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New Releases for Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vidar the Vampire

Genre: Horror

Directed by: Thomas Aske Berg, Fredrik Waldeland

Run time: 83 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Video-on-Demand

The Lowdown: Vidar Hårr, a young, devout Christian, lives a spartan life in a remote country cottage caring for his ailing mother and tending to his family’s farm. That is, until he reaches his early 30’s and decides he wants more.

So, Vidar (co-writer/co-director Thomas Aske Berg) does what any devout Christian is taught to do – he prays for Jesus to give him a sign, to save his miserable existence and to allow him to experience the life that has so far passed him by.

Lo and behold, Jesus (a wonderfully unhinged Brigt Skrettingland) actually answers Vidar’s prayer, setting in motion one of the most uproarious, wanton, depraved and thought-provoking meditations on faith, sexuality and mortality ever created.

It would be a crime for Vidar the Vampire, aka VampyrVidar, a gloriously deranged Norwegian import, not to be regarded as an instant cult classic.

This is Interview with the Vampire on bath salts, and it’s amazing.

Vidar the Vampire unfolds along two parallel tracks. One track appears to be present day, as Vidar sits with a therapist and unspools the tale of how he came to be undead. The other track is told through a series of flashbacks to key points in Vidar’s journey, most of them involving a visit from Jesus, who is also a vampire.

Without spoiling some of the incredibly original reveals, Vidar’s pathway to a new life through vampirism comes with a cost. It’s safe to say, you will never look at a traditional church communion the same way ever again, especially that part about taking Christ’s body into yours.

Once transformed, Vidar makes for a terribly inept vampire, which results in his dying and being resurrected over and over. One particular sequence, set inside a church, during Vidar’s first funeral, is surreal and breathtakingly realized.

Sprinkled throughout are a series of brazen images that both affirm and undermine basic religious tenets. Others exist solely to shock and elicit giggles at the gleeful carnage on display. In Vidar the Vampire, the path to blood is not through the neck, as is most often the case. Instead, it’s through the well-spring of life itself, the vagina, which explains why you get to see Vidar at one point cough up a bloody tampon.

Meanwhile, vampire Jesus occasionally takes a break from his hard-partying ways to appear and admonish Vidar like a bloody, profane Gordon Ramsey. “I’ve raised you from the dead two fucking times,” he shouts at Vidar at one point.

The point of all this, however, is rooted in something much more symbolic than just an exercise in shock value.

Berg and Waldeland take direct aim at Christianity itself, and blow a hole straight through its core belief structure, such as when Vidar visits an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, only to be told by his sponsor to let Jesus take the wheel and steer him through life’s rough patches.

“That is the worst mistake I ever made in life,” Vidar exclaims.

Vidar the Vampire is a brilliant deconstruction of blind faith. Sure, Jesus can give you the freedom to be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do to excess, but is that really the divine path we’re meant to take.

There’s a wonderful philosophical argument during the third act that sums up Vidar’s plight perfectly.

Following a violent outburst that leaves one person dead, Vidar pleads to Jesus to let him die once and for all. Everything bad that has happened to him is Jesus’ fault, Vidar says, because Jesus brings out the worst in him. Vidar no longer fears consequences for his actions. He no longer thinks about the collateral damage, the loved ones of the people he kills for food.

“But, I gave you everything you wanted,” Jesus says, taken aback at Vidar’s rebuke.

“I didn’t imagine it would be like this,” Vidar says, before breaking up with vampire Christ. “You and your fucking parables.”

Vidar the Vampire is that rare accomplishment, a genre film that knows no bounds and respects no limits, yet also serves as a serious examination and condemnation of organized religion and the emboldened masses it inspires.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – Gratuitous. Gore – Gratuitous.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Jesus vampire Christ.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

The Strangers: Prey at Night (Universal, 86 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): The sequel to Bryan Bertino’s 2008 home invasion masterpiece, The Strangers, arrives from genre director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Other Side of the Door).

While Roberts’ follow-up, The Stangers: Prey at Night, lacks the precision, as well as the blatant nihilism, that permeated Bertino’s original, it finds its footing during a blistering third act that includes a brutal fight in a public swimming pool and a classic final girl-standoff between the main masked Stranger and the young daughter of the family in peril this time around.

