January 2014

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Friday, January 31, 2014

DNDF: Space Cowboys and Aliens

And with the push of a button the “Divine Search Engine©” scans through tens of thousands of movie descriptions on IMDB looking for connections and analyzing plot and keyword similarities.  In the space of a few seconds the greatest supercomputer ever designed for entertainment purposes announces it’s conclusions and the films tonight are…and crappy sci-fi movie and it’s sequel.  Woo-hoo!


Oblivion (aka Alien Desperados) is a 1994 American western-science fiction dark comedy film directed by Sam Irvinand and written by Peter David1.  The story has been described as a science fiction Western.  It is, arguably, better termed a space Western, due to its extraterrestrial location.  And once again we will be discussing a Charles Band Production, but these films have George Takei, Isaac Hayes and Julie Newmar in the casts so how bad could they be?

Oblivion (1994)

  • Genre: Adventure – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Sam Irvin
  • Produced:
    • Albert Band 
    • Charles Band 
    • Michael Catalano 
    • Peter David 
    • Debra Dion 
    • Oana Paunescu 
    • Vlad Paunescu 
    • Andrew M. Stewart
  • Written:
    • Charles Band (Original Story) 
    • John Rheaume (Story) 
    • Greg Suddeth (Story) 
    • Mark Goldstein (Story) 
    • Peter David (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Richard Joseph Paul, Jackie Swanson, Andrew Divoff, Meg Foster, Isaac Hayes, Julie Newmar, Carel Struycken, George Takei, Musetta Vander, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Irwin Keyes, Mike Genovese
  • Music: Pino Donaggio
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing: Margeret-Anne Smith
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Full Moon Entertainment  
    • Artisan Entertainment  
    • The Kushner-Locke Company  
    • Paramount Home Video  
    • Shout! Factory  
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: April 1994
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Set in the year 3031 on a frontier planet light years away from Earth, a bizarre gang of futuristic desperadoes have their sight set on turning the tumbleweed town of Oblivion into their own private playground.  The action begins with the murder of the town's Marshal Stone by a power-hungry villain called Red Eye.  Using a substance prized on the planet—which also happens to short out electrical devices—Red Eye cheats his way to victory during a showdown on the street, killing Stone and disabling his cyborg deputy, Stell.  He and his cronies begin to bully and persuade the townspeople into allowing him to take over the town.  Oblivion's mortician, Gaunt, who possesses supernatural ability to foresee death, seeks out the Marshal's son, Zack, who is prospecting in the wilderness.

Meanwhile, Zack saves a "native," Buteo, from an untimely death by giant scorpion.  They team up just before Gaunt arrives with the news of Marshal Stone's death, and they all journey together to Oblivion for the funeral. During a misadventure in a saloon along the way, Zack avoids violence, even when harangued by one of Red Eye's henchmen.  After attending his father's funeral, Zack visits his old friend Doc Valentine, an inventor whose technology had failed to protect the Marshal.  At the local whorehouse, a townswoman, Mattie, learns that Zack is not a coward, but an empath, who feels everything that those around him experience.  This leads him to abhor violence.  Buteo learns that one of Red Eye's associates had been responsible for the deaths of his wife and children, and seeks revenge.  Challenging him to a fair fight, Buteo triumphs and his opponent is killed.  Red Eye and his gang capture Buteo in retaliation, place him in stocks, and whip him.

Sensing that something unsavory is going on, Zack confronts his fears, saving Buteo and shooting many of the townspeople who had taken Red Eye's side.  Apparently having won a victory, Zack celebrates until he learns that Mattie has been taken by Red Eye into the Badlands.  He and his friends rush to save her, and in the process defeat all of the villains for good.

After quick runs at numerous film festivals, the film was released directly to videocassette during the 1994 holiday season.  In 2002, the film was released on DVD by Artisan Entertainment but has now been discontinued for reasons not given.  The film was re-released on DVD, by Full Moon Entertainment, in 2010, and on DVD again by Shout! Factory on July 5, 2011.


Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Sam Irvin
  • Produced:
    • Albert Band 
    • Charles Band 
    • Peter David 
    • Debra Dion 
    • Oana Paunescu 
    • Vlad Paunescu 
    • Andrew M. Stewart
  • Written:
    • Charles Band (Story) 
    • Mark Goldstein (Story) 
    • John Rheaume (Story) 
    • Greg Suddeth (Story) 
    • Peter David (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Richard Joseph Paul, Jackie Swanson, Andrew Divoff, Meg Foster, Isaac Hayes, Julie Newmar, Carel Struycken, George Takei, Musetta Vander, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Irwin Keyes, Maxwell Caulfield
  • Music: Pino Donaggio
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing: Andy Horvitch
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Astral Video  
    • Full Moon Pictures  
    • Shout! Factory
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 2 April 1996 (USA)
  • Running Time: 83 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Oblivion 2: Backlash is a 1996 film directed by Sam Irvin and starring Richard Joseph Paul, Jackie Swanson, Maxwell Caulfield and Musetta Vander.  It was produced by Full Moon Entertainment and was shot in Romania.  It is a sequel to the 1994 film Oblivion.

In the alien-western world of Oblivion, a suave, yet lethal bounty hunter named Sweeney arrives to arrest the seductive outlaw Lash on multiple charges, including murder.  Lash, who just "inherited" a mine of Derconium (the most valuable mineral in the universe) from Crowley in a game of cards, meets up with Redeye's brother, Jaggar, who wants the mine for himself to rule the galaxy.  It's a fight over Lash between the sheriff of Oblivion, Jaggar, and Sweeney.  But who will emerge victorious?

