Vinegar Syndrome

Black Friday 2018

Mausoleum, The Children, Cutting Class, Sudden Fury, Beware my Brethren






 Vinegar Syndrome became one of my favorite boutique distributors of classic cult and exploitation cinema right from their very start. They have always done excellent work on the restoration front (seriously, they are one of the best in the business today), and also with excellent packaging, extras, and a large selection of films that should get the most hardened cult film fanatic excited. One of the most unique and fun things about the label are their twice annual sales, Black Friday and Halfway to Black Friday sales, where the label releases a pair of titles that are hinted at, but not revealed until the morning of the sale. Like most fans, this gets me excited, as I never know what to expect. This year when the Black Friday titles arrived in my mailbox, I had to laugh, as these are two of the most desired titles I've seen them put out in recent years during one of these sales, and are sure to please fans.

The two Black Friday titles are  1983's supernatural slasher Mausoleum, and 1980's highly requested kids on an undead rampage film, The Children. Aside from those 2 we also have 3 other titles from the label out this month that are sure to get fans jumping in Cutting Class, Beware My Brethren, and Sudden Fury.




Director: Michael Dugan

Cast: Bobbie Bresee, Marjoe Gortner

Country of Origin: US

Writer: Scott MacDonald


    While attending the funeral of her Mother, 10 year old Susan runs off, and ends up in a mausoleum.   While bathed in the Argento-esque green light of the mausoleum, a demon appears to her, and possesses her like it has the women for each generation of her family. The film than cuts ahead over a decade. Susan is now married (to Marjoe Gortner!), and while visiting her Mother's grave seemingly has the possession fully enacted.   Her behavior begins to shift, and her husband, and the Aunt who raised her implore her to seek the help of a therapist. Unfortunately, for them therapy is the last thing that is going to help Susan, and she begins a demonic killing spree in her suburban neighborhood.

    OK, so I'll cut to the chase. If you love fun, violent, and just plain eccentric horror cinema 1983's Mausoleum is an absolute must buy. This film is pretty much tailor-made for fans of the genre, as it's loaded up with wall to wall violence, great practical FX both in the death scenes, and the demonic creation that Susan becomes while possessed. These are, of course, courtesy of special FX maestro John Carl Buechler, who was just making a name for himself at this point. The film itself is extremely well-directed by Michael Dugan, who keeps things well paced, and balances a look between natural and supernatural quite well.

    Vinegar Syndrome give a quite solid 1080p AVC encoded transfer to the film. Everything here looks quite solid, and natural with the grain field being strong and natural, details being solid, blacks are nice and deep. There are some source related issues, but overall Mausoleum has never looked so good.  The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA mono track in English and sounds similar fantastic.  Extras include an interview with John Carl Buechler, TV Spots, Trailers, and a promo gallery.

The Film 5/5

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2/5)



The Children

Director: Max Kalmanowicz

Cast: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers

Country of Origin: US

Writer: Scott MacDonald


    The Children takes place in the rural community of Ravensback. A gas leak at the Nuclear Power Plant causes  toxic smoke to leak into part of the community. As victims of truly unfortunate timing, a school bus containing 5 children is passing through the area, and gets blasted by the toxic smoke. The bus is found later totally abandoned setting off a search by the local Sheriff's department.   When they are found, the bus driver's body has been violently destroyed and the children are seemingly undead with black fingernails. Anyone these children touch meltdown almost instantly.

    The Children is one of those great Troma pick-ups, that has long needed a Blu-ray release. Troma for many years had a reputation as having few good films outside of the Kaufman/Herz oeuvre, but it seems as time passes fans have picked up on Troma obscures such as this one, and for good reason. The Children is a solid, fun ride of a film. The film has some genuine shocks in here, and the premise of pint-sized zombies causing people to melt is a pretty novel and fun one.  Its been about 10 years since I last watched the Children, but it was every bit as fun as I remember it.

     There are slow parts, but it has a nice regional horror atmosphere going for it.   The score is by Friday the 13th's Harry Manfredini, and is quite similar to his score for the first Friday the 13th film, but it works quite well here. The performances are actually quite solid as well, which is difficult to pull off with child actors in the best of settings, let alone when filmmakers are forced to cast their own children in roles.

    Vinegar Syndrome uses 2 different sources to bring the most complete version of the Children to Blu-ray. A 35mm negative, and a print to fill in the gaps. As such it's not a perfect looking experience, but it is a massive upgrade from what Troma did before (I bet you're not surprised to read that). Detail is quite solid, colors look natural, though there are shifts in tone between the print source and negative, but VS do quite solid work in keeping things looking similar throughout. The English audio track sounds quite solid, with no obvious issues. Extras include  2 commentary tracks, a making of, a then and now featurette showing off locations, the audio from a lost scene, and a bunch of archival interviews and featurettes.

