Sunday, 26 May 2019

Morrigan: The Damned

Just a year after putting out Welcome to Samhain Morrigan unleashed what I believe is the superior The Damned in 2007, once again via their regular label Undercover Records.  The album opens with an almost sedate, reasonably melodic 'Teutates Warcult' before ploughing into the Emperor-esque 'Innozenz the 3rd', a very Scandinavian feeling going on here which should please many Black Metal head, in particular the lengthy screams giving Isahn something to be jealous about!  'Guilty' contains some interesting riffs while not really going anywhere interesting, then the nicely titled 'Boiling Blood' again hints at Emperor during its more manic moments, mixing in some pleasing melodies along its frantic path forward.
The hefty title track is melancholic in a manner that Morrigan understand, delivering a aura of hopelessness throughout.  'Carnal Desire' sees Beliar doing his Isahn impression once again, though the music is more relaxed than something the Norwegian would have been involved with back in his revered band's early days.  'The Devil's Kiss' picks up the pace somewhat, feeling urgent and chaotic (in a good way), utilising some nifty riffing along the way.  Final slice of music here is 'Confession'; the longest track on the CD this one does threaten to conclude in a fairly ordinary fashion until it segues into a blast-filled section during its last stretch.

One aspect of The Damned that I find notable is that out of all of Morrigan's opuses, this is probably the one that veers away from the Bathory formula the most, although the influence is undoubtedly still there (indeed, by default if an artist is creating anything close to a conventional Black Metal record then he cannot help but demonstrate something of Bathory in there somewhere).  The Damned is a fairly solid, sonically consistent listening experience, professional in execution and illustrating comfort on the part of the two musicians involved.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Morrigan: Welcome to Samhain

In 2006 Morrigan released Welcome to Samhain via Undercover Records once again.  It was a CD that saw them settled into their acknowledged (to small numbers) Black Metal brand, whilst not at all continuing on the same evolutionary path established by the career-defining Headcult.  Instead it appears to pretend that album never even existed: speed generally gets notched up on Welcome..., the guitars are not as heavy, perhaps more traditionally Black Metal in tone, and the 'epicness' is dialled down to make way for an often more primitive experience.  An odd decision, I would have thought, in the trail of producing one's best creative work.
"Eye of Despair" harks back to the primordial aggression of Celts or its two ancestors, and generally points towards a much shorter song length on average than what Morrigan was otherwise becoming comfortable with prior to this point.  The subsequent track, the title piece, plays to the style that I would say was the Jekyll side of Morrigan's trademark - leisurely, melancholic, choral.  There's no doubting though that if Quorthon had never existed then neither would this (along with a slew of other classic bands and albums over the years!).  Bitches are also back on this CD, with 'Bastard and Bitch', an intense, wintry piece that must surely be aiming towards The Return in its aspirations, particularly if one reads the lyrics (the meaning of which I'm still unsure of, as much as I would like to shed explanatory light), while noisy interlude 'Cranking Battleships' is the sort of waste of space the listener is likely to only allow themselves to hear once.

'Life, Death, and the Hereafter' goes for the heaviness, sandwiched between a particularly pounding riff - this is also the longest piece on the disc.  'Believe in Eternity'  adopts a chaotic 'second wave' approach that reminds one of middle-era Immortal as they became particularly unpredictable for a while (and I guess before they sort of became a parody of themselves and the whole genre): there's a lot of screaming going on here!  'Armour of Honour' has plenty to keep speed fans happy, while 'Roaring Warlike and Victorious' is certainly not as pummelling as its title might suggest, taking on a laid back nature.  Concluding piece 'Poch Mo Hoine' (I'm not sure what this means) may remind one of the eponymous Bathory debut in all respects.

