Category Archives: Film

“C.H.U.D.”— Strange Disappearances



Strange Disappearances

Amos Lassen

In downtown Manhattan, there has been a series mysterious disappearances including that of the wife of a police captain. in the area. Extending his search into the tunnels and sewers below the city streets, it soon becomes clear that something monstrous underground and that it won’t stay there much longer…


At first, the disappearances were among “undergrounders,” the homeless who find shelter in the underground tunnels of New York City. The authorities didn’t really care until it those of a higher class also began to disappear. We see a monster arm reaching out of a steaming manhole to grab a woman out walking her little dog and this is what the scene for what follows.

Bosch (Christopher Curry), a police captain becomes involved when his wife disappears, and he goes to talk to A.J. (Daniel Stern) who runs a soup kitchen and who also reported that twelve of his regular undergrounders are missing. The two men team up, explore the tunnels and they discover evidence that the city already knows what’s going on here. A.J. and Bosch threaten to go to the media if they are not told what’s what. There is obviously some kind of cover-up.

George Cooper (John Heard), a prominent fashion photographer would rather be seen as a real artist. He knows that art cannot be rushed and has been working on a series of photos of the city’s homeless, but has had trouble getting in touch with some of his subjects. He becomes involved in the monster business when a homeless contact tries to steal a cop’s gun for protection against the underground monster. She makes Cooper her one phone call from jail and therefore the cops want to know what his deal is.


A.J. is a citizen who takes care of the poor and elderly and he blames the authorities for not helping the situation. He risks his life going into the sewers to get people out before the city gases them along with the chuds. The city may be unforgiving, but the city dwellers do care about each other.

The film has become a sort of iconic cult classic even though there is nothing particularly special about it.

Bonus Materials include:

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Integral Cut from a new 2K film transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Original Theatrical Cut [Limited Edition Exclusive]
  • Original Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio / Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry
  • A Dirty Look- an interview with production designer William Bilowit
  • Dweller Designs – an interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr.
  • Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D. – featurette hosted by journalist Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan
  • Brand new audio track featuring isolated score selections and an interview with composers Martin Cooper and David A. Hughes
  • Behind-the-Scenes Gallery
  • Extended Shower Scene
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford

Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold

“THE INITIATION”— A Stalk and Slash Film



A Stalk and Slash Film

Amos Lassen

Kelly’s new sorority has a special initiation ritual in store for her. She is to break into her father’s department store. However, what begins as – an after-hours break-in of her father’s department store. But what begins as college fun turns terrible when, once inside the enormous mall, Kelly and her fellow pledges find themselves locked in for the night and a deadly intruder ix stalking the corridors. “The Initiation” looks like a classy film that is nicely packaged and has several interesting moments but it is as cheesy as all get out.

Kelly Fairchild is a pledge at her local college and as the new term draws near, she learns that she has to participate in the annual prank-filled initiation in order to gain the respect of her senior sorority sisters. This year, she and three of her friends have the job of stealing the uniform of the security guard that patrols the local mall after hours. It is lucky for the girls that the shopping centre is owned by Kelly’s father, Dwight, a local entrepreneur. Unbeknownst to everyone, the time chosen for the caper coincides with that of a recently escaped lunatic is also hiding in the mall.


This is director Larry Stewart’s one and only film and it is a film of two halves that starts flatly with nothing to note from Stewart’s direction. It’s only when the victims are locked in the mall with the maniac killer that he gets the chance to flex his creative muscle and deliver some taut suspense and engaging set pieces. He provides good suspense even with a cast that is just cheesy (I cannot think of another word). The script is actually quite good and the ending is a surprise so what happened?


Those looking for blood and gore may be disappointed with the lack of it and those looking for a fun slasher movie will find it here. I was reminded of those gore flicks of the early-eighties that packed a punch to our ocular senses. The acting is hilariously campy, but the good points, such as the impressively strong pacing, just about outweigh the bad.


