I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
Ah, Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I either have some great gift ideas for you to give your special someone or cinematic escapisms that eschew the Hallmark holiday sentiment with bad romances and bloody sexcapades.
Rated R, 96 minutes.
Director: Jamie Blanks
Cast: Marley Shelton, David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl, Hedy Burress and Fulvio Cecere
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through Scream Factory.
No movie releasing this week is any timelier than Scream Factory’s restoration of the 2001 trashy slasher VALENTINE. It’s got all those late ‘90s and early 2000s actors you’d recognize straight away, such as Denise Richards, ANGEL and BUFFY’s David Boreanaz and Marley Shelton (who will forever be Wendy Peffercorn from THE SANDLOT to me). And the story involves past trauma (like Jason Voorhees), some sexually frustrated 20-somethings, and a Cupid-masked killer who will, quite literally, poke you with an arrow.
VALENTINE shares a lot of DNA with URBAN LEGEND and SCREAM — and go figure, because it was directed by Jamie Blanks, who also directed URBAN LEGEND. Like those movies, you have a cold open where someone dies, characters who like to get kinky and later die in the most inventive ways (one with a video art gallery and a five-story fall into a dumpster takes it all). And don’t forget that twist at the end! You have to know who the killer is, and VALENTINE is just as silly as URBAN LEGEND in that regard. Still, such a bloody good time!
Extras: The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition (available through shoutfactory.com/shop) comes with a newly designed cover and slipcover (done by Devon Whitehead) that features the Cupid killer shooting an arrow toward the person who’s holding the Blu-ray and a collection of illustrations surrounding the killer of all the most memorable death scenes (including the hot tub sequence).
The new 2K scan also includes new interviews with actors Jessica Cauffiel, Denise Richards and Marley Shelton (all of whom recall their days shooting the film, their great working relationship with their director and their excitement about their bloody scenes); new — and lengthy — interviews with the co-writers Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts (detailing their history writing for 90210 to penning this script); new interviews with editor Steve Mirkovich (my favorite interview of the bunch, as he talks about working with John Carpenter) and composer Don Davis; a new director’s audio commentary; archival interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes (a super intimate portrait of what it’s truly like to be on a horror movie set and how the actors make light of the dark situation they’re portraying), and a theatrical trailer.
THE POISON IVY COLLECTION (1992-2008)
All films are not rated (though they come with theatrical R-rated cuts, too) and average around 95 minutes long.
Director(s): Katt Shea, Anne Goursaud, Kurt Voss and Jason Hreno
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt, Cheryl Ladd, Alyssa Milano, Xander Berkeley, Jaime Pressly, Megan Edwards, Michael Des Barres, Miriam McDonald, Shawna Waldron and Ryan Kennedy
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through Scream Factory.
Talk about a movie collection that will make you feel super dirty. But hey, everyone has their own tastes, like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY or those sexy romance novels with punny character names. If that’s your thing, then THE POISON IVY COLLECTION from Scream Factory should already be in your order cart. However, if you are hoping for a good story, uh, you won’t find it.
The collection includes four films of seduction: the 1992 original POISON IVY; 1996’s POISON IVY 2: LILY; 1997’s POISON IVY: THE NEW SEDUCTION; and 2008’s POISON IVY: THE SECRET SOCIETY. Each film involves deception, betrayal, murder and sex — lots and lots of sex. Whether it’s a pool boy or a gross dad who sleeps with his daughter’s BFF, you can expect the “bom chicka wah wah” music to cue up at any moment.
Of all the titles, the original POISON IVY has the most going on… dramatically. It stars Drew Barrymore as the titular Ivy, a peculiar teen who becomes fast friends with rich girl — and seemingly grunge rocker — Sylvie (ROSEANNE’s Sara Gilbert). Sylvie’s daddy (Tom Skerritt) develops a crush on Ivy a la AMERICAN BEAUTY, and, well, you know the rest. But at least there are actual complex characters here and Leonardo DiCaprio. No joke! Leo pops up for literally seven seconds and almost gets top billing. I’m willing to bet you won’t even notice him unless you Google it.
POISON IVY 2 starts off on a promising note. It follows a new character, Lily (Alyssa Milano), a sheltered art student who discovers a box of items belonging to a young woman whom she has never met. She slowly becomes obsessed with this mystery girl, causing Lily to change her whole appearance and attitude — which, in turn, captures the interest of another art student (a boring Johnathon Schaech) and her teacher (Xander Berkeley, Todd from TERMINATOR 2). So, more of the same, just the setting is different.
POISON IVY 3 — and I can’t believe it made it this far — is almost a carbon copy of the original film. However, it stars Jaime Pressly as the next lead to be fully naked the entire movie. I will say, it has an admittedly great and wicked opening scene involving a double case of infidelity. It shocked me, earning this collection a few points.
The fourth and final film in the collection, starring Miriam McDonald, is a big fat don’t-bother. It’s the worst one of them all, and that’s saying something. The characters are even more dumb and clueless, and the ending is baffling.
To summarize, it goes from a Lifetime movie to “Skinemax” really quick! The series going from the hands of female filmmakers to male filmmakers might have something to do with it, too. (Trivia: The first two films are directed by women.) So, proceed with caution.
Extras: The Scream Factory 4-Film Collection has a collage-style cover and slipcover design (by Mindy Kang) and only comes with one new audio commentary (original director Katt Shea) and theatrical trailers.