Most of the cuts on Welcome to Samhain are of a decent quality, although the listener here can't help but feel a little dissatisfied after the double whammy of Celts and Headcult, expectations possibly unfairly higher here.  I felt the same back in 2006 when I first heard it - it has grown on me a little over the years but will always be overshadowed slightly by what came before.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Morrigan: Headcult

Two years after Celts German Black/Epic Metal outfit (back to the twosome of Beliar and Balor following a brief period with a second guitarist) put out what I believe could be their most accomplished piece via Undercover Records in 2005, Headcult.  Whether it was a coincidence that their worshipped deity Bathory nearly twenty years before them also created their masterwork on their fourth outing is a coincidence or not I will leave other listeners to decide.
As on preceding offerings the album takes off with an atmospheric introduction, more potent than before: 'Morrigan's Flight Over Celtic Lands' (as opposed to Oden's ride over Nordland…) segueing into the band's longest track to date, the ten minute monster that is 'Crom Cruach'.  Featuring a great intro 'Where's Rainbows End' is up next, varying the pace in-track quite a lot until it seamlessly glides into what I consider to be the greatest track Morrigan ever recorded, the splendidly titled 'Bloody Blue Faces', driven by a great melody, clean vocals, and a brilliant central riff.  'They Can't Tame the Devil' is an easy going number, back to a Black Metal rasp albeit without aggression, this leading directly into the eight minute title track, a groove orientated, moody piece with both guys firing on all cylinders.  'Talisain' continues the trend of the album, heavy and epic, while 'Beyond the Convent' polishes things further until 'Spell of the Mountain King' tests the patience a little too much as it never really gets going - a shame to conclude such a great album with quite a boring piece.

Headcult eschewed the manic nature of the preceding three albums by avoiding speed pretty much altogether (as Quorthon did with Hammerheart), and there don't seem to be any bitches either...  You're granted with a strong guitar sound throughout, restrained but energetic drumming from Balor, and a more mature approach to the song-writing itself.  It kind of feels like a Viking Metal album more so than Black Metal, although I don't think these Germans really took on the Viking persona at all, veering more so towards fantasy and paganism.  If you have a fondness for the likes of Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, and possibly Nordland 1/2, there's a sound chance you'll dig Headcult.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Morrigan: Celts

Morrigan's third album, dating to a 2003 release, just a year after their second platter, opens with atmospheric chanting melancholia, exuding feelings that resemble the resignation of oneself to battle, or perhaps the battle of life itself.  It progresses to the aptly titled 'Giants of Stone', the longest slice of music they had taken on at that point, slow-paced in the mould of something that could almost have appeared on Bathory's Twilight of the Gods album and complete with a fantastic solo that is at once clumsy and emotive.  But Celts may lull the listener into a false sense of comfort, because immediately following is the vicious 'Warstained Iron', re-asserting the Morrigan trend of alternating slow pieces with faster, more violent compositions.
'Mists of Mag Oa Cheo' is further down the trail, mid-paced Black Metal with an epic feel, after which 'Reappearance' delivers more of the same (suffixed with a doomy Quorthon-esque finale).  'Through the Halls of Ice' takes things down a gear or two.  'Staring in the Eyes of Cruchullain' is one of the best tracks on the album, a grinding riff, periodically overlaid acoustics, choral backing vocals, a Hammerheart feel throughout (albeit with the trademark Beliar rasp leading the vocals).  The heaviness and raw grind of the guitars, particularly evident in 'Staring...', I think may have been crafted with the addition of a second guitarist - Baldur (Tobias Fafner) - here, although this was unfortunately the only Morrigan album he would appear on.  'Era Reiks Formore' picks up the aggression once again, with a cool mid-paced middle section.  Whilst not bad as such, chaos-infused 'Cursing the Beheaded' is probably my least favourite on the CD, although it does begin with a strong two minute doom-laden intro demonstrating orchestral leanings before the raw thrash metal assault of the main track.  'Dance of the Leprechauns' is the crown of the platter, a middle-gear fantasy epic which also happens to be ever so slightly folky.  The final proper slice of music continues another Morrigan tradition of creatively using the word 'bitch' somewhere in a title, the sexy and slightly speedy 'Bitchcraft' taking place before Celts finishes as it started with an instrumental outro that finally allows the bludgeoned listener to relax.

