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Monday, 25 June 2012

Thank You All, We've Hit 3000!


So, despite my little blog on the Web being text-heavy, and not your usual kind of blog (that is, it's not a diary, but more of a film journal), we're reached over 3000 individual hits over 18 months!

Our last target - 1000 - was hit in January 2012, and in just another six months, we've had a 200% increase in audience. And my, what a great audience we have! As expected, the majority of my audience is from the United Kingdom. Yet, we also reach people in:
- the U.S.A.
- Germany
- Russia
- Mexico
- Australia
- Canada
- France
- Thailand, and
- Belgium!

That's pretty impressive, in my eyes, and I want to offer-up a big THANK YOU to all of you for reading my work, and standing with me. I genuinely appreciate each and every single one of you who visits, moreso when my blog is - as I've said - not like many others. (Text-heavy works tend to get a smaller audience, but maybe - in this case - the difference is what is so refreshing to you all.) It's an even more amazing statistic, I think, when people in some of those countries, won't have English as their first or even second language. For someone not used to the English vernacular, and spending time reading something not in their home or main language, and which is often over a thousand words long, it makes the 3000-plus visits even more stunning!

Anyway, it's nice to see my work being read all over the globe. Three-thousand hits may be a comparatively small figure in the world of the Internet, especially when many blogs and sites can hit six or seven-figure hits, but it's impressive for me nonetheless. People actually reading what I write, and taking an interest in my work, is something I value greatly. So thank you everyone.

In addition to the new Menu System mentioned in my previous post, I've also enabled the Mobile version of this site, to appear in a much simpler, more basic fashion. For those of you who view this site on your smartphone (iPhone's, Blackberry's, Android's, etc), you will now see a pared-down, simplified version of this site, that should load-up quicker, and be a little less hassle to read. Let me know what you think, and whether you prefer this version, or if you'd prefer me to go back to having the site appear how it does on a desktop web browser.

I shall be back soon, with some more great articles for you to all indulge in. Until then, I wish you all the best, for health, wealth and happiness.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A New Menu System!

Why didn't I do this before? I've been looking at a way for my readers to access all of my posts, in a more efficient manner, than simply using the "Next Post" or "Previous Post" links at the bottom of each page, when I've discovered the Blogger already allows a Blog Selection option.

So, at long last, I now have an easier way for people to access any or all of my previous posts - thanks to the new Blog Archive link on the right-hand side. I'll be back soon with a full-review of RUMAH DARAH. For now, Be Seeing You!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Say Hello To RUMAH DARA!

Hello Everyone,

There's a new Singaporian/Indonesian horror film, that is slowly becoming available in the West. Called MACABRE, it was originally titled RUMAH DARA, (2009, The Mo Brothers), which is the lead villainess's name - Dara being her first or fore-name.

The film has just come out on UK Region 2 DVD courtesy of Scanbox, and it deals with a group of friends who have the misfortune to run-into a young woman at a petrol station, who claims she is the victim of a robbery. After they take her home, she invites them into her abode for a fine meal and a chat, as way of a Thank You. Little do these people realise, that they've just walked into the home of a very, very nasty lady, and several assorted psychopathic individuals!

Garnering an 18 certificate here in the UK, with a warning for "Contains very strong bloody violence and gore", this is sure to be a great cult hit, and I urge my readers to check it out. You can order the film from for less than £8 by clicking here, and as such, I heartily recommend that you get this disgusting little item.

For now, enjoy this trailer... I apologise it's not the best quality, but hopefully it'll give you a taster.

There are a few differences between the Indonesian and Singaporian theatrical versions. The Indonesian Theatrical Release removes a brutal decapitation sequence, whilst Singaporian viewers included the decapitation, but all scenes detailing bladed weapons/implements making contact with human flesh - of which there is a hell of a lot in this flick - were removed, and replaced with alternate footage. Thankfully, the UK release is the full and uncut version, containing every ounce of gore and violence. And it's a mightily strong film, if I dare say so. Something I'm sure my readers will take a great deal of pleasure in.

Having watched the film, it's very enjoyable. It's by no means the best horror ever, and if you pick-it-apart, you'll see it's nothing more than an Indonesian variation on THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper), but it's still fun.

