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Thursday, October 19, 2017


It's funny how computer-animated cartoons that would've amazed people and won technical awards back in the 80s have become such an everyday thing now.  Still, I sometimes get a kick out of seeing one of these CGI cartoons with the colorful 3D-ish characters and elaborate backgrounds that remind me of moving Viewmaster reels.  And if the story is engaging enough, all the better.

Disney Junior's SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN (Cinedigm) meets those criteria well enough for a TV production, at least for me anyway.  The characters are expressive and likable, the settings eye-pleasing, the songs enjoyable, and the story by children's book author Joe Troiano is sweet, simple, and comfortingly predictable.

It all begins when a square pumpkin is discovered in the pumpkin patch of Holiday Hill Farm.  This causes grave unrest among the more intolerant in the garden, embodied by a George-and-Lenny pair of pumpkins ("Big Tom" and "Litte Tom") joined by a weirdly umbilical-like vine and very vocal against any pumpkin who isn't properly round as they are. 

These bullies and their bigotry against anyone different from themselves form the basis for the story's lesson on acceptance, which, thankfully, doesn't pile-drive us quite as much as one might suspect. 

In fact, most of the characters, including friendly scarecrow Jack (the patch's amiable leader), brother and sister bats Boris and Bella (Boris craves bugs while Bella admonishes him for wanting to devour their sentient friends), spiders Edgar, Allan, and Poe ("With an 'E'!"), and vain beauty-queen pumpkin Bobo, are actually more-or-less pretty decent toward Spookley.

Square peg Spookley remains insecure even when his comical spider friends persuade him to enter Jack's "Jack-A-Lympics" competition to decide the Pick of the Patch (mainly so they can get their hands on the candy corn crown). 

Naturally, his unusual shape dooms his chances in each round, inviting a fair amount of thoughtless ridicule from the others.  It isn't until a raging storm hits the farm and everyone comes frighteningly close to a bad end that the little square pumpkin's shape enables him to rescue everyone.

As I said, it's all comfortingly predictable.  I must confess to not knowing just how kids these days react to this kind of stuff--I would've been entranced by it, and even now find it pleasantly watchable.   

The characters are pretty funny, and the frequent song-and-dance numbers--some with backup by Pointer Sisters-like trio "The Honey-Doos" and even a few musical ghosts--not only entertain with their clever lyrics and bouncy choreography but also come and go without outstaying their welcome. 

The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo from Cinedigm is in standard television format with English, Spanish, and French 2.0 soundtracks and English SDH subtitles.  Extras consist of five (non-HD) video storybooks, each based on a Joe Troiano book and lasting about five minutes: The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, The Legend of Beacon the Bright Little Firefly, The Legend of JellyBean and the Unbreakable Egg, The Legend of Lyla the Lovesick Ladybug, and The Legend of Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens. 

The first of these, "The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin", is read by none other than Bobby "Boris" Pickett of "Monster Mash" fame.  Pickett also sings the main feature's "Monster Mash"-like end titles song, "The Transylvania Twist."

SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN is ideal small-scale fun for (say it with me) "kids of all ages."  The little ones won't suspect they're being taught a lesson about tolerance even as Spookley's ultimately heartwarming tale leaves them with a Jack o' Lantern smile.


DAY OF ROMERO in Los Angeles: George Romero To Get Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame October 25, 2017



WHO:         Honoree: George A. Romero
Emcee: Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, President/CEO Leron Gubler
Guest speaker: Filmmaker Edgar Wright and special effects make-up artist/producer, Greg Nicotero.  Accepting the star on behalf of the family will be Romero’s wife Suzanne Desrocher-Romero

WHAT:       Dedication of the 2,621st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
in the category of Motion Pictures

WHERE:    6604 Hollywood Boulevard in front the Hollywood Toy & Costume Store

WHEN:      Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. PDT
Event will be live-streamed exclusively on

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce that filmmaker George A. Romero will be honored posthumously with the 2,621st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. PDT. The star will be dedicated in the category of Motion Pictures at 6604 Hollywood Boulevard in front the Hollywood Toy & Costume Store.

