tone of the film, the unsettling performances from the cast – especially the younger ones (Ann Taylor-Joy & Harvey Scrimshaw)  and the creepy twins (Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson) who talk to a horned black goat they refer to as “Black Phillip” – and their fanatical religious beliefs of the supernatural that starts to pit the family against one another, that’s fueled by the parents William & Katherine (Ralph Ineson & Katie Dickie).


Note: there is not one single jump scare in the movie.  I repeat: not one single jump scare in the movie.

Rather than frighten us with jump scares, director Eggers uses a slow unnerving pace, hallucinatory images, characters unraveling amidst a horrifying supernatural crisis, and the dark to bring out the things that go bump in the night, and in our minds.

Since the story takes place in 1630 (sixty years before the Salem Witch Trials) witchcraft was a huge concern to families all across New England at the time.  And once the fingers begin being pointed, mostly at young Thomasin, the family begins to unravel both mentally and physically in fear that there is a witch among them.


What is essential to know going into this movie is that the dialog is spoken in Old-English – taken from real letters, journals, and text from the 1600s – making it feel all-the-more tangible for the characters to be speaking in such a tongue. At the same time, using this dialog makes it somewhat hard to follow and may upset some viewers who find themselves wondering what the characters are talking about.

If you’re looking for a horror movie that is fast and gory, The Witch isn’t the movie for you.  At times the pace is very slow, almost crawling along, with long moments of the characters praying or talking about religion or damnation for their sins as humans.


But if you’re looking for a slow-burn psychological horror story with a satanic flair that gets under your skin and scrapes the bone, give The Witch a try.  Yet understand what kind of movie you’re getting into before entering the theater, as this is not a traditional horror movie that everyone is going to like.

8 out of 10.

Invasion USA (Blu-Ray) Review


Frank Ford

Who do terrorist have nightmares about?

Chuck Norris!


With the recent events in Belgium and France, and the nations battling terror around the world, I write this article with the utmost respect towards all countries, the families affected, and those who protect us and keep us safe from terrorism on a daily basis.  No, I’m not getting political in this review, but since Invasion U.S.A. deals with terrorism head-on (even if it’s in a Chuck Norris movie) I didn’t want to come across as unsympathetic towards the subject in my review of the Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray just released from Shout! Factory, and wanted to pay my respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice around the world.

Back in 1985 when Invasion U.S.A. was produced, there wasn’t the slightest thought that terrorism would hit the United States.  America had not seen a mass invasion since the war of 1812, even though the attack on Pearl Harbor was in 1941, Hawaii was not yet a state. America had thought their borders were secure from such an attack.  Even the tagline for Invasion U.S.A. reads: No one thought it could ever happen here…America wasn’t ready…but he was.


But the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and later the 9/11 attacks changed America’s perception of terrorism forever.

It’s kind of strange to watch Invasion U.S.A. now and realize what is happening on the screen (though far-fetched; it is still an action movie and meant to entertain after all) is similar to the events that are taking place not just in America but in countries around the world as well.

As fun as it is to watch Invasion U.S.A. and recall the fond memories I had as a kid watching Chuck Norris dispatch as many bad guys as he could, I can’t help but feel a little sad that the world is actually facing a problem of this magnitude.

But with all that said, it should not deter you from enjoying the highly entertaining action flick with Chuck Norris at the height of his career.


Invasion U.S.A. was Chuck’s second biggest box-office success, only second to Missing in Action which came out just the year prior.  Strangely, both of Chuck’s biggest hits were directed by Joseph Zito (The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Red Scorpion) and produced by Cannon Films.


Chuck Norris in Missing in Action (1984)

The movie has a pretty straight forward plot: the terrorists group led by Soviet, Rostov, (the always excellent Richard Lynch) rage war on America by attacking shopping malls, churches, suburban streets, and major U.S. Cities in guerilla warfare style.


But there is one man standing in Rostov’s way that he must kill before he can carry out his plan fully on America: ex-CIA agent, Matt Hunter, (Chuck Norris).  Big mistake!


As serious as terrorism is in today’s culture, and the more realistic films we have gotten about the subject over the last several years, Invasion U.S.A. is a rather fun film to watch.  You can indulge in a ‘what-if scenario’ there was a guy like Matt Hunter out there going around cowboy-style protecting the innocent from the bad guys with no one to reign him in.