There’s a bit of overkill that accompanies the climatic confrontation, including an unnecessary bit of supernatural hooey that allows the main Stranger to be seemingly indestructible.

But, for longtime fans of the original (BVB is at the top of that list), The Strangers: Prey at Night -- though uneven and disjointed -- still makes for an exciting watch.

Abominable: Special Edition (MVD Visual, 94 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Writer-director Ryan Schifin has one feature to his credit, as well as one very good short, included in the anthology Tales of Halloween.

The feature, 2006’s Abominable, might seem like an odd choice for MVD to spotlight in its growing MVD Rewind series of lost VHS classics. For one, the film just isn’t old enough to classify as a VHS classic. For another, on the awkward and overlong introduction by Schifin to the film, even he doesn’t seem that jazzed that his movie was picked for a high-definition collector’s upgrade.

To be honest, I get it. I wasn’t sure about Abominable – which I had never seen – for the first 15, painfully-slow minutes, but the movie definitely picks up steam. It starts out as a bizarre reimagining of Rear Window with Matt McCoy in a wheelchair, subbing for James Stewart, as he watches a gaggle of nubile co-eds overtake the adjacent cottage to the mountain retreat where he’s staying.

Before long, Jeffrey Combs and Lance Henriksen are yucking it up as a pair of small-town, backwoods hunters.

But then, something rather wonderful happens. Abominable stops trying to be the best Bigfoot movie you’ve ever seen (Spoiler alert: It’s not) and just hops on the crazy train as it careens off the logic cliff.

There’s a fan-fucking-tastic scene where an angry Sasquatch literally bites a dude’s face in half.

That’s followed by a slick sequence where McCoy and one of the co-eds have to rappel down from a second-story window so they can escape in a station wagon, only to have the rear end of the station wagon hoisted high in the sky by a squatch, which causes the car to lurch forward into a tree, sending the co-ed flying through the windshield.

There’s another good moment when McCoy whacks a Bigfoot in the back with an axe and the hairy beast keeps charging, axe still jutting from its back.

But the best scene, by far, is the final shot, when you realize that the woods are actually teeming with more Sasquatches than you’ve ever seen gathered together in one place before.

The Mimic (Well Go USA, 100 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): As far as a J-horror resurgence, there hasn’t been quite the proliferation of late of overseas frightmares, but The Mimic, which hails from South Korea, is better than expected. It’s not going to make anyone forget the J-horror-heyday of Ringu, The Grudge and others, but it’s nicely chilling throughout and offers a well-balanced plate of family dynamics and unsettling scares.

The Curse of the Cat People (Shout! Factory, 70 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): They say this 1944 classic, the first official directing credit for multiple-Oscar winner Robert Wise, has been used in college film classes to illustrate just how ingenuity, light and shadow and sound can make a low-to-no-budget film feel 10-times-scarier.

And, truth be told, The Curse of the Cat People is solidly entertaining, and well worth a watch for film purists who’ve never seen it.

Tomb Raider (Warner Bros., 118 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Meh. The CGI action is watchable, but not particularly invigorating.

Given that the original, Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, videogame adaptation was not really that great of a movie, I actually had high hopes for the new iteration of Tomb Raider.

Minus one surprisingly effective sequence on a cargo freighter in a swirling sea of towering waves, I’m still waiting for a good movie to be made. Yes, it’s an OK action flick, but I think it’s fair to expect something more given the technological advances of cinema wizardry since the first was released.

Jerry Lewis: 10 Film Collection (Paramount, Unrated, DVD): Given the sad passing of comedy legend Jerry Lewis, it’s fitting that this impressive 10-film collection should arrive at a time when our country could use a chuckle more than ever.

From the gold standards, like The Nutty Professor and The Ladies Man, to the pratfalls and physical comedy hijinks of The Bellboy and The Family Jewels, this collection represents a worthy portrait of a comedian who exceeded expectations and always delivered.

The only thing missing: The Day the Clown Cried, one of the greatest, and most notorious, “lost” and unseen Hollywood films of lore.