“The fact that fans nominated Mr. Romero for the Walk of Fame star speaks volumes of how loved he was for his work in the horror film genre and for being the person he was. Fortunately, prior to his passing he learned that he was selected for a star, and we are saddened that he won’t be here with us for his special day,” stated Ana Martinez, Producer of the Walk of Fame.

Helping Emcee and Hollywood Chamber President/CEO Leron Gubler to unveil the star will be guest speakers: Filmmaker Edgar Wright and special effects make-up artist Greg Nicotero.  Accepting the star will be Romero’s wife Suzanne Desrocher-Romero.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce which administers the popular star ceremonies encourages people who are unable to attend and fans around the world to watch the event live exclusively on

Born on Feb. 4, 1940 in New York City, Romero became interested in filmmaking at a young age when he borrowed an 8mm camera from a wealthy uncle. Inspired by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s musical opera, “Tales of Hoffmann” (1951), Romero began making his own short films and was arrested at 14 years old after he threw a flaming dummy off the roof of a building while making “Man from the Meteor” (1954).

While attending Suffield Academy in Connecticut, Romero made two 8mm shorts, “Gorilla” (1956) and “Earth Bottom” (1956); the latter being a geology documentary that won him a Future Scientists of America award. After graduating high school, he attended Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA where he earned his Bachelor’s in Art, Theater and Design in 1960.

Romero continued making shorts such as “Curly” (1958) and graduated to 16mm films with “Slant” (1958), both of which he made with sometime collaborator Rudolph Ricci. Following work as a grip on Alfred Hitchcock's “North by Northwest” (1958), Romero shot the feature-length “Expostulations” (1962), a satirical anthology of loosely-connected shorts that showed hints of his later social consciousness.

After forming the commercial and industrial production company, Latent Image, in 1963, Romero cobbled together $114,000 in order to direct his first feature film, “Night of the Flesh Eaters.” Renamed “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) after landing a distributor, the unrelenting film - which was criticized at the time for its onscreen excesses - became a landmark cult film and significant social barometer that forever changed the horror genre.

With no heroes or redemptive meaning - only unstoppable nihilistic evil rampaging through small town America - the movie popularized the zombie apocalypse subgenre of horror, spawning numerous imitators throughout the ensuing decades.

Though decidedly cheap in production values, “Night of the Living Dead” nonetheless stood the test of time as an innovative cult film that attracted new fans every generation and became Romero’s signature work.

Romero’s other films include: “Season of the Witch,” “The Crazies, “Knight Riders,” “Creep Show,” “Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear,” “Two Evil Eyes.”

Romero secured his cult status with two remarkable films: “Martin” and “Dawn of the Dead”.   He later went on to write “Day of the Dead, the ostensible conclusion to the “Living Dead” trilogy which emerged as one Romero’s strongest horror films to date.

Romero also worked in television as the creator, co-executive producer and occasional writer of “Tales from the Dark Side.”  Romero teamed up with Stephen King again for his adaptation of King’s novel, “The Dark Half.”

In 2004, Romero returned to familiar territory with “Land of the Dead,” a continuation of his zombie franchise long thought to be finished with “Day of the Dead.” This time, however, Romero increased the energy with a fast-paced actioner that was not shy on the gore and violence, pleasing both fans and the uninitiated. “Land of the Dead” ended up being one of the best reviewed films of the 2005 summer!

He continued his zombie revitalization with “Diary of the Dead,” which was more of a reboot than a sequel to the other four movies in the “Dead” series. He then made the sixth in the series, “Survival of the Dead” (2010), which saw the inhabitants of an isolated island off the coast of North America conflicted whether to kill their own relatives rising from the grave, or try to find a cure. Romero’s “Dead” films continue to inspire such hits as “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Zombieland” (2009).

