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Hanna D: The Girl from Vondel poster  
Italy | 1984
Directed by: Rino Di Silvestro
Written by: Rino Di Silvestro & Hervé Piccini
Starring: Ann-Gisel Glass, Sebastiano Somma, Antonio Serrano, Karen Schubert
| 87 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

Having grown up with a drunken, crazed mother who blames her for her waning beauty, Hanna turns to recreational drug use and making money via using her nubile body as an escape. Of course this path leads down an even darker one when she meets Miguel, an unassuming guy who quickly turns out to be a pimp and gets her hooked on heroin and has her aspiring to be a porn star. That is until she meets Axel, another guy that latches onto her from out of the blue but is actually a good guy. She falls for him hard, but can’t seem to escape the allure of drug addiction and quick money, even though Axel will do anything to save her.

Leave it to sleaze maestro Rino Di Silvestro (Women in Cell Block 7) to rip-off Uli Edel’s socially conscious, emotionally draining Christiane F and remove all of the substantial, thought-provoking elements, leaving us a depraved, trashy film that has zero redeeming qualities. But we’ll still give it a similar title, Hanna D, to try and cash in on the same audience anyway. If it worked upon its release, I have to imagine theatergoers stampeding to the exits, as this ranks right up there with Malabimba: The Malicious Whore when it comes to knock-offs that stoop to the lowest common denominator. That said, and I know this may sound crazy when taking into account the comparison I just made, but I don’t think Hanna D: The Girl from Vondel Park stoops low enough; well, it does, but it also tries to be something more, with a story that’s a bit too ambitious for its own good and an awful love story (with appropriately awful accompanying soft rock love songs) that makes the film feel like an X-rated Soap Opera. As sleazy as this gets, at times it feels as if Di Silvestro is embarrassed about the content and is attempting to appeal to critics that there’s something of merit here. This is the film’s biggest flaw; it should have just wallowed in its own raunch and been damn proud of it!

While the story as a whole isn’t particularly engaging (and rather choppy in execution), the sole reason to watch this is Ann-Gisel Glass (who played the victim of explosives-obsessed Duke in Mattei’s crap masterpiece Rats: Nights of Terror), who has no qualms about doing anything and completely commits to the title role. Whether it’s sex with random men, intravenous drug usage (including taking a shot in the eyelid!), or blowing chunks and literally going insane in the throes of heroin withdrawal, she’s up to the task of delivering her performance as believably as possible. The dub hurts in this respect, but I doubt you’re coming into this one with any other intentions other than indulging in a lot of filth. Di Silvestro will make certain you get that in spades (including a tight shot of a woman’s hairy asshole as contraband is pulled out; apparently making the big bucks as a whore didn’t include shaving in ‘84), but you might want to fast-forward through the painfully bad story in-between. Severin’s recent DVD release presents Hanna D in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen print that is in pretty good shape, but at times lacks definition and is a bit too soft. This very well could have been intended however. The English mono track is fine in terms of technical quality, but as I previously mentioned, the dubbing itself is quite cringe-worthy. The sole extra, outside of the film’s original trailer, is a 42-minute interview with director Di Silvestro, who passed away in October 2009. Even close to his death, he’s extremely animated, almost scary in fact, as he spews passionately about his films, his place in film history (which is pretty humorous), and all sorts of other subjects. I actually found this to be more entertaining than the film. If you enjoy seeing borderline-crazy exploitation directors talk about their importance, this you must see!

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Troma's War poster  
USA | 1988
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman & Mitchell Dana
Starring: Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen, Michael Ryder, Ara Romanoff
| 105 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

A flight packed with residents from Tromaville crashes on an isolated island, with a handful of rag-tag passengers surviving the wreck. If the fact that the pilot is dead and they have no way to radio for help isn’t bad enough, they soon discover the seemingly uninhabited island is actually a secret training ground for a group of militant extremists who are about to embark on an unknown mission of destruction. Since this secret mission is just days away, the paranoid terrorists believe the U.S. has found out about their plans, and the plane crash was just a diversion so American commandos could storm the island. Of course this is utterly false, and the only people that have arrived on the island are the everyday joes that escaped the crash. Yep, bad news indeed for the survivors, and if they hope to escape, there’s only one answer: War.

