FRIGHT PACK: CAMPY CLASSICS [*]ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK [*]RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES [*]TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 [*]RETURN TO HORROR HIGH [*]SLEEPAWAY CAMP [*]VAMP Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment Rated: PG, PG-13, R Disc Length: 560 minutes Genre: Horror/Comedy Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.85:1 widescreen enhanced[*] 1.33:1 fullscreen (Return of the Killer Tomatoes) Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono & Stereo Subtitles: None Closed Captioned: Yes U.S. SLP: $34.98 Release Date: July 26, 2005. 6 Premium Horror Films For something familiar but different, Anchor Bay has decided to bundle their classic and campy horror films as a part of their new Fright Pack box sets. These are movies that have been released before either as a single DVD and/or as a part of their Drive-In Double Feature line of horror films. This new method of packaging lets the consumer pick up his or hers six-pack of horror films if they’ve missed them the first – or second – time around, just to make sure you get them before they are released in an HD format. This is the first of two six-pack releases and more are promised in the future. And it literally is a six-pack. The discs are packaged up in a single designed box case with an exposed opening at the side to slide the discs out. Each film title is displayed on the side of the box on a can so you know what’s in the package. The top of the box has its own carrying handle too – a nice little touch to get us in that six-pack mood. You can carry this bundle anywhere: from the store to your home theatre, from your home theatre to your friend’s house, or even to the drive-in should you want to watch these on a portable DVD player in your car. The choice is yours! Each title is wrapped individually within the six-pack case so there is lots of plastic to throw in the garbage. If anything, the amount of garbage we go through as a society is the scariest of all. So it’s up to you what title you want to watch first. Here’s what’s included in this Campy Classics DVD box set. ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK - Film Rating: / Elvira, the horror movie night hostess stars in a film about her – the mistress of the dark. She driving to New England to claim a haunted house that her great aunt left behind for her. While her beauty and tough as nails attitude is a turn on for some men in town, there are others who aren’t so receptive to the busty beauty in black. This comedy has jokes that are silly rather than funny. You can’t take it seriously at all (but can you take any comedy seriously?) Many of the jokes are based on Elvira’s chest. While it’s repetitive…I never got bored. Scare Factor? /5 This film is not intended to be scary, so scare factor does not come into play. This is a comedy based on the horror genre. While it has some horror elements that may be frightening for younger audiences, this was intended to be campy from the beginning. VIDEO QUALITY / As one of the newest films in this set I was disappointed to find how grainy the film was. There are large black specs scattered throughout as well as constant film grain that gives the image a hazy appearance. Thankfully, and unlike the other films in this set, colours are bursting out as much as Elvira’s chest and black levels are solid and not washed out. Contrast is fine – the picture never appeared dim. Other than the grain, edge enhancement is the next big problem. AUDIO QUALITY / Redone in 5.1 surround, the soundtrack varies in quality. A lot of the sounds are in the front soundstage and they are some distinct surround effects in the rear channels. The sound is a little thin compared to other soundtracks of 1988. Dialogue is centered in the center channel but it’s much quieter than the main effects channels as well as the surrounds. When the music kicks in – it really kicks in. It sounds a little shocking when it happens because it sounds detached from the rest of the soundtrack. A Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack is also included as an audio option. It sounds more filled in the midrange and more equal in volume. Obviously you won’t get the same channel separation with this soundtrack. SPECIAL FEATURES / Included on this disc is the theatrical trailer, the teaser trailer and a Cassandra Peterson Bio. Inside the case you’ll also find a two page spread about Cassandra Peterson and her role as Elvira. If you flip the disc over (it's the only double-sided DVD in this box set, you'll find colour bars with PLUGE and a 1kHz audio tone running for one minute and then your DVD player will repeat it over and over until the cows come home. RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES - Film Rating: / The concept of the movie is just plain dumb. I reviewed Attack of the Killer Tomatoes on HTF two years ago and I’ve never seen such a dumb movie in my life until I saw that one. Yet, I still found myself singing the theme song, imitating the sounds of the tomatoes, and thinking about that damn awful song “Puberty Love.” Well, you will be reminded of these things in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Director John De Bello hasn’t changed at all in the 10 years it took to make this sequel where the plot hasn’t changed much but the tomatoes have transformed into killer tomato human warriors by a mad scientist (and only one absolutely gorgeous female who loves to cook, clean, and have sex with her man). It’s up to two