It’s a light week for new releases my creeps, but I promise you I have some groovy goodies in store!
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
• RELEASE DATE: Available April 12th on Blu-ray
• WRITTEN BY: David Himmelstein
• DIRECTED BY: John Carpenter
• STARRING: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Hamill
I admit it, I simply do not remember 99% of genre sin-ema of the mid 90s. I know for a fact I went to see most of the fright flick offerings out there, in a real live theater and all that, but nearly every picture after INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE and before SPAWN (shudder) is a swirling mass of “Yeah, I know I saw it, but I’ll be damned if I ever watched it again… and there is no way I remember anything besides the broadest of details” (minus FROM DUSK ‘TIL DAWN, ESCAPE FROM L.A…. maybe that DR. MOREAU remake…OK, so I exaggerated a bit). So with that world shattering caveat, let’s take a look at joltin’ John Carpenter‘s 1995 take on 1960’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED!
After some sort of whispery (and apparently horny) cloud/shadow floats its eerie ass over a bucolic small town, everyone faints and wakes up pregnant (well, not everyone… like ten women. As for the guys, they just do classic pratfalls like blacking out over BBQ grills and roasting alive). Anyway, it takes about 4.2 seconds to realize there is something colossally F’n wrong with the resulting tykes as they all have glowy eyes, white hair, and psychic powers… which they use to ensure their status as a gaggle of prize-winning dicks (for instance, one of these charmers makes her mother stick her hand in a vat of boiling liquid before finally having her commit suicide). As the children’s power grows, will anyone be able to stop their evil alien machinations? Yes and no, as Christopher Reeve, a chain smoking Kirstie Alley, the chick from CROCODILE DUNDEE, a janitor, and an angry torch-bearing mob all attempt to keep the Midwich cuckoos at bay with varying degrees of success (mostly hovering around zero).
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED isn’t exactly a Carpenter classic, but I found it to be a damn fine little film. Watching it in 2016, I can see why audiences failed to embrace it in 1995; it’s very much cut from the same cloth as the original flick in terms of pacing and presentation. It isn’t the “Extreme!!” in your face bombast that was de rigueur at the time. This is definitely a quieter, sort of slow burn of a flick punctuated with splashes of hard violence, and it’s all the better for it as it adds to both the foreboding atmosphere and gradually mounting tension. In the same vein, the way portions of the film are lit gives it a sort of flat “TV Movie” look. It doesn’t harm the presentation at all; it just looks antiquated, even 21 years ago.
While I enjoyed the flick, the extras present on this Blu are no slouch, either. Scream Factory does their normal excellent job of givin’ the fans extra bang for the ol’ buck by providing an in-depth documentary on the film’s production, a modern look at the flick’s locations, an extensive interview with actor Peter Jason, a collection of vintage interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage… with a trailer and still gallery rounding out the package.
Seriously creeps, you need to give this one a re-visit (or first time view); it’s a solid lil’ sci-fi shocker with a great cast and thrills a-plenty that ne’er got its due upon first release!
DEATH WALKS TWICE: TWO FILMS BY LUCIANO ERCOLI
Nothin’ your ol’ pal Daniel XIII craves more than a movie where death takes a walk (or preferably two), and apparently that is indeed what I’m in for as I turn my eerie eyeballs towards DEATH WALKS TWICE: a collection of gregarious giallo goings-on (both die-rected by laceratin’ Luciano Ercoli) from those connoisseurs of kill crazy hijinkery o’er at Arrow Video. So let’s sharpen our blades, put on our black gloves, and hit play on the ol’ remote (without dropping the blade or the remote because those black gloves are some slippery bastards) and begin this cavalcade of violence, seriously misguided musical cues, and dodgy fashions!
Starting things off is DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS, which presents the free-wheelin’ tale of a nightclub performer named Nicole who is targeted by a blue eyed maniac after her jewel thief of a pappy is perforated by the exact same murder machine (who incidentally was lookin’ for some rocks that said thief didn’t even have on his person). Nicole then proceeds to do what any sane person would do and get the hell out of dodge. Ya know how when you watch a fright flick and everyone is getting carved up like a spiral cut ham, and you sit in your easy chair and spout of a sanctimonious “Why don’t they just leave… why stick around when there’s a killer on the loose?” Well Phyllis, this flick shows you that move is about as useful as a salad bar at a werewolf convention, ‘cuz ol’ blue eyes follows Nicole to jolly ol’ England to continue the fun n’ maims. Will Nicole survive? will the diamonds ever turn up? Will anyone make a sensible fashion choice? Will that one dude ever stop rubbing cold cream on that exotic dancer? For the answers to those burnin’ questions you’ll have to watch and see for yourself!
DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS is a solid entry in the giallo genre. It’s filled with the obligatory sexiful ladies and of course a mysterious black-glove-wearing killer. As hinted at above, the fashions are a real hoot, and the ultra-groovy incidental music is as swank as it comes.
Also making this an attractive release for fans of such things are the extra features included, such as an audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas, a collection of interviews with cast and crew (both new and archival), trailers, and of course the beautiful 2K transfer of the flick itself!
All in all a really enjoyable fright flick and a great package overall! Now let’s see how the other film in the collection measures up, shall we? Well, too bad, we’re going to anyway…
DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT relates the tale of a comely young fashion model named Valentina who decides to take part in a scientific experiment involving a hallucinogenic drug (that unbelievably isn’t just a convoluted ploy to get her naked), as you do. She immediately sees an outrageous looking dude in gigantic Foster Grants sportin’ a spiked glove which he uses to turn beautiful ladies into ugly corpses in her delirium. Before you can say “Argento”, that be-gloved loony appears in the really real world and starts makin’ Valentina’s life a bit of a bother.
Out of the two flicks in this collection, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT is my favorite. It’s ultra stylish, the killer is beyond preposterous, and the vibe is just completely off-kilter. Hell, there’s even a fist fight or two and a woman with a metallic wig — what more could you ask for?
Like DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS, this flick has its fair share of extras as well, including a commentary (again provided by Tim Lucas), an interview with screen writer Ernesto Gastaldi, and a visual essay detailing the collaborations between die-rector Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro (who played the female lead in both of the pictures in this collection). Also included is the complete TV version of the film (containing alternate footage ‘natch)!
If you are a fan of the whole giallo bag, you have probably already ordered a copy of this baby; but I would implore anyone thinkin’ of gettin’ started on the thrills n’ spills of the genre to give this a go as well. Both films are easily accessible, highly enjoyable, and loaded with the trappings that make giallos so distinctive (and a whole helluva lot of fiendish fun)!