 

Notes:

1.  Peter Allen David (born September 23, 1956), is an American writer of comic books, novels, television, movies and video games.  His notable comic book work includes an award-winning 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk, as well as runs on Aquaman, Young Justice, Supergirl, and Fallen Angel.  His Star Trek work includes both comic books and novels such as Imzadi, and co-creating the New Frontier series.  His other novels include film adaptations, media tie-ins, and original works, such as the Apropos of Nothing and Knight Life series.  His television work includes series such as Babylon 5, Young Justice, Ben 10: Alien Force and Nickelodeon's Space Cases, the last of which David co-created.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

CC: Brian Clement – Dead/Paradox

Brian Clement is a Canadian independent film director, writer, and producer.  He is most well-known for his low budget zombie films, including Meat Market, Meat Market 2, and Meat Market 3.  Clement was born in Kelowna, British Columbia but his family moved to Victoria, British Columbia in 1980, where he grew up.  He lived for a year in Japan teaching English from 1996-97 and met several relatives; Clement is of Japanese-Canadian and English descent.  His mother is Japanese-Canadian.

In Victoria, Clement made several short films and an historical drama feature in 1999.  In 2000, Meat Market, made for under $CAD2000, was picked up for distribution by Sub Rosa Cinema (later SRS Cinema), based out of upstate New York.  During his time working on low-budget and direct-to-video features in Victoria, he won several local awards including three M-Awards from Monday Magazine for his films.  Clement's 2003 feature “Exhumed” won Best Independent Feature at the 2004 Fangoria Days of Darkness Convention's Film Competition in Los Angeles. After several zombie films, he decided that he wanted to branch out to psychological thrillers and science fiction. He was tempted back to zombie films in 2006 for Meat Market 3 when UK-based Cryptkeeper Films offered to produce it.  His final feature in Victoria was Dark Paradox, a 2007 film about a writer who battles a cult that worships an extra-dimensional tentacled entity.  It screened in 2008 at the Rio de Janeiro Riofan Fantastic Film Fest and the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Hank & Lily Techromancer In 2008, he moved to Toronto and worked on several short films and directed music videos for Canadian music groups Hank & Lily and Techromancer.  In 2009, he wrote a sci-fi/horror conspiracy thriller screenplay, which was reworked into Project Breakwater, a science fiction film about an alien scientist studying humanity.  In 2012, he adapted and expanded the same original screenplay to the unrelated novel The Final Transmission, which was published by Damnation Books in December 2013.

The Dead Inside (2005)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Brian Clement
  • Produced: Brian Clement
  • Written: Brian Clement
  • Starring: Chuck Depape, Bronwyn Lee, Chris Tihor, Theodore Trout, Bettina May, Ryan Christensen, Michael Ian Farrell, Debra Easton, Andrea Hume, Trinda Reed, Ira Hunter, Curtis Ottenbreit
  • Music:
    • Justin Hagberg 
    • Tim Hagberg
  • Cinematography: Brian Clement
  • Editing: Brian Clement
  • Studio:
    • Frontline Films 
    • Fangoria Magazine
  • Distributed: SRS Cinema
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 8 October 2005 (USA)
  • Running Time: 81 minutes
  • Country: Canada
  • Language: English

The Dead Inside follows paranormal detectives John Katzen and Lola Morgandy in 1940's Victoria, Canada as they are hired to investigate disappearances in a 19th century estate.  After experiencing strange hallucinations that closely resemble their real memories from the Second World War, they assemble a team of experts including Professor Fallstead and Dr. Koeppler to unravel the secret behind the phenomena.  As the house slowly exerts its influence over the team they realize that the malevolent force is attempting to destroy them one by one, besieging the researchers with doppelgangers of past occupants and others the house has consumed.  Desperately attempting to find a way to defeat the parasitic entities within the house, they uncover a mystery involving the interdimensional experiments of a former tenant, and that within the dwelling the line between the dream world and the real world has vanished...

As of February 2010: The distributor for The Dead Inside - SRS Cinema - had originally sold the rights to another company, then taken them back after that company did nothing with it.  SRS has recently sold its entire catalog to another company.  Will this new company release The Dead Inside?  Your guess is as good as Brian Clement’s.


 

Dark Paradox (2007)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Brian Clement
  • Produced:
    • Brian Clement 
    • Ann McLetchie 
    • George McLetchie
  • Written: Brian Clement
  • Starring: Chuck Depape, Bronwyn Lee, Michael Ian Farrell, Robin Thompson
  • Music: Jason Robertson
  • Cinematography: Brian Clement
  • Editing: Brian Clement
  • Studio: Frontline Films
  • Distributed: Cryptkeeper Films
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 3 October 2008 (USA)
  • Running Time: 89 minutes
  • Country: Canada
  • Language: English

A book of the black arts enables its possessor the ability to conjoin parallel time periods, and in so doing brings humanity to the brink of nihilistic chaos!

War torn Italy 1943, introduces two Canadian soldiers, having deserted their post.  The pair set out to relieve their German counterparts of an ancient artifact, a book that has been under the guardianship of monks to protect the world from its contents of Evil.  Only one of the soldiers survives a fatal fracas, claiming the book as his own and with intent to learn of its scriptures in alchemy and witchcraft, for nefarious personal gain.

Away from the battlefield, and back in civilian life, the books possessor resides in a solitary room within a guest house.  Having gorged on knowledge from the book he delves deep into the passages of the tomes pages, and unlocks a dimensional portal between this world and an alter-verse.  Lashings of H.P. Lovecraft follow from here on in with welcome relish.  A slithering tentacle dispatches with several federal agents, called to the house by its terrified owner, consuming their very fiber and still leaving room for the house cat!  Finished with the menu for dessert it leaves the home owner to immediately dial for the Forties version of agents Mulder and Scully, in the returning guise of Paranormal Investigators John Katzen and Lola Morgandy to tick another ‘X’ in their box of mysterious case files.

