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All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review - Part Five

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    Ian Jane
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  • All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: December 7th, 2021.
    Director: Ryszard Bugajski, Brunello Rondi, Mariano Baino
    Cast: Ron Lea, Graham Greene, Michael Hogan, Daliah Lavi, Frank Wolff, Louise Salter, Venera Simmons, Mariya Kapnist
    Year: 1991, 1963, 1993
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    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - Movie Review:

    With what may very well be their most ambitious boxed set release yet, Severin Films compiles a wealth of folk horror productions and loads of accompanying bonus features to put this most unique of horror subgenres into ever important context.

    Here's a look at discs nine and ten from this twelve disc set.

    Disc 9: CLEARCUT

    When controversial Polish filmmaker Ryszard Bugajski landed himself on the wrong side of the communist regime, he moved to Canada where, in 1991, he directed Clearcut, a film based on the novel 'A Dream Like Mine' by M. T. Kelly.

    The story details the efforts of a big time Toronto-based lawyer named Peter Maguire (Ron Lea) who was unsuccessful in his noble attempt to prevent a logging company from taking down the trees on the land of a First Nations tribe in Northern Ontario. When Peter connects with Arthur (Graham Greene), things get interesting. The two men team up to stop Bud Rickets (Michael Hogan), the man in charge of the logging company, from clear cutting the land in order to feed a nearby pulp mill, but their methods differ quite drastically.

    While Peter hopes to use the law to put a stop to Bud's efforts, Arthur's methods are quite stronger and not at all opposed to using violence to get what he needs done. When Arthur kidnaps Peter and Bud and forces them to hike through the dense forest that Bud's company is so rapidly depleting, Arthur's penchant for dealing out violent justice rears its head, causing Peter to question not only Arthur's methods but his own reasons for trying to put a stop to Bud's endeavors, particularly when tribal leader Wilf Redwing (Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman) reminds him of his supposedly altruistic motives.

    Made at a time when Canadian forests were being sacrificed en masse to keep the logging industry going full tilt, Clearcut is a righteously angry film that likely hits just as hard today as it did back when it was made just over thirty years ago. It's a seriously compelling picture with Greene (who had recently been given an Oscar nomination for his work on Dances With Wolves), essentially playing Maguire's anger in a human form, stealing the show. Yes, it's easy to understand why Maguire would get upset about the things he gets upset about, but given that the law firm he works for gets paid regardless of the outcome, it's hard to get too worked about his plight. Arthur, on the other hand, is a very physical embodiment of native rage, never subtle, but also never wrong. When he decides it's time to skin Rickets alive, his foot stuck to a tree with Arthur's hunting knife spiking it in place, if we don't necessarily agree with his methods we certainly understand where they're coming from. Arthur might be a psychopath… but then again, is he really wrong in his judgement calls? Bugajski makes us think, not shying away from strong scenes of tense violence to get us there while at the same time making damn sure we understand why Arthur behaves the way that he does in the film.

    Ron Lea is also very good here. His character shifts back and forth between encouraging Arthur to go to the lengths that he goes to and trying to pull him back from the brink. If his character deals with what might, by the standards of 2022, seem like stereotypical white guilt, so be it, there's enough of that to go around. He makes it work, we like the guy and his heart is, most of the time, in the right place. Michael Hogan, who like all good Canadian actors of his era appeared in a few episodes of The Littlest Hobo, couldn't be much better as the villain. He's the kind of guy you love to hate here. Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman, who acted alongside Greene in Dances With Wolves, brings a nobility to his character that is hard to ignore.

    Disc 10: IL DEMONIO/DARK WATERS

    Brunello Rondi's Il Demonio, a film he both wrote and directed that was released in 1963, stars the beautiful Daliah Lavi as a young woman named Purificata (or Puri). She lives a modest life in a small, rural village in the south of Italy. A little on the promiscuous side, Purificata doesn't do a very good job of hiding her attraction to married man Antonio (Frank Wolff). Not on to let her wants subside so easily, when she doesn't get what she wants the young woman takes to witchcraft in hopes that she'll be able to use the supernatural to sway Antonio her way.

    Many of the people that reside in the same town as Purificata suspect that she might be possessed by a demon, her behavior never quite agreeing with the standards set out by those in charge. Once it's discovered what she's been up to, a witch hunt ensues which, of course, doesn't end well.

    Rondi's direction for this film is second only to Lavi's performance in regards to what really makes it work. There's some appreciable subtlety to the story that makes you sometimes wonder how much of it is taking place in the 'real world' versus the imagined world, and if Purificata might be suffering from some mental health issues. Lavi plays the part extremely well, coming close to chewing the scenery a few times but never crossing that line entirely, really committing to the part and at times quite literally throwing herself into the role. It's a very physical turn that she delivers here and she's damn near perfect in the part. Frank Wolff is also quite good here, and the supporting players all do fine work, but Lavi is the one you're left thinking about once the picture is over with.