Trading Places: 35th Anniversary Edition (Paramount, 116 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): True story, I was 13 years old when I “took” my Dad to see Trading Places as his Father’s Day gift. Who was I kidding? I just wanted his help getting into an R-rated movie that I knew featured prominent nudity by Miss Laurie Strode herself, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Thirty-five years later, Trading Places remains a classic, and not just because of JLC’s boobs. This oft-overlooked indictment of early-80’s corporate greed and institutionalized racism still resonates loudly today, likely because we’re watching a daily ticker-tape of similar excesses and schemes pouring out of the White House.

Eddie Murphy has never been as on point, and Dan Ackroyd is pitch-perfect as a silver-spoon-elitist who gets woke up in the worst way possible.

Paramount Pictures wisely chose to package Trading Places: 35th Anniversary Edition with another Murphy milestone, Coming to America: 30th Anniversary Edition, also directed by John Landis, which sadly, though released in 1988, represents the last true great movie in Murphy’s lengthy career resume.

His comedy and his artistic perfection during the first six years of his career from 1982’s 48 Hours through Coming to America remains unrivaled.

And, of special note, for longtime fans of Landis’s storied career, which amazingly has not seen the auteur step back behind the camera since 2012, there also is a limited Blu-Ray Mediabook Edition of Landis' first feature, Schlock, now available.

Schlock was Landis’ homage to the pulpy creature features of the 1960s, the story of a prehistoric ape-man who gains notoriety after falling for a young blind girl in Southern California.

Released by Germany’s Turbine Medien, this awesome hardbound edition is limited to just 2,000 copies. You will need an all-region player to watch the disc, which includes a wealth of bonus material, including an introduction by Landis plus interviews and featurettes. The limited-edition pressing of Schlock is available to purchase online here.

Ninja III: The Domination – Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, 93 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Still, hands down, one of my all-time favorite cult classic guilty pleasures.

Take a watch for the second-to-last appearance of Shô Kosugi in his quartet of mid-80’s action classics, which also includes Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and Nine Deaths of the Ninja, but stay for the awesome ninja-exorcist-possession and the (now) dated leg-warmers and spandex-fueled aerobics workouts.

Also Available:

Will & Grace (The Revival) – Season One

Forrest Gump: Special Edition 4K Ultra HD

Terminator: Genisys: Special Edition 4K Ultra HD

Love, Simon

Now on Video-on-Demand:

The Jurassic Dead (Wild Eye Releasing, 82 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): How crazy is The Jurassic Dead?

In its first 11 minutes of screen time, there are four – four! – cold openings:

  • You’ve got a zombie dinosaur on a wharf, which gets reanimated by a delirious scientist who seems to be channeling Herbert West from Re-Animator;

  • There’s a college classroom, with the same mad scientist, this time reanimating a zombie cat in front of a horrified group of students;

  • There’s a confrontation between the scientist and the college dean, which ends with the scientist being felled by a pickup truck when he storms out of the administrative building and into the street.

Then, you get the title card (I really wish the director had kept the original title, Z/Rex) and credits, which unspool while you watch a group of young adults traveling across the desert in a car.

  • And, finally, after all that, there’s a voice-over introduction about a possibly apocalyptic event that’s threatening Earth and must be stopped. Five commandos set out to stop the threat. Out of the five commandos…two survived. Out of the two…one told the story (Seriously, that's verbatim from the script)

I’m pretty sure The Jurassic Dead writer’s room was basically a dark closet packed with tiny bottles of amyl nitrate. That’s the only theory that makes sense.

From the plethora of possibilities foretold by its myriad of opening sequences, viewers get two parallel narratives. One involves the aforementioned young adults, who basically just drive, smoke weed and bicker. The other involves the commandos referenced in the voiceover, who also are driving and bickering, but not smoking dope.

Oh, wait, I forgot. There’s also an asteroid hurtling toward the planet. You know this because a prompt flashes on the screen: Impact in Three Minutes.

So, naturally, the camera cuts immediately back to the carful of couples, who continue to argue for four minutes (Yes, I timed it) before the asteroid crashes into our planet.

Once the asteroid hits, all electrical devices, including vehicles, cease to operate. So, the commandos, four dudes and a chick, start walking out into the desert. Where, you wonder, are they walking to?

Back to the two couples, whose vehicle also has stopped working. They too are walking.

