Scream Factory triple review: WHITE OF THE EYE, THE CAR and WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE!!

SCREAM-FACTORY-LOGOWith how many quality releases the gang over at Scream Factory puts out every year, it can be a bit overwhelming (I’m kidding, it’s actually pretty great). They’ve been on a solid roll since making their mark with the awesome HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH blurays they used to help kickstart the horror imprint of Shout! Factory, and haven’t slowed down since. We thought it would be nice to highlight a trio of new SF releases, three films that couldn’t be more different, showing the versatility the company has, and helping to let you fright fanatics know a little bit more about the films.

 

white

WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)

Unlike any other genre film, the late Donald Cammell’s WHITE OF THE EYE is quite easily one of the most unique horror films around. It’s the best example of a film truly being the vision of its director and thought it’s a bit much at times, it’s a pretty solid and interesting film.

Going back and forth between the past and the present, the film is about Paul White (David Keith, FIRESTARTER), an expert in sound who is the main suspect in a series of murders. The film opens with one of those murders, in a sequence that feels like a giallo done Arizona style, with what looks like perfectly planned shots of glass breaking, blood flying and various other visceral horror. We then see Paul’s family, his wife Joan and his daughter Danielle. We’re given flashbacks to a time when Joan was with Mike Desantos (Alan Rosenberg), who comes to where Paul worked in the past, needing help with his stereo. While sticking around town, Paul swooped in, stealing Joan and scaring the living hell out of Mike with a hunting trip going really really bad, ending with Paul brutally murdering their hunting animal prey.

Present day, Paul is hounded by Detective Charles Mendoza (Art Evans, FRIGHT NIGHT, DIE HARD 2), who thinks Paul’s definitely the man killing women around the city. As a viewer, you’re not quite sure what to think, the film gives you a murderous opening, then deals with the past drama between Paul and Mike, and the present day unraveling of Paul and Joan’s marriage. Genre fans expecting a continuous series of gory murders will be disappointed, WHITE OF THE EYE is more about the Cammell executing his unique vision (tampering with his vision on his premiered on HBO film WILD SIDE led to the director committing suicide years later), telling a visual story through various looks and tones. The flashback scenes are bleached out to look grainy and grimy, a contrast to how the present day scenes look.

While being a film filled to the brim with good performances and great direction by Cammell, it’s not for everyone. At times, WHITE OF THE EYE is a test of patience, a film that slowly plays out in front of you, beginning with a BANG then remaining calm for quite a while before exploding right in your face. If you can stand the slow building of the plot and characters, you’ll probably enjoy this weird little movie.

Special Features:

The disc includes a set of new interviews with Rosenberg, Evans and cinematographer Larry McConkey, all of which describe Cammell as a troubled man, one who enjoyed causing friction and chaos, but having his own vision. Evans tells a cool story about how Cammell wanted him in the role so bad that he worked around the actor’s schedule, something he always appreciated. It’s interesting to hear stories about the ill-fated director, it’s a shame he isn’t around still making unique and artistically rich films.

Also on the disc, is a commentary featuring Donald Cammell biographer Sam Umland, as well as a interesting look at how the past scenes looked prior to the bleach bypass look Cammell went for.

car

THE CAR (1977)

The best JAWS rip off of all time, Elliot Silverstein’s THE CAR takes the plot and beats of Spielberg’s shit blockbuster and transplants it into a film revolving around a small town being stalked and terrorized by a vehicle from hell. Mowing people down left and right, the car is like an unstoppable force of nature, and it’s up to Wade Parent (James Brolin, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR), the town’s sheriff, to put an end to the murderous car before it not only kills more townspeople, but his own family as well.

Now when I say that THE CAR is the best ripoff of JAWS, it’s not an insult. It’s a known fact that the people at Universal told Silverstein to literally make JAWS on land. From the opening kill to a lot of the plot elements, it’s almost a duplicate at times, and while that might sound silly or like a lesser experience, it’s not. It’s a very good film, filled with so many good performances, especially from Brolin and Ronny Cox (TOTAL RECALL, ROBOCOP, DELIVERANCE) as the film’s sheriff and deputy. Cox almost steals the entire film, as a man whose sobriety is tested due to the events plaguing their town. It’s a sad performance, one that you don’t get to see in these types of films (big movie knockoffs), but it’s here for genre fans to enjoy.

While Brolin, Cox, Kathleen Lloyd and HALLOWEEN‘s Kyle Richards (who plays one of Brolin’s daughters, the other one played by Kyle’s rela life sister, Kim Richards) all do great and give great performances, the real star of the film is the ominous and evil car. Speeding through the town and its outskirts, it kills for no reason, has no explanation of its motives or even if there’s a driver, it’s a killing machine with mystery all over it. It chases kids, continually runs over a hitchhiker and in one of the film’s best scenes, drives THROUGH A HOUSE to get who it’s coming after.

I love films like THE CAR, ones that like John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, never feels the need to explain its killer’s motives or put reason behind them. It’s a hate-filled, hell on wheels beast, one that pushed its speed to the limit and gives genre fans a wild time.

Special Features:

Featuring new interviews with director Silverstein and actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, THE CAR‘s supplemental material is fun to watch, with Silverstein recalling being told to make JAWS on land and trying his best to do just that. Personally, I think he did a great job of making a good film, not just the knockoff that the studio was wanting, but something really lasting and fun. Stories from Scott and Keams also tells of how the Indian characters were portrayed accurately and positively, which impressed the Native American actors involved.

While it would have been great to see Brolin talk about the film,the people we DO get to see talk about the film make up for the absence, and the film itself makes this release well worth picking up.

WPM

WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (1983)

Oh Bruno Mattei. Love or hate the man, he definitely made some interesting genre films in his day, with everything from RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR to HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and so on. His output varied in quality and when he made a good movie, it was GOOD, which can also be said regarding the flipside of that coin. When he hit, he hit HARD and when he missed, it was quite bad.  Which side does the recent release of WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE fall on? Unfortunately it’s the latter, being a film that is all over the place and one of the lesser films within the women in prison exploitation genre that filmmakers like Jack Hill did so well.

Filled to the maximum level with an ADHD-like plot, WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE introduces you to a group of women in prison, one whose warden and guards side with a prison bully with her eyes set on Emanuelle, a journalist sent to prison for coming to close to shedding the light on a corrupt politician. While that plot would have been good enough to carry a film and make it interesting, as soon as you get used to following that plotline, a group of male prisoners are taken to the women’s prison and take people hostage, try to rape them and cause the women to get violent in return.

It’s a decent setup, but what Mattei’s film lacks is any trace of heart or even entertainment. It’s dull for the most part and mean spirited just for the sake of being mean spirited. Most of the downside within the film can be traced to it being penned by TROLL 2/HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD writer Claudio Fragasso, a man I am convinced cannot write a decent or likable character.

There’s no real reason for anything to happen in the film, and when things DO happen, it’s hard to really care about a single character. What made Jack Hill’s films so enjoyable, was the fact that you were always rooting for someone, hoping that a character would either get away or take down the baddies at least. With WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE, there really isn’t a single character that is interesting enough to care about, making the film almost impossible to latch onto or even sit through.

Women in prison film buffs might think this one is worth checking out, but I’d recommend revisiting the films that DO work well instead, and give this one a pass while waiting for a better film to come out.

Leave A Comment