There's enough gore and violence to accompany the story, without one forsaking the other. And a couple of the goreiest scenes, will certainly make you jump, or watch with your mouth wide open in shock. (Always a good thing!) The film's been tightly edited and paced, so that viewers are never bored and the story isn't left wandering aimlessly - as some horror films inevitably do. All-in, this is a nice little film, with its only problem being that the print quality isn't as sharp as I would have liked. It's by no mean bad, but there are a few scenes where dark rooms and hair are just swathes of black, with zero detail to show what they actually are. I don't think this is a fault of the UK DVD release, per se, but more to do with the original print from which the master has been created from.

There are a couple of extras: an 11-minute "Making Of" which is acceptable, but is more of a public-relations promo than any comment on how the film was technically created, and some trailers (all of them, bar the one for RUMAH DARA, being universally crap). Not much, but it's something at least.

It's still worth getting, but if anyone releases a version with improved picture, then I will definitely get it. This film has the potential to look amazing, but this DVD is certainly acceptable for the time being.

See you soon

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Woohoo! Arrow Screw-Up Again!

Dear Almar Haflidason,

You are the head honcho at Arrow, yes? I am assuming, therefore, that you have the ability to check what your company release, BEFORE it gets unleashed into the public's hands, yes?

So why does this keep happening? You take a great film, you promise a great release, and what happens? You botch it up... Again! For the umpteenth time, in as many months!

The DEMONS Steelbook had the two posters, and the two DEMONS 3 comic books, excluded from it, due to "inadequate space". Your staff originally told Arrow Forum members that these were going to be included. Then you said they weren't. Then you said they couldn't be included. Then you announced that something was being worked on, so that fans who had bought the Steelbook, could get the posters and comics. And yet, there's been no further news on this. Hmmmm.

THE BEYOND (1981, Lucio Fulci), was initially authored with a low-bitrate, and the opening sequence in black-and-white, rather than the proper and intended Sepia format. This resulted in discs being needed to be sent back, exchanged and replaced. The replacement disc was better, and yet, even now - some 15 months after that title was released - there are still people buying this film, and getting the old, faulty disc inside their copies!

DEEP RED (1977, Dario Argento), had issues with edge-enhancement and picture-quality, as well as a picture-glitch around the 45-minute mark.

TENEBRAE (1982, Dario Argento), had shockingly bad picture quality, to the point, there appeared to be more grain on screen, than actual image.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1969, Dario Argento), was released in a new "approved" ratio of 2.1:1 instead of the original, and proper 2.35:1 CinemaScope ratio. This resulted in large amounts of picture information being cropped out, or removed, noticeable from the very first few moments of the Opening Credits.

CALIGULA (1979, Bob Guccione and Tinto Brass), was released on DVD in a lovely 3-disc edition with every edition of the film (hardcore, softcore, and European 90-minute version) and extras. Your Blu-Ray version decided to drop one of the versions, but this isn't made clear on the boxed artwork, nor on your website. It's ever-so-slightly deceptive. Some might even go as far as to infer that you were deliberately cheating your customers!

Now, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981, Lucio Fulci), has been released, and this release also has problems! (Good God, no!)

Firstly, some copies of this great Fulci horror classic, may have the wrong second disc in them. If you have a DVD labelled Disc 1 (or it has the movie on it in Standard Definition), then you'll need to get it returned or replaced. Unfortunately, you may have to register with Arrow's crappy Cult Labs Forums, in order to find out what to do.

Whilst Arrow did discuss this on their website, and Arrow blame the disc manufacturers for the problem, some of these faulty sets are still being sent out to customers. Either Arrow needs to stop using this manufacturer, or else invest in some major Quality Control checks. Which leads me onto this next complaint...

...Arrow has ballsed-up the subtitling.

The Opening Credits are all in Italian, and there's no English subtitle translation. Fair-enough, I can live with that minor issue.

However, the ending of the film has a prophetic quote from Henry James, in Italian. All fine-and-dandy, but there's no English translation for it... Unless, that is, you opt to leave the English subtitling on all the way through the entire goddamn film!

Well done, Arrow! Yet another bad mark, and yet another reason why your releases smack of absolutely NO Quality Control whatsoever!

