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Maple Pictures' July '07 Releases

Brutal (August 3/07)

Brutal is the latest amateurish and flat-out awful straight-to-video horror flick from Maple Pictures, and - judging from the DVD's artwork - the studio is clearly looking to trick potential viewers with an absolutely unwarranted comparison to Hostel and Silence of the Lambs (that Brutal has nothing in common with either of those films goes without saying). Written and directed by Ethan Wiley, the movie follows two cops (Sarah Thompson's Zoe and Jeffrey Combs' Jimmy) as they attempt to find and capture a deadly serial killer with a penchant for riddles. Infused with murky visuals and low-rent production values, Brutal comes off as a thoroughly unpleasant piece of work right from the get-go - with the film's various problems exacerbated by Wiley's apparent inability to write convincing dialogue or create interesting characters. The inclusion of several eye-rollingly absurd twists - ie a laughable revelation involving Combs' Jimmy - does the movie absolutely no favors, and while several of the actors try their best to inject the material with flashes of life, there's simply no denying Thompson has been woefully miscast as a grizzled cop with anger issues. Far more problematic (and insulting) is the complete and utter lack of gore, and one suspects that even Wiley himself would be hard-pressed to offer up a hearty recommendation for the film.

out of


The Monster Squad (August 3/07)

Though it does possess an amiable vibe and a number of genuinely funny bits of dialogue (ie "wolfman's got nards!"), The Monster Squad hasn't aged all that well in the years since its 1987 release and there's ultimately little doubt that the film has far more to offer lifelong fans than neophytes. The storyline - which follows several friends as they attempt to stop legendary creatures such as Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster from taking over the world - has been peppered with a number of silly asides and needless subplots, while the child actors are almost uniformly ineffective (ie it's not difficult to see why most of these people have faded into obscurity). There's a playfulness within Shane Black and Fred Dekker's screenplay that often elevates the proceedings, although - despite their best efforts - the movie is never quite able to maintain the free-wheeling, adventurous vibe of such similarly-themed '80s efforts as The Goonies and Gremlins. That being said, the climactic battle is admittedly quite thrilling and the whole thing is never boring exactly - yet, when everything's said and done, one can't help but wonder how it is that such an underwhelming film has engendered such a passionate following.

out of

About the DVDs: Maple Pictures presents both films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Brutal only comes with a commentary track and a behind-the-scenes featurette, The Monster Squad has been overloaded with bonus features (the two-disc DVD contains two commentaries, a lengthy and comprehensive featurette, deleted scenes, a stills gallery, and much more).