2013 / Director. John Wells.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I have a soft spot for family reunion films, particularly those which feature strong ensemble casts.... and they don't get much stronger than AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were both nominated for Academy Awards for their performances and both were deserved. The film revolves around an estranged family who reunite when their father goes missing. Animosities, incest and secrets collide in an explosive crock pot when the family's matriarch (Streep) levies a drug-fuelled campaign of hostility against every single person in the family. Emotions run high and limits are pushed... and all the while AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY maintains a deeply dark sense of humour and resists any pressure to toe a safe line. Streep and Roberts shine. They hold the film together and deliver outstanding performances and yet neither of them vie for the limelight. In fact they allow their supporting cast to weigh in with equally impressive turns. Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch and Julianne Nicholson are all solid contributors to this film, which could so easily have become convoluted... but never is. The other wonderful performance that ought not be forgotten is from Misty Upham, who plays the family's housekeeper. Sadly her real life struggles with mental illness lead to her suicide not long after the film was released. She was delightful in this film. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a dark, funny and heart wrenching film that draws comparisons with THE BIG CHILL, EULOGY, DAN IN REAL LIFE and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. Its emotional core is strong and thanks to uncompromising direction from John Wells its 2 hour running time is not an issue and the the story resonates stronger than most films of its genre.
2014 / Directors. Adam Brooks. Matthew Kennedy.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
DING! That's the sound of another film hitting my top ten list for the year. Whether or not THE EDITOR makes it to number one is another question BUT it is a bloody strong contender. This is simply an incredible film. Of course it is the latest genre-riddled masterpiece from the Canadian filmmaking outfit, ASTRON-6. They're the guys behind the previous exploitation gems FATHER'S DAY and MANBORG and I cannot think any more highly of them. THE EDITOR is their most polished and ambitious film to date and is also their mostly highly funded. That is not to say that they have sold out or compromised any of their outrageous and audacious trademarks... to the contrary. THE EDITOR showcases an assortment of deliciously revolting violence, outrageous misogyny and gratuitous nudity... and they've presented it all in the package of a 1970s giallo film with all of the classic hallmarks of filmmakers such as Argento, Bava and Fulci. Their story follows an eccentric film editor who becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders which plague the production of the film he is working on. With an inept detective looking over his shoulder the editor must uncover the truth before it's too late... I'll be honest with you... giving you a rundown on the storyline seems pointless. None of that is relevant. This is an Astron-6 movie and so the important things to note are the design, sound and all round artistry that's been painstakingly applied to the film. Much of the style is similar to their previous film FATHERS DAY, however this is far more impassioned and nostalgic. Their love of giallo films is unmistakable and their attention to detail is incredible. It draws influence from so many classic films and pays a loving homage to an era of cinema that has been long lost... and in a totally ballsy move the entire film is dubbed (ingenious). There is no doubt that THE EDITOR is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Anyone whose not familiar with their work may be confused by it and anyone without an understanding of irony or sarcasm might struggle. The film is so deeply layered with satirical referencing and genre in-jokes that only the sassiest of genre fans will walk away from it in amazement. Similarly to FATHER'S DAY, THE EDITOR suffers from being 10-15 minutes too long. A much trimmer running time would have lifted it to a status of perfection... but as it is THE EDITOR is near-perfection. I loved the shit out of it and insist that y'all see it!!!!
Check out our interview with ADAM and CONNOR from Astron-6 from last year when they first announced THE EDITOR.