Sixty years later the house is still standing and the book is rediscovered, sat all too conveniently upon the wooden floorboards in the middle of the same room.  The book finds its way to a modern writer, a note with it stating he should use the tome as inspiration for his own new manuscript.  The recipient of the package is Barry, as played by the movie’s Director and scribe himself Brian Clement.

After receiving the dark book the world outside of Barry’s sanctum sanctorum turns into a state of disturbing discourse.  When he takes a break from his typewriter and goes for a walk all around him he witnesses violence.  Something has begun to impede upon the harmonious balance of day to day life.  Barry accepts an offer from his agent, Allen, to stay at his family home on a more remote island retreat. Reminiscent of Director John Carpenter’s ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’ (1995), all the classic signatures of H.P. Lovecraft inspiration seep into proceedings, heightening viewer interest and brings about that welcome feeling of viewing anxiety associated with the best experiences in horror films.

Is the writer of violent fiction traversing a paradoxical path, upon which a convergence of what he is creating in written form he is actually starting to experience in the real world?  Once away from the madding crowd and in residence at his new retreat Barry starts writing anew.  Creating what he believes are two new characters, whom he names John Katzen and Lola Morgandy.  A reality check for the watching audience that turns into a classic jump to the edge of the seat moment of pure genius.  As an audience member intrigued by unraveling events to this point you will suddenly be further invigorated by this revelation, as truly a ‘Dark Paradox’ draws you deeper into Barry’s fragmenting world.  The plutonic P.I’s are born, given character, shape, form, depth and dimension as if the writer were drawing upon factual rather than fictional creativity.

Taking a break from his prose Barry turns on the television set to witness news reels showing escalating scenes of violence breaking out all over the city he has left behind.  The general public are advised to stay inside and lock their doors!  Two worlds of parallel existence set sixty years apart touch each other as Barry continues to write about the adventures of his two lead characters.  At the exact same time Barry is releasing his creativity upon the blank page both Katzen and Morgandy become aware of Barry’s own existence.  Lola and John fear that this writer they perceive may be manipulating both them and events surrounding the environment around them.  Is Barry becoming a character in his own book or are his characters becoming people in his real world?

Exploring the house Barry uncovers its dark past as hidden newspaper clippings detail murders and violence associated with the family of this home.  The cuttings also reveal in pictured detail Allen, his long time writers agent, as a young boy with his mother and father at the core of the morbid undertakings.  But, how is it that even as a young boy some sixty years earlier that Allen, in 2007, is still a relatively young man in his forties?  Satanic covens and dark rituals of evil intent are at play, and Barry has become enveloped in these malevolent machinations.

 

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WTFW: Taxidermia (2006)

Taxidermia is a 2006 Hungarian comedy-drama horror film directed by György Pálfi.  The film is a metaphorical socio-political retelling of Hungary's history from the Second World War to the present day.  The story is told by means of three generations of men from Hungary, beginning with a military orderly during the Second World War, moving on to an aspiring speed-eater during the Cold War, and concluding with a taxidermist during modern times. The film has elements of dark comedy and body horror.  Taxidermia was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

 

Taxidermia (2006)

  • Genre: Comedy – Drama – Horror
  • Directed: György Pálfi
  • Produced:
    • Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu 
    • Emilie Georges 
    • Gabriele Kranzelbinder 
    • Alexandre Mallet-Guy 
    • Péter Miskolczi 
    • Gábor Váradi
  • Written:
    • Lajos Parti Nagy (Short Stories) 
    • György Pálfi (Screenplay) 
    • Zsófia Ruttkay (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Csaba Czene, Gergely Trócsányi, Marc Bischoff, István Gyuricza, Piroska Molnár, Gábor Máté, Géza Hegedüs D., Zoltán Koppány, Erwin Leder, Adél Stanczel, Éva Kuli, Lajos Parti Nagy
  • Music:
    • Albert Márkos 
    • Amon Tobin
  • Cinematography: Gergely Pohárnok
  • Editing: Réka Lemhényi
  • Studio:
    • Amour Fou Filmproduktion 
    • Eurofilm Stúdió 
    • Katapult Film 
    • La Cinéfacture 
    • Memento Films Production
  • Distributed:
    • Memento Films  
    • Regent Releasing  
    • Tartan  
    • E1 Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 19 May 2006 (France) 
    • October 2006 (USA)
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country:
    • Hungary 
    • Austria 
    • France
  • Language:
    • Hungarian 
    • English 
    • Russian

Taxidermia contains three generational stories, about a grandfather, a father, and a son, linked together by recurring motifs.  The dim grandfather, an orderly during World War Two, lives in his bizarre fantasies; he desires love.  The huge father seeks success as a top athlete — a speed eater — in the postwar pro-Soviet era.  The grandson, a meek, small-boned taxidermist, yearns for something greater: immortality.  He wants to create the most perfect work of art of all time by stuffing his own torso.

Historical facts and surrealism become intertwined as magical realism, like in the works of Gabriel García Marquez or the Hungarian writer Lajos Parti Nagy; the script is based on two of the latter’s stories.  Palfi added the third story, that of the grandson the taxidermist.  The first section begins with a disembodied voice pontificating obliquely about creation and three generations, explaining that if something has to end, the beginning has to be important.  Immediately we see the grandfather, Vendel Morosgoványi, who is berated by his lieutenant in a remote outpost, with only the lieutenant’s fat wife and two beautiful daughters around.  He retreats into the realm of gratification, no matter how extreme.  He peeps in the daughters’ bath, drinks the girls’ dirty bathwater, masturbates until his penis emits flames of fire, and sleeps with the lieutenant’s wife.  She becomes pregnant and the lieutenant blows off Vendel’s head — but raises his child, Kálmán.

