Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CLOWNTOWN (2016)


USA/2016
Directed By: Tom Nagel
Written By: Jeff Miller
Starring: Brian Nagel, Lauren Compton, Andrew Staton
In Theaters: September 30, 2016
VOD Release Date: October 4, 2016

Four friends on their way to a concert get stranded in a small town that has been left mostly deserted after a train wreck caused most jobs to close up and most families to leave. The group is stalked by a gang of psychopaths dressed as clowns and fight to survive the night and escape the town.

CLOWNTOWN is one of several horror films featuring killer clowns being released in 2016 and will undoubtedly be compared to the rest, that's just how it goes. CLOWNTOWN uses a formulaic slasher film approach with almost as many villains as victims. The makeup design for the clowns are all distinct yet effectively simple and creepy while the "Baseball Clown" is the scariest clown since Pennywise. His look reminds me of a deranged crackhead child from Marilyn Manson and Dee Snider. The character design of the clowns is easily my favorite aspect of CLOWNTOWN.


The film is marred by awkward editing and an ongoing feel of scenes reminiscent of the "meanwhile..." cutaways in comic books. It feels clunky and disjointed as our groups movements take massive leaps ahead without seeing any of it. It was a constant source of distraction for me as it took my attention away from the actual film and made me think about it each and every time it happened. The explanation of why these clowns do what they do was half assed and had no real reason behind it. I don't need everything explained to me in a horror film, a lot of the times the film is better off leaving the mystery but if the movie is going to give a reason behind motives of the killer or the evil forces or what have you then it better damn well make sense. The entire reasoning behind this was sort of like a little kid trying to lie his way out of trouble with his mom - Yeah, there's some reasoning there but none of it really ties together with what happened.


The cast needs to be mentioned as they are quite good and well above expectations for a small budget horror film. Brian Nagel is a great sympathetic lead as Brad who you will root for endlessly to survive so he can propose to his girlfriend played by Lauren Compton. Compton is beautiful and strong and more than capable of being the "final girl" type character even if she's not alone. Andrew Staton is hilarious in his comedic relief moments and equally as likable as his best friend Brad. And Greg Violand plays Frank, the homeless man who won't leave his hometown despite the danger of the clowns and helps the group try to escape no matter the cost. He's an honorable and stand up guy that you want to survive with the friends and find a way to better himself. He plays that honorable character to a T.

CLOWNTOWN was a picture I wrestled back and forth with as to how I felt about it. It's a messy film from a technical standpoint but it is also an entertaining affair with some great tense moments and truly scary clowns. It's a disappointment for me that the movie never truly comes together smoothly and feels almost episodic or that it was designed as a mini series of sorts which leads to an awkward viewing experience. Overall I'd consider CLOWNTOWN to be a middle of the road affair that ultimately lets down a wonderful cast and a couple other good things it had going for it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

VIOLENT SHIT (Blu-ray Review) - Reel Gore Releasing


Italy, Germany/2015
Directed By: Luigi Pastore
Written By: Emanuele Barberi, Luigi Pastore, Lucio Massa
Starring: Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Steve Aquilina, Vincenzo Pezzopane
Color/82 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Blu-ray/DVD/CD
Limited To 3,000

The Film
Rome is struck with a series of vicious bloody murders leaving a trail of blood for Italian inspector Aristide D'Amato and his German partner Hans Ebert to follow in hopes of putting together the pieces of the bodies and the crimes. The inspectors fear that the killings mark the return of the infamous German serial killer Karl The Butcher.

VIOLENT SHIT THE MOVIE is a remake of the original shot on video Violent Shit trilogy from the late 80s and early 90s that was directed by Andreas Schnaas and produced by Steve Aquilina who returns to produce and co-star in this remake. This modern take on the series borrows plot elements from various parts of the original movies while adding in original material and move the violence to Rome as director Luigi Pastore (Symphony In Blood Red) pays homage to the sleazy and violent Italian horror films of the 70s and 80s. Pastore creates a film that truly has that same feeling of Italian horror of the 80s. It's an intangible quality that goes beyond a score by Claudio Simonetti's Goblin or cast members such as Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Barbara Magnolfi. Pastore also gives the film an interesting look, drawing obvious influence from directors such as Dario Argento with heavily colored lighting design and a very spastic camera style when the more intense parts of the film kick in.