2014 / Director. Chris Sun.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
If you follow FakeShemp.Net then you will know how important Australian genre films are to us. The industry bangs on about being on its last legs and dying a slow death and yet they seem to persistently ignore the very films that will bring moviegoers back. Yeah sure there's a place for art films and obscure dramas but not in saturation (that's the killer). The sad thing is that when good new horror films come along, they're ignored or condemned by critics (Pomeranz & Stratton on Wolf Creek 2) and are never given the attention they deserve. The fans know better and will flock to such things and it's a shame that they're forced to look harder for them. CHARLIE'S FARM is the newest Aussie flick made FOR the fans and it makes NO exceptions. Directed by Chris Sun (Daddy's Little Girl) the film adopts the typical slasher formula and follows most of the usual conventions (as the best slashers do). It tells the story of four city dwellers who venture out into the bush in search of Charlie's Farm, an urban legend and rumoured to be the abandoned home of a cannibalistic family. Of course soon after their arrival the true nature of the place reveals itself and the four friends find themselves up against a gargantuan and monstrous figure.... Charlie. Australian cinema has longed for this type of movie monster. A boogeyman to rival the greats... ie Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Michael Myers etc. And that he does! CHARLIE'S FARM is a fantastic slasher that delivers on its promise of brutality. The kills are deliciously gnarly and the camera never flinches for a moment. To reveal these moments is to ruin everything. We might know the formula back to front but the nature of the kills is truly decadent and genre fans will lap it up. The cast is impressive too with Bill Moseley bringing a weighty amount of credibility to the film. He's so good and he once again offers cinema another uniquely quirky character as only he can. Tara Reid, surprisingly, gives one of her best performances and she's nowhere near as irritating as some might come to expect. She fits in with the Aussie aesthetic nicely. The rest of the cast are good too with the local actors giving as good as the genre could allow and horror veteran Kane Hodder drops in for kick some ass (he also co-ordinated all of the stunts). Without a doubt the star of the film is Nathan Jones... the enormous monster who rapes our brains on screen. What a presence!! Director Chris Sun is forging his place in the horror world and is climbing his way up amongst the ranks of filmmakers to keep an eye on. CHARLIE'S FARM is the movie fans have been craving and the audience I saw it with at Monster Fest erupted in a unanimous roar of cheers and applause. Full of win!
Visit Charlie's Farm on IMDb.
2013 / Director. Atom Egoyan.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
In 1998 I saw the documentary PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS at the Vancouver Film Festival and from that moment on I was a staunch supporter of the West Memphis Three. In fact for a number of years I ran the WM3 Melbourne Support Group and I raised a lot of money for their defence fund (perhaps some of you came to my events). For those unaware, in the most laymen of terms, the WM3 are three men who were convicted of murder without a shred of evidence connecting them with the crime. They were teenagers at the time and were the victims of a modern witch hunt and assumed guilty because of their taste in music, fashion and interests in the occult. So complex is their story that 4 lengthy documentaries have extensively covered their case and no stone has been left unturned.
Of course it was inevitable that a feature length film would be made and naturally its production stirred a lot of apprehension in people. I chose to sit on the fence and wait until I saw it before I jumped to any conclusions. The same year I saw the first WM3 doco I also saw an incredible film called THE SWEET HEREAFTER and its director, Atom Egoyan, became an influential filmmaker in my life. His sensibilities with that film made him the perfect candidate to direct DEVIL'S KNOT. There was comfort in knowing that he was steering this ship and I was able to rest easy. Last night I finally saw the film and while I was not overly impressed, it's fair to say that I wasn't entirely disappointed either.
To make a film about a subject that is already so extensively documented is a dicey game to play. There is no way that all of the intricacies of the WM3 case could possibly be covered in 115 minutes and so the only logical way they could approach the story was to focus on the aspects that weren't featured heavily in the previous films. DEVIL'S KNOT follows the characters of Pamela Hobbs (a mother of one of the victims) and Ron Lax (an investigator throughout the entire case). These two character were featured in the docos but not at length and there is definitely some disappointment in the way Pamela Hobbs is portrayed in this film. We see her begin to question the guilt of the WM3 from an early stage in the trial and she raises her own doubts about her husband. It is well documented that she became a campaigner for their innocence, however in reality her change in tune never came so quickly. And that is where DEVIL'S KNOT doesn't work. For the millions of people who have followed and supported this case and those who have seen the documentaries, there is nothing this film can offer and its lean running time is simply not sufficient.