Does nobody at Arrow check the discs before replication? Did no one actually think to themselves: "Uh, guys? We're using an Italian-produced HD master, and the film has Opening and Closing Credits all in Italian. Maybe we should, perhaps subtitle the ending of the film, so that our English-language audience can understand it"?! Clearly, not!

There is artifacting, digital noise, and some bad compression artifacts in scenes involving pure black. Even on my 37-inch Panasonic TV, I could see the problems! So god-knows what it's going to look like on a 50-inch TV or a Projection Screen! It's not horrific, by any means, but it is there, and it is noticeable. When the picture is great, and the scene involving the murder of the Estate Agent looks truly great, the print is recommendable. However, when it's bad, it's awful. For that reason, again, Arrow needs to either start using a different authoring team, who know what the difference is between film grain, digital noise, and digital artifacting! Kentai over at Kentai's Blog has been mentioning this issue multiple times on your releases, and even though on the Cult Labs Forum, (which is not a true Forum, but a place where praise can be left for Arrow, but dare to post anything remotely critical or question their method of doing things, and you'll quickly find yourself being told to shut up or banned), you say that Kentai knows nothing and is simply an angry, overtly-critical anti-Arrow fan, you still seem to think that your releases are perfect!

Well, they aren't! They're anything but perfect! They're not even "flawed". They're shambolic!

The second disc - providing you get the correct one, of course - is a DVD containing some of the Special Features. One of those extras, is an hour's worth of Italian film trailers on it. Unfortunately, bar about two of these, many are even worse than some of the low-res trailers you can see on YouTube. It's as if Arrow just cobbled together 20 trailers, stuck them on a disc, and said "That'll do"! What should have been a very good hour's-worth of trailer-watching, is a frankly embarrassing mess of hideous proportions. I know some of the trailer are old and rare. They're not the ones I'm blaming you for. I'm talking about the trailers which have been released on other discs, or by other companies, and which we know and have seen in far better quality editions, than the ones showcased here. In fact, some of them are so utterly shocking, that not even a no-name, cheap-as-chips label would have stuck them on their discs, so bad are they!

Arrow need to get their head out of their backsides, and start doing some serious Quality Control, as I'm sick of so many of their films having problems, errors or other QC issues! Just how many "botched" releases do Arrow need to do, before someone at Arrow Headquarters decides that Quality Control is important?! One? Two? Five? Ten?!

Initially, I was forgiving of Arrow. I ignored people who said that Arrow weren't good, and didn't produce good releases. I thought that people were being overly-sensitive over minor issues in Arrow's titles. But the more I spend my money on their releases, and the more problems I keep finding, AND the more I keep hearing from them that they DO care about making great UK Blu-Ray and DVD releases, the more I feel like they just don't give a damn! It appears to be purely about making money. Nothing more, nothing less. If you praise them, they are happy. Make a single negative comment, and they lambast you, ban you from their hideously-patrolled-by-jackbooted-morons forum, or try and placate you with cries of "your comments are unfair criticism", because "we're a small label, with little money"!

Well, look, enough's enough! Start checking things out, before you manufacture them. Start making sure that when you produce an HD-master, that the print doesn't contain lots of scenes of digital noise or artifacting in scenes featuring large amounts of pure blackness; double and triple-check your prints, so that English subtitles are available for the pertinent parts of your Italian-language films; stop allowing your manufacturer to bodge your releases, resulting in recalls, delays, and problems for your customers. And stop, whinging that customers are ungrateful when we're the ones keeping you in business in the first fucking place!

No customers buying your products, means no sales.

No sales, means goodbye Arrow, and hello unemployment line at the Jobcentre!

I'm sure I'll receive numerous comments from other people, saying I'm being overly picky; overly sensitive, or even comments telling me to stop whining or to grow-up. Well, to those of you who are happy spending £10-£15 (or $25+ in the USA, for the poor bastards that import these), on each Arrow release, and finding problems and errors, go ahead and waste your money and time. However, for the rest of us in the real-world, we deserve better!

To be frank, Arrow is a joke! Your off-the-chart ineptness and derisory acknowledgement of problems from customers, suggests to me, that you genuinely don't care what customers think, because you are more concerned about selling product, no matter how bad that product may actually be.