If you let the Troma-produced extras included on the Tromasterpiece edition of Troma’s War sway you, apparently tons of people say this is Troma’s masterpiece. While I wouldn’t go that far, it’s undeniable that Troma’s War is indeed the studio’s most ambitious film, even twenty years later, featuring countless SFX and props, an absurd amount of explosions, and a sprawling cast that borders on the size of what you’re used to seeing only in epics. It all comes together to create a film that seems way more than the actual sum of its parts, but once you get a gander of the usual atrocious (yet oddly endearing) acting Troma is known for and little things like a guy farting to break up the tension, you’ll know that Lloyd and the guys haven’t strayed too far from their roots.

Outside of delivering a body count and a colossal amount of violent acts, Kaufman and company have infused the film with an actual political message, one about the dangers of terrorists and staunch right-wingers, but combining the two, delivering a gut punch that basically says maybe some of our own politicians are just as much terrorists as the guys that are blowing themselves up. Certainly the film was ahead of its time in this respect, and the moral of the story rings truer and is much more appropriate for today’s political climate. But you know, screw all of this shit, it’s a Troma flick! You can easily ignore any agenda Troma’s War may have and just indulge in the most important things, like exploding breast implants, blind chicks with shotguns, random characters like a soldier with a pig snout and mutant twins that look like they came straight out of Hellraiser, a 60 year old woman high-kicking various goons in the mouth, and the Rambo-esque machismo that thumps its chest throughout. Yeah, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, so kick back and take a trip back to when the only things we needed to be entertained by an action film were violent rampages and tits!

The Tromasterpiece edition of Troma’s War basically features the same transfer that was found on the previous release, which is to say it’s not very good and obviously sourced from video. This time around though, the film benefits from a higher bitrate, so it’s a bit better to look at. With Troma Blu-Ray on the horizon though, the fact that they didn’t do much restoration work on this one has me a bit apprehensive about the upcoming HD releases. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong! Audio is quite good, served up in an uncompressed PCM stereo track (wait, this is a DVD, not a Blu-Ray!) that doesn’t exhibit any quality issues. Where the disc really shines is in the extras department, as it’s truly loaded to the gills. First off there’s a collection of video interviews with many members of the cast and crew, including a new interview with Troma legend Joe Fleishaker (Lardass from Citizen Toxie). Some older pieces pop up in the form of Rick Washburn Shoots the Shit (who played the role of Parker as well as being the weapon's expert for the film), Post-War Reflections (cast and crew talk about making the film, including a set revolt when they found out the catering service was serving up cheese sandwiches), and War Talk (a reunion of three of the cast members for the 10-year anniversary). Three Minutes with Rolfe (which is actually 8 minutes, go figure) sees There’s Nothing Out There director Rolfe Kanefsky talk about his time as a P.A. on Troma’s War. Troma also shows off that they totally understand their audience, presenting the film in a Kill-O-Meter version, a 10-minute barrage of every on-screen death with a body counter; who needs that pesky story?! Rounding out the extras is a commentary featuring Lloyd Kaufman (who is as entertaining as always), a brief audio interview with cinematographer James London, and trailers for this and other Troma releases.

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Amsterdamned poster  
Netherlands | 1988
Directed by: Dick Maas
Written by: Dick Maas
Starring: Huub Stapel, Monique van de Ven, Serge-Henri Valcke
| 114 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

Amidst all of the debauchery in Amsterdam, there’s one more to add to the list: there’s a killer lurking around the city. But he’s not on the streets; no, he’s traversing under the streets, through the city’s complex canal system. After the first body is discovered strung up and dangling from a bridge, Detective Eric Visser is called in to work on the case. He has extra pressure on him, as the mayor has recently cleaned up the city and tourism is up, so this situation has reared its bloody head at the worst possible time. Eric has a ton of things working against him, including a nosy daughter who is trying her best to get caught up in things, but considering he’s the type of cop that lives for thrills and isn’t afraid to put himself in danger to nab his man, he’s perfectly suited to the task at hand.