    Visually, the black and white film is quite striking. Rondi and cinematographer Carlo Bellero do a great job bringing the remote village to life, with an eye for careful compositions and period detail. The costuming is also quite good, as is the set decoration and design on display in the film, it all looks and 'feels' very authentic. Piero Piccioni's score works very well alongside the visuals, production values are strong across the board.

    When the movie is finished, you're left feeling for Puri. She wasn't perfect, but it seems like by not marching to the beat of the same drum as the rest of the villagers she wound up in a bad spot, persecuted for being different despite the fact that most of what she did in the story didn't wind up hurting anyone. The supernatural angel in the movie comes in a distant second to the human element, but Il Demonio winds up being a worthy addition to the set and is a film very much worth seeking out.

    While Mariano Baino's 1994 effort Dark Waters hasn't been impossible to find (it was available via New Yorker Video some years ago and then given a really nice special edition DVD release through No Shame after that back in 2206) it's one of those horror movies that hasn't quite found the audience that it really deserves. This is a shame as Dark Waters is a smart, creepy, and wonderfully made movie that will likely appeal to fans of vintage Italian horror films or Hammer horror. Severin Films released Baino's only feature to date to Blu-ray for the first time in 2017 and now rightly include this underrated genre effort in this boxed set.

    A prologue shows us that years ago a priest and the church he was in care of were destroyed after a massive influx of water came rushing in. When this happened, an amulet that held great occult powers was destroyed. Fast-forward a few decades later and a young woman named Elizabeth (Louise Salter) has recently lost her father. Before he passed on he wanted her to promise that she'd never return to the island where her mother gave birth to her. Of course, Elizabeth is too curious to resist and she wants to know why, for his entire life, he had been sending money to a convent of nuns that live on the island.

    Elizabeth takes a boat ride to the island during a rough storm but makes it there in one piece. Upon her arrival she is hoping that a friend of hers who was staying in the convent will be there to greet her. Unfortunately, her friend is nowhere to be seen though she heads to the convent anywhere where the sisters take her in and let her stay. She soon meets a young nun named Sarah (Venera Simmons) who and comes to trust her. She also meets the decrepit old Mother Superior (Mariya Kapnist), a strange woman who speaks through another nun who acts as a translator. Elizabeth and Sarah start snooping around the convent a bit and they discover a strange series of grisly catacombs and macabre paintings underneath the building. It doesn't take the two of them long to realize that these nuns are not at all what they seem to be and they are in fact far more sinister than she ever could have expected.

    A very strange film with a rather wandering narrative, Dark Waters is never-the-less a very well made exercise in atmosphere and suspense. The story moves a little slowly at first but once it's all set up the last third of the movie really picks up nicely. It's in this last stretch that Baino pulls out all the stops and delivers some fantastic scares and memorable images. The art direction for the film is flawless and the cinematography and camerawork do an amazing job of capturing the remote beauty and dark locations of the Ukraine where the movie was shot. At times the film is quite reminiscent of Stuart Gordon's Dagon and there's very definitely a Lovecraftian vibe throughout this whole film, but it still manages to do things quite differently and stand out on its own as a very original piece of work.

    In terms of the performers, the movie is in good shape. Louise Salter is quite capable as the female lead. We like her, and as such, we care about what happens to her as her situation becomes more dangerous. Venera Simmons is also very good as Elizabeth's only friend but the real star of the show is the Russian born Mariya Kapnist as the Mother Superior. Her facial expressions are completely unearthly and she does a great job of bringing her truly evil character to life. Without spoiling the film, there's a scene towards the end of the movie where the camera movements and the icy blue lighting really bring her to the forefront in a very memorable shot that will stick in your brain for some time.

    If the movie has one flaw it's that parts of it are a little obscure. While it's usually a good for a movie to make you think and work a little bit to 'get it' there are some scenes in here that might leave some viewers scratching their heads. Watching the film a second time will help clear things up a lot and once you get to this point you'll realize that the storyline really is tied up quite nicely but it isn't obvious initially. As such, Dark Waters is a picture that rewards repeat viewings - there are a lot of details and nuances that you might not notice the first time around. Those looking for fast, cheap jump scares will probably disappointed but anyone into the 'slow burn' style of gothic horror would do well to invest the time and efforts that Dark Waters deserves as it's an investment that pays off very nicely indeed.

