• Sun. Jun 4th, 2023

4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray movie reviews: ‘Cocaine Bear’ and ‘Rawhead Rex’


May 9, 2023


Here’s a look at a couple of far-fetched creature features now available on home theater disc formats.

Cocaine Bear: Maximum Rampage Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 95 minutes, $24.98) — Horror and dark humor collided in a bizarre film about a ferocious beast hooked on one of American’s favorite drugs.

Now available in Blu-ray disc format and barely (sorry) based on a real events, the title pretty much explains the violent story and certainly not much of a tale at that.

A black bear roaming around Blood Mountain, Georgia, consumes a stash of cocaine dumped from a plane by a crazed smuggler who is a minion of the famed drug kingpin Syd White (Ray Liotta).

White sends some of his fairly brain-dead men to retrieve the remaining bags of his prized commodity, and they run into a coked-up death machine that has already left its fatal mark on a small selection of the townsfolk.

Although the motion-captured, computer-generated apex predator is the star of the show, its performance is complemented by the cast that also includes Keri Russell (“The Americans”) as a desperate mom looking for her daughter taken by the bear, Alden Ehrenreich (“Han Solo”) as White’s son Eddie and a ferocious Margo Martindale (“Justified”) as Ranger Liz.

“Cocaine Bear” is unapologetically gory and goofy, with director Elizabeth Banks and her team relishing the opportunities to display torn and chewed appendages with blood and white powder to bathe them in.

Best extras: Viewers get to hear from Ms. Banks and her co-producing husband Max Handelman as they meanderingly and meticulously dissect this soon to be cult favorite.

Ms. Banks often speaks offering some black bear trivia, mentioning her love of horror movies, why she opened the movie with Jefferson Starship’s “Jane,” and the importance of recreating the real-life death and investigation of drug smuggler Andrew Thornton.

Also, the disc includes a pair of production featurettes (roughly 17 minutes in total) with the first featuring the cast and crew spending too much time congratulating one another; and the later, way more informative, focusing on bringing the motion-captured bear and some really gory scenes to the screen.

Rawhead Rex (Kino Lorber, rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 89 minutes, $39.95) — Director George Pavlou’s monstrous cinematic camp fest plucked from horror icon Clive Barker’s anthology series the “Books of Blood” gets much better treatment than deserved with the film’s release to the ultra-high definition format.

The 1986 Irish horror fantasy focused on a demon nicknamed Rawhead going on a killing rampage across an idyllic forested countryside and trailer park after getting accidentally released from an eternal prison.

The action is impossible to take seriously with a human obviously stuffed into a ridiculous costume and wearing a rubbery chest and mask one might find in a seasonal Halloween store.

The lowlights of the film include the cheesy monster, Rawhead, dragging a woman out of her clothes from a trailer (totally pointless and inappropriate) and the creature urinating on one of its new followers as a sort of disgusting baptism. Yeah, that’s about as bad form as it gets, even if it’s from Mr. Barker’s demented brain.

The movie gets a new, unholy restoration from the original camera negative making the epic a nearly perfectly clear and toned visual masterpiece and, by far, the best it’s ever going to look.

The screen-filling clarity also exposes in too much detail the poor effects associated with the monster and its demise. However, moments that do shine include some panoramic shots of Ireland and the Dublin mountainside and multiple scenes featuring red beams shooting from the eyes of an illustrated beast etched into a stained glass window in a church.

For as much as one might fondly embrace the words “cult classic” next to “Rawhead Rex,” it’s a movie that surely deserves a serious mocking on a Saturday session with your favorite late-night horror host.

Best extras: Kino Lorber treats the film like a home theater re-release of “Citizen Kane” and packs it with digital goodies.

On both the 4K and Blu-ray disc, start with a 2017 optional commentary track with the director interviewed by horror movie historian Stephen Thrower. He really does a great job of guiding Mr. Pavlou’s memories to offer nonstop stories from the set and plenty of narrative and production notes.

Move to the Blu-ray disc for both new and older interviews with cast and crew (more than 100 minutes), most culled from the 2017 high definition release.

Specifically, watch the grown-up child actors from the film, Hugh O’Conor and Cora Venus Lunny; composer Colin Towns; actor Ronan Wilmot (church assistant and Rawhead minion); and the effects crew (special effects supervisor Gerry Johnson, creature effects artists Peter Mackenzie Litten and John Schroonraad, second unit cameraman Sean Corcoran, and makeup artist Rosie Blackmore).

I also enjoyed an extended talk with the man in the monster suit Heinrich von Bünau (subtitled) who gushed about hanging out with U2 at the hotel he was training at.

And, spend some quality time with legendary comic book artist Stephen R. Bissette (Saga of the Swamp Thing and Tyrant).

He discusses an abandoned sequential art adaptation of the movie (amidst displays of unused sketches featuring a feral and ferocious Rawhead) while also remembering Mr. Barker’s “Books of Blood” and his interpretation of the Rawhead story.


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