Helmed by Dick Maas, director of The Lift, a film in dire need of a good DVD release (Severin? Blue Underground? Anyone?), Amsterdamned combines all sorts of different influences from various genres around the world, creating an experience that occasionally feels familiar, but more times than not offers up fresh and engaging shocks. The film honestly can’t be rigidly planted into one genre niche; it starts out looking like it will amount to nothing more than a slasher knock-off, but before long you’ll see flashes of Giallo-inspired flare, and in many ways Amsterdamned feels a lot like a precursor to the hybrid horror/crime films that have emerged from Germany over the past decade. There are even a couple of well-orchestrated action scenes, the highlight being an impressive speed-boat chase through Amsterdam’s narrow canals, complete with canal-side café destruction and big explosions. It’s thrilling stuff, and it’s aspects like this that really help Amsterdamned stand out from the pack.

Speaking of the city in which the film takes place, Amsterdam is just as much a character in the film as the actual actors. The winding streets and canals are just oozing atmosphere, and present possible danger around (or under) every corner. Maas isn’t afraid to poke some fun throughout the film to ease the tension, with some well-placed black comedy courtesy of Visser’s deadpan one-liners and how many extreme situations are handled matter-of-factly. Look out for a homeless naked dude pretending to be the killer. You could make the complaint that the killer’s identity is painfully obvious, but most of the fun is derived during the ride to get there, not actually trying to figure it out. I’m sure Maas knew full-well he wasn’t fooling anyone, and focused instead on rousing action, breakneck pace, and thick ambiance, in which he definitely succeeded. This is one under-the-radar horror flick that’s well worth discovering.

Cine-Excess and Nouveaux Pictures’ UK release (R2 PAL) presents Amsterdamned in a nice-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The film looks its age, but I have to think that’s more due to what equipment was used during the actual filming than the quality of the print itself, which is pretty flawless and free of any damage. There is an odd little hiccup here and there that I noticed throughout though, where the video actually freezes for a split second, almost like a disc skip, yet the audio never stalls. It's almost as if the video is hitching for a frame or two so the audio can catch up. It's not overly annoying, but you will notice it. The film can be viewed either in its original Dutch with English subtitles or dubbed. While I’m sure the dubbing may give them film an even more Euro feel than it already has, I chose to watch the film it its native tongue, and the track is well balanced and clear. The optional English subs only have a few noticeable errors, although the actual size of the subs is a bit small. The big extra here is a very cool 35-minute making of piece that shows what went into creating the killer boat chase, the special effects, and features interviews with the cast and crew. Also included are Dutch and English trailers for the film, a short slideshow, and a 10-minute promotional video profiling the Cine-Excess label.

Please feel free to discuss "Amsterdamned" here, in our forums!

Jennifer's Body poster  
USA | 2009
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Written by: Diablo Cody
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody
| 108 Minutes | Rated R

- By KamuiX

Best friends since the sandbox, Jennifer Check and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki couldn’t have grown up to be any more different, Jennifer being a hot cheerleader that all the boys want to get with and Needy being a textbook dork. But they have a lot in common, and after Jennifer gets a crush on the lead singer of a band named Low Shoulder, she hauls Needy along to see them play a local bar. After Jennifer throws herself at the band and goes off to score a couple drinks, Needy overhears them talking about Jennifer, that while she flaunts it, never gives it away and is the town virgin, just what they’re looking for. While this couldn’t be further from the truth, Needy doesn’t take kindly to the remarks and tells Jennifer, who shrugs it off and seems to become entranced by the frontman. The set doesn’t last long however, as an electrical short in the band’s gear causes a massive fire, resulting in multiple casualties and the entire place burning to the ground. Jennifer and Needy escape, but in Jen’s daze, she agrees to go off with the band in their van. Needy knows better and goes home, only to have Jennifer show up hours later, covered in blood, gnawing on a Boston Market rotisserie chicken she grabs greedily from her fridge, and barfing up black goo. Strangely enough, the next day at school, Jennifer acts as if everything is normal and nothing has happened. So clearly it must just be a coincidence when the high school boys start turning up dead, half eaten…