    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - Blu-ray Review:

    Clearcut come to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is “restored in 4K from 35mm answer print” and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up 29.6Gbs of space on a dual layered 50GB disc. While grain is heavy in spots, there isn't much in the way of actual print damage here. Colors generally look quite strong, though a few moments in the darker scenes do look a little too dark (it's just as likely this has to do with how the movie was shot than anything else). This isn't the most colorful film that you're ever going to see in your life, it is quite often visually pretty dark, but the colors in the movie are reproduced naturally and look pretty good, as do skin tones.

    Il Demonio is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen “restored from the original negative at RAI TV in Rome.” With the transfer using 22.1GBs of space on the 50GB disc that it shares with Dark Waters, the black and white picture is quite solid. Contrast looks good, we get nice, deep black levels and bright, clean whites with a nice greyscale in there as well. Detail is typically pretty strong here and while the grain is thick in spots, it typically always looks film-like and quite organic. The elements used were seemingly in nice shape, there's really very little print damage here, and the image doesn't show much at all in the way of compression artifacts. Overall, this looks very good.

    Severin Films brings Dark Water to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer "mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative" using up 20.8GBs of space on the disc. This is a tricky movie to evaluate in terms of video quality because it was made on a modest budget in a lot of locations that don't have the best lighting. There are also some compression artifacts and even minor macroblocking for a few seconds noticeable early in the film (though thankfully this is not a constant) along with some noise. Most of the film takes place in dimly lit interiors with highly stylized lighting and while this does a great job of setting the mood, it sometimes seems to sap away some of the fine detail. Having said that, the picture here offers a nice upgrade over the No Shame DVD, which in hindsight has some pretty serious edge enhancement that the Severin Blu-ray does not. Black levels are pretty solid here and primary colors pop more than on the standard definition presentation. If this isn't reference quality texture, detail and depth are noticeably improved over what we've had before.

    Clearcut receives English language options in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Master Audio options with removable subtitles offered in English only. The 5.1 mix spreads out the score and effects pretty nicely, using the rear channels effectively when the movie asks it to. Dialogue stays clean, clear and well- balanced and there aren't any issues here with any hiss or distortion. The track is properly balanced and it sounds quite good.

    Audio for Il Demonio is handled by way of an Italian language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with removable subtitles provided in English only.

    The past Blu-ray edition of Dark Waters had a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix on it, but the version in this boxed set upgrades that to a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in English with optional English subtitles.

    Disc 9: CLEARCUT

    The late Ryszard Bugajski, who passed away in 2019, appears in an archival introduction to the feature that appears courtesy of Maria Mamona. This runs for seven minutes and sees the director talking about his work in Poland, why he moved to Canada after being ostracized in his homeland, hopes he had for his final Polish film, working with producer Steven Roth, the source material that inspired the picture, how he enjoyed working on the film and how the critics reacted to the film, often times missing its message.

    From there, we move on to the audio commentary with scholar/anthropologist Shaawano Chad Uran (White Earth Anishinaabe). This is an interesting talk that covers the sound design of the opening scene and how it 'demonizes' the water and what this means to the story, the use of authentic Native Peoples' language in the film, the meaning of some of the names of the characters in the movie, a lot of the themes that the movie explores and deals with, how much of the film is actually 'real' and really going on versus how much is not, thoughts on the main characters in the movie, his father's friendship with Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman and details on his life both on and off screen, similarities between this film and Dead Man, Graham Greene's career and importance in the film as well as some of the subtleties of his performance, how the film flips audience expectations by putting the Native character in control of many of the situations, thoughts on the motivations for the different characters on both sides of the 'triangular conflict,' where Bugajski lets chaos really take over in certain scenes and how effective these moments are, the use of violence in the movie and lots more. This is a very insightful piece and well worth listening to.

    An archival audio interview with Ryszard Bugajski, conducted by journalist Allan MacInnis that is essentially a second audio commentary that plays over the entirety of the film, taken from a series of long distance calls recorded on a tape recorder in his mother's living room while she was watching The Price Is Right in the background. It starts with MacInnis talking about how Bugajski's The Interrogation got him in trouble leading to his exodus from Poland despite being nominated for the Palm D'Or before getting into the interview with Bugajski himself. MacInnis notes that this is still a 'white man's movie' despite its honesty about Native experiences, while Bugajski talks about his experiences in Poland, his rise up the ladder of the local film scene, the statements that he tried to make with his creative output, his background and education, films that influenced him in his formative years behind the camera (The French Connection being one), dealing with the secret police and communist regime in his native land, how and why he landed in Canada after being exiled, how his own experiences are reflected in Clearcut, differences between making films in Poland versus making films in Canada, hoping to reach a larger audience after moving to North America, shooting in a neo-realist mode and the authenticity of the locations in the film, what the shoot was like and the physically demanding aspects of making the movie and loads more. Lots of really interesting information here, this is a great way to learn more about Bugajski's fascinating life in the man's own words.

