"RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL"
Now, the studio has made a sequel to the remake of the rip-off. With a lead-in like this, it’s easy to have low expectations. However, with the exception of not having some bigger names in the cast (like Geoffrey Rush in the original remake), “Return to House on Haunted Hill” actually turned out pretty decent.
The sequel follows Ariel Wolfe (Amanda Righetti), the sister of the only survivor of the first film. Ariel is dragged back to the haunted house by dueling anthropologists who are searching for a mysterious and invaluable artifact. However, in the search for this artifact, the group becomes trapped in the haunted house, which torments and kills them one by one.
If “Return to House on Haunted Hill” had been a platform theatrical release, it would have been a disappointment. However, as direct-to-video Halloween thrills go, it’s not bad. In fact, it’s better than some of the garbage that’s being released in the theaters today.
The highlights of the cast come from the leggy Amanda Righetti in the lead role and sultry scream queen Cerina Vincent as the double-crossing bad girl. Boiled down to its basic elements, “Return to House on Haunted Hill” is a slasher flick with the house and ghosts as the villain instead of a psycho in a hockey mask. And it’s also great to see horror legend Jeffrey Combs reprise his role as the insane Dr. Vannacutt. It’s definitely worth checking out for the horror fan this Halloween season.
The DVD comes with several in-character features, including interviews with the cast on set and a short documentary about the Dr. Richard Hammer’s search to find the lost idol. There are also deleted and extended scenes, along with a Mushroomhead music video.
SciFi Channel and Sony Pictures have released the low-budget arachno-thriller “Ice Spiders” on DVD to get into the Halloween spirit. The last giant spider movie I remember was the overly sarcastic and quite dreadful “Eight Legged Freaks,” so as far as killer spider movies go, “Ice Spiders” is starting out pretty close to the top.
The film takes place at a remote mountain ski lodge, which is down the road from a genetic research lab. One of the experiments in the lab – a study that produced six massive and aggressive killer spiders – has escaped, and now the eight-legged baddies are feasting upon the skiers for the season.
I doubt that anyone is going to check out this film looking for brilliant acting, expert plotting or any hopes of a prestigious award. They’ll check it out for the Roger Corman-level low-budget fun. For this, it works. While it has its violent moments, there’s nothing too extreme, giving me a chance to watch it with my kids who were dying to see the giant spiders.
Sure, the special effects are pretty lame, and it’s pretty clear that the spiders exist almost completely in a substandard CGI program, but I remember seeing giant bug movies from the 50s that were equally as cheesy but just as fun. After all, some of the director’s other films include “Rats,” “Mansquito” and the upcoming “Mega Snake.”
At 86 minutes, “Ice Spiders” doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it doesn’t waste any time getting into the creepy crawliness. I know this film isn’t for most people, but I had a lot of fun watching it.
"THAT 70S SHOW: SEASON SEVEN"
The seventh season begins with Eric and Donna recovering from their lost wedding. Eric has decided to shuck responsibility for a life of doing nothing, and Donna miraculously supports him in this. Jackie is still dating Hyde, but she’s pushing for a longer commitment. Meanwhile, Hyde discovers his true father and the sister he never knew. For maximum comic relief, Fez and Kelso spend their time together being basically stupid with a few diversions as Kelso learns to be a father.
Watching the evolution of this show is fascinating in itself. The series began as an homage to the decade of the 70s. Drug references and 50s-era teen crime waves were commonplace. Soon, the pot references in “the circle” were replaced with just kids hanging out, and the teenagers’ behavior was tempered quite a bit.
As the show is winding down in its seventh season, it revives all of that inappropriate spirit that made the stories so hilarious in the first place. Instead of just bringing back the smoky background in the circle, there are constant references to Hyde’s stash and a hysterical call-back to the first time Eric was caught toking it in the basement.
Gone are the days of responsibility for the show, which is now perpetually stuck in the 1979 time loop. The writing and directing demonstrates a less reactive attitude in the showrunners, and that works out brilliantly. The magic from the earlier seasons is back, and we’re treated to fewer very special episodes. It’s too bad the show has to end in the next box set.
Similar to earlier seasons, this set includes audio commentary on selected episodes as well as promo spots for all 25 episodes. There’s a retrospective of the writing on the show, a recap of the season and a scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel spotlight on Don Stark.
"THE FILM CREW: THE GIANT OF MARATHON"
Like previous releases “Hollywood After Dark,” “Killers From Space” and “Wild Women of Wongo,” “The Giant of Marathon” is a terrible film, and the only thing that makes it bearable is the commentary by Kevin, Mike and Bill.
The film follows a bunch of guys in diapers as they seek to defeat the Persian army in ancient Greek times. “300” this film is not, but because it’s so bad, it’s perfect for The Film Crew. This is the fourth (but hopefully not final) release in The Film Crew’s new repertoire. And while it’s clearly not the strongest of these releases, it’s still a lot of fun.
As is expected in these films, there are hilarious moments as The Film Crew pokes fun at the film. Whether they’re reeling over the distrubingly mannish qualities of one of the movie’s leading ladies or lamenting the homo-erotic overtones of these gladiator films, “The Giant of Marathon” should make you laugh.
The DVD comes with a static decal of The Film Crew, suitable for home or office, as well as a couple video bonus features. One treats the audience to Mike Nelson’s insincere apology for his offensive comments in the film, and the other is a mock commentary by the fictional Walter S. Ferguson.
MSTies can complete their Film Crew collection with “The Giant of Marathon” with hopes that there will be more bad movies to come down the pike with new commentaries.
The film follows a laid off accountant named Terry (Peter Krause) who slowly goes insane from paranoia when an Arab moves into his apartment complex. At first, Terry’s suspicions seem unfounded. However, he soon discovers what he believes to be bomb-making equipment in the guy’s apartment, and later the man threatens him and his wife. After being put in his place by the FBI, Terry decides to take matters into his own hands.
To a certain degree, “Civic Duty” carries a decent message of the dangers and sometimes necessity of being paranoid in a post-9/11 world. However, in an attempt to not take sides, the film degenerates into ambiguity. It will challenge you to think about how you would handle a similar situation, and hopefully we would not be as unstable as Terry is.
“Civic Duty” mostly suffers from overwriting. It’s clear that from script to screen, the filmmakers were trying to show us the struggle that Terry faces, but it manifests itself in temper tantrums and weak character actions like explosive rage. By the end, I found it hard to sympathize with Terry because he acted too much like a nut case..