A later reissue of the CD by Undercover Records included the excellent 'Dead Forever' as a welcome bonus, a track that Morrigan completed for a 2004 split single with Greek underground Black Metal outfit Nocturnity providing their example for side B.  This is the version of Celts that I own, the cover (pictured) differing in design compared to the original release.

At sixty five minutes (not counting the bonus track, which notches it to seventy two) I would say the album is too long for such an intense experience, and if I had a choice I would have excised 'Cursing the Beheaded' and possibly 'Era Reiks Formore', not because they are bad tracks at all, rather because it would have tightened Celts somewhat - few albums sustain over an hour of music without getting a bit much to sit through in one go.  That, however, is my only real complaint.  Celts is otherwise my second favourite outing of Morrigan, one where they stepped a little away from being mere Bathory clones towards embellishing that classic influence with their own personality to a greater extent.  A solid album, one which Black Metal fans should seek out one way or another.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Morrigan: Enter the Sea of Flames

For their second album, Enter the Sea of Flames, appearing a mere year following the debut (Plague, Waste and Death), Morrigan felt a little tighter, doing more interesting things with the sound rather than simply writing an aural love letter to Bathory.  Although without a doubt that influence is strongly present on Enter... as it would be throughout Morrigan's career.
After an effects-laden intro we get the groove-driven, slow paced 'Beyond the Green Hills', again featuring a really chunky guitar sound similar to the debut.  This one delivers some clean backing vocals that will once again remind the listener of some of those Quorthon utilised.  Speed is picked up substantially for 'Thy Armageddon', complete with mid-paced interlude and a pummelling finale.  Next things notch down a couple of gears again to bring to mind Hammerheart with 'Thy Ravens Lay', which is good stuff aside from being possibly a tad long.  (Trivia note: as singer Beliar closes the track you would swear it was Quorthon behind the mic...)  Morrigan evidently loved incorporating 'bitch' into their song titles, as can be seen again with mid-to-faster paced 'Come on, Bitch, Be My Victim'.  We are back in Hammerheart territory when 'To Honour the Brave' arrives, then the pace shifts upwards again as 'In Cold Blood' rips your face off, complete with an Under the Sign... style of solo and a 'Pace Til Death' vibe throughout.  'Anam Cara' is epically melancholic prior to the manic album closer and title track.

If there's one criticism I would level at Enter... it's that it can come across as slightly repetitive, although that has less to do with the frequently changing pace of the songs and more to do with the samey guitar tone across most of the album.  It is quite a decent listen and grew on me over a period of a few months (initial reaction wasn't one of astonishment), proving to be a worthy follow-up to Plague, Waste and Death, though better was to come.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Morrigan: Plague, Waste and Death

Morrigan rose sneakily from the ashes of Mayhemic Truth near the turn of the millennium, producing Plague, Waste and Death as their first official album, although when I say official you must remember that Morrigan have always retained the heart of the underground.  They've never scaled to the status of acquiring what you would call a known record label behind them, which is a shame because they've always struck me as a strong, moderately distinctive (despite the influences - see below) Black Metal act, and I enjoy much of what they've output - I feel that with an organisation such as Nuclear Blast or Season of Mist behind them the German outfit could have achieved more.
I've collected all of their albums over the years, some of them not easy to come by - Plague... is my final purchase and completes my collection.  It demonstrates the heavier side of Black Metal, with a solid guitar sound layered with typically rasping vocals.  Since first reading about them some years ago I have been aware that Morrigan are heavily influenced by Bathory, a fact that clearly manifests itself numerous times across their catalogue.  What surprised me about Plague... is just how bloody in-your-face that influence is!  Many of the tracks are a bizarrely close mix of the masterpiece that is Blood, Fire, Death and Black Metal landmark The Return.  For primary example, 'The Arrival of Dana' veers almost too close for comfort between 'A Fine Day to Die' and 'Blood Fire Death' (the title track of the 1988 album), to a point where the musicians must surely have accidentally gotten themselves a bit mixed up during rehearsals.  'Arrival of Dana' is, to be fair, credited as a salute to Quorthon in the liner notes, and having said all that the very reason I got into Morrigan in the first place was because they kind of filled the gap left by Quorthon's unfortunately premature death.