When I sat down to watch this film I didn’t know anything about it and I was surprised to see Vera Miles and Clu Gulager on the opening credits. I actually enjoyed the film and even watched it twice. It has an interesting story, passable special effects, little blood, zero gore, dream sequence, frat costume party, 80’s fashions and hair.  It’s not scary in the least, but it’s still a fun film. 


Bonus Materials

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
  • Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley
  • Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn


FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver



“Sad Vacation: The Last Days Of Sid And Nancy”

A Stormy Relationship

Amos Lassen

 “Sad Vacation” is an up close and personal look at the stormy relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. It is a documentary by Danny Garcia about Sid and Nancy’s fateful trip to New York in 1978 and is dedicated to presenting the real facts and is told as it happened by their friends and those who witnessed it. We learn what really happened in room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel. The documentary includes interviews with Roberta Bayley, Steve “Roadent” Conolly, Donna Destri, Kenny “Stinker” Gordon, Bob Gruen, John Holmstrom, Hellin Killer, Walter Lure, Honest John Plain, Howie Pyro, Cynthia Ross, Andy Shernoff, Gaye Black, Casino Steel, Phyllis Stein, Sylvain Sylvain; the late Leee Black Childers and three key residents of the Chelsea Hotel, Victor Colicchio, “Neon” Leon Matthews, and Ned Van Zandt, who had a lot to say about the events that took place on October 12th 1978. Drawing upon their reflections and memories and are aided by newly-released Grand Jury documents.


Huey Morgan narrates the film that contains unseen photography of Sid and Nancy and music from The Heartbreakers, The Boys, The Members, Neon Leon, Pure Hell, Sami Yaffa, Luigi & The Wiseguys, Skafish, Corazones Muertos, The PrimaDonna Reeds, Supla, Silke Berlinn & The Addictions and Sid Vicious himself.


Garcia takes us beyond the myth and says that he made this film because, “I think it’s because people don’t fall for all the crap that was published in the tabloids and they see Sid as a young guy trying to find his way and trying to have fun in the process. Also both his look and that “fuck you” attitude can be very inspirational for kids today as it was 35 [now 38] years ago.”

“JUST EAT IT: A Food Waste Story”— Thought Provoking


“JUST EAT IT: A Food Waste Story”

Thought Provoking

Amos Lassen

Director Grant Baldwin and producer Jenny Rustemeyer bring us a new documentary that really sets the mind to thought. This is because it deals with something that we face on a daily basis.


It’s no secret that we waste a lot of food everyday. The film shows that typical households throw away about 25% of the food they purchase. In order to prove the results of this, Baldwin and Rustemeyer vowed to eat only discarded food for 6 months. They set up the following rules: they could only eat food destined for the garbage bin and eating at the homes of friends and family okay. Erase the picture that you have of them eating from a cold dumpster and replace that with their eating perfectly fine, completely fresh, packaged food than they could possibly consume. By conducting this experiment of eating only discarded food for six months, we see an environmental crisis that has been evidently fed by wasteful North American eating habits. Seeing what can be found in dumpsters will shock to the point that I am sure some will never throw food away again (we can hope). It is a real challenge to survive for six months on discarded food alone, excepting meals served by family or friends. The hilarious freeloading exploits that ensue are accompanied by field trips and interviews that present a bigger picture of the issue. “Just Eat It” examines food waste from farm to fridge. We learn about vegetables that never leave the fields because they are too ugly to sell and about the fruits that have spoiled in our homes and never eaten. This is quite a disturbing documentary and it is also a film that will both anger and inspire you. All of us will begin to think more about the food that we eat.


On Day 1, our two challengers are off to a good start— they’re invited by Baldwin’s brother to clear out his fridge before he moves home. Then they buy unsellable items from a farmer’s market and this leads to a discussion of the prevailing consumer obsession with the “aesthetic appeal” of merchandise.


