SHOCK FESTIVAL is a 3-disc set offering over 7 hours of grindhouse-themed content, aimed at complementing Stephen Romano's acclaimed 2008 book of the same name.

In the book, Romano - a skilled painter (check out his cover art for the original SLIME CITY DVD release, in the SGM reviews section) and author who is also notable for having co-written the screenplay for the Don Coscarelli-helmed Masters Of Horror episode "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" - concocted a whole slew of fake exploitation films that he then reviewed, created poster artwork for and even offered synopses, background histories and cast listings for each of his faux films.

This generous set does a spiffing job of providing a further visual (and aural) accompaniment that works alongside Romano's stunning artwork and design in his book, along with dishing up an obscene amount of vintage thrills for our added viewing pleasure.

It all kicks off on disc 1 with some very interesting new 'trailers' for some of the 'films' covered in "Shock Festival" ...

The 15 films/trailers run in succession and last a total of 33 minutes. Having been doctored to give them a deliberate, battered old grindhouse look and feel, it's worth noting that all trailers here - despite being new - are covered in specks, vertical lines, grain etc. They look great, in their own scuzzy way.

Things begin with the brief, spastically edited ATTACK OF THE SADISTIC KILLER. Plenty of blood punctuates this one, along with a fantastic punky score and some serious eyeball violence.

Then there's the less successful but no less entertaining TENTACLES IN A TWISTED DEATHDREAM, which intersperses some enjoyable stock war footage with new gore scenes and a ludicrous monologue from the lead character. Great title, though.

Zombies Romero-style abound in the authentic-looking TOOLSHED OF THE LIVING DEAD. I really wish this mix of CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and THE EVIL DEAD was a real film!

GIRLKILLER is directed by Fangoria's own Michael Gingold and is energetic, gory stuff (they're all righteously gory affairs, it has to be said). A great surprise in this one is seeing Ian McCulloch (ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS; CONTAMINATION) pop us as a detective on the trail of the titular murderous vixen. Though little more than a high-octane montage of dialogue-free gore scenes, this looks fabulous in it's own right and, again, my heart bleeds that this isn't advertising a genuine film.

THE GHOST OF THE RAVEN is directed by TOOLSHED maestro Chris LaMartina, but with less impact.

EVOLVER came and went without really grabbing my attention, while DEVIL SISTER is possibly the pick of the bunch. It tells a great yarn in the space of a couple of minutes, delivers the 70s-style grue in spades and left me hungry for more. Directed by Paige Davis, who was also instrumental in getting this 3-disc set together with Romano and Alternative Cinema head honcho Mike Raso.

DARK NIGHT OF THE DEMON HOUSE looks the most authentic of the lot, until the broad performances start to wink at their audience. Still, it's an interesting take on THE EXORCIST ...

WARPMONSTER could've been fun, were it not so fleeting. DEAD BUGS ON THE CARPET (a riff on a certain Argento classic ...) fares better.

I HATE YOUR GUTS! is a 1-minute homage to rape-revenge flicks directed by Romano and looks like it could be bloody good fun, should he ever feel the need to expand it to feature length.

DEAD BUGS ON THE CARPET 2 looks like a naff mix of giallo and slasher, and something that - had it been real - I'd probably be actively seeking it out on DVD right now.

THEY MADE ME has a John Waters edginess to its performances and script, before wallowing in more agreeable OTT grisliness.

THINKING MAN'S GUN begins with the good old text intro before impressing deeply by being the darkest and longest new 'preview' on offer. It's pretty brutal too.

The films all come with optional commentary from Romano.

Following on from the "All New Trailers" on disc one is the excellent "Exploitation Trailer Marathon" vault. This throws no less than a staggering 47 original (and genuine) trailers at us. They can be viewed in a single run via a "Play All" function or accessed individually by way of a secondary menu page. There is a fantastic selection of wild and wacky titles offered here. They range from more well-known cult titles such as FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE, CINDERELLA 2000 and VICE SQUAD, through to more obscure titles like SEVEN DWARFS TO THE RESCUE, and the frankly insane-looking RAW FORCE ("The Greatest Movie Ever Made", according to Romano's liner notes in the enclosed booklet - more on that below).

Blacksploitation, porno and just plain old violent B-movie fare are the order of the day here - and it's hard not to love every funky groove, each sensationalistic voiceover and every choice clip of contentious dialogue as they vomit out of the screen at you in rapid succession.

Better still, this trailer marathon comes with two audio commentary tracks. The first is from a highly excitable and unquestionably sincere fanboy Romano. The second is equally excitable - and profane - and comes courtesy of Dread Central's curiously named Uncle Creepy. Although Creepy pauses a little too much to savour the trailers himself, he has a slightly clearer tone that's easier to decipher than Romano's. Regardless, both tracks are insightful, funny and often irreverent.

Fans of Easter Eggs will be delighted to stumble across "hidden" trailers for FIVE BLOODY GRAVES, BOTTOMS UP, THE HOUSE OF TERROR ('Featuring "The Werewolf"!'), MONDO CANE 1 & 2 (a 10-second spot advertising a double-bill of both films), THE DYNAMITE BROTHERS, FIRE AND ICE and monochrome pisstake THEN CAME THE YAWN.

Disc 2 continues the party in fine style with three more trailer vaults:

"The Ultimate Horror Trailer Marathon" contains 38 titles, including a fair few from Blue Underground's catalogue. It kicks off with the superb trailer for PIECES and ends with the preposterous selling of BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR, a trailer that Romano cites as being possibly his all-time favourite. It is indeed hilarious purely for the salivating narration (voiceover man was either wanking or passing a huge turd while recording his lines for this one).

In-between, we're treated to everything from THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and DEAD AND BURIED, through to SNUFF and CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN.

