A whole lotta reviewin’ goin’ on!

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CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS

•             RELEASE DATE: Available Now on Blu-ray
•             WRITTEN BY: Alan Ormsby, Bob Clark
•             DIRECTED BY: Bob Clark
•             STARRING: Alan Ormsby, Valerie Mamches, Jeff Gillen

First up we have an early effort from comedy maestro Bob Clark (PORKY’S, A CHRISTMAS STORY… OK, OK, he die-rected the original BLACK CHRISTMAS and DEATHDREAM too) titled CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. Now, if you are of a certain age, you have doubtless seen this flick and know of its merits (or charming lack thereof), but for the majority of you, this is going to be your first time. So, much like that captain of the football team did on prom night, I’m going to gently ease you through this experience… or fondle you clumsily.

At the insistence of their boorish (that’s really too polite; douche-nozzle would probably be more accurate) stage director, a troupe of actors — whose ranks include 45 year-old looking “young” leading man, sexy girl, sensitive waifish girl, witchy/Rhoda-esque wise cracking woman complete with Stevie Nicks shawl, and fat dude who is apparently the Rain Man of pants pissery — head to a remote island that just so happens to be home to a graveyard for defunct criminals. Once there, said director decides to perform an arcane ceremony to raise the dead by means of an ancient tome (hey Sam Raimi, you didn’t perhaps see this, let’s say, sometime before 1981 did you?). Well, what do you know, that hare-brained nonsense actually works, and the dead start a-risin’ and begin huntin’ humans post-haste. Dubious fashion choices, obscenely over-acted nervous breakdowns, some nifty zombie make-ups, a truly excellent sequence of the dead rising from their graves, and some serious Three Musketeersstyle facial hair ensues.

CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS is like horror flick comfort food for a ghoul like me; it’s just the sort of film that seemed to be shown exclusively on the beyond late show programs on local stations around my rural hometown. These kinds of films have a weird vibe uniquely their own: just amateur enough to never be considered a Hollywood production and just professional enough to not seem like a group of college kids were assing around with a camera; and usually filled with bizarre plot logic, inventive (if crude) effects, and community theater grade actors. Loaded with a ton of heart and ambition, these types of flicks just laugh in the face of any shortcoming they may have (in the case of CHILDREN, the two main flaws are some of the over-the-top acting and the fact it takes a tad too long to get to the zombie action) and come out as both entertaining and enduring parts of the pop culture landscape (hence me reviewing a Blu-ray release, loaded with extras, of a tiny film that came out in 1972). Folks love an underdog, especially in the horror biz.

Now, in that putrid paragraph above, I mentioned this release has some extras, and let me tell ya creeps, they are pretty damn cool! You get your standard commentary track, the British release of the film (with its own commentary track), a retrospective on die-rector Bob Clark, a Q&A session from a theatrical showing of the film, an interview with Producer Gary Goch, a photo gallery, a couple of random shock rock/glam metal videos (which I absolutely loved btw), a tribute video made up of stills from the film, a theatrical trailer, and a handful of radio spots.

This release simply rocks. If you loved the film in the past, you’ll go for this in a big way… and if this is your first time, there’s no better way to get aquatinted with a drive-in classic than this feature-laden release!

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SPECIES II/SPECIES III/SPECIES THE AWAKENING

•             RELEASE DATE: Available March 8th on Blu-ray (click here for SPECIES II, and here for SPECIES III, SPECIES THE AWAKENING)
•             WRITTEN BY: Chris Brancato (SPECIES II), Ben Ripley (SPECIES III, SPECIES THE AWAKENING)
•             DIRECTED BY: Peter Medak (SPECIES II), Brad Turner (SPECIES III), Nick Lyon (SPECIES THE AWAKENING)
•             STARRING: Natasha Henstridge, Sunny Mabrey, Helena Mattsson

SPECIES that free-wheelin’ yarn about a revved-up alien seductress lookin’ to mount any carbon-based male she can. I really enjoyed it upon first viewing, you probably did too, and then perhaps like me, you simply forgot about it altogether. Well, guess what? They made three more of them! Yup, that’s right… there are four films in the “that other thing Giger worked on” series, and all of them are comin’ to Blu-ray courtesy of those frisky fiends o’er at Scream Factory! So, let’s see if these other horny alien flicks will flick our switch or just turn us off…

SPECIES II is a tale old as time, really: an all-around super-dude bro of an astronaut goes and gets himself infected by some sort of alien slime on Mars, promptly returns to Earth and bangs two broads at once whose stomachs immediately swell and explode releasing his super quick grow offspring, and is then pursed by Michael Madsen and a good clone of the evil alien, Sil, from the first flick that goes by the handle of Eve (Henstridge). What follows is a grab bag of uber-sh-ty 90s-era CG, some decent practical gore and creature suits, a few boobs, and alien on alien humpery. It’s cheesy, ridiculous, and admittedly way more fun than you think it would be; but it is also my least fav of the SPECIES flicks.

SPECIES III concerns the wacky adventures of Eve’s (a briefly returning Henstridge) children: a crazed half breed (who apparently makes more of his kind) and Eve’s daughter Sara (Mabrey), who is more like the original recipe Sil creature. Sara is spirited away by Dr. Abbot (and grows into a supermodel in like 14 parsecs) who hopes to use her to produce perfect DNA. Well, before you can say “SPECIES one”, Sara gets loose and starts lookin’ to get hot n’ nasty with anything she can… but there’s only one major obstacle to that: a gang of half-breeds that want to mate with her to propagate their own gang o’ goofs. Heaps of bared breasts, floppin’ tentacles (I said tentacles, ya perv… though come to think of it, in this series, that would just be a Tuesday), and monster matin’ dance and/or jiggle before our eyes.

This is an odd flick in that it’s a made-for-video release that is actually way better than the theatrical film that precedes it. The effects are better, the story is better… it kind of makes my brain hurt. SPECIES III is far and away my favorite of the sequels we are feastin’ out putrid peepers on; it’s a genuine damn fine creature feature!

Finally we have SPECIES: THE AWAKENING, which while set within the same basic universe as the first three, is not a die-rect sequel to them. It also premiered on Syfy. Oh, sh-t.

Anyway, in SPECIES: THE AWAKENING, Miranda (Mattson) is just your average, every day, drop-dead gorgeous Brainiac college professor living with her Uncle Tom. She also has the nasty habit of getting naked, turning into an alien, and seducing dudes to death (kinda sounds like a ghoul I dated in college). Before long, Tom (who obviously is not her uncle; rather he’s her “maker” as he combined alien and human DNA to create her) carts her down to ol’ Mexico seeking a way to reverse the murderous side of her other-worldly genetic make-up. This goes o’er about as well as the aftermath of “Taco Tuesday” in a submarine, as Miranda becomes full-on extranjero loco and f–ks and fillets every dude in sight!

While not as flat-out rad-ass as the third entry, SPECIES: THE AWAKENING is a good deal of fun (and for the record, I liked this one better than Part II as well). It definitely feels “cheaper” than the rest, but the flick still delivers admirably on what fans of the series expect: gooey effects, great creature suits, and naked flesh.

Speaking of fans of this series, if you dig these films, you’ll no doubt appreciate the extras Scream Factory has included on these releases. There are commentary tracks for Parts II and III, boatloads of featurettes, and interviews, as well as some unused footage for the second film.

All told, SPECIES is a fun lil’ fright flick franchise that never really tries to be more than what it is — lascivious, packed with cool effects, and light on story.

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