From Beyond (MGM)
Stuart Gordon’s second horror movie (after the classic Re-Animator) is still his second best — only the 2001 Lovecraft adaptation Dagon, which finally goes pleasantly nutso in the last reel, registers as a close third. Re-Animator‘s Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton reunite for another Lovecraft-inspired splatter romp, this one about scientific experiments on the human pineal gland opening up a portal into another dimension. I can’t vouch for the importance of the restored material in this “director’s cut,” which I haven’t yet seen (it actually premiered on HD cable in 2006). But here’s Gordon, quoted in a 2006 press release from cable channel Monsters HD, on what hit the cutting room floor when the MPAA got hold of his original cut:
“The scene that upset them the most (and as I describe it, it is truly disgusting) is when Jeffrey Combs’ character’s pineal gland has gone out of control and he’s hungry for brains. He attacks a psychiatrist, played by my wife [Carolyn Purdy-Gordon], and he plants his mouth onto her eye socket and starts sucking. And the material that was cut out was when he actually sucks her eyeball out, spits it onto the floor and the eyeball lands looking back up at him and he continues to suck her brains through the eye socket and the camera pushes in. It’s really disturbing and it’s the longest restored piece, my guess is it’s about 30 seconds or so. I think it’s the most horrific moment in the whole movie.”
If this sounds like a good time I’m pretty sure you’ll get a kick out of it.
Away From Her (Lionsgate)
I missed Sarah Polley’s debut as a feature-film director earlier this year, but the reviews were almost unanimously positive. She’s a young director considering what it’s like to be old: David Edelstein at New York magazine calls it “a twilight-of-life love story”, and Andrew O’Hehir wrote (according to Metacritic; I can’t find the text anywhere at Salon.com), “Polley captures the brisk, cheerful fascism of nursing-home existence with merciless clarity.”
Triad Election (Tartan)
Before his current U.S. theatrical release, Exiled, the only Johnnie To films I had seen were The Heroic Trio (Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, and Maggie Cheung — now, those were the golden days of Hong Kong action cinema) and Fulltime Killer. On the strength of the gorgeously staged and photographed Exiled, I’ll be taking a more careful look. Triad Election is actually a lavishly praised sequel to Election, another To crime drama that didn’t get a U.S. theatrical release. The sequel already has a better rep than the original, and over at the Onion AV Club, Noel Murray calls it more of a remake than a sequel, and says familiarity with the first film is not required to dig the second.
DOA: Dead or Alive (Weinstein Co.)
Luke Y. Thompson, writing for the L.A. Weekly, called DOA: Dead or Alive “the best butt-kicking PG-13 bikini jiggle fest since the first Charlie’s Angels flick.” That good, huh? Even in the annals of movies based on videogames, this long-delayed cash-in on the tits-and-ass console fighting franchise is an especially puerile exercise. There’s good silly and there’s bad silly, and while the first half of DOA has some of the good stuff, the second half is full of the bad. Director Corey Yuen has a rep for his Hong Kong work (including The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk and So Close) but, trimmed to a brisk 83 minutes and with service shots galore, DOA works better as wank material than any kind of martial arts feature.
White Dog (Televista)
Buyer beware — this $24.95 DVD of the notorious, rarely seen 1982 White Dog — about a vicious dog that only attacks black people — might look like a good deal to the Sam Fuller fan. But the folks at Criterion recently divulged that this is on their DVD schedule for 2008. Save your dollars for what will almost certainly be a superior release.