And so the best way for me to judge DEVIL'S KNOT is to approach it from a newcomer's perspective. Where the film does succeed is in its basic entry point to the story. For all of the people who saw the 4 docos I am sure there are just as many (if not more) who are oblivious to the case and are being exposed to it for the first time. And it works at that level. All of the players are good and their likeness to real life counterparts is striking. The film takes us into the lives of some characters that we've only seen externally and it's a heartfelt examination of their grief, albeit probably not as sincere as it could have been. Reese Witherspoon portrays Pam Hobbs well, although she does teeter on the edge of caricature at times. Colin Firth is also good as Ron Lax and he delivers an understated and solemn performance. His character often lurks in the background and it's fascinating to see him absorbing the information as the story unfolds. All of the many other characters (police, lawyers etc) are well played and fairly depicted. Atom Egoyan captures the West Memphis community nicely and it reflects what we've come to know through the other films.
Having been emotionally and financially invested in the WM3 it was frustrating to not see so many important details included in the film and with it only barely scratching the surface of the case I kept wanting more. The credits roll before we've even heard some of the most crucial facts revealed and it's difficult to take... however, this fact might just inspire newcomers to look further into the story and influence them to become new supporters. And that can't be a bad thing.
2014 / Director. Jason Trost.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I've got a lot of time for director Jason Trost. His 2011 film ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE was a film that really inspired me. Although the film itself was definitely good it was the back story to it that earned Trost a lot of my respect. He was offered a budget and he rallied to have the film written, shot and edited within a matter of weeks. His latest film is HOW TO SAVE US and it brings him to Australia where he sets his story in Tasmania during an unexplained quarantine. The entire island state has been abandoned due to an unidentified plague. With signs that his brother is still alive the film's protagonist, Brian, attempts to brave the quarantine and discovers something far more sinister than an infection. Using electricity as a source of energy, the island is plagued by invisible spectres, which can only be seen through infrared. As Brian's search draws closer to its end he finds himself faced with an evil far more personal that he could expect. This is an impressive little film and Trost has once again proved to be a formidable independent filmmaker. His story is solid and its narrative is fluent. As a foreigner he has done an amazing job using the Australian surroundings to help tell his story. With his cinematographer Phil Miller doing an impeccable job, the arid landscape has been beautifully captured and lends the film an eerie and foreboding quality. Trost himself has a great presence on screen and he carries the film singlehandedly. The ghostly spectres are well conceived and are never exploited on screen. We only ever see fleeting glimpses of them, which makes their presence much more chilling and the sound design surrounding them is unsettling. I suppose I could nit-pick a few small grievances I had with HOW TO SAVE US but I honestly don't see the point. This is a low budget, independent film with a strong foundation in genre and a uniquely vivid vision. With a post-apocalyptic aesthetic and a chilling sound design it conjured the same unnerving feelings that I got when I watched PHASMA EX MACHINA, which was a film that left a lasting impression on me. This one may do also.
2014 / Directors. Tony Mahony. Angus Sampson.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson) is a twenty-five year old man who heralds from Sunshine where he lives at home with his parents, works an undervalued nine-to-five at a television repair store and whose only extracurricular activity is seemingly playing for a community football club. At an end-of-season club celebration, local businessman Pat Shepherd (John Noble) announces he will generously fund the team’s post-season trip to Thailand and awards Ray the honour of player of the year. Pat’s underlying intention becomes clear when he convinces vice-captain and delinquent Gavin (Leigh Whannell) to coerce Ray into bringing half a kilo of heroin concealed in his person back into the country. Ray, driven by both a naïve desire to be accepted and hope that the money earned will resolve family debt, accepts Gavin’s proposition. Things go awry the moment Ray returns to Australia though, singled out by customs, his bags searched, a cavity exam performed and threatened with an x-ray to reveal the contents of his stomach. However as the x-ray is consensual, Ray declines the request to undergo one and is subsequently detained at a nearby airport hotel for a period of seven days where we he can be monitored twenty-four seven by the federal police. Supervising officers, Detectives Croft (Hugo Weaving) & Paris (Ewen Leslie) then proceed to spend the entire week playing good cop bad cop and using every trick in the book to manipulate and bully the truth along with the drugs out of Ray.