In 2013, Romero’s “Empire of the Dead” was announced by Marvel Comics. It was a 15-issue limited comic book series which began publication in 2014, and ended in late 2015. “Empire” features zombies similar to those in his “Living Dead” film series, but differs slightly because vampires are also part of the story.
Dubbed the “Godfather of Zombie Films,” George A. Romero was a pivotal figure in the development of the contemporary horror film and the progenitor of the zombie apocalypse subgenre.
Filmmakers who consider Romero as one of their influences include Frank Darabont, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to name just few!

Sadly, Romero passed away on July 16, 2017 from a brief, but aggressive battle with lung cancer. He slipped away listening to the score of “The Quite Man,” one of his all-time favorite films, with his family by his side. He leaves behind a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time!

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an internationally-recognized Hollywood icon. With approximately 24 star ceremonies annually broadcast around the world, the constant reinforcement provided to the public has made the Walk of Fame a top visitor attraction. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce continues to add stars on the Walk of Fame as the representative of the City of Los Angeles. The Walk of Fame is a tribute to all of those who worked diligently to develop the concept and to maintain this world-class tourist attraction. The Walk of Fame is open to the public. No paid admission or assigned seating at star ceremonies. It is understood that the cost of installing a star on the Walk of Fame upon approval is $40,000 and the sponsor of the nominee accepts the responsibility for arranging for payment to the Hollywood Historic Trust, a 501(c)3 charitable foundation. The funds are used to pay for the creation/installation of the star and ceremony, as well as maintenance of the Walk of Fame. Download the official app for iPhones and Android devices at

For more than 96 years, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has provided leadership, business development resources, networking, and government affairs programs and services to keep the Hollywood business and residential communities safe, relevant and economically vital. Jeff Zarrinnam, is the Chair of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 2017-18, and Leron Gubler is the President/CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. For more information please visit

The Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Sign are registered trademarks of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
#hollywoodwalkoffame   #wofstargirl


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RED CHRISTMAS -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

We reviewed a barebones advance screener for RED CHRISTMAS back in August (see below) but today (October 17) it comes out on Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films and we've gotten the opportunity to take a gander at it. 

This seasonal slash-em-up is about a highly dysfunctional family (with America's sweetheart, Dee Wallace, as the harried matriarch) getting together like oil and water for an unconventional Christmas celebration with a surprise guest--Cletus, Mom's aborted fetus that survived, grew up, got real crazy, and is now out for either familial love or ruthless revenge, whichever comes first.

Needless to say, it's a raucous affair that serves to bring the disparate family members together at last, even as they're getting picked off one by one.

As for the Blu-ray--not only does it look and sound good enough to put you right in the Christmas spirit, but there are some lovely extras as well.  First up is director Craig Anderson's informal interview with a charming Dee Wallace, who manages to melt our hearts all over again as she speaks of working not only on this film but her previous classics (E.T., THE HOWLING, 10, etc.) as well. 

Next, Anderson and actor Sam Campbell ("Cletus") pop over to Gerald Odwyer's house to chat with him about his experiences playing "Gerry."  Again, it's all pleasantly casual and amusing, as well as informative.

Lastly comes a blooper reel, deleted scene, and brief clip of Odwyer and Anderson goofing around.  The latter two also handle the film's commentary, which is very scene-specific and enlightening.

The Blu-ray is in 2.25:1 widescreen with 5.1 surround sound.  English subtitles and closed-captions are available.

And now, here's our original review of the film itself:

A movie that might also have been called "When Abortions Attack!", RED CHRISTMAS (Artsploitation Films, 2016) is a pretty effective cautionary tale about what can happen if your viable aborted fetus is rescued by the guy who's about to blow up the abortion clinic, grows up into a twisted, deformed freak, and then returns as an adult on Christmas Day to wreak bloody revenge on his erstwhile mother and her comically dysfunctional family. 

Of course, any such film must star beloved genre queen Dee Wallace as the mom, who so desperately wants a traditional, happy family get-together despite having a woefully untraditional, unhappy family with absolutely no intention of getting together.  Her only solace is son Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), whose Downs Syndrome only makes him more special in Mommy's heart.