Elsewhere, the face-ripping opening/title track displays echoes of 'Pace Til Death'; the fantastically titled 'This Bitch Will Burn at Night' has shades of 'Born for Burning' of course; 'In Memoriam' will not fail to remind fondly of 'Reap of Evil's infamous demon-speak sequence; 'Straight War' must surely be inspired by 'Dies Irae'; while 'Requiem' has, with its change of pace, more of a Hammerheart vibe.  Aside from a 'Raining Blood'-esque riff 'Ashes to Ashes' edges a bit more towards some of the ripping Under the Sign... material before the album closes with slower 'Where the Angels Keep Silence', again glancing in the general direction of Hammerheart - get the idea?

Are/were Morrigan a carbon copy of Bathory?  To some extent, and on occasions, resoundingly yes!  Having said that their own character shone through during their seven album (not including Mayhemic Truth) career.  And anyway, reasonably effectively aping Bathory in a world sadly missing Quorthon is not necessarily a bad thing for this fan, even if they could never quite match the sheer power of the Swede in his prime.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

eXistenZ

At some unspecified time in the future a software company is demonstrating their newly developed pre-release game to a crowd of enthusiasts, one which requires an organic gaming pod to physically attach a string of gamers to allow them to take part in a hyper-real virtual reality experience.  Before the demo gets properly underway one of the participants attempts to assassinate the game's designer, Allegra Geller.  She's rescued by a security guy/marketing trainee by the name of Ted Pikul, the couple heading out into the countryside in effort to avoid further attempts on Geller's life.  She's surprised to find that Pikul is no gamer himself, and thus persuades him to obtain a bioport (an entry hole to the spine) which will allow him to plug into the game pod alongside Geller.  Once hooked up they're assimilated by the game world where Pikul experiences the vivid realm of eXistenZ first hand, and its gradually perplexing effect on one's ability to discern one realty from another.

Produced around the time when home gaming was simultaneously being propelled to mainstream popularity alongside virtual reality becoming a buzz which hinted at an exciting future that seemed to procrastinate itself in a frustrating fashion, 1999's eXistenZ is David Cronenberg's problematic but nonetheless enjoyable foray into the world of gaming, incorporating his own philosophical spin on personal perception of reality.  It was an obvious choice in a sense: he'd already made a couple of wonderful films about people being confused by the boundary between that which is (apparently) real, and that which is not, referring of course to the drug-fuelled Naked Lunch and Videodrome, both of which I've revelled in viewing many times over.  I've also enjoyed viewing eXistenZ (eight times at point of writing) since and including its cinema release here in the UK, however, it's often struck me as noticeably less 'perfect' than the aforementioned highpoints of Cronenberg's illustrious career.  Harder-core gamers, or even those of the casual variety, would most likely find some of the rules of the eXistenZ game world cumbersome (the main example for me is characters getting stuck in loops until one of the players says something that progresses the game plot), whilst others may find the performances a bit odd (again, for me, I've never been keen on Jude Law's fake American-accented Ted Pikul).  Despite those problems the film inadvertently or otherwise manages to overcome them with its conclusion. i.e. by the end it's inherently difficult to argue that whatever you've found to be an issue is indeed that.  I'm not sure the distributors knew how best to market it, seeing as the trailer and poster hint at something action orientated - the film is somewhat more cerebral than that, although would never compete with the bombshell sci-fi classic that was The Matrix the very same year.
After watching eXistenZ at the cinema back in '99 I was eager to pick up the DVD the following year.  Aside from being non-anamorphic it was actually a pleasing disc for its day.  The movie has later appeared on Blu-ray a couple of times across the globe, the UK special edition release by 101 Films finally prompting me to upgrade.  Image comparisons of course reveal superiority, albeit not with as great a jump in detail as one might have expected considering the near two decades' gap between the two releases.  The transfer used could be from an older master, although it doesn't look bad in the grand scheme of things.  You have a choice of stereo or 5.1 audio replicating the Dolby Digital original.  It's a largely vocal driven, aurally subtle film so the surrounds don't get to do much, although as with the former DVD the soundtrack comes alive to some extent for the final battle (which is not large scale by any stretch) between the opposers of artificial reality and, presumably, those who revel in it.

