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
The horror genre reached a turning point in 1960. Without much build-up from the previous decade, the year jump-started an era of shock that had never been experienced before. Titles such as EYES WITH A FACE, PEEPING TOM, BLACK SUNDAY and, of course, PSYCHO introduced a new form of terror and displayed images (scary or not) that had the standard bearers of decency in an uproar.
However, thanks to these daring features, horror (and film, period) has evolved into a source of entertainment that can challenge audiences and give us something more to chew on other than our popcorn.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Not rated, 77 minutes.
Director: Wolf Rilla
Cast: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, John Phillips, Richard Vernon and Jenny Laird
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through the Warner Archive Collection.
The original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, even 58 years later, allows us to form theories of our own. Though it runs a tight 77-minute race, it manages to pack a swarm of intriguing ideas and good, old-fashioned scares to feed on our brains and senses. It’s a perfect film that is being welcomed into the Warner Archive Collection for film collectors to celebrate in high definition.
Shot in glorious black-and-white, the film begins on a mysterious note and doesn’t let up. One day in the quaint English village of Midwich, every man, woman, child and animal falls unconscious at the same time. Anyone who crosses into the village suffers the same fate. The military arrives and runs experiments to sniff out the reason, but to everyone’s surprise, every living thing in Midwich regains consciousness and wakes up to much confusion.
A few months later every woman of childbearing age discovers she’s pregnant. Things only get stranger from there, as the fetuses are all born on the same day and develop abnormally fast, with scary white hair.
By the time they’re children, they have telepathy and something like a hive mind, all of which frightens the village and causes its residents to turn against the strange children with violence.
The fact that there is no explanation for the cause makes the movie all the more appealing to watch. It’s very much a film of its time (one scene of a man slapping his hysterical wife may raise an eyebrow), but its aged ideologies only heighten the film’s realism. It’s all placed in a believable setting and the characters react like anyone would.
Complete with a brand-new remaster of the film, an audio commentary by author Steve Haberman, an original theatrical trailer and beautiful disc art, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (available for preorder through wbshop.com) is a worthy addition to your collection and a great discussion piece.
PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING
Rated R, 94 minutes.
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen, Ricky Paull Goldin, Ted Richert, Leslie Graves and Carole Davis
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through Scream Factory.
Now let’s go from one of the holy grails of horror to one of the unholiest sh*ts.
Believe it or not, James Cameron started his career with this 1981 killer fish movie (now available for preorder through shoutfactory.com/shop). The ideas and characters presented here were definitely scraped from the bottom of the fish tank. It’s a poorly constructed and often depressingly mean flick.
Take, for instance, the pair of young women who hope to get a free meal by pretending to seduce a mentally challenged chef. Luckily, karma works in the chef’s favor: The women turn into bait for the new, genetically modified, flying piranha.
It’s a silly movie, but not in a fun way. The film doesn’t offer any sort of charm or likable qualities, which is surprising considering the glory Cameron penned with other sequels in his career. It’s just a slaughtering of dull people, devoid of laughs and thrills.
The few positives are the look of the picture (a solid 2K scan from the original camera negative), the well-illustrated cover art by Scream Factory and the decent bonus content (a trailer and a new interview with actor Ricky Paull Goldin and special effects artist Brian Wade). It’s fascinating to see the talents look back on the film and dive into their experience of making it, especially when Goldin talks about working alongside genre legend Lance Henriksen (ALIENS). Everything else about the movie, on the other hand, is a bummer.
- NEW 2K scan from the original camera negative
- NEW interview with actor Ricky Paull Goldin
- NEW interview with special effects artist Brian Wade
- Theatrical Trailer