This is a Cannon film after all.  Cannon films were always meant to be pure entertainment and nothing more – that’s what makes them so AWSOME! Movies like Invasion U.S.A. are meant to be enjoy on a fantasy, escapism level; to watch good overcome evil and not to be taken too literally even if the subject matter is real.

There are a lot of great actions sequences in the film, all done by real people on camera, no CGI here folks. They blow up real houses in a suburban neighborhood, totally destroy a real mall, and drive a pickup truck through a window while a human is hanging off the side – ah 1980s actions films were the best.  The scale and scope of the movie feels big (with only a budget of around 10 to 15 million, director Zito really maximized his money for the screen) and you get the sense that America is being overrun by a group of well-supplied terrorists who will stop at nothing until they see their plan come to fruition.


Surprisingly though, Chuck Norris who’s known for his martial arts, does very little hand-to-hand fighting in this movie.  And, out of all of Chuck’s films, Matt Hunter is probably the darkest character he’s ever played. Hunter’s a no nonsense guy who tortures his victims for information, shoots firsts and ask questions later, and doesn’t blink an eye when it comes to taking out the bad guys in the film.


Also Chuck Norris delivers one of the best lines ever captured on celluloid – don’t worry I won’t spoil it here, but it’s worth the price of the Blu-Ray for this line alone.


Richard Lynch is cast perfectly as the unhinged Rostov; he chews up every scene he’s in as the ultimate bad guy.  Rostov is such a nasty

dude that he jams a cocaine hooker’s face down into a metal straw as she snorts blow, and shoots not just ONE, but TWO men in the crotch in anger. Priceless!



Little known fact: Invasion U.S.A. was going to have a sequel, but when Chuck Norris was uninterested, they reworked the script into Avenging Force (also produced by Cannon) and starred Michael Dudikoff as Matt Hunter.  Though the characters in both movies share the same name, the films have no connection to one other.


The Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition disc from Shout! Factory is well done with Commentary track from Director Joseph Zito (which is informative, fun, and entertaining).  New interview with writer James Burner.  New Interviews with Special Effects Masters Tom Savini, Howard Burger, and Greg Nicotero.  Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spots.

The Blu-Ray transfer looks great in 1080p and the sound in DTS puts you in the middle of the battles and fights.


8 out of 10 stars.

If you’d like to pick up a copy you can order one here at The Crimson Screen.

Wes Craven: Remembering A Master of Modern Horror


Westley Smith

Anyone who knows me understands how big of a fan of Wes Craven’s work I am. In high school (and because of my love of writing, horror movies and making movies) I was nick-named Craven by my friends, and not just because Wes and I share the same first name. Still to this day, if an old buddy from those years in high school locates me on Facebook, most of them address me as Craven. I still get a kick out of that.

I was shocked last night when someone sent me a post that Wes had passed away. A place inside me screamed and cried at the same time. My long-time hero was gone. My idol. The man who had put me on the path to making my own movies and writing screenplays and novels. I grew teary-eyed this morning when the Today Show did their segment on him. Yes, he meant that much to me.

Wes’ story is a rather unique one and how he got into filmmaking, and I think it was this that really attracted me to the man’s films. Unlike a lot of filmmakers in Hollywood, Wes did not attend film school; he was a professor here in Pennsylvania. He was asked by students if he would like to run their movie club to which he agreed, and suddenly found himself falling in love with filmmaking. He abruptly quit his teaching job and went to New York looking for work in the film business.

Oddly enough, it was Sean S. Cunningham (director of Friday the 13th) who gave Wes his first job – both of their horror creations would do battle on the big screen thirty-one years later.

His first movie was THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and produced by Cunningham. The film shocked audiences with its realistic viciousness, giving it the tagline: TO AVOID FAINTING, KEEP REPEATING: IT’S ONLY A MOVIE. IT’S ONLY A MOVIE. IT’S ONLY A MOVIE. In 1972 no one had ever seen such a brutally shocking movie before. What makes Last House leave such an imprint is that there are no monsters in the movie, no night demons, no cannibal hill dwellers, or vampires. The true horror of Last House are the humans in the story, and what one family does to avenge their daughter’s murder. Last House was truly groundbreaking filmmaking from a man who had no filmmaking experience, other than on the job training.

