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Hell Of The Living Dead / Rats: Night Of Terror – Blood Soaked Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

Hell-Rats-Blood-Soaked-Double-FeatureBlue Underground is returning to the Blu-ray business and kicking things off with a double feature.  A double feature from a pair of films featuring the collaboration of director Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso, director of…Troll 2?  Yes, THAT Claudio Fragasso.  Hell Of The Living Dead and Rats: A Night Of Terror were films that Fragasso wrote and then co-directed with Mattei.  As a double feature, they are perfect for each other as they both feature groups trying to survive being hunted by a pack of vicious creatures out to eat them.  Double features are sometimes enough for these obscure releases, but Blue Underground has gone and attained some new interviews for this disc as well!

Hell 3

Hell Of The Living Dead 

A chemical research facility, Hope Center #1 experiences a leak turning all its inhabitants into flesh eating zombies.  Meanwhile, a team of commandos ends up getting together with a reporter and her cameraman in New Guinea.  Communication with Hope Center #1 has been lost and its assumed due to a terrorist attack.   They soon discover that this is all far worse than terrorists trying to fight for their cause, its zombies trying to eat for theirs.

Hell is another one of those Italian films that was a huge fan of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.  This happened plenty after that movie.  This one particularly likes borrowing from it.  There’s a lot of inspiration.  From the look of the zombies to the similar fashioned kills.  The film’s group of mercenaries even wears identical outfits to the SWAT team in Dawn Of The Dead.  Heck, they even brought along Goblin to do the score.

Adding more to the “inspiration” of Dawn, Goblin rehashes some of its musical cues and full on pieces from that film for Hell Of The Living Dead.  It also uses music pieces from another film Goblin scored called Contamination.  These pieces provide a cool eerie synth ambient musical choice and really groovy electronica 8-bit sounding tunes.  Only problem?  Goblin didn’t authorize the use of any of this for the movie and it almost caused some legal issues, but things were settled with the band before it every got to that point.

This film delivers some really groovy gore and has Goblin to listen to, but ultimately feels like its just standing around doing nothing.  Our characters are stock and uninteresting, so none of the “down time” conversation really prove of much use.  The film does open good and finish on a high note, and there are some notable points in the middle, but not enough.  It hangs out in the jungle much too long.  Everything that has to do with the Hope Center is great though.  Its a great setting and its really filmed well.  Plus, stuff happens there!  Hell Of The Living Dead isn’t really that great of a movie, but it is entertaining on a cheap thrills, b-movie type level.

Rats 1

Rats: A Night Of Terror 

Following a nuclear holocaust in 2015, the people of Earth are divided among those who live underground and those that live on the surface.  Those on the surface are considered to be savages.  Our story focuses on a group of these “New Primitives” as they come across a ghost town who’s former residents appear to have cultivated some clean water and plantation.  Oh, and its inhabited by killer mutated rats ready to wreak havoc.

This is my second killer rat movie in under 2 months.  However, I must give this film credit.  They didn’t just say “let’s do killer rats”.  No, they said, lets do The Road Warrior with killer rats.  We get a full on Mad Max-esque setting and characters to do a simple rats kill people movie.  It helps start the movie off with some fun, but ultimately can only masque for so long the kind of laughable schlock that this film actually is.

First off, some good.  The film really has some great sets (used the same lot as Once Upon A Time In America) and setting.  Its  really cool backdrop and setting.  The costumes, weapons and worn old abandoned buildings are really groovy.  Plus, while this is kind of a cheap crappy movie, somebody shot the hell out of it.  Its got some really great composition and lighting.  I was loving looking almost every frame and taking in a lot of these rooms and costumes.  There were some great ideas on display and a solid backstory, one has to wonder why they decided to waste this on killer rats.  It feels like there are better stories to be told in this universe.

As a midnight movie there is some fun to this.  There are many ridiculous scenes of fighting and getting scared of little measly rodents.  Ultimately though, this kind of wears off and the movie starts to feel pretty long and boring before third act brings a little change up to make it interesting again.  The characters here kind of feel like they’re all on the same page and some are hard to keep track of as a few look alike (we start out with around 11 of them).  They’re a rag tag group of bad guys and they get into their fare share of conflicts with each other.

Rats starts out as a sort of fun haunted house movie but then starts to go full rat and starts slugging around.  There’s an enjoyment to be found in the film’s first act with all the “discovery” going on, but during the second act it becomes pretty silly and laughable, but goes on too long becoming a bit boring.  I really enjoyed the production values on this one, but it winds up not being for one of the most enjoyable watches.

Hell 2

Video 

Encoding: AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I’m judging these videos as one because these transfers and quality look very much alike.  The only notable difference is some stock footage in ‘Hell’ but aside from that both are solid but unimpressive transfers.  There’s a dinginess to them and lack of strong color.  The image is sharp and pretty detailed, however.

Depth:  Some solid depth.  In Hell, scenes at the rig where the virus originates from looks pretty groovy.  Rats has some great scenes in the town upon arrival.

Black Levels:  Blacks appear a bit lighter and have just the most minor of crushing.  The appearance looks as if someone turned the brightness on the TV up.

Color Reproduction: Colors are really diluted and not too strong aside from reds which stick out.  This is typical of Italian horror though.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent.  Lots of detail, from facial knicks to scars and beads of sweat.  Closeups are pretty impressive.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain, but no real damage or anything else seen.

Rats 2

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  Solid track.  It gets the job done.  There’s a nice balance and variety in the action, dialogue and score.  The score might be the loudest, but its Goblin, so you kind of want that.  There are a few instances of peaking with some effects, but nothing distracting or consistent.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue has some hissing on the letter “S” but doesn’t have any other analog issue.  Its pretty loud and clear.  And yes, folks, this is dubbed.  But back in the day the Italian horror movies were made with the actors mouthing English words best they could to be dubbed later.  That’s why it may look right at times and dubbed at others.

Hell 1

Extras 

Both films are on a single BD-50.  The interview featurettes appear on both Hell and Rats’ menu screens, the trailers and images appear exclusive to each’s menu set.

Bonded By Blood (HD, 50:14) – Interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso And Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garafalo, Ottoviano Delli Acqua And Massimo Vanni.  Claudio takes up most of this look back, indulging in his career and friendship with Bruno Mattei.  One of the actors’ interviews is done via a Skype/Factime window which is pretty neat.

Hell Rats Of The Living Dead (SD, 8:39) – A vintage bonus feature that has the late director Bruno Mattei discussing these films and his career.

Hell Of The Living Dead

International Trailer (HD, 3:46)

Italian Trailer (HD, 3:47)

Poster And Still Gallery – 67 images of posters, vhs box art, behind the scenes images and promotional stills.

Rats: Night Of Terror

International Trailer #1 (HD, 2:09)

International Trailer #2 (HD, 3:54)

Italian Trailer (HD, 3:56)

Poster And Still Gallery – 62 images of posters, vhs box art, behind the scenes images and promotional stills.

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Summary 

Hell Of The Living Dead and Rats: A Night Of Terror come with a solid presentation and a nice little companion piece of extras to make this a solid release.  Most of picking this up really depends if you’re interested in these films though.  If you’re a fan of them, you know who you are, pick this up because you’ll really dig the transfers and bonus material.  If you’re a collector of this kind of horror, its a no-brainer.  If you’re not sure and you’ve not seen the films, definitely seek out viewing them first before you buy to see if this is your thing.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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