In the second part, Kálmán has become obese and competes for Hungary in eating competitions that their backers hope will be recognized by the International Olympic Committee.  Against a backdrop of empty Communist spectacle and military poseurs, Kálmán strives to win.  He meets up with an oversized woman, Gizella, another speed eating competitor, and the two get married, although she has sex with his teammate during the wedding party.  She and Kálmán embark on a long honeymoon, returning to their respective factories to practice.  Gizella gives birth to a tiny, tiny son, Lajos.

Section three, which is contemporary, is calmer, less manic than the previous two.  Lajos has become a quiet taxidermist who has no prospects in love; he is rejected by the supermarket cashier, for one.  He is as frustrated in his way as his grandfather was in his, but Lajos’s fertile imagination will prove to work in a very different way.  His father, Kálmán, has reached enormous proportions and can no longer move.   Kálmán’s wife has long ago left him, so Lajos brings food and cleans the apartment where Kálmán sits amidst boxes of food and the three cats he pushes to overeat.  One day Lajos finds Kálmán dead, possibly having exploded from overeating or having been mauled by one of the cats.  He stuffs him, and immediately after, begins stuffing himself by locking his body onto a board surrounded by perfectly attuned machines.  At the end of the procedure, a glass blade he has set up decapitates him and an electric saw severs his right arm.  The two men are found by a customer, Dr. Regőczy, who puts them on display at a chic art exhibition.  Dr. Regőczy, whose lecture is a continuation of the voiceover at the very beginning of the film, maintains that one can mount one’s father and oneself but can not mount the essence, that being what Lajos felt at the moment the blade cut off his head.  The camera moves into the black void beyond Lajos’s bellybutton.

 

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Monday, January 27, 2014

ICFIFC: Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Full Moon Features is an American motion picture production and distribution company headed by B-movie veteran Charles Band.  It is known for the direct-to-video series Puppet Master and Subspecies, as well as the innovative VideoZone featurette at the end of films through 1989 to 2013.

Produced by Charles Band and co-directed by Band and his father, Albert Band.  It was written by C. Courtney Joyner and released by Full Moon Features.  The younger Band held an option for an adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Doctor Strange1, but the option expired before production could begin.  Instead of scrapping the project, the script was rewritten to include original characters not directly adapted from the comics property.  The main character originally was to be called "Doctor Mortalis".  Some early concept art was done by Jack Kirby.

 

Doctor Mordrid (1992)

  • Genre: Action – Fantasy – Horror
  • Directed:
    • Albert Band 
    • Charles Band
  • Produced:
    • Albert Band 
    • Charles Band 
    • Keith S. Payson
  • Written:
    • Charles Band (Original Idea) 
    • C. Courtney Joyner (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Ritch Brinkley, Brian Thompson, Pearl Shear, Murray Rubin, Jeff Austin, John Apicella, Julie Michaels
  • Music: Richard Band
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing: Lauren A. Schaffer
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Full Moon Entertainment  
    • Condor Video  
    • Paramount Home Video  
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 24 September 1992 (USA)
  • Running Time: 74 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Anton Mordrid is a wizard sent to Earth by a being called The Monitor, to stop the evil wizard Kabal from opening the gate to Hell.  Kabal needs the Philosopher's Stone and several alchemical elements to complete the spell and open the gate, unleashing his minions from the Fourth Dimension upon the Earth.  Mordrid watches for signs of Kabal's presence for 150 years; as the time of their epic battle approaches, Mordrid assumes the role of a criminal psychologist, and becomes the mysterious landlord to Samantha Hunt, a research consultant to the police.

Dr. Mordrid detects a series of thefts of the elements that Kabal is seeking, and Mordrid begins to search for his nemesis.  Samantha is persistent in her attempts to penetrate Mordrid's secretive life.  The battle for Earth spills over into the Magic Dimension where the gate is closely guarded by other good wizards.  They are no match for Kabal, who defeats all but one of them.  This survivor confirms Kabal's plans for Mordrid, and Mordrid returns to Earth to prepare his defenses.   When Mordrid is arrested for murder, Samantha attempts to help prove his innocence.  Mordrid reveals his true nature and his mission to her, and she agrees to help him escape.

In the final showdown, Kabal and Mordrid do battle within the Cosmopolitan Museum.  Using his wits and his magical power, Mordrid narrowly manages to kill Kabal, preventing the destruction of reality as we know it.  His mission accomplished, Mordrid is called by The Monitor to cross over once again into the Magic Dimension and leave the Earth behind.

 

 

Notes:

1.   Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange (known as Doctor Strange) is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics.  Doctor Strange is a former neurosurgeon, a practicing sorcerer, and serves as the Sorcerer Supreme — the primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats.  Debuting in the Silver Age (1956 to around 1970) of comics, the character has featured in several self-titled series and Marvel-endorsed products including arcade and video games; animated television series; a direct-to-DVD film; and merchandise such as trading cards.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

DNDF: Sylvan Terror

Sylvan or silvan refers to an association with the woodland.  Specifically, that which inhabits the wood, is made of tree materials, or comprises the forest itself.  The term can also refer to a person who resides in the woods or a spirit of the wood.  In mythology, the term also refers to deities or spirits of the woods.