Sampson & Whannell’s screenplay is a clever one, not too dissimilar to an Elmore Leonard novel, richly layered, sullenly funny and blissfully disorientating with every twist and turn. Skilfully directed by Sampson and revered Australian music video stalwart Tony Mahony, the pair bring a style and sheen that not only does justice to its source material but elevates the film to that of an international standard. While period orientated cinema can often prove problematic for Australian productions due to the sheer fiscal value required for a film to work, THE MULE nails it with costuming, production design and a new wave score befitting its early-eighties era. The score by Mikey Young & Cornel Wilczek is in fact exceptional, pulsating and anthemic, it has your foot tapping in time with the shivers down your spine, infectious and brooding, it will stay with you for days. THE MULE is the full package, half a kilo of Australian drama cut with precise measures of laughs and suspense, worthy of your thorough inspection.
THE MULE releases digitally in Australia on November 21st and physically on DVD & Blu-Ray
Join The Mule on Facebook.
1985 / Director. Paul Verhoeven.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
FLESH + BLOOD was director Paul Verhoeven's first proper American production following a dozen or so Dutch films. Audiences have since come to expect extreme violence and highly sexualised content from him (as demonstrated in ROBOCOP, BASIC INSTINCT, SHOWGIRLS, STARSHIP TROOPERS amongst others) but as a newcomer on the Hollywood scene in 1985 he confronted and shocked most movie-goers with this medieval tale of rape and murder packaged as an exciting adventure. In fairness to him, the film's title IS FLESH + BLOOD, which foreshadows both the violence and the sexual nature of the story. However, what is so confronting about the film is the excessiveness. Even in today's standards the imagery is difficult to watch. Women are raped in the most abhorrently explicit and graphic ways and without apology. The story is set in the 1500s and depicts the revolt of a small group of mercenaries who rebel against their lord and captain. A wealthy maiden is accidentally kidnapped by them after she hides inside a commandeered wagon. She becomes the sexual prize of the group and the object of their leader's sexual urges. With the ruler and his army in pursuit, as well as the threat of the plague upon them, the rebellious group find themselves cornered in a castle with no option but to fight. If you've got the tolerance to persevere with the content you will find FLESH + BLOOD to be a wonderful and sincere medieval caper. Its barbaric and misogynistic themes may have been exploited for entertainment value but there's no question that it represents a way of life during such times that few other films of the era would have dared touch upon. The oddness of the international cast (Aussies, Americans, Dutch) with their conflicting accents lends the film a surreal and fantastical quality and the whole production design is deliciously decadent. FLESH + BLOOD was poorly received at the time of its release but it has since gained a cult following. I love it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre. With GAME OF THRONES now the most popular television show of the moment, I think that audiences are well and truly prepared for the type of extremities that this film has to offer.
2014 / Director. Lawrence Silverstein.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I approached this film blindly... and boy was I duped!! Firstly its Australian title is HIGH SCHOOL ASSASSINS and there wasn't much info online about it. Then there was my assumption, from the poster art, that it was a Japanese action flick. When I read the back of the cover I was surprised (and a little disappointed to read that it was in English). I was digging the artwork and so I put the disc in my machine and hit 'play'. I thought it curious that the trailers featured before the movie were all Asylum titles... hmmm. And then low and behold the film begins and it is most definitely AN ASYLUM RELEASE! That in itself isn't a bad thing because Im a fan of their work... but when my initial expectations were for some kick ass Japanese fight flick... well it all fell apart for me. This is an exploitation film of the lowest degree. Fucking atrocious. It tells the story of 4 teenage asian school girls who sneak into a night club and are drugged, kidnapped and gang raped by a group of men. They wake up the next day with vengeance on their mind. They get jobs as strippers, raise money, learn to fight and embark on a lethal rampage. That all sounds good and well to a genre fan, but there are no redeeming qualities to this shit house excuse of a movie. The acting... HA. Huge LOLs at the word "acting". The performances and overall quality of the production conjure thoughts of amateur porn. The violence, while brutal, is so gratuitous that even the most seasoned gore-hound will bulk at the ridiculousness of it. Dicks are severed, brains are splattered and blood is spilled... and yet after all of these killings there isn't a drop of blood left behind when the cops arrive on the scene. Talk about a deceptive movie and talk about a piss-poor one. 80% of it is made up of boobs, boobs, rape and boobs while the remaining 20% is comprised of soap opera performances and uninspired violence. Even in Asylum standards, ASIAN SCHOOL GIRLS is rank. A stinking turd of a movie.