Karl The Butcher is a killer designed to draw an immediate reaction of fear from the viewer with a massive presence and a chilling medieval mask. He's the perfect pawn of the bigger evil plan that the story delivers giving us massive amounts of bloodshed and gore. The effects work by David Bracci (Mother Of Tears) are stellar and rarely look like obvious prosthetics. The film suffers in that after an interesting opening the middle chunk of VIOLENT SHIT is really slow before the last 20 minutes ramp up the sex and violence to an almost nonstop level. It's definitely worth sitting through the boring parts to get to the good stuff, especially if you're a big time gore hound. The main idea behind VIOLENT SHIT is an interesting one, with a great performance from Giovanni Lombardo Radice who is finally not treated as Italy's Whipping Boy but the pacing is bad and the film would benefit from an even shorter run time.

I still liked VIOLENT SHIT quite a bit. The music, cast members and overall feel of the movie brought back a feeling that I haven't felt from many other recent productions, the feeling of vintage Italian slasher type films. I had mixed feelings on Luigi Pastore's previous film Symphony In Blood Red and again I have mixed feelings about VIOLENT SHIT but there's enough to like that I will be keeping him on my radar for future productions.


The Audio & Video
Reel Gore Releasing's debut release is an impressive looking and sounding release. The digital photography shines with a crystal clear anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 ratio) transfer. Colors pop giving life to the artistic lighting designs and ample amounts of bloody special effects. Black levels are deep and free from any blocking or compression issues. Skin tones are healthy and natural looking with no waxiness, while detail in textures and surfaces is quite strong. There are several audio options including a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, and Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes - all English dubs. The sound quality is clear, crisp and warm. The score by Claudio Simonetti's Goblin is powerful and shines through at key moments but never overpowers the dialogue. The mix is very well done.


The Extras
-"Making Of" Featurette
-"The History Of VIOLENT SHIT"
-Tribute To Lilli Carati - Her last interview
-Interviews With Cast And Crew Members
-World Of Stars - Segment from Italian TV program featuring more interviews with cast and crew
-Selection of Trailers
-Still Gallery
-24 Page Booklet


The Bottom Line
VIOLENT SHIT isn't for everybody but for gore hounds and splatter film fans there's plenty enough blood and guts to quench their thirst. Receommended.

VIOLENT SHIT is available HERE

Friday, August 19, 2016

CLOWN - Anchor Bay (Blu-ray Review)


USA/2014
Directed By: Jon Watts
Written By: Christopher Ford, Jon Watts
Starring: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare
Color/99 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: August 23, 2016

The Film
Kent (Andy Powers) has to fill in as the clown at his son's birthday party after the entertainment they hired didn't show up and the only suit he can find is from an old trunk in a house his real estate company has been hired to sell but after the party he finds that the suit won't come off. Kent quickly finds out the trouble he has put himself in as the suit contains an evil Icelandic curse that has Kent turning into a vicious monster with a thirst for the blood of children.

CLOWN has a somewhat interesting story behind it's production- It started as an original short film by Jon Watts and Christopher Ford who released the film online with the tag that the film was coming soon from Eli Roth. The short film created a buzz which caught Roth off guard as he was being contacted about his new film that he had no idea about. Curious, Roth watched the film, liked what he saw enough to contact Watt and Ford about adapting the film in to a feature that he would produce and the duo could write with Watt directing. And since you're reading this review you know that they jumped at the chance. The film was made announced and pulled and then sat around for a while until a limited edition to only 500 Blu-ray was released in the UK in early 2015. The film was finally released in the US in June of 2016, and is now available on Blu-ray. Was it worth the wait?

CLOWN will feel familiar as it follows a typical horror movie formula and has many of the tropes we're used to seeing but it doesn't let familiarity hold it back. First and foremost the cast is great. Andy Powers is excellent as Kent, showing some great comedic ability early on in the film while his dramatic side shows panic and dismay as the reality of his turn into a monster begins to become more apparent. Laura Allen owns the role of the distraught mother tasked with protecting her son from the monster her husband is changing into while fighting for the survival of the man she loves. It's a straight forward performance but she owns it. Peter Stormare's Karlsson is effectively cold and creepy but in a necessary way. These three make sure the film is believable.