The term in English is from the Latin silva meaning "forest, woods."  This root is found in place names in Canada such as Sylvan Lake (as in wooded lake) in Alberta, Sylvan Valley Regional Park Reserve in Saskatchewan, and in the United States like Pennsylvania (lit. "Penn's woods") and Spotsylvania.  The first names Sylvester and Sylva(i)n, and the female name Sylvia/Silvia, are also from the Latin word.


Don't Go in the Woods (1981)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: James Bryan
  • Produced:
    • James Bryan 
    • Roberto Gomez 
    • Suzette Gomez 
    • William Stockdale
  • Written: Garth Eliassen
  • Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown, Ken Carter, David Barth, Larry Roupe, Amy Martell, Tom Drury, Laura Trefts
  • Music: H. Kingsley Thurber
  • Cinematography: Hank Zinman
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: JBF
  • Distributed: Seymour Borde & Associates
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: September 1981 (USA)
  • Running Time: 82 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

As something kills a hysterical woman, and a bird watcher, four friends (Peter, Joanne, Ingrid, and Craig) trek through the wilderness.  A tourist is thrown over a waterfall (landing near some oblivious frolickers) and his mother is wounded, and dragged away.  The four backpackers set up camp for the night, and elsewhere a pair of honeymooners are attacked in their van, and murdered.  The next day, the two couples continue their hike, while an artist is stabbed to death, and her young daughter is taken.

Two more campers are butchered, and while off on his own, Peter witnesses a fisherman be murdered by the killer, a spear-wielding wild man adorned in furs and rags.  Peter rushes off to warn his friends, who the maniac gets to first, spearing Craig, and sending Joanne fleeing into the woods.  Peter finds Ingrid, and after the two stumble upon the wild man's cabin, they accidentally attack another hiker, thinking he was the savage.  The killer finishes off the hiker, and wounds Ingrid, but she and Peter escape, and eventually reach civilization, and alert the authorities to the backwoods psychopath.

Irrational due to guilt over leaving Joanne behind, Peter escapes from the hospital he and Ingrid are brought to, and returns to the woods to look for her.  Joanne finds a campsite containing a dead body, then the cabin, where the killer hacks her to death with a machete.  A posse (which includes Ingrid) is formed to take out maniac, and look for Peter and Joanne.  The sheriff finds the cabin, where he uncovers Joanne's body, which Peter sees, leaving him even more distraught.

By nightfall, the wild man claims another victim (a man in a wheelchair who is decapitated) and Ingrid steals a machete, and goes off on her own to look for Peter.  In the morning, Peter and Ingrid find each other, and the savage, who they stab to death in a frenzy, only stopping when they notice the search party staring at them in shock.  As everyone clears out of the forest, the baby that was taken from the artist is shown alone in the wilderness, playing with a hatchet.

AllRovi panned the film, writing, "This splatter hack-job was forged during the slasher gold rush of the early '80s, and though it's inept enough to inspire guffaws for those who find ineptness amusing, there's nothing to recommend for connoisseurs of horror".  Don't Go in the Woods was also lambasted by DVD Verdict, which stated "Aside from one nasty bit with a bear trap and a sequence toward the end that faintly—and accidentally, believe me—recalls The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its slow, dread-saturated buildup, director James Bryan's splatter film is an incoherent mess.  An endless parade of victims keeps the fake blood squirting, but the murder sequences are so poorly staged that it's usually impossible to tell precisely what's happening.  The most frightening thing about this alleged horror film, aside from its bad synthesizer soundtrack, is its pacing.  Murder sequences are clumped together throughout the film, leaving a lot of flab in between".

A one and a half out of five was given by DVD Talk, which said the film suffered from "mismatched shots, wooden acting (if it can even be called that), atrocious dialogue, questionable special effects, continuity problems, and a general air of arrested artistic development" and "In fact, it's not even bad enough to be funny.  It's just a crappy little horror film, made on a shoestring budget, with people who really showed some grit in getting it done.  That's fine, and more power to those people.  But that doesn't make it good".

In the 1980s, the film was deemed as a video nasty in the United Kingdom, and subsequently banned by issuance of the Video Recordings Act.  Aside from an early rare video release, it was not available for rent or sale since then in the UK until 2007 when it was released uncut on DVD with a 15 certificate.  It was classified as R18 in New Zealand for its violence.


The Wendigo (also known as windigo, weendigo, windago, waindigo, windiga, witiko, wihtikow, and numerous other variants including manaha) is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada.  The creature or spirit could either possess humans or be a monster that had physically transformed from a person.  It is particularly associated with cannibalism.  The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk; the legend appears to have reinforced the practice of cannibalism as a taboo.  It is often described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature.

The legend lends its name to the disputed modern medical term Wendigo Psychosis.  This is supposed to be a culture-bound disorder that features symptoms such as an intense craving for human flesh and a fear the sufferer is a cannibal.  This condition was alleged to have occurred among Algonquian native cultures, but remains disputed.  The Wendigo character now is a common creature found in modern horror fiction.

 

Wendigo (2001)

  • Genre: Horror – Mystery – Thriller
  • Directed: Larry Fessenden
  • Produced:
    • Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte 
    • Edward R. Pressman
  • Written: Larry Fessenden
  • Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Erik Per Sullivan, John Speredakos, Christopher Wynkoop, Lloyd Oxendine, Brian Delate, Daniel Sherman, Jennifer Wiltsie, Maxx Stratton, Richard Stratton, Dash Stratton
  • Music: Michelle DiBucci
  • Cinematography: Terry Stacey
  • Editing: Larry Fessenden
  • Studio:
    • ContentFilm 
    • Antidote Films 
    • Glass Eye Pix
  • Distributed:
    • A-Film Home Entertainment  
    • Curb Entertainment  
    • Madman Entertainment  
    • Magnolia Pictures  
    • Media Cooperation One  
    • WE Productions
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 23 January 2001 (USA)
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

George is a highly-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency.  Needing some time away from the city, George, his wife Kim, and their son Miles head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them.