By a month later, the filmmakers are seen rummaging through bins in people’s backyards, causing Baldwin to shed tears of humiliation. Things turn around when they decide to look “further up the supply chain” and on the outskirts of Vancouver, where they discover mounds of granola and other perfectly edible foodstuffs. Thus begins a dumpster cruise that leads them to a bin “the size of a small swimming pool,” filled to the brim with hummus; a bumper crop from a culinary photo shoot; and an attempt to unload cartons of artisanal chocolate on Halloween. It is almost like watching a treasure hunt with the treasure being organic/free-range/pro-biotic goodies that they bring home. Aside from what they’ve salvaged, tons more food is destined for the landfill.


We meet several environmentalists here, including food/agriculture scientist Dana Gunders and authors Jonathan Bloom and Tristram Stuart, who give us statistics such as the fact that 40% of the food produced in North America never gets eaten.

The documentary spans from British Columbia to North Carolina and other parts of the U.S. and looks to individuals and organizations for sustainability strategies. The highlight is Nevada’s biggest food-scrap recycling farm, where 8% of unwanted grub from nearby Las Vegas gets devoured by 2,500 pigs, raised by owners Bob and Janet Combs, whose salt-of-the-earth values put contemporary consumerism to shame.


Because this is such a tremendous subject, the film barely scratches the surface. The waste in restaurants and by caterers gets only a slight reference. Nonetheless, , Baldwin and Rustemeyer drawn attention to an important, overlooked issue, and show, by example, that a difference can be made, simply by tweaking rather than revolutionizing one’s lifestyle.

“Just Eat It” brings farmers, retailers, inspiring organizations, and consumers to the table in a story that is equally educative and equally entertaining.

“THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER”— Dimpton’s Birthday


“The Best Birthday Ever”’

Dimpton’s Birthday

Amos Lassen

Writer/director Cole Jaeger’s “The Best Birthday Ever” is the story of Dimpton’s birthday.  His father took him for his favorite meal, (chicken nuggets and glue!) and then to the park and back home for cake and presents and while this may sound fine for a young kid but it certainly is nit the case when we learn that Dimpton is clearly in his 20s. 


This is a comedy about a young man who acts like a child, as he narrates what his best birthday ever was. The star of the film, Dimpton (also Cole Jaeger), spends the day with his father Bo and uncle, Bib (Scott Schuler). We do not know whether Dimpton had genuine, medical issues with his emotional maturity or if he just acted like a child because he wanted to, or even if Jaeger was making a statement about some young teens, even when they become adults, still are as immature as children and feel that they are the axis around which the world revolves. The film only runs for five minutes and I suspect that there are no reasons and it is quite simply a comedy. Under what seems like the naiveté of childhood, there are his difficulties in adapting to the world of adults. There is a tender scene in which Bib and Bo have words about the way they treat Dimpton with a bit of politics and he runs away blaming Obama for the conflict between the two most important figures in his life. Dimpton learns that children are equal to adults and they are not aren’t always right about everything. In this way he can deal with the issues of his father and uncle by choosing sides and perhaps realizing that neither of them are right and they shouldn’t even be fighting in the first place.

“NEW ORLEANS MUSIC IN EXILE”— Katrina and the New Orleans Music Industry


“New Orleans Music In Exile”

Katrina and the New Orleans Music Industry

Amos Lassen

It is hard to believe that it is already eleven years since hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and changed so many lives. In “New Orleans Music in Exile”, Robert Mugge examines what happened to the music industry. The film focuses on the resiliency of the artists and the magnitude of the loss. 


Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005 and Mugge and his son who were living in Jackson, Mississippi at that time wanted to know how many of their musician friends deal with the storm. Eventually they learn that most of them were fine but were spread all over the country, in exile. Mugge wanted to do a film about them and a small crew went to the transplanted Voodoo Fest (usually held in New Orleans but, for that year only, mostly moved to Memphis, Tennessee) and it was there that he was able to capture on film outdoor performances by Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Cowboy Mouth, Theresa Andersson, beatinpath, and World Leader Pretend and a recording studio performance by Theresa Andersson.