    A Dream Like Arthur's is an audio interview with Graham Greene conducted by Kier-La Janisse that clocks in at sixteen minutes. Here the storied actor talks about meeting Bugajski for the first time and some of the learning curve that Bugajski had to deal with when transitioning from making movies in Poland to making movies in Canada, his own thoughts on the script and story for Clearcut, rewrites that were done once Greene and a few others got their hands on the script, thoughts on the character that he plays in the film, the different cast members that he worked with on the picture, the depiction of 'indigenous activism' and current events during the making of the movie that had a hand in its portrayal, why this is one of Greene's favorite roles out of his massive career, when some of the scenes were shot on location versus a hotel swimming pool, how Clearcut almost became a lost film and Greene's thoughts on the finished product overall.

    Composing Clearcut is a featurette with Shane Harvey that runs just under eighteen minutes. This featurette details how he first came to work with Bugajski when they collaborated on a TV Ontario special on suicide, first impressions of the director, Bugajski's thoughts on what he wanted and didn't want in his features, what he was like to work with and collaborate with, how he wound up getting to work on Clearcut when Bruce Cockburn was originally wanted for the job thanks to Bugajski's insistence, how he tried to 'shake people up' with the music in the film, when and where he used indigenous music in the film and why he made those calls, looking at the music used in the film as an 'off-camera actor,' how important it is for a composer to work with a director who isn't afraid to admit what he does and doesn't know and other collaborations that he was involved with Bugajski on.

    There are also some interesting short films included here, starting with The Ballad Of Crowfoot, directed by Willie Dunn in 1968. This presentation, courtesy of the National Film Board Of Canada, runs for ten and a half minutes. For all intents and purposes, it is a music video of sorts, setting Mi'kmaq/Scottish folk singer and activist Willie Dunn's iconic track The Ballad Of Crowfoot against a selection of archival images and film clips featuring black and white pictures of Native Canadian peoples that accentuate how colonialists have manipulated them over the years. The song itself tells the story of how in the nineteenth century, a native Siksika chief named Crowfoot negotiated Treaty 7 for his people only to essentially be stabbed in the back. It's pretty moving stuff and it's hard for anyone with even an inkling of social consciousness to not be moved by it.

    The disc also includes an audio commentary for The Ballad of Crowfoot with Kevin Howes and Lawrence Dunn (who is Willie Dunn's son), the co-producers of Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology. In this track they discuss history of the track and who the song and film command all of your attention, Dunn's prolific career as a composter and poet, his love for his people and for justice, where Dunn took the images from for the video, some of the people that Dunn worked with on the film, how Dunn utilized the National Archives of Canada to find the images featured in the film, how Dunn's work pre-dates a lot of what Ken Burns has done since, what inspired the song itself, who accompanied Dunn on the track and where it was recorded, how the film was broadcast on national television in Canada, what Willie was like in person, reactions to the film since it was made both positive and negative and how the film brought attention to issues that weren't, at the time, given the attention that they deserved.

    You Are On Indian Land is a thirty-two minute short directed by Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell in 1969. This thirty-seven minute piece documents a protest that took place in 1969 by the Kanien'kéhaka (Mohawk) of Akwesasne, a territory that is located along the Canada-U.S. border. Famously shown at the 1970 occupation of Alcatraz, this short film explains the history of how various treaties and border agreements made by both the Canadian and American governments have had a negative effect on the lives of the Mohawk people over the years. It covers how the Mohawk people tried to raise the issues with the government in Ottawa with no results, how the protest came to be and what was involved in organizing it, how the police responded to the protest (and why the cops weren't wearing their badges when they showed up, something that still happens at protests today for obvious reasons), how the cops rounded up and took into custody many of the protestors (who appeared to be completely peaceful based on the footage provided - at least to start with) and how the cops in charge interacted with the native leaders (some are considerate, others not so much). It ends with a town hall of sorts where the Mohawk leaders talk to 'the authorities' but they get no answers to their questions as to why their land was taken for the St. Lawrence Seaway and its accompanying customs house, border issues, land use issues and more. This is reasonably horrifying, to be honest. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    The last of the shorts is the most recent one, Consume, directed by Mike Peterson in 2017. Based on true events, this twenty minute short opens with a quote from Peter 5:8 (look it up) before then telling the story of how residential school survivor Jacob Wematim (Julian Black Antelope) deals with his own issues - substance abuse, alcohol abuse- while trying to retain his identity as a Native Canadian and also to hold onto his land. It's an interesting piece, pointing out how he has the money to drink without the money to pay his bills, altercations that stem from this with his wife and how this all ties in to the legend of the Wendigo. It's a stylish short film but not one that doesn't make you think, particularly as it does quite bluntly about the issues that have come to light over the last ten years or so regarding the absolutely horrifying abuse cases that are attached to the residential schools in Canada. Like the other shorts on this disc, it's quite moving and quite thought provoking, a scene where Jacob talks to a local law enforcement official about what's happened to his family really hitting hard given how the film ends. At the same time, it's also a very effective horror picture, pulling you into the plight of its central character with an unexpected twist at the end.

