Movies Till Dawn: Post-Halloween Horrors (All Candy 50% Off)

* indicates that the film is also available to view, rent, or buy from various streaming platforms. Please note: streaming presentations may vary from these home video releases.

It Lives Inside” * (2023, Decal Neon) Indian teenager Megan Suri is busy enough navigating between her conservative parents and the largely Anglo-American world of her high school when she finds that her best friend has a jar that contains a malevolent South Asian spirit from her culture’s distant past. This polished and effective debut feature from Bishal Dutta delivers on both supernatural horror (with a distinct J-horror flavor) and understated commentary about the cultural ping-ponging faced by children of immigrants; both come together in mostly satisfying ways in Suri’s face-off with the demon that overcome any limitations in the script (which mostly concern flat characterizations among the supporting players).

Tales from the Gimli Hospital Redux” * (1988, Kino Lorber) In a dream Manitoba from a distant and unreal past, two men recovering from a bizarre form of smallpox discover that they are united – in a very unpleasant way – by the recent death of one man’s wife. Debut feature by Canadian arthouse director Guy Maddin is included here because of its Gothic trappings – the aesthetic suggests Murnau and Lang by way of Waters and Lynch that is both hypnotic and amusingly off-kilter – and occasional forays into ghoulish material (buckets of blood, the vampish hospital nurses, the grisly scars left by the disease), but “Gimli” is more fantasy-romance and a deeply personal take on folklore (from Iceland, in this case) which holds tragedy and beauty in equal measure. Kino’s Blu-ray features a 4K digital remaster of the film prepared for the film’s 2022 re-release, which showcases the 16mm photography in lustrous blacks and stark whites; Maddin’s commentary addresses the folkloric roots of many of the film’s ideas and themes while also pointing out many personal touches, such as family members in the cast. Maddin’s 2000 short, “The Heart of the World,” is also included, and presents a similar take on romantic rivalry, albeit in the framework of Soviet silent propaganda and at a pace that can be charitably described as exhilaratingly breakneck.

Cellar Dweller“* (1987, Arrow Video) Aspiring comic book artist Deborah Farentino gets a leg up on the forces conspiring against her – namely, art school teacher Yvonne De Carlo and fellow student Pamela Bellwood – from artwork by ’50s horror comic creator Jeffrey Combs (“Re-Animator”) featuring the titular beast. Ragged but right creature feature from FX designer turned director John Carl Buechler (“Friday the 13th Part VII”) takes a tip from horror comics and leans into the ghoulish humor and over-stylized production design (which frames several scenes as comic panels); the approach, buttressed by an amusing script from Don (“Child’s Play”) Mancini (writing as Kit Du Bois) and cinematography by Sergio Salvati (“Zombie”), helps to smooth over the rough spots inherent to low-budget filmmaking. With current Paramount CEO Brian Robbins; Arrow’s Blu-ray – part of its huge and enjoyable “Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams” set – puts Matty Budrewicz and David Wain front and center on a commentary track with makeup effects designer Michael Deak and a featurette on Buechler. An interview with Deak is also included, along with VHS trailers for “Cellar Dweller” and other titles from its production entity, Charles Band’s Empire Pictures.

Lady Frankenstein” (1971, Severin Films) * The lady in question is Tania (Rosalba Neri, billed as Sara Bey), daughter of Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten), who aspires to follow in her father’s monster-making footsteps. Given her father’s most recent effort – a homicidal giant who kills off Cotton in the first reel – any effort by Tania would be an improvement, but her first go-round fuses the brilliant mind of the Baron’s impotent assistant (Eurocult vet Paul Muller) with the body of her virile but simple servant (arthouse regular Marino Mase), with the expected results. Italian feature by American actor Mel Welles (Gravis Mushnik in the original “Little Shop of Horrors”) hinges on a premise similar to the closing joke in “Young Frankenstein” (“What else did the doctor give you?”) and aspires no higher than grindhouse-level thrills; the cast, which includes Mickey Hargitay as the local law, plays up the pulpy elements gamely. Severin’s Blu-ray – part of its impressive “Danza Macabre Vol. 1” set – features the uncut European version of “Frankenstein” with two commentaries – Kat Ellinger and Annie Rose Malamet, who handle genre and trope issues, and Kim Newman and Alan Jones, who offer production and biographical info – as well as interviews with Nelbi and Welles (from a German TV special), featurettes on the film’s curious production (via a member of the Vanderbilt family) and brief run as a traveling spookshow, alternate footage, pics from an Italian magazine layout, and a vast array of promotional material (trailers, TV and radio spots, video covers, etc.).

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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