The rest of the clan includes the rebellious teen girl, her witheringly cynical and very, very pregnant older sister, the ultra-religious sister whose husband is a pious man of the cloth, and Mom's old-hippie brother who is forever puffing away on his medicinal marijuana. 

The prickly interactions amongst this motley bunch, spurred by various family issues and clashing personalities, would be sufficient for a twisted "Big Chill" sort of ensemble dramedy were it not for the fact that their ritual of exchanging gifts around the Christmas tree is interrupted by the entrance of one Cletus, an extremely creepy figure robed in black and wrapped from head to toe like a leper. 

Anyone who watches the abortion clinic prologue and then gets a load of Cletus should have very little trouble putting two and two together as well as mentally mapping out pretty much what territory the rest of RED CHRISTMAS is going to cover. 

All that's left to discover is who's gonna die in what order, how (and how bad) it's going to be, and whether or not first-time writer-director Craig Anderson will be able to make it entertaining for us jaded old slasher-flick junkies. 

Of course, the movie has already proven itself absorbing and fun thanks to good dialogue and performances and a pleasing overall look which includes nicely creative use of color and camera movement. 

Once the axe hits the skull and Cletus starts racking up his body count, the story goes into high gear and keeps us on our toes even though most of the plot's twists and turns cover pretty familiar ground. 
Granted, things start to lag a bit in the second half, but remain generally engaging enough to keep us wanting to see what happens next.  The kills range from teasing glimpses to graphic gore (although this isn't really a gorehound's dream) while our fleeting glimpse of Cletus sans facial bandages drives home the pleasingly retro nature of the film's practical effects. 

The tone is mock serious, with any humor that's inherent in the script kept utterly deadpan and never overt, which I like.  I also like the fact that the premise is so refreshingly different from the usual teens-in-a-cabin or campers-in-the-woods slasher fare while retaining the better elements of such films.

Mainly, though, RED CHRISTMAS lets us enjoy watching the wonderful Dee Wallace giving her all in a great role while fun and entertaining murder, mayhem, and carnage ensue all around her.  It's enough to give horror fans a little taste of Christmas right here in the middle of August.

Buy it at

Red Christmas (Official Trailer)


Monday, October 16, 2017


You never know how a "cult" film is going to strike you.  Will you get caught up in whatever its many devoted fans see in it?  Or will its dubious appeal pass you by completely, making it seem to you like just another cheap piece of dreck? 

The 1987 Canuxploitation thriller (well, sorta) BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR hits me about halfway between the two extremes.  I found it entertaining enough for a low-budget effort but I'm not quite moved to go out into the street singing its praises. 

The best thing I can say is that there's plenty of fun to be had for those who appreciate fair-to-bad movies, especially ones that fully and imaginatively utilize their severely limited resources.

Serbian writer-director Bozidar D. Benedikt (THE GRAVEYARD STORY) has certainly done so, piecing together various ideal found locations to concoct nothing less than a small-scale subterranean puzzle-maze adventure. 

Ex-con Boris (Serbian actor Lazar Rockwood, THE RETURN) looks up his old girlfriend and former robbery partner Wendy (Bonnie Beck, CITY IN PANIC) and presents her with a proposition: help him get into the castle of the rich old guy Wendy works for so that they can try to find the treasure he's said to be hoarding somewhere within its walls. 

She's hesitant at first, but--long story short--they end up going through with the plan after she's cased the joint, made copies of certain keys, and figured out that the most likely location for a hidden treasure is behind that big locked door in the basement. 

Once they go through it, however, they've just initiated an automated security system (actually more of a game-playing ordeal for the old man's amusement) that will have them scrambling to decipher clues to get them from one room to the next lest they perish in one of a series of diabolical death traps. 

The old man's recorded voice, heard intermittently over a speaker system, promises that if they make it to the end they can keep whatever they find, but as the night wears on and the traps become more and more deadly, this seems unlikely. 

