Anchor Bay has long been a favorite company for this movie fanatic. Not only have they always been at the forefront of the horror home video market, giving us some of the best edition of horror classics ever to hit DVD and Blu-ray, but in recent years they have become an outlet for indie films, great direct to video fare, and other gems we may have never had an opportunity to see otherwise. Today I bring you four of their recent releases for your viewing pleasure, and a wide array of titles they are.
First up is director Amy Heckerling’s new horror comedy, Vamps (available on Blu-ray and DVD), starring her former Clueless star Alicia Silverstone and Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter. Intentionally styled like 80s style comedies, Vamps finds two female vampires trying to sort out their lives and find love in the big city. Vamps is very hokey in its approach, but intentionally so. Silverstone still holds some great charisma and Ritter is the star here, taking the spotlight for most of the scenes in the film. Also on board are Sigourney Weaver as the head vampire, Richard Lewis as a former flame of Silverstone’s, Malcolm McDowell as the still alive Vlad the Impaler, and Wallace Shawn as the head of the Van Helsing family of generational vampire killers. The humor can seem a little canned sometimes, and the silliness of the whole thing is a little too obvious for my tastes, but there are still some good laughs to be had from Vamps, especially in the two lead performances. Film: 2.5/6 Picture: 3/6 Sound: 2.5/6
Next up is indie horror film Vile (only available on DVD). On the surface and from the film synopsis, Vile may look like another Saw ripoff, but when all was said and done, I think I much preferred Vile. When a group of friends pick up a hitchhiking woman, they find themselves drugged by her and awaken in a remote building with vials implanted in the base of their skulls. Trying to remove the vials results in death, and they soon find out from a TV in the room that they are to find ways to fill the vials with a certain kind of fluid from the brain that can only be extracted during times of extreme pain. Along with some other unlucky test subjects, they must work together to share the burden of reaching their target amount of fluid by torturing each other in the 22 hours they have to complete their tasks and be released.
Vile surprised in what could have been a straight torture flick. The relationships between the test subjects is interesting because they don’t want to hurt each other but realize they must to survive. The torture is creative and the unfolding of the story is interesting and kept me intrigued. For something a little different, but still squeamishly good fun, check out Vile. Film: 3/6 Picture: 3/6 Sound: 3.6
High School is another great selection from Anchor Bay. As with Vile, High School could have opted for being just another stereotypical film in the high school hi jinks genre. When the valedictorian of the school takes his first hit of pot, the school times a random school wide drug test very badly and puts his college scholarship at stake. So he enlists the help of the biggest stoner in school to help get every person in the school high so that his test results will not stand out. They steal pot from a local psychotic drug dealer, played by the over top and hilarious Adrien Brody, and make a huge batch of special brownies for the bake sale before the drug tests. A typical plot, but executed well with some great supporting performances by Brody, Colin Hanks, Michael Chiklis, and Mykelti Williamson, High School actually transcends the genre a bit by making a very funny, fast paced raucous comedy that surprised me. Check it out on Blu-ray and DVD. Film: 3/6 Picture: 3/6 Sound: 3/6
Lastly, Anchor Bay welcomes action legend Steven Seagal to their lineup with Maximum Conviction. Pairing Seagal up with fellow actioner Stone Cold Steve Austin, the two play former black ops soldiers Cross and Manning who are hired as security specialists to help close down a maximum security prison. But when two last minute prisoners arrive on the last night of decommissioning the prison, they are followed by an elite team of mercenaries who assault the prison in search of the new arrivals. In the process of defending the prison from the marauders, Cross finds out the true identities of the two prisoners and discovers he may be in the middle of something much bigger than he could have anticipated.
As with many of Seagal’s direct to video releases in past years, don’t expect the lightning fast killer instincts of the Seagal of old. This Seagal is bigger, slower, and is a master of phoning it is. He has about two moves and uses them on everyone he fights, and for some reason, it always works. How I long for the Seagal of Above the Law. Stone Cold doesn’t fare much better, as his acting is just bad. You can see him recalling his lines as he speaks them and it just embarrassing. But you wouldn’t have picked up a movie like Maximum Conviction if you didn’t already know most of this. The story is decent, the action is passable, more for the firefights than the fistfights, and there are plenty of (probably unintentional) laughs to be had as well. If you enjoy the b-movie action flicks that Seagal is building his career on nowadays, you might actually dig what Maximum Conviction has to offer. Just prepare yourself ahead of time. Available on Blu-ray and DVD. Film: 2/6 Picture: 3/6 Sound: 3/6