I’m well prepared to catch some flak, especially in our forums, for that star rating above, but you have to hear me out first. Jennifer’s Body is an awful horror film; it’s wracked with clichés and there’s not one ounce of originality in its entire body (pun really not intended). However, as a total goof, an intended bad film, it’s rather entertaining. I know some will say I’m looking at this all wrong, the film was taken deadly serious by all involved, but I’ll argue with you all day about it, because there’s no film that’s intended to be serious that has dialogue like “ow, my tit!” when someone is stabbed in the heart. Jennifer’s Body is a comedy, a playful spoof of horror genre tropes, and in that respect it’s nowhere near as bad as some have made it out to be. There are even some genuinely funny moments, like the ridiculous portrayal of the goth kids, the hook-handed teacher, and Dauber from Coach screaming to the heavens he’s going to make someone’s balls into door knockers. Because nothing can be taken seriously here, the so-so acting can be overlooked (although Megan Fox plays her temptress role pretty flawlessly), Diablo Cody’s dialogue is a little less offensive and toned down from Juno (thank god, as I may have hanged myself otherwise), and lapses in logic can occasionally, but not always, be forgiven. There are even flashes of brilliance, most notably the penultimate scene in an abandoned pool house that oozes style and is extremely effective. This isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but in the right frame of mind, you could do a whole lot worse.

Your enjoyment will also hinge on how much you let certain detriments of the film affect your viewing experience. The aforementioned “I’m so hip” dialogue that plagued Juno is present in Jennifer’s Body, and if you base your decision about whether to stick with the film on the first 20 minutes alone, you’ll be horrified. If you can make it through though, things get reeled in for the most part, and while they still occasionally rear up, it’s never to the point of making you want to stab your eardrums with sharp instruments. There are some definite script problems that plague the film, two of the most glaring being never explaining why Needy seems to have a psychic link with Jennifer (being BFF’s is not an explanation), and the other that tosses all logic out the window when Low Shoulder comes back to play the school dance in the same town they think they killed Jennifer in. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't go back to a place where I think I murdered someone, especially if people saw me leave with that person, which they did. The other big problem is that the film never goes for the jugular like it should. Had it been more unabashedly gory or been filled with more explicit sex and nudity, the end result could have been a lot more fun and it would have hit the trashy, edgy note that it was obviously striving for. As it stands, Jennifer’s Body is a decent, if heavily flawed film that’s harmless and will more than likely be forgotten before the year is over, but being trivial doesn’t always equal bad.

20th Century Fox’s Blu-Ray release features both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, both in 1080p AVC. The encode is pretty damn excellent, presenting both the bright outdoor scenes and murky interiors in great, consistent fashion. Colors are nicely balanced, and while there is a scene or two with some distracting grain (only because it pops up randomly, grain is fine IMO if it’s consistent), overall this is a very nice transfer. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is just as impressive, with nicely balanced bass and surround action, and is never overbearing. First up on the extras front is “The Dead Pool”, which is a behind the scenes look at putting together the strongest scene in the film, the climax. Greg Nicotero shows up in this piece to show how he pulled off the FX, which is always interesting. A collection of video diaries is up next, consisting of the three main actors, Cody, and the film’s producer, all talking about their experience on the film while shooting was going on. A nearly 30-minute piece with Diablo Cody getting interviewed by aspiring filmmakers is also included (in 480p), and considering the chick, as far as I’m concerned just got lucky, I didn’t really bother. Deleted scenes (mainly just longer cuts of scenes in the film), a gag reel (480p), a silly Megan Fox peer pressure PSA (480p), a 60-second quickie that features Fox’s hotter scenes in quick succession, and commentary on the feature from director Karyn Kusama and Cody (Kusama solo on the extended cut) round out the BR’s decent selection of bonus content.

Please feel free to discuss "Jennifer's Body" here, in our forums!

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