The 101 edition comes in a very nice slipcase, packed with two discs (Blu-ray, and DVD, although not all of the extras are replicated on the DVD) and a good quality booklet.  There are three commentary tracks, though only one of these (by the director) originates from the first 2000-era DVD.  There were actually two other commentaries on the old DVD that aren't ported to the new release, so you might want to hold on to the ancient disc.  The new set does carry across the 53 minute documentary and trailer, whilst adding a host of standalone interviews from the time alongside an exclusive contemporary talk with Christopher Eccleston.  Apart from a couple of points where he brings slightly political views into the equation (I'm not sure why celebrities feel the need to attempt to indoctrinate weaker-minded viewers with their opinions but I would be happy not to have to listen to them) this is a great talk about his time on set and recollections of Cronenberg's approach.  The discs are region locked to B and 2 respectively.  In summary, this is not a perfect release (which would entail a new 4K scan in addition to - if it exists - the workprint that allegedly ran nearly 20 minutes longer) but it is a very good effort.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Cherry Falls

Down in the cosmetically idyllic suburban town of Cherry Falls, somebody is pissed at the teens and bumping them off - but not, as is usually the case, for wantonly mating with one another.  This killer bucks the trend because he/she is bumping off virgins.  The investigating sheriff faces anger from the town's parent population whilst becoming increasingly concerned for his own innocent daughter's welfare as she protects her cherry in the good old fashioned way that few bother to anymore.  There are secrets to be uncovered along the way, as well as clothing - can the sheriff unmask the killer before his own daughter gets it... one way or another?
No doubt triggered by the success of Scream and the consequential revitalisation of the slasher genre, the smartly titled Cherry Falls appeared in 2000 following a 1999 production, kind of under the radar.  Its premise turns one of the genre's established conventions (that of teens having sex leading to their demise) upside down, taking a slightly humorous route in the process.  The writer suggests that the director (Geoffrey Wright of Romper Stomper fame) darkened his script in the act of bringing it to the screen, notably with the depiction of the rape scene, however, the sly winking still shines through (for example, within seconds of the sheriff announcing to the parents at a town meeting that the killer is going for virgins, fighting breaks out among the supposedly mature populace).  The tragic Brittany Murphy is great in the lead role (alongside Michael Biehn as the sheriff), giving you something to care about amidst the mayhem.  The MPAA unfortunately had their own wicked way with this film, making sure it came out in an essentially compromised form - I suspect we'll never see the pre-cut version, which I understand contained much more nudity during the final 'fuck-fest' massacre.  Indeed it's this sequence which really caps the film off with some excitement, and would definitely have been strengthened with an increased chaos factor (I love the bit when the fleeing teens get jammed on the staircase).  All in all Cherry Falls will never be considered a classic of the genre, but it has its redeeming qualities and you get a sense that there was a slightly better film in there had our moral superiors not gotten their way.