George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road.  After George stops to inspect the damage, he's confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time.  An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken.  When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken it over.

The next day, when they stop at a store in a town near the cabin, a shopkeeper tells Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a deformed beast from Indian folklore who changes from a human to a hideous beast after engaging in cannibalism.  The Wendigo also has supernatural powers and can change its appearance at will.  The shopkeeper then gives him a small figurine of a Wendigo.  Shaken, Miles can't help but think the Wendigo has something to do with the dark forces at work in the woods near the cabin. 

Later that day, while sledding together, George suddenly falls to the ground, leaving Miles alone and lost in the woods.  Frightened, Miles approaches his dad when he is chased by the Wendigo and passes out.  He is awakened later by a frightened Kim, who went looking for her family once they didn't come home.  Kim and Miles begin a trek deep into the forest, until they end up at the house, where they find a bloody George crawling towards the car claiming Otis shot him.  Frantic, Kim and Miles put George in the car and drive to the nearest hospital.  It is revealed that George and Miles were sledding near a shooting range and Otis shot George in the liver with a high powered hunting rifle.  George undergoes emergency surgery and Miles walks into the hospital, and hallucinates that his father is being assaulted by the Wendigo, faints and awakens only to find that George has died. 

Otis is confronted by the local sheriff, but he kills the sheriff and drives away into the night, being stalked by the Wendigo until he crashes into a tree and runs away into the forest, eventually ending up on a road where he is hit by the sheriff deputy's squad car.  The movie ends with Otis being carted into the emergency room of the hospital, and being followed by the Indian shopkeeper while Miles watches it all, caressing the Wendigo figurine.

 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

CC: Gates of Hell Trilogy

We will be wandering away from H.P. Lovecraft proper and into the world of Lovecraft-ish.  Forgotten religions, creatures from beyond and overwhelming feelings of despair and insanity.  No one outside the Mythos authors understand the core of a Mythos story better than Lucio Fulci.

Lucio Fulci (17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and actor.  He is perhaps best known for his gore films, including Zombi 2 (1979) and The Beyond (1981), although he made films in genres as diverse as giallo, western and comedy.  Fulci is known as the "Godfather of Gore", a title also given to Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Fulci was born in Rome, Italy on 17 June 1927.  After studying medicine in college and being employed for a time as an art critic, Fulci opted for a film career first as a screenwriter, then later as a director, working initially in the comedy field.  In the early to mid-1960s, Fulci directed around 18 Italian comedies, many starring the famous Italian comedy team Franco and Ciccio.  Most of these early films did not enjoy wider distribution in English-speaking countries, and are generally not available in English.

In 1969, he moved into the thriller arena, directing gialli (such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and The Psychic) and spaghetti westerns (such as Massacre Time and Four of the Apocalypse) that were both commercially successful and controversial in their depiction of violence and religion.  Some of the special effects in Lizard involving mutilated dogs in a vivisection room were so realistic, Fulci was dragged into court and charged with animal cruelty, until he showed the artificial canine puppets (created by special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi) to the judge and explained that they weren't real animals.

The first film to gain him actual notoriety in his native country, Don't Torture a Duckling, combined scathing social commentary with the director's soon-to-be-trademark graphic violence.  Fulci had a Catholic upbringing and referred to himself as a Catholic.  Despite this, some of his movies (such as Beatrice Cenci and Don't Torture a Duckling) have been viewed as severely anti-Catholic.  In one of his films, a priest is depicted as a homicidal child killer, while in another film, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery and is reincarnated as a murderous demon.

In 1979, he achieved his international breakthrough with Zombi 2 (aka Zombie), a violent zombie film that was marketed in European territories as a sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978).  He quickly followed it up with several other tales of horror and the supernatural, many also featuring shambling, maggot-infested zombies which were common horror film fodder at the time.  His features released from 1979 through 1983 (most of them scripted by famed Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti) were described by some critics as being among the most violent and gory films ever made.  City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982) were among his biggest hits, all of which featured extreme levels of on-screen blood and cruelty.


City of the Living Dead (1980)

  • Original Title: Paura nella città dei morti viventi
  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Lucio Fulci
  • Produced:
    • Lucio Fulci 
    • Giovanni Masini 
    • Robert E. Warner
  • Written:
    • H.P. Lovecraft (Inspiration) 
    • Lucio Fulci (Story and Screenplay) 
    • Dardano Sacchetti (Story and Screenplay)
  • Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Venantini, Michele Soavi, Venantino Venantini
  • Music: Fabio Frizzi
  • Cinematography: Sergio Salvati
  • Editing:
    • Edward Brizio 
    • Vincenzo Tomassi
  • Studio:
    • Dania Film 
    • Medusa Distribuzione 
    • National Cinematografica
  • Distributed:
    • Medusa Distribuzione  
    • Motion Picture Marketing  
    • Paragon Video Productions  
    • VCI Home Video  
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment  
    • Blue Underground  
    • Avo Film Edizioni  
    • Embassy Home Entertainment  
    • New Vision  
    • Number One Video  
    • Pacesetter Video  
    • Threat Theatre
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 11 August 1980 (Italy) 
    • 1 May 1983 (USA)
  • Running Time: 93 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language:
    • Italian 
    • English

City of the Living Dead (Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi [English translation: Fear in the City of the Living Dead], also known as The Gates of Hell) is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci.  It is the first installment of the unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy which also includes The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Fulci makes an uncredited cameo appearance as Dr. Joe Thompson in the film.