The main guy is a huge tool, the kind of douchebag that you try to avoid at all costs. At one point, he affirms his douche-y-ness by saying, and I quote: “Easy, bro, this could be the apocalypse. I’m a quarterback. Quarterbacks score touchdowns!”

Like I said, a roomful of amyl nitrates, and you too can write your own low-budget zombie dinosaur epic.

Eventually, the two couples and the five commandos all arrive at a secret government facility in the desert. Sure, why not. There’s a shadowy figure inside the facility who monitors the commandos and the couples via surveillance cameras, which makes no sense given that the asteroid’s impact created a huge EMP burst that crippled all electronics.


The lead commando is named Duke. There are some jokes about his looking like Duke Nukem, the popular videogame character. Personally, I saw him more as Brian Bosworth circa Stone Cold.

The shadowy figure eventually addresses the crowd that’s gathered inside his secret lair. He appears as a hologram and says something like, blah blah blah Jurassic monsters blah blah blah you’re all going to die.

An undead T-Rex appears. Duke begins boxing with the zombie dinosaur (No, I’m not kidding) and KO’s it (again, not kidding).

And, from there, it becomes only a matter of time and dwindling ranks until you finally reach the one commando who survives to tell the story.

You’re welcome. You don’t have to watch The Jurassic Dead. I took that bullet for you.

The Jurassic Games (High Octane Pictures, 86 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): I’m sure there are people out there who have always wondered, what if those movies that focus on a group of individuals thrust into a spectacle of pay-per-view survival – Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Death Race and/or The Condemned – also made their contestants have to contend with dinosaurs?

Well, wonder no more. I give you The Jurassic Games.

Ten death-row-inmates, equipped with virtual technology, plug into an online world where they are deposited on an island populated by prehistoric creatures. The last man or woman standing wins his or her freedom and a commuted sentence.

Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. I may or may not have watched the whole thing.

2047: Virtual Revolution (Lidderdalei Productions, 92 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Stealing liberally from both Ready Player One and Netflix’s Altered Carbon, writer-director Guy-Roger Duvert’s 2047: Virtual Revolution is both derivative and entertaining, in equal measure.

Set in a futuristic Paris, where most of the population has taken to living almost exclusively in a virtual reality, 2047 excels when it keeps the action relegated to the virtual domain, a place where users can adopt any avatar skin-suit of their choosing.

One of the best highlights comes after Nash (Mike Dopud), a shadow agent working for a questionable government agency (run by Jane Badler of V fame), assumes the virtual avatar of a low-level criminal, which happens to be that of a busty blonde mercenary.

As Nash, as a total babe, takes on a bastion of cybernetic war machines (think Robocop’s Omni Consumer Products, if allowed to mass-produce free-standing robot assassins), 2047 realizes its potential and becomes a popcorn feast of visual cues and sci-fi-geek wet dreams.

Inheritance (Portola Pictures, 92 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Writer-director Tyler Savage’s debut feature, Inheritance, exists in that dark corner of cinema where nothing is what it seems and reality is what you make of it. It’s a decent, if slightly uneven, exercise in generating tension by digging up more questions than answers and trying to keep its audience off-balance at all times.

Ryan (Chase Joliet) and his pregnant fiancé Isi (Sara Montez) are struggling to make ends meet. Then, a man shows up to inform Ryan that his biological father, whom Ryan has never met, has died unexpectedly and left Ryan with an inheritance, a sprawling waterfront enclave that’s worth millions.

You know where Inheritance is going almost immediately, but Savage still feels compelled to follow a well-worn path. Shortly after arriving to check out the house, and immediately being confronted by a Realtor wanting to help them sell the property, Ryan makes the fateful decision to keep the house for a bit so he can further investigate his father’s background.

Town locals show up, dropping hints and acting weird. Ryan becomes distant from Isi and distracted by his deep-dive into the mysteries of the house and his father’s legacy. Before long, he’s acting erratically and putting the life he’s built at risk, not to mention his own personal sanity.

Inheritance is a minor Rubik’s Cube of a mystery. Just when you think you’ve got all matching colors on one side, you realize there’s still that one square that doesn’t conform, which makes you try that much harder to figure it out.

It’s as frustrating and fitful as it is rewarding.

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