buddies (one of whom is George Clooney in an early role) to save the world. Scare Factor? /5 Again, this isn’t a scary film, it just plain silly. Actually, I don’t even think this film is campy so I wouldn’t have included it in this box set if I had the choice. This film does have seriously corny humour moments (the only humour I have). I did enjoy this one better than the first film…I can’t believe I said that!! Now that’s scary!! VIDEO QUALITY / Not widescreen or enhanced for widescreen TVs, the 1.33:1 picture looks far better than its predecessor. You can actually see details and it isn’t covered by excessive film grain. There is even enough detail to see through the shower door on that one most important shot (you’ll know what I mean). Daylight scenes are bright and interiors have good 3-D. There isn’t much to complain about here other than some edge enhancement and minor grain and compression artefacts. AUDIO QUALITY / Mono again. You won’t hear the wonderful songs in stereo. Dialogue sounds a little strained but everything else sounds acceptable. This is just an average mono soundtrack. SPECIAL FEATURES / All you’ll find here is the theatrical trailer for this film. No other killer tomato features here. TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 - Film Rating: / This hilarious comedy (horror) has a great cast including Jeff Goldblum, Carol Kane, Jeffrey Jones, Geena Davis and Michael Richards. Two reporters for a “rag” magazine are to dig up a story on Frankenstein while they travel to Transylvania or else they’ll lose their jobs. Along the way they bump into a nymphomaniac vampire, a mad doctor, a clumsy butler, and other oddities in Transylvania. Scare Factor? /5 You are looking in the wrong place for scares; this film has none. I have to stop using this scare rating for horror comedies because the results are the same each time. I did enjoy this movie, it’s turned out to be one of my favourites of this set even though other “critics” didn’t like it as much…but who are they? Be your own critic and check it out for yourself. VIDEO QUALITY / Enhanced for widescreen TVs, this 1:85:1 movie is free from most film grain but has dirt on the print. Hmm. What is the killer of this picture from looking really good is the excessive amount of edge enhancement. This movie is the worst of all titles in this set for this artificial edge outlining. It’s really nasty and is destroys a good looking movie. All is not bad – as much as we humans love to focus on the bad stuff, I will tell you everything else about the picture is good – except for Jeff Goldblum’s hair. AUDIO QUALITY / This box set is a mono film fest. Encoded as Dolby Digital 2.0, it doesn’t sound bad. Dialogue is intelligible and the music has some range in frequency and dynamics. You won’t be upset with the quality of this mono soundtrack. Mono. Hmff. SPECIAL FEATURES / An audio commentary with writer/director Rudy De Luca and Visual Consultant Steve Haberman is worth checking out. They actually have important things to say about the movie and their commentary is worth the listen because it’s interesting. There are two theatrical trailers, two TV spots, some original storyboard art as well as a still gallery; both of which you can glide through with the arrow buttons on your remote. RETURN TO HORROR HIGH – Film Rating / A film crew decides to film on location at Crippen High School - the same school where deadly murders took place many years ago. During their film shoot, it seems that the killer is still at large and is determined to repeat the murders over again. One by one the actors and crew are stalked, go missing, and turn up dead. Nice! Scare Factor? /5 This film wasn’t very scary at all. It was more funny than freaky, but that was probably the point given the satirical nature of the film. This movie seemed more concerned about the psychology of horror films (like Scream was) and filled it with oozing blood and boobs hanging out girls’ shirts – elements of every young boy’s favourite horror movies. VIDEO QUALITY / This movie looks pretty good for this genre of film and the era it made. Resolution is very good and the movie shows its colours well and appearing only slightly muted. Contrast is excellent sporting solid black levels and very acceptable white levels. There is minor film grain and compression artefacts and edge enhancement are rarely seen. AUDIO QUALITY / This movie is on par with the rest of the mono film soundtracks here. It is one of the better ones by a small margin. Hiss is a non-issue and the sound has good frequency extension at both ends. The music is corny - but it's horror so it's supposed to be. SPECIAL FEATURES / Not much here but a theatrical trailer and a 5x7 theatrical poster replica with chapter stops listed on the back of it. SLEEPAWAY CAMP – Film Rating / Scare Factor? /5 I yawned a little more with this title than jumped. Actually, I didn’t jump at all. The lead up to the deaths is not frightening and even as people are dying I’m still never got the chills. Ok…I’m desensitized in this mad world we live in. But I was disappointed with this flick because it was a title I’ve always wanted to see. I’ve seen the third one when I was younger…watched it at one of those all-night parties when movies with blood, guts, and T & A ruled the screen. Now that I’ve seen the first one I really don’t care too much anymore. I’ll have to see the second one just for the heck of it. The only moment of the film that caught me off guard was the very end. Creepy...yes…and now I have that vision in my head and it won’t