He followed Last House up with THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and again made everyone take notice to his work. In The Hills Have Eyes, a family breaks down in the New Mexico desert, only to find themselves terrorized by a family of cannibals living in the hills. The film is as violent and brutal as Last House, but not as realistic. Still, Wes was taking you for a ride in to some dark places, places you weren’t sure you wanted to go.

He followed Hills up with A STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE, starring Linda Blair. Then DEADLY BLESSING, giving Sharon Stone her first starring role. And SWAMP THING, based off the Marvel Comic character of the same name.

But 1984 would come Craven’s crowning achievement. A movie that would get into our heads and following us to our beds, literally making us scared to go to sleep.

That movie?


At that time in the 1980s slasher films were all the rage following John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN and the super success of FRIDAY THE 13th and its sequels. But it was Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street that would redefine slasher movies, and Freddy Krueger would be unleashed upon the world.

Like all of Craven’s films before Nightmare, his characters, whether it be Krug from Last House, or Papa Jupiter from Hills, tend to be unlikable, hateful characters that have no remorse or redemption to them. They are the ‘baddest of the bad, ladies and gentlemen’ – if there is anyone who can tell me what film that last line is from you get big Wes Craven points from me.

Freddy Krueger would be no different. Freddy (played by Robert Englund) was not like Michael Myers, Jason, or Leatherface. He wasn’t just a man in a mask mindlessly stalking people. No, Freddy was much more. He came after his victims in their dreams, a place where they could not get away from him because he set the rules in the dream world. He was nasty, dark, horribly burnt with a twisted sense of sardonic humor.

The brilliance of the film (not just Freddy) is that Craven mixes fantasy with reality so seamlessly that you are never sure if you’re in a dream or if you are in reality at times. He constantly plays with your mind as much as he plays with what you’re viewing on the screen.
Oh, and he also discovered this guy (maybe you’ve heard of him) Johnny Depp to play the role of Glen in the film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street would spawn six direct sequels. A crossover in 2003 with FREDDY vs JASON. A television show called FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, and a 2010 remake that Craven was not involved with. But there is only one movie that’s as scary and smart as the first Nightmare and brought the master writer/director back to the series: WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994).

Other than having a co-writer credit on Nightmare 3 (along with future Walking Dead, Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile writer/director, Frank Darabont) Wes stayed away from the Nightmare films pursuing other projects.

In that time he helmed several segments of the revamped TWILIGHT ZONE show, directing both Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis. There were a few TV movies, (CHILLER and NIGHT VISIONS) and he created a TV show called NIGHTMARE CAFE that starred Freddy himself, Robert Englund, as Blackie. His features in that time included, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STRAIRS, and SHOCKER.

In 1994, Wes came back to Nightmare with WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE a meta-movie that took everything from A Nightmare on Elm Street and turned it on its head. Instead of just another lame sequel, Wes went back to his original film in a very unique way. In New Nightmare, a being (call it a demon, call it whatever you want) takes the form of Freddy looking to bring havoc to the world. But to do this, the demon has to kill Freddy’s creators – the stars and makers of the original film. What’s so scary about this movie isn’t Freddy himself, it’s the impending doom of what the demon is up to and how it’s going to succeed. It’s very smart and clever. And, in my opinion, this is Wes Craven’s masterpiece – you can argue with me about that if you want, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. The film is brilliantly directed, cleverly written, and beautifully shot, cut, and scored.

In 1995, he would follow New Nightmare up with the Eddie Murphy horror/comedy VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN.

But 1996 proved to be Wes Craven’s year and again he redefined horror with SCREAM, turning everything about slasher movies from the 1980 –a genre he was himself was part of – on its head, much like he had with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Though Scream was not written by Wes (Kevin Williamson was the scribe) all the elements were there for a Craven film: the violence, the twisted sense of humor, the horror and scares, and the very nasty characters that make up a lot of Craven’s work.

But little remember that Scream was not a huge success right off the bat. It was a sleeper hit, gaining momentum as word of mouth spread through late 1996 into 1997. Eventually Scream pulled in over one-hundred million dollars domestically and countless rip off movies afterward, much like Halloween did back in the 1980s, most notably with Friday the 13th.

In 1997, Craven came back to direct SCREAM 2. This time taking on sequels to movies. Now that Scream was a huge hit, Scream 2 landed even bigger with a really well written script (again by Williamson), and a movie that is directed craftily by Craven, and is hailed by some to be better than Scream.