101 Films have put this out in the UK in a 1.85:1 edition that largely apes the US Scream version.  The 101 pack contains both Blu-ray and DVD in a neat, distinctive red case.  The picture quality is reasonable although clearly not the product of the kind of full 2K/4K restoration that we've been spoiled with elsewhere.  It looks quite 'digital' (i.e. rather than filmic) but is the best we've had, possibly the best we'll get.  There are options for stereo or 5.1, the latter presenting reasonable sonic spread albeit in a rather odd fashion at times: traditionally dialogue will be fixed to the centre unless there's a good reason to send it to another speaker, whereas here it's quite often spread to the left and right channels as well as the centre.  There's a commentary from the director, and a great 24 minute interview with writer Ken Seldon, who provides just a little insight into the problems occurring during production (e.g. running over schedule to a point where shooting had to be rushed at the end), plus an 8 minute interview with the sheriff's deputy Amanda Anke.  You do get a bit more in terms of extras on the Scream edition, but the 101 dual format release is a cheaper and satisfactory alternative for UK/Europe-based fans to pick up.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

The House That Screamed

Or, as it was shot, La Residencia, made in 1970.  Teresa is enrolled at an isolated all-girl boarding school by a family friend.  It is ruled over by an apparently harsh head mistress, who will have a girl beaten for public insolence (imagine that happening in today's schools), sexual awakening and consequential frustration is rife, to a point where the girls will make do with the substandard wood delivery guy, and the lesbian, sadist topdog's attention is immediately drawn to Teresa.  There are a couple of males on the scene too: the aforementioned wood delivery guy and his assistant, a handyman, and the head's son, who she keeps away from the girls as much as possible until he can find a worthy female who will love him 'in the same way' as his mother does...  And then there are disappearances - apparent escapes that soon manifest themselves as murder cases that the head herself is quick to eschew, possibility in order to avert negative publicity.  Basically, all is not well at the girls' school, but can Teresa herself escape before she suffers the side effects of residency?

The House That Screamed (to use its common US title), or La Residencia is a mixed-nationality cast Spanish horror featuring several actors that were involved in other classic works of horror (e.g. Cristina Galbo [Teresa] appeared in the masterpiece that is Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, and The Killer Must Kill Again among other things; Maribel Martin made such a sexual impression in The Blood Spattered Bride and that desperately-needs-a-definitive-Blu-ray film The Bell From Hell; Ana Maria Pol popped up in Carlos Aured's Paul Naschy vehicle Vengeance of the Mummy).  The director himself (Narciso Ibáñez Serrador) didn't work outside of TV much unfortunately, but in addition to La Residencia he directed what is now also considered to be a minor classic, Would You Kill a Child?  Perhaps he should have turned his hand to horror more often.
La Residencia is a beautifully shot piece, adopting a much more classical stance than the straightforward horror/exploitation approach that Spanish cinema became known for as the 70s progressed (I love it all nonetheless).  The photography and colour palettes are appealing throughout, and the house itself (which one might expect to be haunted from the outset) must have been a spine-tingler to explore.  The all-is-not-well narrative that boils between the deliberately formal cosmetic surface reveals much to enjoy, even if it's not always taken as far as it could be.  Without being too revelatory, the final scene is quite a punchy shocker that may induce a shiver as the end credits approach their roll.

Released in a couple of locations on Blu-ray, the edition I obtained (pictured above) is the German Alive disc, entitled Das Versteck (literally, The Hiding Place - an apt title as you will discover).  It's packed in a neat slipcase with differing art on the contained standard case (this itself has a reversible cover so you can hide the 16 certificate).  The banner on the cover translates roughly as 'The unabridged version for the first time in a new HD scan', and the slogan is enticingly 'Fear and murder in the girls' boarding school'.  There is a well presented booklet, but of course the essay is in German.  The US Scream Factory disc contains the longer, slightly more explicit cut as well as the theatrical version, whereas the Alive disc contains only the longer version.  The 2.35:1 image is largely excellent, although the sequences used to make up the fuller version are clearly taken from an inferior source or two - it's noticeable but it didn't detract from my enjoyment.