After Father William Thomas hangs himself in a cemetery, the gates of Hell are opened.  Zombies with the abilities of super strength, teleportation and levitation appear and start killing off people in a remote town.  Psychic Mary Woodhouse appears to die of fright during a séance, and is buried – only to revive, buried alive, in her own coffin. Investigating reporter Peter Bell, who is intrigued by the case, is present at the grave-site and rescues her – only to learn it is all fated as part of a prophecy in the Book of Enoch1.  The death of the priest is only the beginning, and they both must travel to the rural town of Dunwich, New England and close the portal to Hell before All Saints Day, or the spirits of the dead will overtake the earth.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, City of the Living Dead currently has an approval rating of 55%, and is certified "rotten".  Allmovie wrote that while the film "suffers from the same shortcomings present in much of Fulci's other horror films", "City of the Living Dead benefits from Fulci's ability to create and sustain an intensely creepy atmosphere", though ultimately calling the film "a dry run for the blend of graphic shocks and surrealism atmosphere that Lucio Fulci would perfect with The Beyond."  Time Out called the film "laughably awful", though "with its nonsensical 'plot' randomly constructed according to the illogic of fear, and its grotesque emphasis on physical mutability, fragmentation and decay, it could just conceivably be the sort of disreputable movie the surrealists would have loved."


The Beyond (1981)

  • Original Title: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà
  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Lucio Fulci
  • Produced: Fabrizio De Angelis
  • Written:
    • Dardano Sacchetti (Story) 
    • Dardano Sacchetti (Screenplay) 
    • Giorgio Mariuzzo (Screenplay) 
    • Lucio Fulci (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala, Laura De Marchi
  • Music:
    • Fabio Frizzi 
    • Walter E. Sear
  • Cinematography: Sergio Salvati
  • Editing: Vincenzo Tomassi
  • Studio: Fulvia Film
  • Distributed:
    • Aquarius Releasing 
    • Thriller Video 
    • Astro 
    • Grindhouse Releasing 
    • Medusa Distribuzione 
    • Rolling Thunder Pictures
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment 
    • Diamond Entertainment Group 
    • KOCH International 
    • Lamberto Forni Film 
    • SlingShot Entertainment 
    • TGG Direct
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 29 April 1981 (Italy) 
    • 1 March 1983 (USA)
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language:
    • Italian 
    • English

The Beyond (Italian: L'aldilà, also released as Seven Doors of Death) is a 1981 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci.  The second film in Fulci's unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy (along with City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery), The Beyond has gained a cult following over the decades, in part because of the film's gore-filled murder sequences, which had been heavily censored when the film was originally released in the United States in 1983.

In 1927, Louisiana's Seven Doors Hotel is the scene of a vicious murder as a lynch mob crucifies and pours quicklime upon an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock.  The artist's murder opens one of the seven doors of death, which exist throughout the world and allow the dead to cross into the world of the living. Several decades later, a young woman from New York inherits the hotel and plans to re-open it for business.  Her renovation work activates the hell portal, and soon she and a local doctor find themselves having to deal with the living dead, the ghost of a blind girl who seeks to get them to leave the house, a mystic tome called the Book of Eibon2 that supposedly contains the answers to the nightmare at hand, face-eating tarantulas, a young girl whose murdered parents become zombies and is herself possessed by undead spirits — and Schweick, who has returned as a malevolent, indestructible corpse, apparently in control of the supernatural forces.

All hope is lost by the end, as the hero and heroine find themselves transported impossibly from a hospital stairway back to the hotel's basement. They enter a wasteland that Schweick was seen painting at the beginning of the film. After wandering around amidst fog and lifeless mummified bodies, the two go blind and fade into oblivion.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Beyond received positive reviews by 61% of 18 reviews; the average rating was 6.2/10.  Allmovie called the film a "surreal and bloody horror epic" and labeled it "Italian horror at its nightmarish extreme".  Time Out, on the other hand, called it "a shamelessly artless horror movie whose senseless story – a girl inherits a spooky, seedy hotel which just happens to have one of the seven doors of Hell in its cellar – is merely an excuse for a poorly connected series of sadistic tableaux of torture and gore."  Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film half a star out of four, writing, "The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough."  An eye-gouging setpiece early in the film was rated #60 on Bravo Television's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.


The House by the Cemetery (1981)

  • Original Title: Quella villa accanto al cimitero
  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Lucio Fulci
  • Produced: Fabrizio De Angelis
  • Written:
    • H.P. Lovecraft (Inspiration) 
    • Elisa Briganti (Story) 
    • Lucio Fulci (Screenplay) 
    • Giorgio Mariuzzo (Screenplay) 
    • Dardano Sacchetti (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Giovanni De Nava, Daniela Doria, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Carlo De Mejo, Kenneth A. Olsen, Elmer Johnsson
  • Music: Walter Rizzati
  • Cinematography: Sergio Salvati
  • Editing: Vincenzo Tomassi
  • Studio: Fulvia Film
  • Distributed:
    • Almi Pictures 
    • Levy Films 
    • Anchor Bay Entertainment 
    • Vestron Video 
    • Diamond Entertainment Group 
    • St. Clair Vision 
    • Avid Home Entertainment 
    • Blue Underground 
    • Mill Creek Entertainment 
    • Miracle Pictures 
    • Reel Media International 
    • TGG Direct
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • 14 August 1981 (Italy) 
    • 1 March 1984 (USA)
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

The House by the Cemetery is a 1981 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Lucio Fulci.  It is the third installment of the unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy which also includes City of the Living Dead and The Beyond.  Its plot revolves around a series of murders taking place in a New England home–a home which happens to be hiding a particularly gruesome secret within its basement walls.  Themes and motifs from popular horror films such as The Shining, The Amityville Horror and Frankenstein are readily on display.  This movie made the infamous video nasty list in the United Kingdom3.