Then they moved on to New Orleans that was still barely functioning and the aftermath of Katrina was everywhere. In New Orleans, they filmed Papa Loves Funk performing at the Maple Leaf Bar, as well as an intimate home performance by Jon Cleary who had recently returned to his Bywater neighborhood. The goals of the filmmaker included documenting the overall devastation and recording interviews with key witnesses to what had happened, among them a magazine publisher, a newspaper reporter, a public radio general manager, staff of the charitable Tipitina’s Foundation, and officials of the beleaguered Army Corps of Engineers. They were able to get shots of escorting singer Irma Thomas into her flooded home and nightclub, accompanying label owner Mark Samuels into his equally damaged home and offices, and running into Stephen Assaf at his fully demolished home, barely standing after being washed from its foundation. They were able to document a local voodoo priestess and her followers as they engaged in a ritual ceremony intended to “bring the dead city back to life again.” Although it’s unlikely this ceremony had anything to do with the city’s ultimate revival, it did, at least in the moment, seem to bring electricity back to the surrounding neighborhood.


In Lafayette, Louisiana the crew filmed Marcia Ball and her band in concert at Grant Street Dance hall, where Ball also presented a donated keyboard to her friend Eddie Bo. Bo, who had been playing in Paris when Katrina hit, was currently staying with his manager near Lafayette until he could safely return to New Orleans. They then moved on to Houston, where they filmed available members of the ReBirth Brass Band performing in a public park, and then Kermit Ruffins and his band performing at the Red Cat Jazz Cafe. From there, they went to Austin, where they filmed the Iguanas at the Continental Club and a second performance by Cyril Neville at Threadgill’s.


They were finally were given access to an Army Corps of Engineers helicopter for the purpose of filming what was left of the Ninth Ward, the damaged Superdome, and several breached levees, all of which were better viewed from the air. In addition, the crew filmed Eddie Bo again, this time returning to New Orleans and entering his severely damaged coffeehouse for the first time since the storm. In New Orleans, devastation was so overwhelming, it was almost as if the crew was sunk into human tragedy.


On November 18, 2016, the film will be released on Blu-ray for the first time. In addition to the film itself, the release includes many of bonus features.




MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI (Documentary) Directed by Steven Okazaki. Mifune: The Last Samurai, a new film by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, explores the accidental movie career of Toshiro Mifune, one of the true giants of world cinema.  Mifune made 16 remarkable films with director Akira Kurosawa during the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo.  Together they thrilled audiences and influenced filmmaking around the world, providing direct inspiration for not only The Magnificent Seven and Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s breakthrough, A Fistful of Dollars, but also George Lucas’ Star Wars. Official Selection: Telluride Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, AFI Film Festival. Opens in New York on Friday, November 25, 2016 at the IFC Center. Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, December 2, 2016 at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre. Opens in San Francisco on Friday, December 9, 2016 at TBA.

STAYING VERTICAL (Comedy/Drama) Directed by Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake). Filmmaker Leo is searching for the wolf in the south of France. During a scouting excursion he is seduced by Marie, a free-spirited and dynamic shepherdess. Nine months later she gives birth to their child. Suffering from post-natal depression and with no faith in Leo, who comes and goes as he pleases, Marie abandons both of them. Leo finds himself alone, with a baby to care for. Through a series of unexpected and unusual encounters, and struggling to find inspiration for his next film, Leo will do whatever it takes to stay standing. Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival. Opens in New York on January, 27, 2017 at the IFC Center and Film Society of Lincoln Center. LA opening TBA.

LOVESONG (Drama) Directed by So Yong Kim. Neglected by her husband, Sarah embarks on an impromptu road trip with her young daughter and her best friend, Mindy. Along the way, the dynamic between the two friends intensifies before circumstances force them apart. Years later, Sarah attempts to rebuild their intimate connection in the days before Mindy’s wedding. Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival.

