• Kadaicha / Innocent Prey



    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: August 2nd, 2017.
    Director: James Bogle/Colin Eggleston
    Cast: Zoe Carides, Tom Jennings, Eric Oldfield/P.J. Soles, Kit Taylor, Grigor Taylor
    Year: 1988/1984
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    The Movie:

    Two Ozploitation horror rarities make it to DVD for the first time anywhere courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.

    Kadaicha:

    Also known as Stones Of Death, Kadaicha was directed by James Bogle, his first feature film, and penned by Ian Coughlan, the man who gave the world the wonky 1981 Australian horror picture Alison’s Birthday. The story borrows elements from Poltergeist in that it deals with the residents of a newly built suburban housing development that has been constructed overtop of an ancient Aboriginal burial ground set on the scenic Australian coast.

    Within this suburb live a group of teenagers who all start to experience the same dream wherein they find themselves wandering around inside a creepy old cave with a bunch of somewhat sinister looking cave drawings inside. When these characters wake up and find a stone on their pillow, they learn that they’ve been marked for death by the Kadaicha Man, an undead Aboriginal elder who is clearly upset that the sacred burial ground of his people has been built over! One by one the ‘teens’ start getting killed off in increasingly gruesome (and admittedly very creative) ways… leaving the kids with no one to turn for help but the descendent of an Aboriginal shaman.

    Kadaicha is a pretty interesting film, blending teen horror and slasher elements into its plot rather well and making great use of a rather unorthodox digeridoo-heavy soundtrack. The murder set pieces are the best part of the movie, they’re quite interesting and rather bizarre, highlighted by a sequence that takes place in a library where a spider manages to attach itself to a character’s eye! We also get death by lawnmower, death by dog and death by giant snake. A subplot about one of the male characters trying to ‘make it’ as a guitar player adds nothing of interest to the plot but it does allow for some impromptu wailing now and again for whatever that’s worth.

    The casting isn’t so spot on. While the actors that play the teenagers do a decent enough job in their respective roles, they don’t really look a whole lot younger than the cast members tasked with playing their parents, but hey, it’s an eighties horror film, we can forgive these things. The Aboriginal characters are more interesting. They have a very mystic quality to them that makes them interesting to watch. The film’s politics are a mess, simultaneously damning the white suburbanites for building where they did and treating the Aborigine who helps the kids as a bit of a boogeyman in his own right, but again, it was the eighties. Best not to think too hard about this aspect of the movie lest it all fall apart and don’t expect much in the way of character development here. Some pacing problems hurt this picture but fans of eighties horror who can appreciate an Australian twist on some genre clichés will get a kick out of it so long as expectations are held in check.

    Innocent Prey:

    The second film tells the story of a married woman named Cathy (P.J. Soles ) who lives in Dallas and becomes suspicious of her husband Joe's (Kit Taylor) recent need to work late into the night. Unsure what it is that he’s really up to, so soon finds his car parked outside a sleazy hotel. Curious, Cathy peeps in on her beau and finds him with a prostitute – but it’s not what she thinks. Joe isn’t there to sleep with this woman of the night, he’s there to slash her up with a razor!

    Soon enough, thanks to the efforts of Sheriff Virgil Baker (Martin Balsam), Joe’s murderous impulses are put to bed when he’s locked away in a mental hospital. Cathy does her best to move on with her life and winds up living in Australia. It isn’t long before her troubles begin anew, however, when her landlord, a wealthy young man named Phillip (John Warnock), starts spying on her, clearly obsessed with his pretty tenant in some rather unhealthy ways… and then Joe escapes from the asylum!

    Made a few years before it was released but shelved for legal reasons, this one builds nicely but loses it a bit at the end. P.J Soles, obviously immortalized by her appearances in both Rock N Roll High School and Halloween, is quite good here (even if her eighties era poodle perm is God awful!) as our damsel in permanent distress and it’s fun to see Martin Balsam play the cop. Kit Taylor (who popped up in Newsfront, released on DVD by Blue Underground some time ago and who had a supporting role in the excellent The Devil’s Garden) steals a few scenes as the slash-happy hooker hating husband while John Warnock does fine as the sleazy landlord.

    The murder set pieces in the film are appropriately bloody and the movie is nicely shot. The soundtrack isn’t bad and director Colin Eggleston, who gave us the amazing Long Weekend and the Aussie sexploitation picture Fantasm Comes Again, keeps things moving at a good pace. All in all, this is a pretty fun watch. You get the impression that Eggleston and company are having fun with slasher conventions while also playing towards them. This isn’t the bloodiest picture to ever grace the screen, so gore hounds might walk away disappointed, but it makes up for that with some wonky ideas and inspired creativity.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both of these have been transferred from old analogue tape sources, seemingly the only elements available to Umbrella for this release. Both are presented in 1.33.1 fullframe. Kadaicha is in pretty rough shape, there’s obvious banding, tape roll and other obvious source related problems and the image is quite soft with fairly intense color fading. Innocent Prey fares better, showing decent colors and better detail, but again, it’s tape sourced so it’s only going to look so good and darker scenes tend to get pretty muddy. To Umbrella’s credit they have been upfront about the source material issue in their marketing materials for this release and have also called it out on the back of the packaging.

    English language Dolby Digital Stereo tracks are presented for both films, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here. Again, the first film has issues. Dialogue is a bit muffled and soft and occasionally a little tough to make out. There’s also some audible echo in spots. Innocent Prey sounds alright, you can understand the performers without any issue and there are no noticeable problems with hiss or distortion.

    Aside from trailers for each feature (the trailer for Kadaicha looks like a low quality Youtube rip) and static menus, the main feature on the disc is Looking Back On Innocent Pray: A Conversation With P.J. Soles, a half hour long interview with the film’s leading lady. This featurette is really solid. Here the still incredibly charming Ms. Soles talks about how she landed a role in an Australian film, her thoughts on working with Colin Eggleston, working on the film while pregnant and quite a bit more. She looks back on this period in her life really fondly and has some interesting stories to tell.

    The Final Word:

    Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD release of Kadaicha and Innocent Prey isn’t going to win any awards for video quality but it does offer up two genuinely tough to find and legitimately entertaining Australian lensed horror pictures from the eighties at a fair price. Despite the rough quality, we do at least get a really fun interview with P.J. Soles included as the main extra.