Of course, it all plays like a poor man's version of similar quests in such films as INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE and NATIONAL TREASURE.  But since BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR is operating on a budget less than what those films spent on Evian water, it's interesting to watch just what kind of brain-teasing labyrinth of mystery director Benedikt and his crew have been able to come up with.

Like other such stories, it's sort of a condensed version of a cliffhanger serial with each scene building to some impending-doom situation--spikes descending from the ceiling, a sealed room slowly filling with water, walls closing in, etc.--which, while not all that terribly thrilling, manages to keep us interested.

But what really holds our attention is watching the two leads wildly emoting their way through it all, their performances none too polished but brimming with energy.  Pretty Bonnie Beck is capable enough, especially in the quieter scenes, while lanky, angular-looking Lazar Rockwood tends to go off like a bottle rocket every few moments, his performance often resembling one of those manic characters Martin Short is known for.

Both manage to shed some of their clothes along the way as Wendy rips her dress down to her stockings and garters trying to plug up some water-gushing holes in the wall and Boris, to my personal dismay, somehow loses his shirt. 

A sudden, fitful sex scene between the two comes on like a steam-valve burst of nervous energy but mercifully fades out before we go blind, and, without much further ado, the movie sweeps us along toward that 7th door and its final, life-or-death dilemma.

The DVD from Intervision is in 1.33:1 full frame with Dolby sound.  No subtitles. Extras include interviews with Benedikt and Rockwood (and Paul Corupe of, the featurette "The King of Cayenne" about eccentric street personality Ben Kerr (who plays a corpse in the film), and an entertaining audio commentary with Benedikt, Rockwood, and Corupe.

After pleasantly stringing us along for the better part of an hour and a half, BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR ends with a rather nifty, and nasty, plot twist that had me feeling pretty satisfied about the whole thing.  I may not become part of the film's cult, but I can sort of understand why there is one.

Buy it at Severin Films

Release date: October 31, 2017


Saturday, October 14, 2017

THE FORLORNED -- Movie Review by Porfle

It seems as though ghost stories are one of the hardest kinds of movies to make, or at least make scary.  Most are lucky if they manage to be scary half the time, usually starting out strong before fizzling out toward the end. 

In these cases, a bunch of spooky peripheral glimpses and some nerve-jangling jump scares keep us on edge until the story gets in the way and things start being a little too literal and on-the-nose expository. 

THE FORLORNED (2017) suffers from this problem, but fortunately it doesn't suffer too terribly much.  Why?  Because it's such a likable effort and builds up so much goodwill in the first half that we're willing to go along with it to the end even when it isn't creeping us out.  That first half, while not exactly heart-attack-inducing, is all goosebumpy, Halloween-style fun.   

The setting is a big old mansion on a remote, fog-swept island in New England (the movie was filmed on location--in Montana) next to an abandoned lighthouse.  Bad, and I mean VERY bad things are said to have happened on that island, dating back to the War of 1812 when some really horrible atrocities took place.  Since then, anyone setting foot on the island has terrifying ghostly experiences that are whispered about in reverent awe by the townsfolk.

Tom Doherty (Colton Christensen), a young carpenter desperately in need of money, sets foot big time by getting hired to stay in the house by himself for several weeks doing renovations. He's one of those "ha ha, I don't believe in that kind of stuff" types until colorfully grizzled old local Murphy (Cory Dangerfield), who owns a pub on the mainland, helpfully lets him in on all of the island's terrifying ghostly history in graphic detail.

Thus the stage is set for that first half of THE FORLORNED that keeps us all giddy and tingly as Tom experiences all sorts of noises, fleeting glimpses, an old radio that keeps coming on by itself, and electrical failures that must be remedied at the breaker box located in--you guessed it--the basement, into which Tom must venture in pitch dark as we're thinking, " Just no."  And I haven't even mentioned the man-eating ghost warthog.

