• Unmasked Part 25 (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 29th, 2019.
    Director: Anders Palm
    Cast: Gregory Cox, Fiona Evans, Edward Brayshaw, Debbie Lee London, Annabel Yuresha
    Year: 1988
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    Unmasked Part 25 – Movie Review:

    Directed by Swedish filmmaker Anders Palm and released in 1988, this British slasher/horror/comedy follows a hockey-mask-clad man named Jackson (Gregory Cox) who, when the film begins, is systematically killing his way through a house full of horny, new wave, art school types. When he gets to one of his last victims, an attractive girl with silver hair (Annabel Yuresha), he slowly sways, holding her corpse in his arms, after brutally killing her. Jackson, it would seem, is sad.

    But when it comes time to kill Shelly (Fiona Evans), something happens. She’s blind and assumes not that he’s a maniacal killing machine but in fact the guy she’s been setup with. He grunts at her and she at first assumes that he’s mute. He isn’t, and they hit it off. Being blind, she isn’t repulsed by his mangled face and they get to know each other and hit it off. He tells her of his terrible upbringing, his abusive father, how everyone thought he drowned in a lake as a kid and how he’s killed a lot of camp counselors over the years and she tells him of her own problems. As Shelly begins to get to know the real Jackson, he struggles with his innate desire to hack and slash as he sees fit, trying to keep those impulses in check while figuring out how to satisfy his new girlfriend’s kinkier side in the bedroom.

    Occasionally reminiscent in some ways of The Toxic Avenger (Jackson’s face kind of looks like Toxie’s and then there’s the whole relationship with the blind girlfriend thing), Unmasked Part 25 (or Hand Of Death, which is the title card used on the transfer for this release) works far better than it probably had any right to. Although the focus of the film is very definitely on the relationship between our two leads, which is played pretty straight for the most part, the film offers up some decent laughs and some surprisingly intense gore effects. Pacing might through off those wanting a straight-ahead slasher but as the story plays out, Jackson and Shelly become rather endearing and if you let yourself get caught up in their collective plight, this turns out to be quite an enjoyable picture.

    The makeup effects used on Jackson’s face are pretty decent. There are a few spots in the film where you can see the area around his eyes underneath the latex, but otherwise, they’re effective and also allow him to speak quite clearly (and very eloquently at times!). Gregory Cox, who has done a lot of work in British television over the years, has the perfect voice to bring Jackson to life and he’s big enough and physically intimidating enough to make his take on Jason Jackson effective as a killing machine. Fiona Evens is also well-cast. She’s pretty and cute and nice, the very opposite of Jackson, but by being herself is able to bring out a softer side in him as the story progresses. Edward Brayshaw, who late sixties Doctor Who fans might recognize, has a good supporting role as Jackson’s scummy father.

    The film was made on a modest budget but it’s got some decent style to it. The camerawork is quite good and there’s a lot of nice, colorful lighting employed here. The sex and violence quotient gives the film some cheap thrills, and it builds to a pretty satisfying and poignant conclusion.

    Unmasked Part 25 – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Unmasked Part 25 to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the universe ‘Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm internegative’ framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. There are some small white specks here and there but otherwise no real print damage to note. Colors are reproduced very nicely and the image, while naturally grainy, shows very good detail, depth and texture. There area no noticeable problems with any compression artifacts and the transfer retains its filmic qualities, showing no noise reduction or edge enhancement problems at all.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track on the disc, in the film’s native English, is solid. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The dialogue is clear and nicely balanced and the score sounds fine. There are no problems with any hiss, distortion or sibilance.

    The first of the two audio commentary tracks found on the disc features director Anders Palm and moderated David Flint. It’s an interesting talk that sees Palm start off by talking about how he got into filmmaking, his training and then deciding to make a horror picture for commercial purposes. We learn about how the film was financed, why different locations were chosen, casting the picture, some of the effects work in the film, how it was received, what some of the cast and crew have been associated with before and after this project and more. The participants on the second audio commentary are producer Mark Cutforth and moderators Peter Kuplowsky and Justin Decloux of Laser Blast Film Society. Cutforth speaks about how he came to team up with Palms before making this picture, where the idea for the film came from, cashing in on the popular slasher movie craze, his thoughts on how the picture turned out and quite a bit more. Both of these are interesting.

    Aside from that, the disc also contains a stills gallery, the film’s original trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, we get some nice reversible cover artwork that’s worth pointing out. If you purchase the disc directly from Vinegar Syndrome (which you can do here), the first 2000 copies come with a very nice limited-edition slipcover from Earl Kesller Jr). As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration and featuring extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc.

    Unmasked Part 25 – The Final Word:

    Unmasked Part 25 is a bit of a gem, really, so long as you know what you’re getting into. While it definitely offers up some solid murder set pieces and plays to slasher movie tropes, the emphasis in the film is definitely on the relationship that blossoms between Jackson and Shelly. It’s never scary, even when it is gory, but it is occasionally pretty funny and surprisingly well-acted. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray presents this quirky little picture in great shape, with fine audio and two solid audio commentary tracks. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Unmasked Part 25 Blu-ray screen caps!