Well, I've had enough! People, cult-film-fans, lovers of extreme cinema, do NOT buy Arrow/Cult Film Labs releases. Do NOT support this label, with your hard-earned money, until they are ready to get their act together!

Give your money to labels that DO care about film as an artistic medium, who DO care about DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and who DO care about their customers.


(Curator of "Cinema-Extreme" Blog!)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

BBFC Podcast Number Five

Just a short update for you all today, with the release of the BBFC's latest Podcast - Number 5 - which deals in sometimes quite uncomfortable detail - with the issues of sexual violence.

You can download the Podcast by simply Right Clicking Here on this link.

Happy Listening!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Now I See Why I Was Banned! Why Arrow Needs To Stop Acting Like A Spoilt Brat!

Oh dear, oh dear. If you read my previous two-part post, you will have seen that I got into trouble recently with Cult Labs Forums which is the site for Arrow Video and Shameless Films, here in the UK.

Well, it seems that Arrow really does have its undergarments in a knot, as now, news has been leaked via that famously secure Internet concept, Twitter, about a forthcoming release. Arrow Video are to release Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (aka ZOMBI, aka ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS) later this year, and boy oh boy, are the Arrow Staff not happy about this news being leaked!

Checking in their Forum site, so many of the members are livid and enraged that Alan Jones, (prominent Dario Argento enthusiast and writer and co-ordinator of the UK horror film festival "Frightfest"), has let the cat out of the bag early, despite some kind of clause in his contract to allegedly keep schtum!

As I would have expected, there are members on the Forum demanding Alan be replaced; others calling for his head. It's all kicking-off over there, and to be honest, I find it highly amusing. Not because I want to piss on anyone from a great height, though that is quite fun in this instance, but the fact that Arrow are being so utterly protective of what they thought was their baby.

It's a goddamn film release.

It's a good release for sure, but that's all it is. The fact that the cat is now out of the bag, isn't really going to be that big of an issue. However, Arrow are up-in-arms about the news being leaked.

They are flapping the hands, claiming that they wanted to release the news, when they decided to release it - which was going to be sometime in the Autumn. They are claiming that fun has been reduced for fans, because they (allegedly) had some kind of spectacular promo campaign in the works, for the UK Blu-Ray release. Supposedly, Arrow are alleging that lots of hard-work has now gone to waste.

I'm sorry, but nothing is secret anymore.

In this day-and-age, with the Internet being the behemoth that it is, there is no such thing as "confidentiality" and "secrecy" any more. It takes just one person to hint at something, and then the frenzy of fans will instantly put two-and-two together, and discuss it, Tweet it, Facebook it across the globe within minutes! Bearing in mind that governments have been toppled via Internet "leaks", is it really fair to expect privacy over the trivial matter of a film's release?

I appreciate that in some cases, secrecy is necessary, but it's not as if Arrow releasing a Blu-Ray of a cult horror film from 1979, is really going to be much of a shock to people. Moreso, when that same film is already out on Blu-Ray from Blue Underground, in a spankingly classy, and extras-filled Region Free edition. (And to which, was probably cheaper for me to import from the US, than it will be to pre-order Arrow's Blu-Ray release, anyway.)

As I have come to expect, the die-hard Arrow fanboys have come out to play on the Cult Labs Forums, mummying Arrow, because Arrow's delicate sensibilities have been inflamed by this "leak". So too, has the inevitable discussion about what kind of form will the finished release take, e.g. single or double-disc; Limited Edition Arrow release; Arrow Steelbook, etc. After the debacle that was the DEMONS Arrow Steelbook, I don't think I'm going to be losing any sleep whilst this pettiness continues.

I don't want to be damning and critical of small, independent and/or niche film distributors, because if it wasn't for them, then my DVD and Blu-Ray collection would be infinitely smaller. But with that all said, the internal politics gets right on my nerves. Prior to the DEMONS Steelbook screw-up, and the recent THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY balls-up (in which the wrong disc was inserted into the set, before being shipped-out by the distributors to companies like HMV and Amazon), plus printing delays et al, Arrow posted a poll on their website, asking for customer feedback. The poll was simple: did fans want the special Arrow packaging (slipcase, four-panel artwork, comics, posters, etc) to continue?