It's ideal entertainment for that eerie Halloween mood, even throwing in a couple of effective gross-outs (chocolate cake with maggot filling, a flashback of early 1800's sailors turning into ravaging flesh-eaters) and the kind of queasy haunted-house stuff that makes certain people recall films such as THE CHANGELING and THE OTHERS so fondly.  (This big, creepy old house, by the way, is an ideal setting for the film, aided by some effective CGI-generated environs.)

Eventually, Tom is joined by Amy Garrity (Elizabeth Mouton), a plucky young woman who lived in the house as a little girl and is back seeking closure for the mysterious death of her father and disappearance of her mother.  She's a good character and we like her, but it's right about here that the film starts to get less scary and more talky, especially when Tom's body gets "occupied" by a surprise guest ghost and Colton Christensen's previously understated performance becomes big and theatrical, as though the final scenes were part of a broad dinner theater play. 

Still, by this time we're pretty invested in the story and don't really mind that it's no longer all that blood-curdling.  It all comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion and leaves us feeling as though we've just heard a particularly effective sleepover story.  And if that's what THE FORLORNED was aiming for, then it pretty much succeeded. 


Newly Restored in 2K, Film Movement Releases Romy Schneider's Classic "SISSI COLLECTION" on Blu-Ray for the Very First Time on 11/14

"Glittering Splendor...Schneider is a sight to behold." -- The New York Times



Romy Schneider Vaulted to International Stardom in Her Career Defining Role as the Beloved Austrian Princess; Every Timeless Sissi Film is Collected in this 5-Disc Set, Perfect for the Whole Family

Available on November 14, 2017 Extras Include a Bonus Disc featuring "Forever My Love" (1962), a Condensed English-Dubbed Version of the Trilogy, a "Making of" Featurette and a 20-page Collector's Booklet

At the age of seventeen, Romy Schneider vaulted to international stardom through her portrayal of Princess Elisabeth (Sissi) of Austria in the first of three lavish films directed by Ernst Marischka.  And, while she would go on to work with some of the most influential and daring European directors of the era, Schneider will always be remembered by this defining role in the internationally beloved series.  Newly restored in 2K and available for the first time ever on Blu-ray in North America, THE SISSI COLLECTION, priced at $74.95srp, includes the Cannes Golden Palm-Nominated "Sissi Trilogy" along with VICTORIA IN DOVER (1954), a precursor to the Sissi films in which Schneider plays Britain's Princess Victoria.

In SISSI, the title tale from 1955, viewers embraced the 16 year-old Sissi as she traveled with her mother to the Austrian court in Ischl, where the engagement between her sister Helene and the young emperor Franz Josef (Karl Boehm) was to be announced.  Unfortunately for Helene, he falls for Sissi after meeting her while out fishing.  Sissi is also romantically engaged, but marriage comes with a price -- Archduchess Sophie, his arrogant and headstrong mother! 

The sequel, SISSI: THE YOUNG EMPRESS (1956) follows the magnificent imperial wedding in Vienna and finds Sissi settling down to everyday life as empress.  Unfortunately, the strong-willed Sissi and her domineering mother-in-law cannot see eye to eye, and the conflict is heightened with the birth of a daughter.  Ultimately, a truce is brokered and the young couple head from Hungary where they are crowned King and Queen. 

In the final film in the beloved trilogy, SISSI: THE FATEFUL YEARS OF THE EMPRESS(1957), Sissi has proven her ability to not only handle affairs of state but also her mother-in-law.  But as the Queen travels to Hungary in an effort to calm the insubordinate nobility, Archduchess Sophie again causes trouble for her daughter-in-law.

All of the remastered films in "The Sissi Trilogy" are presented in both 16:9 widescreen and the original theatrical full screen aspect ratios.