In the process of making Scream, he brought us another horror icon – Ghostface. Though one can argue that Ghostface really wasn’t a horror icon like Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, or Leatherface since Ghostface was always someone different behind the mask in the four Scream movies. But still, Ghostface became part of our pop culture, just like Freddy Krueger had.

After Scream 2, Craven wrote his one and only published novel THE FOUNTAIN SOCIETY. Following that, he would take a break from horror movies and direct MUSIC OF THE HEART with Meryl Streep; she was given an Oscar nomination for her work on the film.
In 2000 Craven came back with SCREAM 3. This time they were taking on trilogies and going to end the Scream films. Though the movie was a good fun last ride and had a clever concept, it lacked Kevin Williamson’s snappy dialog, as he was unable to pen the actual script because of his work on Dawson’s Creek, leaving the screenwriting to Transformers writer, Ehren Krueger.

Following Scream 3 there was CURSED, an ill-fated werewolf movie (also written by Kevin Williamson) with production problems that are more interesting than the movie itself – look it up, I won’t go into details here. The problem with Cursed is it never really knows what it wants to be: one moment there’s a teen drama going on; the next there’s a werewolf killing people; then sister and brother drama; a werewolf killing people; then the drama of the sister and brother becoming a werewolf; then more werewolf killing; then work problems with Greg Kilborn; then weird spots of humor; then more killing. But the deathblow for this film is when the werewolf flips someone the bird – UGH! REALLY? This movie was a mess and even Craven couldn’t save the film sorry to say.

Thankfully Craven followed that mess up with 2005s RED EYE. Red Eye was Craven at his Hitchcockian finest without much of his usual blood and gore, using the characters and the setting during a red eye flight to build the tension of a woman kidnapped and forced to help in the assassination of a politician. If she doesn’t, her father will be murdered. The movie starred Rachael McAdams, Cillian Murphy, and Brian Cox.

In 2006 he would do a short segment in the movie Paris, je t’aime called “Pere-Lachaise” and filmed in the actual cemetery where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wild are both entombed, among countless others.

In between his own movies he was producing movies including Wishmaster, Dracula 2000, The Breed, among many others. He would also produce remakes of two of his most beloved films: The Last House on The Left and The Hills Have Eyes 1 & 2.

In 2010, Craven returned to the big screen with the first movie he’d written since 1994s New Nightmare called MY SOUL TO TAKE. The movie was not well received by critics or fans alike. It was dull and slow, with a very confusing plot, and very little bloodshed for a movie about a serial killer directed by Craven. The one redeeming quality the film has is that it is absolutely haunting in a surreal and visual way. It really gives the viewers the feel of an eerie ghost story being told on a cold night, and has an almost urban legend/Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the book, not the movies) quality of telling to it. It was not Craven’s best movie by far, but it was not his worse either – I did not mention Deadly Friend until now, Craven’s self-proclaimed worst film. Or The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985).

2011 would be Wes Craven’s final film.

SCREAM 4 was released in April of 2011 to mixed reviews by both fans and critics. It had been eleven years since the last Scream movie – I believe that hurt the film. Fans had moved on to movies like Saw, Hostel, and Paranormal Activity and were no longer interested in Scream or its fourth installment and what was to become the first in a new trilogy, which would never happen. To say the movie bombed would be lying; it pulled in 97 million dollars worldwide but compared to the first three Scream movies that all pulled in over one-hundred million dollars just domestically, that came up short to the blockbuster the others had been.

Craven went on to work on several projects including a comic book series with 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles called ‘Coming of Rage’, and producing the MTV Scream Series. There were rumors that he was revamping The People Under the Stairs for television, and many other projects in the near future.  He also created a short lived TV series, Nightmare Café, starring Robert Englund as Blackie.

But there was much more to Wes Craven than just the filmmaker. He was an avid bird watcher, a lover of music. A husband. A father. A teacher. He was regarded by his peers as one of the nicest, funniest and smartest people to work with or for, and is consider by many to be a master of his craft.

On August 30 2015, Wes Craven passed away in his home at the age of 76 from brain cancer. But his legacy will live on forever…
I had always wanted to meet Wes Craven in person. But sadly I never got that chance. I wanted to say one thing to him: “Thank you.”
Had it not been for Wes Craven I would have never picked up my first video camera and made my first movie after seeing Scream for the first time. Had it not been for Wes Craven, I would have never kept going with my writing and publishing two novels to date.

Thank you, Mr. Craven. Rest In Peace.