SUNTAN (Comedy/Drama/Romance) Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos. The doctor of a tiny Greek island, middle-aged Kostis spends a dreary winter alone, feeling like life have passed him by. With the arrival of summer, the island turns into a thriving, wild vacation spot with nude beaches and crazy parties. Kostis meets the young and beautiful, Anna, who he instantly falls for, and before long is spending nearly all of his time getting drunk and partying hard in an effort to impress her. What starts as a rediscovery of long-lost youth slowly turns into an obsession. Suntan celebrates the beauty and strength of the youthful body, while simultaneously embracing its inevitable decay. Official Selection: International Film Festival Rotterdam, South by Southwest Film Festival. Opening 2017.


THE ORNITHOLOGIST (Drama) Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues. Fernando, a solitary ornithologist, is looking for endangered black storks along a remote river in northern Portugal, when he is swept away by the rapids. Rescued by a couple of Chinese pilgrim girls on their way to Santiago de Compostela, he plunges into a dark, eerie forest, trying to get back on track. But as he encounters unexpected and uncanny obstacles and people who put him to the test, Fernando is driven to extreme, transformative actions. Gradually he becomes a different man: inspired, multifaceted, and finally enlightened. Official Selection: Locarno Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival.

“KILLBILLIES” (“IDILA”)— Slovenia’s First Horror Film


“Killbillies” (“Idila”)

Slovenia’s First Horror Film

Amos Lassen


I do not think that I would ever see a Slovenian horror film so I was surprised to have the chance to see “Killbillies”. In fact, I doubt I have thought about Slovenia at all. I did see that there are comparisons to the American south and the my neck of the woods where I was raised. It seems that every country has its share of “sexually depraved, bloodthirsty hillbillies”. This is a story of abduction, violence and hoped-for survival.


We meet a group of fashionistas from the city that includes models Zina and Mia, make-up artist Dragica and photographer Blitcz who are on a shoot on a beautiful countryside All was going well until two physically deformed psychopathic countrymen approach them and attack. The terrified group is chained and kept in a basement where they await their gruesome fate but they decide that they must fight back knowing the odds are against them. We soon see a wild and bloody confrontation between “urban and rural, women and men, between savages and civilized man”.


Director/writer Tomaz Gorkic brings us a film for those who like gore and terror. The hillbillies that disturb the photo shoot are out for blood and enjoy torturing the beautiful models. The women are determined to find a way to escape this terrible ordeal and think that tricking one of the attackers might be the ticket. Zina (Nina Ivanisin) finds a way out but the horror continues. Once outside Zina no longer has anywhere to hide and the Slovenian countryside is not easy to maneuver and becomes yet another villain that hampers her escape.


The film is set against the gorgeous Slovenian countryside. Much of it is shot in a darkened interior and this makes the outdoor shots all the more lush and a wonderful contrast to the darker scenes.The natural light shines on the onscreen terror and amplifies it and the expressions of the characters. Darkness creates tension in earlier parts but when we get to the third part of the film, we go outdoors and see the terror in bright natural sunlight. But, the brighter third act offers more impact, when the characters’ terror can actually be seen.


There is a lot of gore here and the blood effects often shock. There is a decapitation scene is way over-the-top and there are stabbings, bludgeonings and general torture. Another remarkable scene, involving a strapped down helpless victim, is especially disturbing. There is also cannibalism and lots of blood drinking. The main feud of the film is between country folk preying upon city folk. This is what creates much of tension and subsequent violence. We might say that “Killbillies” is an Eastern European tribute to North American cinema. The result is bloody and memorable.