1977 / Director. Tom Cowan.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Much like WAKE IN FRIGHT, JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN spent decades collecting dust somewhere amongst the archives. Despite being critically praised upon its release it fell into obscurity and became a lost & forgotten classic. It wasn't until the National Film & Sound Archive dug it up, brushed it off and released it on DVD that audiences were finally able to see it. I had known about the film for years. Its legacy as a powerful, confronting and provocative drama had always cemented itself into my consciousness. It was also a rarity in that its feminist storytelling was incredibly jarring to audiences during the 70s and few films before it had been so audacious in their depiction of rape and degradation. The film takes place in the early colonial years of Australian federation. A group of female prisoners are habitually raped, beaten and sodomised by the prison guards (the red coats). When a guard's wife witnesses the brutality she shoot and kills the attacker. She frees the women and they all flee into the wilderness. Assuming that the women will return, the authorities abandon their chase, unaware that the escapees set out for a remote area where they establish their own utopia. With an aboriginal woman teaching them to live off the land they live frivolously and free from oppression and abuse. Before long the red-coats catch up with them and what ensues is an ultra violent, disturbing and primalistic confrontation that is as shocking now as it was then. Watching JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN for the first time recently I was completely left agasp. I had long considered WAKE IN FRIGHT to be one of the most emotionally taxing Australian films, but I can sense this one creeping up behind it. The performances were all incredibly courageous... whether it's the women performing completely nude in the middle of an unforgiving landscape or the men who were tasked with simulating some of the most abhorrent predatory sexual acts... all involved were phenomenal. The production notes suggest that the filming of JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN was volatile with disagreements over the subject and protests against what was demanded of the women. The entire cast and crew spent 6 weeks isolated in the bush, with no communication to the outside world. The result is a confronting, realistic and horrific film that ought to be celebrated as one of Australia's best. Highly recommended.
2011 / Director. Todd Solondz.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Abe (Jordan Gelber), despite being in his early-thirties is effectively a child, babied by his mother (Mia Farrow), financially supported by his father (Christopher Walken), he is the youngest of two children, lives at home and works for the family business. Though the term work is used loosely as he spends the bulk of his time at the office, trawling eBay for 80s toy paraphilanila and sulking. Abe is everything that is wrong with the modern populous, quick to temper, never contributing, feeling he is owed and ultimately blaming others for his own shortcomings, he is the quintessential arsehole. As unlovable as he may be, he finds a potential suitor in Miranda (Selma Blair), a beautiful yet broken woman who is as heavily medicated as she is hopeless, once an aspiring writer but now a spiralling mess. The pair meet at a wedding, being the social misfits they are, they're seemingly the only two not on the dance-floor which leads to an awkward conversation where Abe manages to procure Miranda’s phone number. Upon what may be deemed as their first date Abe proposes in a cringe worthy and spontaneous manor. Days later Miranda calls Abe and sheepishly agrees, the two then set about getting to know one another better. This relationship though, is just one of many both real and fictitious that take a focus in what primarily remains Abe’s story, a tale of a man so divorced from reality and far from empathy that it’s a wonder people have been so tolerant of him for as long as they have but they are and that is a key factor in this film.
Gelber’s performance as Abe is an incredible one, he has the arduous task of portraying someone you downright loathe but find engaging enough to continue to want to watch. A fine line equalled by Solondz’s direction with his trademark balance of sorrowfulness and humour, often making for uncomfortable viewing but always compelling.
