Friday, August 10, 2018

Review: Abominable (Special Edition)

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Abominable (Special Edition)
Directed by Ryan Schifrin
Red Circle Productions / MVD Rewind Collection
94 minutes, 2006 / 2018

Some form of the Sasquatch, or big foot, has been the subject of horror films for so many films over a span of decades that it could easily be classified as a sub-genre on its own; for example, there is another film called Abominable due out in 2019, which features an animated and kid-friendly Yeti. Personally, I feel the reason for the proliferation of this monster is a move that mixes the mystery of the dark and dangerous woods and a bit of the werewolf motif, i.e., a creature that is not normalized in culture (such as a lion, or wolf), but still human-line and… possible. Director Schifrin also points out during the commentary that  the Bigfoot is one of the few well known monsters that is not under copyright. More times than not – okay, nearly always – the beastie is a guy in suit (including here), which is okay with me because it depends on how it looks and how it’s used that matters.

This re-release version of the 2006 film is a two-disc combination of Blu-ray and DVD, both discs identical with one exception which I’ll get to in the next paragraph. For point-of-reference, I only put in the Blu-ray disc.

Right off, there is an option for an 8:35 minute contemporary introduction by the director, Ryan Shifrin, who discusses how the film was taken from its original format and made into 2K HD from the original camera negative, with some extra production values (e.g., redoing the CGI glowing eyes). For this reason, there is both the original and HD version available on the Blu-ray disc only, hence the two-disc difference.

Matt McCoy
Starting the film, there is a prologue about some scared farmers, namely Dee Wallace Stone, who I think of more in The Howling than the overrated ET, and veteran character actor whom you’d recognize in a sec, Rex Linn (that’s just the start of the many cameos, but I’ll get to that later, too). After, we are introduced to the protagonist, Preston, played by Matt McCoy who most people probably remember from many television appearances, but to me he’ll always be Lloyd Braun (“Seinfeld”). After an mountain climbing accident that cost him his wife and the use of his legs, he has now returned to a cabin he owns in a wooded area, doing the Jimmy Stewart / Rear Window thing, seeing all through a window with binoculars. He’s caught on that there is something literally afoot out there in the dark.

The others in the locale are Preston’s nurse and caretaker, the obnoxious and creepy Otis (Christien Tinsley, who also did the effects and make-up for this release, is a master make-up artist on the likes of “American Horror Story,” “Westworld,” and he won an award for Gibson’s The Passion of Christ), and a group of five young women partying in the cabin next door, which is apparently the only two in the vicinity. Soon, one of the women becomes missing, and only Preston has an idea of what’s going on.

As for Biggie, we see him in bits and pieces, such as his glowing eyes, and the inside of his mouth, but we do get the classic monster-in-woods-POV-shots with starburst flare around it, as he watches his potential prey. A group of attractive and nubile women in peril; isn’t that special. Dare I say shower scene? Well, it is way back in the good-old-days of 2006. Make Horror Movies Great Again?

Haley Joel
Okay, okay, I know I’m kinda mocking this as a throwback to the ‘80s, and yeah, in some ways it is, but don’t get me wrong: considering some of the hokey bits, such as the way the creature looks when we finally get to see it in full, it’s still a very effective film and honestly, quite enjoyable.

I read a review recently about the horror genre in general (sorry, but I can’t remember the source…if you know it, tell me and I’ll add it in), and it posited that jump scares are overused and they customarily have sudden loud sounds and spiked, dissonant shrieks in music to enhance the effect. Well, this film definitely relies on that formula, but they manage to use it quite effectively. Also, what Hitchcock liked to do is leave some cinema “space” on one side so you expect the jump to come from there, and then come from the other side. This is another tool that this film uses effectively because it doesn’t overdo it, unlike Carpenter did in the original Halloween, which kinda ruined the fear in the film for me.