“Boonville Redemption”

Melinda’s Father

Amos Lassen

Melinda (Emily Hoffman), at thirteen years old, has already had a hard life. She was born out of wedlock and scorned by many. She wants to know who she really is and struggles to find out. She really wants to know about her father but no one will tell her. Her mother, Alice (Shari Rigby) is no longer involved in religion and instead looks to superstitions for instruction and solace and her stepfather, Maddox (Richard Tyson) is the largest employer in Anderson Valley. He and those who work for him control Boonville. The only person who does not look down at Melinda is the local pastor (Bradley Gregg) but when he is killed (mysteriously), Melinda is left with no one to talk to.


Melinda’s grandmother, Mary (Diane Ladd) is not well and sometimes becomes delusional but after a great deal of protest, Melinda is sent to live with her and there she find the love that she had not yet felt. However, when Mary begins her delusional ramblings, she speaks in a long forgotten language of the valley called “Boontling.” This is hoe Melinda learned about her father. She learned the language and with she discovers so much about life and she never wants to go home. She really enjoys the peace of no longer being under the heavy thumb of Maddox. But that comfort is taken from when her grandmother dies suddenly.


Melinda vows to do whatever she can to find her father and becomes brave and outspoken about it this getting some of the townspeople to finally talk about the dark secrets that they have been hiding. She becomes an example of truth and light and enables others to find forgiveness and redemption. Melinda is an example of the grace that comes with looking for the truth.


This is not the kind of film that I usually watch but I must admit that I was pulled into the story by the fine character development here. The movie’s message is that “we all need redemption and that “when you look for the truth, you’ll find grace.” The film’s photography is a visual feast.



We meet villains that make us hate them and good people that put smiles on our faces and there are heroes throughout the film. The film hits us emotionally and we see good triumph here. Ed Asner is fine as Judge Mordecai Price and Pat Boone who we have not seen in a log time is Doc Woods.



“Coming Through the Rye”

Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

Set in 1969,”Coming through the Rye” is a touching coming of age story of sixteen-year-old Jamie Schwartz (Alex Wolff) who is not the most popular kid at his all boys’ boarding school. He is disconnected from students and teachers and he believes that it is his destiny to play Holden Caulfield, the main character of JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” that he has adapted into a play. After several hostile altercations with the boys at school, Jamie runs away to search for Salinger. On his way he picks up Deedee Gorlin (Stefania LaVie), a quirky townie. As they proceed on their odyssey to find Salinger, the journey becomes one of sexual awakening, the discovery of love and of the meaning of one’s life.


We’ve all been on that journey, sometimes more than once. It is part of finding yourself, or discovering new passions, or a time of being simply lost. In Coming Through The Rye, we see that Jamie understands Holden, and feels like Caulfield is the type of person that understand him, so he becomes immersed in adapting a play out of this story, as his senior project. To do that, however, he needs the permission of Salinger (Chris Cooper), himself. It has been said that one cannot find Salinger but accompanied by Deedee, his friend, love interest, and overall amazing person, they are dedicated in their search.


“Coming Through The Rye” is written and directed by James Steven Sadwith who was once Jamie in real life. In the early scenes we see Jamie being bullied and infatuated with Deedee. As the two head to New Hampshire, it is Deedee who has to make the romantic overtures. Their relationship is sharply observed throughout. She’s appreciative of his intelligence and determination, but she also recognizes his weaknesses. The viewer is aware that they are a well-matched couple long before they do. The scenes of Jamie grilling the New Hampshire locals for their knowledge of Salinger’s whereabouts are wonderful. Jamie finally finds people who are willing to tell him how to find Salinger and Cooper is excellent in his two scenes as Salinger. He’s stubborn, intimidating, and has the sharp intelligence of an artist as well as a convincing weariness in fending off someone who is obviously not the first fan trying to enter his solitude.


The real beauty is in the journey, not in the objective and the film is a wonderful example of that. Alex Wolff as Jamie is what gives respect to the film. He succeeds wonderfully in his part. Through Holden Caulfield, Jamie finds a corollary to dealing with his own similar troubles.