Joining Madsen is Boardwalk Empire character actor William Forsythe, another great contender for ‘world’s gruffest man’. Playing old friends who bring their children on a hunting trip only to find they’ve got bigger, somewhat undead problems to contend with, the two sleepwalk through this dull, predictable mess of a movie.
Directed by Glenn Ciano – who was responsible for 2011’s enjoyable demon romp Inkubus (also starring Forsythe) – at just 95 minutes, a ridiculously drawn-out ending ticking off every single cliché somehow makes this feel interminably long.
Arrow DVD’s latest release from the retro vaults, The Vineyard, is written, directed by and stars another immediately recognizable face, James Hong. Name doesn’t ring a bell? Well, you may remember him as the Asian-American inner-city wizard in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China or Wayne’s future father-in-law in Wayne’s World.
Hong’s only horror-helming gig, this 1989 obscurity has some nicely oddball ideas (acupuncture linked to voodoo and the quest for eternal youth) though is badly acted, directed and written, all by Hong himself as the mad wine-merchant harvesting young bodies. Still, with some hilarious eighties fashions, similarly dated awful synth-pop soundtrack and cheesy effects, there is a lot of fun to be had if you approach The Vineyard with tongue so far in cheek it’s practically dislocated.
Also released by Arrow this month is the first ever Blu-ray outing for the 1964 Lon Chaney Jr. vehicle Spider Baby. When Jack Hill (who would go on to make exploitation milestones Coffy and Switchblade Sisters) first made what was dubbed ‘the maddest story ever told’, it was horribly chopped up by its producers, leaving no distributor willing to touch it. After languishing as a largely forgotten cult gem for years, Spider Baby is finally released as Hill’s original vision and it’s, well, a bit of an anticlimax.
Our charming former Wolfman, Chaney, plays the patriarch of a brood of siblings affected by a fictional disease making them develop the characteristics of deadly creatures: in this case, the titular misunderstood arachnids. As representatives of the modern world try and bring civilisation into the lives of our anti-heroes, the body count mounts up. Sadly, though, compared to some of the more lunatic newer releases from the fringes of the genre, Spider Baby comes across as more than a little tame for all its reputation.
Perhaps it’s best to view Hill’s movie as a strangely touching tale of family survival against the odds and a precursor to the dysfunctional gothic clans the likes of Tim Burton repeatedly turn to. An endearing late-period performance from Chaney remains the best reason to seek out this minor entry in his formidable filmography.
Finishing off this month’s round-up, we head into more mainstream terrain with Jeremy Power Regimbal’s largely by-numbers home invasion thriller, In Their Skin. Returning slightly to that stars-past-their-prime theme of earlier, Selma Blair heads the cast as a grieving family (is there ever a family in this type of film that isn’t in mourning?) moves to a new home with weird new neighbours.
James D’Arcy played Psycho star Anthony Perkins in last year’s Hitchcock biopic; here, he likewise makes a decent fist as a norm-turned-nutter, terrorizing the already traumatized gleefully. A nice twist on the usual formula comes from an evil version of our standard doe-eyed young boy (Alex Ferris) helping his parents try and take over our protagonists’ ‘perfect’ lives. Despite this, though, there really isn’t enough on show here to justify giving In Their Skin even a moment’s attention over similar recent productions.
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