in ,

Digital & Disc Reviews – July 20, 2023

We take a look at “Scream VI”, “Insidious”, “Artists in Agony”, “Waterworld” and more!

End Times
Digital. The Asylum.
Synopsis : Follows a pair of mismatched travelers, Claire and Freddie (Bernadette and Stark), as they try to escape a deadly pandemic that has turned Los Angeles into a zombie-infested wasteland. Claire is a privileged young suburbanite ill-equipped to survive in this hostile new landscape, until she meets Freddie, a retired soldier who lost his daughter to the virus. As they travel together to reach the perimeter, Freddie teaches Claire the skills that will enable Claire to survive, and the uneasy partnership between the two grows into something more akin to a father/daughter relationship. Before they can reach safety, the two will have to escape brutal gangs, cannibals, cults, and the undead.
The verdict :
While not consistently gripping (nor is it that similar to TV’s The Last of Us – which the artwork is trying to pass it off as), nor visually spectacular, director Jim Towns proves that with a very modest budget, and an effective story full of interesting characters and a sometimes unpredictable screenplay, he can craft an enjoyable, if sometimes messily structured thriller that never fails to entertain. With a few more dollars, he might be able to give us a very good film as opposed to a good film next time.SD

Scream VI
Blu-ray. Paramount
Synopsis : Four survivors of the Ghostface murders leave Woodsboro behind for a fresh start in New York City. However, they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when a new killer embarks on a bloody rampage.
The verdict : Scream VI does deliver in the bigger and bloodier stakes (there’s some welcomingly feral kills here – and they’re a hoot!), and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett do subvert expectations with an imaginative but shaggy opening sequence (featuring Samara Weaving, star of their much more imaginative Ready or Not) that’s where the thought, ingenuity and surprises end. Whether that budget also paved the way to some last-minute radical script rewrites or tweaks, we’ll likely never know, but James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick’s script has robbed us of some of the franchise’s staple twists and wonderful core character arcs. Firstly, a legacy player is given nothing very remotely interesting to do – seriously, this is the most underutilized Cox’s popular Gale Weathers character has been used to date – and so much of the third act feels rush written and messy, in particular the big ‘villain reveal’ moment, which isn’t so much disappointing as it is going against the film’s own proclamation that everything in a ‘requel’ has to defy expectation, because the conclude doesn’t. You’ll see it coming like a Skeet Ulrich cameo in a reflection. Blu-ray extras include a very entertaining commentary and some featurettes. SD

Synopsis: :
The polar ice caps have melted, leaving the world covered in water. Few remain, and their only hope is a woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a girl (Tina Majorino), who hold the key to dry land. The only one who can lead them there is a lone stranger (Kevin Costner). Now in a race against a mad man (Dennis Hopper), they try to find land before he does.
The Verdict :
Plagued by the loss of a very expensive set because of the weather and responsible for the falling out between the Kevins Costner and Reynolds to the extent the latter was apparently fired, I’ve always thought this film was very unfairly maligned.The criticism I remember the most was of it being ‘ Mad Max on the water’, and I still don’t think it’s a valid criticism – how many truly original movies are there? In the wake of the Die Hard -inspired ‘terrorists overtake a…’ we had lone heroes defeating bands of suave Eurotrash killers on everything from trains (Under Siege 2) to airports (Die Hard 2: Die Harder). The race to find Dryland before the Smokers catch up is on, and it’s as exciting an action movie as you’ll see from Hollywood, so you shouldn’t expect anything more. Even then however, there’s more to offer – from the myriad nautical in jokes (the smokers base turns out to be the rusting hulk of the Exxon Valdez) to the occasionally beautiful shots and haunting soundtrack.I also really liked the character of Costner’s mariner. Yes the cute kids turns out to melt his heart, but until then he’s truly self-interested and despite his skill, no hero. He resents being roped into taking Helen and Enola with him, even to the extent of almost trading Helen’s sexual favours for provisions against her will and throwing Enola overboard at one stage when she irritates him a little too much. 4K looks/sounds fantastic, and the extras include. There’s also three quite different cuts of the film here. This is well worth a purchase.DB

Artists in Agony
Digital. Global Digital Releasing.
Synopsis : Recently discovered footage reveals how four famous hitmen died at the infamous Coda Teahouse Massacre. —Frosty (the new father), Lucien Mercy (the stay-at-home mom), Red Rick (the romantic), and his apprentice Lady Faith (the rising star).Ex-CIA Agent Jonathan Sully guides us through the footage, suspecting they were killed by the renowned assassin artist known as Rockstar, considered the greatest hitman who ever lived.
The verdict : It’ll be no surprise, considering director Kenneth’s day job is working on tentpole superhero blockbusters in a VFX capacity, that the film’s greatest strength lies in it’s impressive visuals and beautifully edited and structured look. The film’s narrative too, despite a couple of lag here and there, is near as equally impressive – giving us a story we’ve seen before but not tell in this sense let alone subgenre. Lui’s eye and creativity will see him hired pretty quickly for directing ventures. RO

4K UHD. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Synopsis :Parents (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) take drastic measures when it seems their new home is haunted and their comatose son is possessed by a malevolent entity.
The Verdict : It’s very hard to do anything new in a straight ghost story, but the Saw team of Whannell and Wan have done it. Ironically considering they were the guys behind the most successful horror franchise of the last decade, subsequent efforts like Dead Silence, Death Sentence and Dying Breed (maybe the word ‘death’ is cursed for them?) failed to catch on, and for awhile it looked like neither of them would have much of a career in horror or out of it. Then came the one-two punch of Insidious and The Conjuring, the former cementing their status as horror specialists and the former effortlessly knocking over the blockbuster disappointments of 2013 like Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger and RIPD.
The depiction of the Further on screen is as effective as it is low-fi – it’s just the same sets in and around the Lambert house, but lit with a dim greenish hue and drifting with ghostly mists.
Wan also performs the trick more than once of going against the scare rhythm quotient and making you feel decidedly unsafe. There are plenty of frights in the scary bits, but he’s not above pulling a swift shock when you aren’t ready for it, like when Josh and Renai are talking quietly in the kitchen in the middle of the day and the demon behind Dalton’s disappearance suddenly appears behind Josh in broad daylight.
It’s an inexpensive, pretense-free old school chiller just like The Conjuring, and even watching it on a computer screen in the middle of the day I had to turn the volume down several times.
The 4K offers squat all – trailers and some previously-seen featurettes – in terms of extras but the quality of the disc alone makes it well worth picking up. DB

Harrelson, Wilson star in ’84 Olympics thriller about a missing girl

Win Blu-ray copies of Shudder exclusive ‘The Lair’