The extras between the US and German discs are mostly similar: interviews with John Moulder-Brown (the boy) - this is about 6 minutes long on the Scream but 18 minutes long on the Alive disc - and Mary Maude (Irene), running 12 minutes or so on both, plus an assortment of trailers and stills on both.  The Alive disc also contains two alternate opening sequences (cannot be played as part of the film, they're in the extras menu only). Whilst you have the choice of two cuts on the Scream, the Alive disc wins out in terms of audio options.  Not content with presenting just the English track of the Scream disc you also get a choice of German, Italian and Spanish language tracks!  These are of variable quality, though you will be pleased to know there are English (and German) subtitles available.  The interviews are subtitled in German, although these are removable.  Personally I would say the Alive disc wins out, though I suspect your purchase will probably be dictated by territory more than anything else.  Either way, it's a classy film to have in your collection.

Monday, 31 December 2018

The Dead Come Home

The Dead Come Home, an independent low budget (around $200000 as the director recalls) feature, sees a group of young people arrive at an isolated house to fix it up - one of them has just purchased the place and it's in serious need of renovation.  What they don't initially know is that it was once the home of a crazy old homicidal woman, and prior to entry one of them thoughtlessly trashes her gravestone.  This somehow brings her back to life - the house becomes supernaturally sealed with the group inside, and unable to find means of escape they begin meeting their respective ends.  There is an additional twist: each one of the new victims also comes back to help reap the old lady's vengeance for her.

Probably better known for the fact that Troma picked it up not long after its production, and retitled it as Dead Dudes in the House, marketed for VHS with very misleading cover photography.  It was later distributed by another company as I understand, under the much more preferable title of The House on Tombstone Hill, although when James Riffel completed (in 1988) and initially sought distribution, it was known as The Dead Come Home, and that's what Vinegar Syndrome have effectively restored it as here (although you get other storage/display options - see below).  The film is surprisingly effective: having the Troma moniker at the beginning usually gives me alarm bells (they're not exactly the mark of quality, although their juvenile sense of humour does appeal to some).  It wastes no time in getting the group to the house, and soon establishes an uncanny atmosphere as they become incarcerated in what is clearly an extremely creepy real location (indeed, one of the actors interviewed for the disc confirms that the place put the wind up him).  Killings are quite gory and well executed for the budget, and the outcome suggests a fairly unique imagination behind the project.  Obviously there is a slight tongue-in-cheek element to all of this (I can't think of any other stalk-and-slash films where the teens are terrorised and bumped off by a rickety old lady) but it generates for itself quite a sinister atmosphere.  Incidentally, I did think the beautiful daughter of the old woman could have been put to greater use: her character's return from death is of limited value to the story, then she proves to be an odd loose end in the narrative (her fate remains unexplained).
Vinegar Syndrome have scanned the Super 16mm negative at 2K to achieve amazing results - the image is vivid, colourful, with a vast field of natural grain that is quite pleasing to behold.  You could be forgiven, if you weren't already aware, for initially mistaking this as a 35mm production - it looks wonderful projected.  The stereo soundtrack is mastered, probably overkilled, at 96KHz, with strong resonance throughout, although it does betray restraints in the recording.  On the extras side there's a near half-hour interview with three of the main actors, where they recall their experiences quite well.  You also get about four minutes worth of production stills, plus a forty two minute audio interview with Riffel (played against stills from the movie).  This sounds like it was recorded from a phone call, the quality therefore being difficult to warm to, and shrill.  Despite that technical problem, the content proves to be a fascinating and revealing insight into the film, covering the unusual method with which Riffel acquired funds, circumstances prior to and around the Troma pick up, etc.  I was just going to sample this, because of the troublesome quality, but I ended up listening to the whole thing - a great extra.  The cover of the Blu-ray/DVD standard case is reversible, with the Tombstone Hill poster on one side, and the awful Dead Dudes iteration the other.  If you get the limited version you have a high quality slipcase with Tombstone Hill on one side (and its spine), or The Dead Come Home on the other.  So in all there are three places you could put this on your alphabetised shelf.  The slipcase edition is limited to 1500 units, and a cool buy in my opinion: the film itself is better than I anticipated and it's been treated with the usual VS respect.