The cinematography is perfectly understated and the repetition in composition for certain segues serve as an effective storytelling device. From memory there is no score in the picture (and upon consulting IMDB no one is credited for one either) however music by form of song is used to great effect in accentuating elements within the plot. Particular kudos must be payed to Michael Kisur for the track ‘Who You Wanna Be’, a solid upbeat pop anthem that feels very early 1980s in its sound, if this song isn't in your head for days after watching the film, you’re already dead. While sadly DARK HORSE wasn't met with the same critical praise or humble box office of Solondz’s previous films, personally I feel it’s among his best, his work is definitely an acquired taste but for the true believers out there this a smorgasbord, Bon Appétit.
2014 / Director. Addison Heath.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE marks the directorial debut from writer Addison Heath, who previously wrote CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA. My love of that film is no secret and I've been banging on about it all year. With that film doing the festival circuit, picking up awards and being praised wherever it goes its success can be equally attributed to Addison's incredible script alongside Stuart Simpson's immaculate direction. No sooner had CSV wrapped, Addison had announced that he was working on a brand new feature film and that he was going to direct it. That's no small task and with a team of dedicated friends and fellow filmmakers behind him he set about making UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE. What an achievement. To my knowledge Addison had only previously flirted with one short, which makes this debut feature length film all the more impressive. It tells the story of Caleb, an agoraphobic filmmaker who spends his days tripping on acid, who befriends an abused neighbour, Beatrice. Communicating through the wall dividing their apartments they form a friendship and Caleb finds himself confronted with a violent and repulsive underworld. Beatrice's husband is a notorious criminal figure known for butchering his victims with a hatchet and Caleb is caught trying to protect his new friend from the barbaric hands of her brutal husband. Addison Heath has delivered an accomplished psychedelic thriller that is beautiful and reprehensible in equal measure. His story is a no holds barred trip into exploitation. With a hallucinogenic set design, the story unfolds in a surreal and eclectic narrative and teeters recklessly between the realistic and the fantastic. The players are all great with Kristen Condon pledging her most sincere and heartfelt performance to date. She really dug deep and tapped into something honest. Aston Elliot is also a show-stealer with his hideously reprehensible character of Roger "The Hatchet Man" Smith. If you've seen CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA then you will recall Elliot playing the equally repulsive character, Rocko. Surely Addison gets a perverse kick out of writing these roles for Elliot and the poor bloke dug in and relished every morbid moment. I love the guy. UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE announces Addison Heath as a dangerous and exciting new filmmaker on the scene. His two feature film scripts are worlds apart, sharing few similarities. He is clearly a filmmaker with an ability to shift between genres effortlessly and isn't allowing himself to be pigeon holed into any one formula. God only knows what he will come up with next and I sure as hell cannot wait to find out!
UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE will be premiering at Monster Fest on November 21 and I highly recommend you see it. You can purchase tickets HERE!
2014 / Director. Hilla Medalia.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
When Mark Hartley's ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS was released earlier this year it ended with a title card stating that the two Cannon founders (Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus) declined to be involved in the film and later produced their own documentary called THE GO GO BOYS. In true Cannon form, the alternative film was fast tracked and released ahead of BOOGALOO. I made no bones about my dissatisfaction with ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. I thought it to be a pessimistic, sombre and disrespectful portrait of Cannon Films. It was by no means a bad film but it didn't pay enough respect and essentially smeared the Cannon name. And so it was with anticipation that I eagerly awaited THE GO GO BOYS and I was curious to hear the alternative story as told by the two men themselves. This film lacks the polish and glossy appeal of BOOGALOO but it tells a much more coherent and contextual story. Beginning with their early years making films in Israel to their push on the American market the film presents an overall arch that chronicles the rise and fall of these two passionate cousins. What appealed to me about THE GO GO BOYS was that it was, for the most part, a celebration. It affectionately explores the films that made Cannon one of the most successful companies in Hollywood and it explores various production back stories and the inner workings of the company. A lot of the archival footage was the same as featured in BOOGALOO but this film benefits from personal home movie reels and other company related footage. It is much more of an inside look and contrary to what many may expect, it never skirts around the company's failures and downfalls. Despite Golan and Globus producing the film, director Hilla Madalia pressed them for information regardless. Menehem is particularly uncomfortable discussing failures and one particular scene sees him react very strongly to objectionable questions. It is both enlightening and poignant to hear the two men discuss their relationship (affectionately and critically) and their reunion after 20 years of estrangement is a lovely touch. They tell of their personal losses to the company and share some of their regrets. Some of the guests interviewed for the film include Eli Roth, Jon Voight, Michael Dudikof, Jean Claud Van Damme, Boaz Davidson and Billy Drago amongst others. This line up might not be as impressive as BOOGALOO's but their stories are much more nostalgic and kind hearted. Eli Roth best represented by own eagerness with his recollections of Cannon celebrating the awesomeness of their catalogue. He makes a point of how offended he gets when people pass off Cannon as rubbish or bullshit. He makes a point that their films are relevant to their time and connected with audiences in a much more profound way than many of the other Hollywood counterparts. And so while it is a shabby production, with strangely low-res footage of their catalogued films it is nonetheless a wonderful reflection of a company that, for a moment in time, took the world by storm.