A woman is in an abandoned house looking for her boyfriend.  After she discovers his body, she is stabbed in the head, and her body is dragged through a cellar door.

In New York City, Bob and his parents, Norman and Lucy Boyle, are moving.  Norman's ex-colleague, Dr. Peterson, who murdered his mistress before committing suicide, was the previous owner.  The Boyles are to stay there, whilst Norman researches old houses.  As his mother packs, Bob looks at a photograph of a house and notices a girl in it.  In New Whitby, Boston, Bob waits in his parents' car while they collect keys.  The girl from the photograph appears across the street.  The girl, Mae, whom only Bob can see, warns him to stay away.  In the real estate office, Mrs. Gittelson is annoyed when her colleague hands the couple "the Freudstein" keys.  She insists it is called "Oak Mansion".  Gittelson promises to find a babysitter.

Oak Mansion is in a poor state of repair.  The cellar door is locked and nailed shut.  A woman arrives and introduces herself as Ann, the babysitter.  That night, Norman hears noises and finds Ann unblocking the cellar door.  The next day, Norman goes to the library to peruse Peterson's materials.  The assistant librarian, Daniel Douglas, informs Norman that Peterson conducted private research at the house.  He studied records of area disappearances and other demographic data.

Mae shows Bob a tombstone on the grounds marked "Mary Freudstein" and says she is not really dead.  Indoors, Lucy finds the tombstone of "Jacob Tess Freudstein".  When Norman returns, he reassures her that some old houses have indoor tombs, because of the hard wintry ground.  Norman opens the cellar door and walks down the stairs only to be attacked by a bat, which he stabs.  Spooked, the family drives down to the estate office and demands to be re-housed, but are told it will be few more days before they can move.

While the Boyles are at hospital to treat Norman's injuries from the bat, Gittelson arrives at the house to tell them of a new property.  Letting herself in, she stands by the Freudstein tombstone, which cracks apart, pinning her ankle.  A figure emerges, stabs her in the neck with a fireplace poker, and drags her into the cellar.

The next morning, Lucy finds Ann cleaning a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.  Ann eludes Lucy's questions about the stain.  Over coffee, Norman tells Lucy that he's discovered that Freudstein was a Victorian surgeon who conducted illegal experiments.  Norman must travel to New York to research Freudstein.  On the way, Norman drops by the library and finds a cassette of Peterson, which explains Freudstein killed his family.

Ann goes to the cellar looking for Bob, but Freudstein decapitates her after slashing her throat.  Bob sees Ann's head, and exits screaming.  Lucy refuses to believe Bob's tale about Ann.  That evening, Bob returns to the cellar looking for Ann.

Lucy hears Bob's cries and tries to open the cellar door.  When she cannot open the door, Norman returns and attacks it with an axe.  The rotting hands of Freudstein appear and restrain Bob.  One axe blow chops off the monster's hand, and he staggers away, holding Bob.

The cellar contains mutilated bodies, surgical equipment and a slab.  Freudstein is a living corpse with rotting flesh.  Norman tells Lucy the 150-year-old Freudstein lives by using his victims' parts to regenerate blood cells. Norman attacks Freudstein, but the ghoul twists the axe away.  He grabs a knife off a tray and stabs Freudstein.

Freudstein picks up Norman and rips his throat out.  Lucy and Bob climb a ladder leading to the cracked tombstone.  Lucy strains to shift the stone, but Freudstein grabs her.  Freudstein kills Lucy by ramming her head into the concrete floor.  As Freudstein advances up the ladder, Bob strains to escape.  Suddenly, Bob is yanked upwards and finds Mae.  With Mae is her mother, Mary Freudstein, who urges them to leave.  Freudstein leads Mae and Bob down the wintry grove into a netherworld of ghosts and sadness.

 

Notes:

1. The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel.  It is regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, but not by any other Christian group.  The older sections (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) are estimated to date from about 300 BC, and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of the 1st century BC.

2. The Book of Eibon, or Liber Ivonis or Livre d'Eibon, is attributed to Clark Ashton Smith.  It appears in a number of Lovecraft's stories, such as "The Haunter of the Dark" (Liber Ivonis), "The Dreams in the Witch House" (Book of Eibon),"The Horror in the Museum" (Book of Eibon) and "The Shadow Out of Time" (Book of Eibon).  The book is supposed to have been written by Eibon, a wizard in the land of Hyperborea.  It was an immense text of arcane knowledge that contained, among other things, a detailed account of Eibon's exploits, including his journeys to the Vale of Pnath and the planet Shaggai, his veneration rituals of Zhothaqquah (Eibon's patron deity), and his magical formulae—such as for the slaying of certain otherworldly horrors.  Unfortunately, only one complete fragment of the original is known to exist, scattered in different places of our world, though there are translations in English, French, and Latin—Liber Ivonis is the title of the Latin translation.

3. Video nasty was a colloquial term in the United Kingdom coined by the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association (NVALA) to refer to a number of films distributed on video cassette in the early 1980s that were criticized for their violent content by the press, social commentators, and various religious organizations.  These video releases were not brought before the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), which could have censored or banned many of the films, due to a loophole in film classification laws.  As a result, this produced a glut of potentially censorable video releases, which led to public debate concerning the availability of these films to children due to the unregulated nature of the market.

 

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