The Film (4/5)

Audo/Video (3.5/5)

Extras (4/5)



Cutting Class

Director: Rospo Pallenberg

Cast: Jill Schoelen, Donovan Leitch

Country of Origin: US

Writer: Scott MacDonald


    Paula (Jill Schoelen) is left by her attorney Father home alone, while he goes hunting in the country for a few days.  Jill currently attends high school, and is quite the prize for the boys in her class, as she has 2 of them vying for her attention, bad boy jock Dwight in an early role by Brad Pitt, and the recently released from a mental institution (talk about a red herring) Brian (Donovan Leitch). On top of being home alone, and the attention she is getting from the boys, a series of murders begin to happen. Has Brian begun to murder or is Dwight losing his mind and going kill-crazy?

    Cutting Class is interesting in a few respects. It has a cast that is made up of a who's who of great actors, alongside Pitt, who had yet to become a name with Thelma and Louise and True Romance we have Jill Schoelen, Donovan Leitch, Malcolm McDowell and many more. You would think that with all this star power in your film, Cutting Class would be more interesting than it is, but it really isn't. The film is played off like a body-count style slasher film, and in some ways it is, but it feels tepid and restrained by genre standards.  That being said it has some nice shifts in tone, and surprises in the plot that make it a reasonably interesting watch.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Cutting Class in a very nice 1080p AVC encoded transfer taken from a 35mm negative source.  The Blu-ray looks very film like with nice stable color, and details, with grain coming through strong and naturally. the DTS-HD mono track works well in service to the picture, and I could find no issues. Extras include a commentary by the Hysteria Continues, an audio interview with the director, an audio interview with the cinematographer,  interviews with Jill Schoelen and Donovan Leitch, and an R-Rated version of the film.  There is also a theatrical trailer.

The Film (2/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (4/5)


Sudden Fury

Director: Brian Damude

Cast: Dominic Hogan, Gay Rowan

Country of Origin: Canada

Writer: Scott MacDonald

    Sudden Fury was the real surprise of the bunch for me in this lot. The film follows Fred (Dominic Hogan) and Janet (Gay Rowan). The pair are driving through the country side, to a location that Fred hopes to build an inn on using Janet’s private fortune.  After being refused his request Janet admits she is having an affair, at this point Fred decides to run their car off the road. Fred leaves the car, and Janet to die. However, Janet is later found by Al, a person they nearly hit with the car earlier, and he rescues her from the wreckage. Now the two find themselves entangled in a scenario with Fred, and the couple who he ends up staying with in a farmhouse nearby, tensions escalate, violence occurs, people die, and it's not as straight-forward as one would expect.

    Sudden Fury is GREAT. I sort of expected a regional exploitation oddity with this one, and what I got was a low-budget, well plotted thriller. This film has so many nifty twist and turns throughout that fans will certainly be glued to their seat for the duration.  The violence in the film is never excessive, but it definitely packs a punch.

     Vinegar Syndrome presents a 1080p AVC encoded restore from a 16mm negative. As such it looks pretty great, and honestly betrays the 16mm origin of the piece. Detail is excellent, grain is natural, but not excessive, and colors are stable.  Extras include a director commentary,  isolated score, trailer, and more.

The Film (4.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2.5/5)



Beware my Brethren

Director - Robert Hartford-Davies

Cast: Tony Beckley, Ann Todd

Country of Origin: U.K.

Writer: Scott MacDonald


    Vinegar Syndrome have stated that they are going to be releasing more Euro films in the next years, and the work they've done on the ones they have done already, has gotten me excited. Beware my Brethren was a title unfamiliar to me, when I put the Blu-ray into my player but as soon as I saw the name Robert Hartford-Davies I knew I was in for something special as the director had previously done the Peter Cushing film Corruption, and the more traditional British gothic horror The Black Torment (such a great title).

    The film follows Kenny a security guard by day, and a religious psychopath by night. He belongs to a congregation of the strictest morals presided over by  someone known as the Minister (Patrick Magee). This congregation is known as the Brethren, and has driven Kenny to kill anyone he deems to break the Brethren's moral code.  He also tape records these murders and listens to them. Things  shift when Kenny's mother, Birdy, gets a new nurse who also is an undercover agent reporting on cults, and begins to make the connection between the pair and their church.

    Beware My Brethren is a nasty little British creeper that would fit right at home along with the work of Norman J. Warren, but more specifically Pete Walker. I would further, say this would run as a great double feature with Walker's House of Mortal Sin (The Confessional). The film has a great grimy, nasty, claustrophobic atmosphere, and its status as an undersign oddity can only be explained by its lack of an uncut release (until now). Redemption released a DVD of the film as "The Fiend," which was cut,  but VS managed to secure the full-strength version of the film for their release, and it makes quite the impact. The film has a solid atmosphere, and is well-directed by Hartford-Davies.  The cast do similarly well with the material, of course Magee is the standout here, but that's no surprise.

   Vinegar Syndrome present Beware My Brethren in a very nice 1080p AVC encoded transfer struck from the original negative materials. Black levels are inky and deep, colors pop, everything here looks excellent, The English audio track sound similarly solid, and well restored.  Extras include a fantastic commentary by Diabolique's Samm Deighan who goes in depth on the film, its history, its social subtext, and much more.  There is also a comparison featurette between the UK and Uncut version, and a trailer.

The Film (5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2.5/5)