Again, a menu page allows you to either "Play All" or watch each trailer individually. Uncle Creepy and Romano provide rabid commentary tracks once more.

The second trailer vault, "Television Spectacular", is a gathering of 36 rare US TV spots. They race by too quickly, but they're enormous fun and includes titles such as SUSPIRIA, ROLLERBALL, THE BROOD, BEYOND THE DOOR 2, OLD DRACULA, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN.

"The Trailers Of Independent International Pictures" is a most welcome addition to the set, offering a selection of 11 IIP trailers - including MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, SATAN'S SADISTS and BRAIN OF BLOOD - and a great 8-minute interview with IIP president Sam Sherman.

An Easter Egg is present on disc 2 in the form of a short trailer for BLOOD DRINKERS with forced commentary from Sherman. He speaks graciously about how his career formed, and his affection for the trash he's most renowned for. It's a good supplement and Sherman's pet dog, who sits patiently beside him, seems canny.

Finally we get a 7-minute gallery of artwork from "Shock Festival", set to music by Dead House Music. The poster art for these fake films is genius, and someone needs to sign Romano up to design their DVD covers - new releases have such boring designs and artwork nowadays, as this stunning gallery proves.

But wait, it doesn't end there. Disc 3 is an audio CD that provides 290 original radio spots as mp3 files. These were kindly donated to the set by long-term collector Justin Dunnuck who, unbelievably, collated many of these fine audio samples on 45rpm vinyl!

Beginning with VISITING HOURS and racing through everything from TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and BLOOD ROSE, these are immensely enjoyable - and frequently rib-tickling - relics that I feel privileged to have been given access to.

TWISTED NERVE, NIGHT SCHOOL, COFFY, FEMALES FOR HIRE, RAW MEAT, VIGILANTE, THE SINFUL DWARF, TWINS OF EVIL, IT'S ALIVE ... I can't type out the entire list but, believe me, it's incredible.

Remastered by Dunnuck himself, they're all in surprisingly clean, clear condition and will leave you exhausted but with a very definite smile on your face. Amazing stuff, and arguably worth the price of this entire set alone. As Romano suggests in the accompanying booklet, these would be very cool when uploaded on to your ipod ...

Also included on disc 3 are "musical tributes" from Mars and Dead House Music.

Colourful animated menus grace each of the DVD discs, while the trailers are all presented in different aspect ratios with original English 2.0 soundtracks intact. Picture quality varies wildly throughout, of course, but by-and-large viewers can look forward to a healthy amount of print damage, vertical lines and dirt on the screen. Or "jazz" as Romano likes to call it.

The picture quality shouldn't be a concern - these trailers are meant to look ropy: it's an inherent part of their charm, and indeed of stumbling across any lost relic from the halcyon days of madcap grindhouse cinema. That's why we love After Hours Cinema so much, and why we are quite prepared to sit through even the most abysmal prints just to get our hands on the latest wacky product from someone like Something Weird Video.

In this instance, Shock-O-Rama have culled trailers from the likes of Blue Underground, Grindhouse Releasing and Media Blasters. The result is a fantastic piece of teamwork that has produced the biggest single pit-stop for classic grindhouse trailers yet.

This impressive package is rounded off by a colourful 12-page booklet with great artwork and extremely proud liner notes from Romano, plus a fold-out poster of the man's own luscious handiwork. Nice stuff.

As much fun as the new specifically created trailers for bogus films are, it's the massive selection of genuine archive trailers that make this set truly desirable. With great extras and fantastic packaging to boot, this comes highly recommended.

And for the sake of completion, here's a list of all the "genuine" trailers people can look forward to on this sterling set:

Treasure of the 4 crowns/Vice Squad/Cornbread Earl & Me/Black Samurai/Grimm's Fairytales/Dynamite Brothers/Flesh Gordon/Conquest/Delirium/Amazon Jail/Beyond Atlantis/Sadomania/Challenge to be free/Venom/Raw Force/Gone with the pope/Black heat/The House Of Terror/Mondo Cane 1&2 double-bill/Starstruck/Last Days of Man on Earth/Avalanche Express/Cinderella 2000/Titillation/Flesh and Lace/Mysterious Island/Circle of iron/Smithereens/Fantastic planet/The Loveless/Sexy Dozen/2069 a Sex Odyssey/Raiders of Letye Gulf/Scum of the earth/Venus in furs/Female animal/7 Dwarves to the rescue/Fighting rats of Tobruk/Fight for your life/Fast company/Grand Slam/Space Raiders/Final Countdown/Captain America/Cannonball/Killer Force/King Kong Vs Godzilla/Africa Blood & Guts/Mad Doctor of Blood Island/Brides of Blood/Satan's Sadists/Angel's Wild Women/Horror of the Blood Monsters/Girls for rent/Naughty Stewardesses/Brain of blood/Blazing stewardesses/Blood Drinkers/The Stuff/Pieces/Snuff/Beyond The Gate/Pranks/Burnt offerings/Dead & Buried/Blood-spattered Bride/I Dismember Mama/House by the Cemetery/Great White/Cat o'nine Tails/Saturn 3/God Told Me To/Crazies/Toolbox Murders/Q/Grizzly/Don't Look In The Basement/Hell Night/Satan's Black Wedding/Black Belly of the Tarantula/Invasion of the Bee Girls/Maniac/Banana Monster/Dead of night/Carnival of blood/Curse of the Headless Horseman/Mark of the Devil/Bloodsucking Freaks/Deep red/The Comeback/The Curse/Autopsy/Daughters of Darkness/Shock Waves/The Illustrated Man/Fifth Cord/Seven Doors of Death/Blood of Ghastly Horror/Fire and Ice/Bottoms Up/Five Bloody Graves.


Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Bloody Earth Films
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review