    Disc 10: IL DEMONIO/DARK WATERS

    Extras for Il Demonio begin with an audio commentary from Kat Ellinger that places the film in the cannon of Italian gothics but which also makes the case that it counts as a folk horror entry. She talks about the importance of the Martino Brothers in terms of getting this film made, Rondi's career and his collaborations with Fellini, Pasolini and others, why Rondi's films should be reassessed, the customs and rituals portrayed in the film and why they can be perceived as dangerous, the depiction of women as witches in this and other folk horror films, the influence of the Catholic Church on the film and on Rondi's other works, how the film was received domestically, projects that Rondi was involved in later in his career, details on Lavi's acting in the film and career in general, the sexual politics of the film and lots more.

    “The Kid From A Kibbutz” — Daliah Lavi And The Road To Il Demonio is a twenty-eight minute newly-commissioned video essay written and narrated by Tim Lucas and edited by Chris O'Neill. This detailed piece covers how Lavi's career evolved over the years with Lucas talking about how he initially contacted Lavi by finding her number and asking to talk to her about her work on Mario Bava's The Whip And The Body. The piece then goes on to talk about her early work, how she acted alongside the likes of Kirk Douglas, how her star started to rise once she had a few films under her belt, Lavi's own thoughts on acting and how she felt she really knew nothing about it, signing a contract with a German producer, going back to make films in Italy, how she came to appear in Il Demonia, thoughts on her character in the film, her acting style in the film, roles that followed for Lavi after the film and how they didn't quite compare to playing the led in Il Demonia and where her career went after this.

    Once Upon A Time In Basilicata sees Brunello Rondi biographer Alberto Pezzotta explore the themes that appeared throughout the director's work, particularly in Il Demonio. This piece runs twenty-three minutes and covers Rondi's place in Italian genre cinema by going over his interests as well as his career and how this affected his work on the picture. It also covers Rondi's social and political views and how they affected his work, how he got his start in the film industry, some of the people he worked with in his early days such as Pasolini, some of the films that Rondi worked on that put him on the map, the importance of Il Demonio to his work, details of the making of Il Demonio and the people that he worked with on the picture, some of the themes that Rondi explored throughout his career and the infamous spider walk that appears in the film and how William Friedkin coopted it for The Exorcist.

    Extras for Dark Waters start off with audio commentary by writer/director Mariano Baino which is moderated by No Shame Films producer Michele De Angelis and ported over from their aforementioned DVD release (though oddly enough this is in LPCM format for some reason). Baino has got a lot to say about this film and he's obviously very passionate about this project and about filmmaking in general. He gives us plenty of information on the location shooting and why specific places were chosen in addition to casting information and the like. He covers some of the effects set pieces and discusses pre-production planning in a fair bit of detail. Whenever he slows down De Angelis is there to prod him with another question and to keep him talking and the result is a well-paced discussion that covers quite a bit of ground.

    Deep Into Dark Waters is an excellent and very comprehensive featurette on the making of Dark Waters that includes interviews with Baino in addition to actress Louise Salter, cameraman Steve Brooke Smith, co-editor Rick Littler and producer Nigel Dali. At just shy of an hour in length, this documentary covers a lot of ground and it's great to hear from the participants about their experiences on set. Additionally, there is a wealth of behind the scenes photographs used throughout this piece, taken from Baino's own collection, that really do a good job of giving us a feel for the conditions under which the movie was made.

    Unfortunately the other extras from the single disc release - a selection of deleted scenes, Baino's short films and a few other featurettes - have not been included in this boxed set release.

    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - The Final Word:

    Discs nine and ten of All The Haunts Be Ours offer up three more very strong entries in the collection and while Dark Waters has been released before, it's a film worth revisiting. The other two features, both of which are excellent, make their high definition debuts here, with lots of extras and strong presentations.

    Click on the images below for full sized The All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror Blu-ray screen caps!























































































































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