FOREVER MY LOVE (1962) --  The beloved "Sissi Trilogy" presented in a condensed English-dubbed version, originally released by Paramount Pictures in the U.S. and featuring a theme song written by Burt Bacharach.
FROM ROMY TO SISSI -- Making-of Featurette
SISSI'S GREAT-GRANDSON AT THE MOVIES - Excerpt from the documentary film Elisabeth: Enigma of an Empress
Full-color, 20-page collectible booklet with new essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

Type:  Blu-ray
Running Time: 600 mins. + extras
Rating:  NR
Genre:  Drama
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen/4:3
Audio:  (BD) DTS-HD Master Audio/5.1 Dolby Digital / (Bonus DVD) 5.1 Dolby Digital/2.0 Stereo
Language: German with English Subtitles

About Film Movement
Celebrating its 15th year, Film Movement is a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City.  Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide, and last year it had its first Academy Award-nominated film, Naji Abu Nowar's THEEB. Film Movement's theatrical distribution strategy has evolved to include promising American independent films, documentaries, and an even stronger slate of foreign art house titles.  Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit


Friday, October 13, 2017

HOUSE BY THE LAKE -- Movie Review by Porfle

At first it sounded like yet another case of dopey teens being stalked and terrorized while partying in somebody's parents' lakehouse.  But HOUSE BY THE LAKE (2017), to my very pleasant surprise, turned out to be a serious, adult chiller that establishes a foreboding atmosphere and sustains the suspense almost all the way to the end.

Almost, that is, because this is one of those movies that's so good until the very end leaves me wondering how they could've gotten so much right and then--in football parlance--fumbled the ball on the one-yard line.

The set-up is beautifully simple--workaholic Karen (Anne Dudek, SHADOW PEOPLE, 10 ITEMS OR LESS) and failure-at-life Scott (James Callis, "Battlestar Galactica", MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS) are a troubled couple hoping that a vacation "away from it all" in his parents' lavish lake house will not only help mend their relationship but also be good for their autistic daughter Emma (Amiah Miller), a painfully introverted girl who can barely stand to be touched.

A vivacious young nanny named Gwen (Natasha Bassett) shows up the next day and immediately hits it off with Emma, who communicates mostly through her crayon drawings.  They're so tight, in fact, that it stirs feelings of jealousy in control-freak Karen, who also fears that Scott is becoming attracted to the younger woman.

What really makes things start to get spooky, however, is the appearance of a creepy old codger (Michael Bowen, KILL BILL VOL.1, THE LOST, DEADGIRL) from out of nowhere who claims to live on the lake and shows what seems to be an unhealthy interest in Emma. 

Karen is greatly concerned, and is mortified when Scott tries to pass it off as nothing.  This, along with Karen's jealousy of Gwen, and Scott's ever-growing feelings of crippling inadequacy, only serves to drive the wedge even deeper between Karen and Scott.

The movie really hits its stride as a chiller with a series of spooky sleepwalking incidents involving Emma, who also begins to talk about her new friend "The Fish Man."  Amiah Miller is the rare scary-movie kid who can not only act but is able to affect a "scary face" without looking silly.

Emma's eventual disappearance causes her parents to take the "Fish Man" stories more seriously and will help drive HOUSE BY THE LAKE into bonafide thriller territory even as we're debating with ourselves over whether or not there's something supernatural at work. 

Director Adam Gierasch (AUTOPSY, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS), working with a clean, no-nonsense style and a fine cast, has a way of building and maintaining suspense along with a genuine sense of dread that keeps us on edge as we wait for the worst to happen.  This anticipation gives the film a compelling quality that teases and scintillates as it reaches its climax.

What actually does happen at the end is, for me, a case of being too literal and showing too much.  After such a subtle and skillful build-up, it's nothing less than jarring.  In my opinion, much more should've been left to the viewer's imagination in a closing sequence that could've been truly haunting but, instead, looks almost like something out of THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS.

I really wanted to give HOUSE BY THE LAKE a glowing review while I was watching it, and indeed had most of the darn thing typed up in my mind when those last few minutes happened.  Maybe an instant-replay would prove me wrong, but despite the rest of the game being a real nail-biter, that last play definitely looked like a fumble to me. 

Watch it at