1978 - Director. Sam Raimi.
Review by Justine Ryan.
Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert (credited as RIP Tapert) made Within the Woods as a blueprint to show investors that they could make their first feature film - Book of the Dead, (later retitled The Evil Dead by distributor Irvin Shapiro).
Spending a weekend away at a remote cabin, are couples, Bruce (Bruce Campbell), Ellen (Ellen Sandweiss), Scotty (Scott Spiegel) and Shelly (Mary Valenti). Ellen (Sandweiss whom is long time pals with Raimi and Campbell and high school chums, returns in The Evil Dead as Ashes sister, Cheryl) and Bruce decide to go for a picnic in the woods. To Ellen's dismay, Bruce informs her that they are picnicking on an old Indian burial ground, telling her not to worry - "You're only cursed by the evil spirits if you violate the graves of the dead. We're just going to be eating hot dogs". As Ellen goes off in search for some wood, Bruce begins to dig a hole in the earth to make a fire, uncovering an old cross and Indian dagger. As the soundtrack becomes eerie, we the audience, know that this cannot be good!
As Ellen returns, Bruce shows her what he has uncovered, explaining further that "When the medicine man of a tribe died, they used to bury one of his possessions with him, so he can have it in his next life. All that's left now, is Tinga! - The Indian spirit of the woods - who watches over and protects the medicine man's grave for all eternity".
Awaking from a nap alone, Ellen goes in search of Bruce who is nowhere in sight. Ellen trips over his mutilated body, and is startled by inhuman sounds all around her. Reminiscent of the chase sequence after being raped by the vines in The Evil Dead, Ellen is chased by an evil force through the woods, making it back to the cabin before the force can get her.
Within the Woods is a great companion piece and prelude to The Evil Dead, showcasing many future scenes that would be carried over into The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. Ellen Sandweiss does a fine job just barely holding her own against possessed (Deadite) Bruce.
Within the Woods has been floating around as bootlegs for the past 10 or so years. It was originally going to have it's first DVD release on Anchor Bay's 2002 Limited Edition of The Evil Dead: Book of the Dead, but due to issues with the copyright for it's music, it was scrapped as a DVD extra...until now!
Madman Entertainment will be releasing The Evil Dead Anthology on 26/11/14, exclusive to Australia. The set will include The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, Army Of Darkness, the 2013 reimagining of The Evil Dead, Within the Woods and the documentary 'Invaluable' on Evil Dead special make-up effects designer Tom Sullivan. The set includes the Necronomicon and a replica of the dagger used in the film. I absolutely love Within the Woods and am thrilled this is finally getting it's deserved treatment. The series has been very near and dear to me since I was a kid (as I know many other fans share this same story), hiring them on video. I have lost count the total amount of times I have watched each film, but it probably isn't considered healthy!
Editorial update: The upcoming Madman release will no longer feature INTO THE WOODS for legal reasons.