The poll went online, and around 79-80% of the response was a resounding "yes"! So what did Arrow do, once the poll closed? They came back saying, thanks to everyone for replying, but they had decided to discontinue the special packaging, except for rare occasions. In other words, they just completely ignored the fans and customers desires, and totally went against their wishes.

Talk about selfish!

Small, independent companies live-and-die by their customer service. Give great service, follow what your customers comment upon, do what customers want, and your company will go far (see Anchor Bay, Kino Video, Eureka/Masters Of Cinema, Metro Tartan, Blue Underground, Code Red, etc, etc). Go against your customers, or ignore what they say, and you will die a quick and painful death. Your company will go under, and your customers will watch you sink into the ocean, never to be heard of again, and they absolutely will not give a second's thought to you.

Arrow could be a great company. They could be the UK equivalent of Anchor Bay or Blue Underground.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm sure some of my readers will be thinking that I need to stop being so harsh. After all, they did offer fans an option to swap the faulty THE BEYOND discs over, via their Forums. They also offered a disc-swap for anyone who has received the wrong disc in their recent THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981, Lucio Fulci) release. That is true for both incidents. However, what I want to know is this:

1) Why did Arrow allow pre-release screener copies and retail copies of THE BEYOND to go out, containing the famous pre-credits sequence in black-and-white, rather than the proper and intended sepia tone?

2) Why did it take fans to notify Arrow about the less-than-spectacular image quality, rather than Arrow actually making sure the film was correct before pre-release screener and retail copies got produced and sent out?

3) Why, when fans notified them about this, did Arrow seem to suggest that this was just a "minor error", and not - in fact - a massive problem with quality-control?

4) Why, even now, can people still buy copies of THE BEYOND and still get the wrong disc inside, and then have to hunt around on the Internet, to find out what to do to get a corrected copy?

When Hammer's recent release of DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966, Terence Fisher) contained an audio glitch, and some picture issues, they recalled everyone's discs from Day 2 of the film going on sale; stopped the release from continuing to be sold anywhere; rectified the problem, then re-released it and sent-out free replacements to anyone who wanted it. Customer's didn't have to return the original, faulty disc, but they did need to provide proof- of-purchase to get the new, corrected disc.

If Arrow, who claim to be so great with their customer service, can't do this, then why do they expect their customers to just keep accepting that "unforeseen errors" and "mistakes" keep on happening, with every release? If it's not excessive Digital Noise Reduction, it's incorrect aspect-ratio's. If not printing problems, it's faulty openings on films. If it's not one thing, it's something else. These aren't "errors", these are repeated, gigantic screw-ups from a company that should know better!

Even though I've said all that, I'm not suggesting that either Anchor Bay or Blue Underground don't have their faults, or haven't sometimes made mistakes. They have. But, for the most part, they've learnt from them. They take their customer feedback seriously.

Arrow, on the other hand, seem to invite feedback, then ignore it, or they just do whatever the hell they want, and then when customers complain, they say tough luck, or in the case of the Forums, they simply ban you, because they aren't, can't, or won't be mature enough to actually tackle you head-on. T'is far better to just get rid of you, so that they don't have to deal with answering some difficult and perfectly legitimate questions from their customers. It's the simple route. The easy choice. The immature option.

And thus, we come to another step in the steady, and inevitable, decline of Arrow as a company. They need to immediately start addressing these issues, start listening to their customers properly, and allow for customers to slate their releases, if said releases aren't up to scratch. Shutting down such discussions, just makes you appear like you only want to hear positive feedback, or arse-licking posts that swoon over every single thing you release. They need to take their heads from out of their backsides, and start dealing with things straight-up, rather than fobbing customers and fans off with excuses, as to why another error has crept into play!

Your fans are your customers. Your customers are your bread-and-butter. You need to pay attention to what they say, no matter how negative or unfriendly the comments may be, and address them head-on. Be upfront. Be honest. If something has gone wrong, tell people. If you don't know why something happened, just apologise for it, even if it isn't your fault. If you made an executive choice about something, explain to people why you did this. Nine times out of 10, the customers will accept this.

But whatever you do, don't bullshit us about something, and don't demand uncritical worshipping from your customers, when such worship is neither warranted nor deserved.