A large cast means a numerous kill count, and this one goes hog wild. Not only are there the people in the two houses as potential fodder for the freak, but there is also a string of very impressive cameos (see, told ya I’d get to it) that show up throughout, such as those I mentioned before, Lance Hendricksen, Jeffrey Combs (the Re-Animator, himself!), Paul Gleason (the principal in The Breakfast Club and a high level police officer in Die Hard; he passed away the same year this was originally released), Phil Morris (who was the Martian Manhunter on “Smallville,” and best known as lawyer Jackie Chiles on “Seinfeld”), the underrated and yet arguably the one with the longest film credit list Tiffany Shepis as one of the members of the inevitable slumber party Bigfoot massacre. The entire cast does incredibly well for the budget we’re talking about at the time, considering it was shot on film stock. And may I say, Haley Joel’s sustained lip gloss in both volume and longevity considering the activity is impressive.

Dee Wallace Stone and Rex Linn
Speaking of body counts, the deaths are nice and gruesome with some fine effects. The gore looks great and there’s lots of it, building up to near the end. Despite the addition of some CGI in post-production, most of the SFX by Tinsley are practical and look great.

As with most Blu-rays, as I’ve said numerous times, there is a teeming of extras, so let’s get to the ones I haven’t mentioned yet. Because they had all the original negatives, they were able to put together some nice raw footage for the “Deleted and Extended Scenes” (6:13). Everything that was excised feels right, especially the last one as it gives out too much infomraiton; it’s left in much more subtly, which works better. Then there’s the “Outtakes and Bloopers” (4:09), which is time-coded footage with errors. Some of it is quite amusing and during one scene filmed over and over due to laughing, I kept thinking, “This is film stock and I bet the director is pissed.”

Some of the minor extras are different sound choices, two trailers for this film (and a few for other MVD Rewind releases), a “Poster and Still Gallery” and “Storyboard Gallery.” On a larger scale, there is the original cut of the film, which I saw parts of and there is a definite difference is some aspects and the way scenes are present, but I just skipped and jumped.

Jeffrey Combs
It starts to get more serious with “Back to Genre: Making Abominable” featurette, a 37:15 documentary of the making of the film from story to distribution, broken up into chapters filled with interviews with most of the cast. Now, long making-of documentaries tend of be tedious, but this really was interesting all the way through. It kept a nice pace and also avoided the fluff. Nice!

There are two short films included by the director, one of them being the 8:07 student film, “Shadows.” Shot in black-and-white, which follows a paranoid, wealthy artist who is afraid to leave his house hearing about local murders on the radio (the only voice you hear throughout). He is not nice guy to others, but is that his fear or sense of privilege? The other one is “Basil & Mobius: No Rest for the Wicked” (16:16), which follows two British scallywags as they try to steal some secret plans from a mob boss who runs a gambling house in Jolly Olde (played by Malcolm McDowell). There is gunplay, martial arts, quick repartee dialogue, and even a couple of zombies (one is Kane Hodder). These films are touched with some humor, and quite excellent fun.

Last up is the full length commentary, which I found very impressive. Just so you know, I usually write the main part of the review before watching the extras, so it was nice to hear some confirmation on some of my comments (e.g., the Rear Window connection and the lip gloss). Recorded in June 2006, it features Schifrin, McCoy, Combs and the film's editor Chris Conlee. Now, what I thought was remarkable was that while McCoy was there for most of it, Combs and Conlee’s comments are edited in (sans McCoy) for just the scenes with Combs’ Clerk character. This cut down on the over-talking and made everything clear. What’s more, the content of the conversation was kept to the film, so while there is some humor, it’s pretty straight forward and hardly any filler. A great commentary from beginning to end, and I don’t say that very often.

There is a folded, printed poster that also comes with the Special Edition, which is neat. The only thing missing, that I could think of, was captioning, but I’m not holding that against anyone.

I have to say, for a throwback via homage of some of the great horror films of the 1970s-1990s (though Rear Window was 1954), this is an effective thriller, and a fun time all around on so many different level.

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