go away. This is the same release as the one in 2000 from Anchor Bay. So for those of you wishing for the uncut version of this film, you’ll be disappointed. VIDEO QUALITY / Muted - that word comes to mind first when describing the picture of this film. It looks like I’m watching the picture on a screen with the colour control turned up about 30% from black and white. The film used at the time is the cause of this. Actually, it looks like film stock of the ‘70s and has the colour resolution of what we’d see of these ‘70s movies on late night cable TV, even though it was made in ’83. The grass in the camp looks like it hasn’t been watered at all…it’s a very light green. Flesh tones are pale looking and background details suffer from a lack of detail because of compression. Foreground information looks defined most of the time. The film also suffers from the jitters (bounces around the screen a lot). Not only is there edge enhancement present, but there is a strange colour outlining on foreground-to-background images. There is also some film grain and fading in different sections of the print and black levels can be too high looking washed out, or too low crushing all of the shadow detail. It can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. Like Angela, by nature it’s both. AUDIO QUALITY / The audio is thin but understandable. There is no bass and midrange is weak. The music score (that is laughable because it tries to be sinister and dreary) also sounds weak. This is a very basic Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded mono soundtrack. At least hiss is low enough to not be a concern. SPECIAL FEATURES / Included in this package is an audio commentary with Director Robert Hiltzik, star Felissa Rose and moderator Jeff Hayes (who operates the Sleepaway Camp website). The three of them have fun through the commentary as they reminisce about the past. This disc also has the theatrical trailer and a 5x7 theatrical poster. VAMP – Film Rating / Two friends wanting to join a fraternity decide that their initiation rituals for entrance are a pile of sh*t and the two of them can offer something much better. The two boys decide that getting a private dancer for the guys is a better thing to do, so with the help of their nerdy “friend for a week” they drive into the city to find a girl at a rippers. Little do they know, that point in town is with teeth…long teeth waiting for some fresh blood. These vampires have been feeding on the lonely men who come to these strip clubs alone and no one knows where they are missing (because who tells people they go to strip clubs!) The boys find out the hard way that they are prey to these creatures of the night. Scare Factor? /5 I did feel some tense moments in this film…it’s the fear of the unknown and also because I actually cared about our three main characters. With vampire guys wandering the streets at night and nowhere for a fresh-blooded lad to run to without the fear of teeth sinking into the neck, wouldn’t you be scared too? Like the other titles in this set, there is humour to this movie and it makes it one of the most pleasurable titles to watch. VIDEO QUALITY / From the dark interiors of the nightclub, sleazy alleys and underground sewers to the dark private rooms behind the club the picture is…dark! It’s a good dark though, complementing the humour of the film. Sometimes I felt that shadow detail was poor and the film just got swallowed up in its darkness. Neon lights provide a nice relief from this darkness and their colours vibrantly radiate on the screen. In the daylight, colours and contrast look better than some of the other films in this set. Edge enhancement and film grain (and the resulting compression artefacts from trying to figure out the grain) the biggest nuisances. AUDIO QUALITY / For a mono soundtrack of an ‘80s film, the sound isn’t that bad. Aside from the dialogue there is some ‘80s techno music that keeps the film moving along. The sound is full range so it doesn’t sound weak or too bloated. It’s just limited in fidelity and dialogue occasionally crackles. SPECIAL FEATURES / This disc has the most special features of all in this box set. You’ll find an audio commentary with Co-Writer/Director Richard Wenk and stars Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer and Gedde Watanabe. There are two theatrical trailers, 7 TV Spots and about 7 minutes of behind the scenes rehearsal footage of the director getting licked by Grace Jones (head vampire). The blooper reel contains some rough footage and is done to a Phil Collins song. Lastly, there is a 22-minute short titled Dracula and The Big Apple, the first film of the director that appeared on HBO and gave him the chance to make Vamp. Don’t forget to check out the still gallery as well. A 5x7 theatrical poster is also inside the case. IN THE END… This set is about as campy as things get. While there are only three films that are intentional horror films, the other three fit the genre in that funny kind of way. For only $34.98 this set is a bargain – that’s less than six bucks a movie. You’ll most likely find this set up MSP pricing so that puts each title on par with the cost of a rental. The choice is yours and you don’t have to worry about anyone stalking you and bleeding you dry. This set also reminds me of that good old New World Pictures that’s no longer in business… Almost every title in this set had that bright flash of red lines across the screen…it reminds me of horror films in the ‘80s, when horror films were actually good. Michael Osadciw July 20, 2005.