Second the formulaic approach simply lets you sit back and enjoy. You may be able to predict a chain of events but watching the movie is just plain entertaining. The setup is well done and gives us an emotional link to hold on to and a reason to care about the fate of these characters. The middle drags a bit but it's all a set up for the excellent third act that is incredibly bloody and surprisingly suspenseful at times. The third act ended up being make or break for CLOWN and I'm happy to say it  was a success. CLOWN is also a success in its details. From the Karlsson's back story with the costume that is far from a storybook and is far closer to the dark side of fairy tales legends to the costume itself that has a genuine old world look to the design and finally the effects used with the clown including the rainbow blood he bleeds and the effects used whenever the clown monster is defeated. Those may seem like minor things but I think it adds an artistic level and production value that give CLOWN a leg up on other recent horror films.

There was a bit of a wait in seeing CLOWN and that can really hurt the anticipation for a film and leave many people feeling like they got the cold shoulder and lose interest in seeing the movie. CLOWN could have suffered that fate but luckily better late than never never became too late because this movie is quite good. Flawed and a bit slow in the middle but otherwise quite good.

The Audio & Video
As you'd expect from a modern production filmed in digital HD, the Blu-ray looks great. Anchor Bay gives CLOWN a sharp and crisp looking 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that features a warm color palette and healthy skin tones. Black levels are deep and inky with no blocking. The English audio comes through a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that is very clear and well balanced. Dialogue comes through perfectly with the score being complimentary and balanced nicely. The audio is free of any imperfections.

The Extras
Unfortunately the original short film is not included as an extra which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. There is a short Making-of featurette featuring some interview footage with Eli Roth and other key cast and crew members.

The Bottom Line
It's great that this film is finally getting released without any further delay because it really is a solid horror film with an original mythos, great performances and plenty of fun special effects.

CLOWN is available HERE

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

PETEY WHEATSTRAW - Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray Review)


USA/1977
Directed By: Cliff Roquemore
Written By: Cliff Roquemore
Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, Jimmy Lynch, G. Tito Shaw
Color/99 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
Rudy Ray Moore is Petey Wheatstraw, a hip hop rhyming comedian who don't take no shit and kicks ass with his kung-fu fighting. He has a new show opening up in a few weeks and his rivals Leroy and Skillet don't appreciate it him moving in on their business so they attack Petey and his friends leaving a lot of bodies in their wake. Willing to do anything to avenge his and his friends' death Petey makes a deal with the devil to marry his hideous daughter and become the devil's son-in-law for new life and a chance to take vengeance on Leroy and Skillet but when it comes time to pay Petey has no intentions on marrying that ugly demon woman.

PETEY WHEATSTRAW is the Rudy Ray Moore's third film in the Dolemite cycle of comedic kung-fu incfluenced blaxploitation films, this time director Cliff Roquemore (The Human Tornado) also writes the script, taking our beloved comedian in another direction adding a bit of supernatural elements and a bit of heartache as well. This new angle didn't perform as well as The Human Tornado at the box office but that doesn't mean it wasn't a hugely entertaining and frankly pretty well made piece of low budget filmmaking.


Rudy Ray Moore once again lights up the screen with his beautifully tailored striped suits, wise cracking rhyming dialogue and his cocky smile. The man had a natural presence that just plain works for these types of movies. He new how to ham it up just enough so that it was a bit campy and silly but not corny. Jimmy Lynch co-stars as Petey's right hand man and plays a bit more of a straight man character and is excellent in that role. It's appropriate he's given the most emotional scenes to carry and he does so with great success. While Moore plays our hero and Lynch is the straight man, both doing so to near perfection it is the comedic duo of Leroy and Skillet (Sanford & Son) who are the comedic backbone of the film and they had me rolling with laughter. Their bigger than life personalities match their large bulbous shapes often covered in flashy brightly colored suits. They have a natural chemistry not unlike Abbot and Costello and I love every second they're on screen.

I pretty much love every second of PETEY WHEATSTRAW in general. It's cheaply made, it only takes one look at Lucipher's cane which is essentially half a pool cure with a plastic gem on top to see the budgetary constraints, but Cliff Roquemore gives the characters and sets interesting and stylish enough looks that you never focus on the shortcomings they faced. One of the more expensive sequences of the film was probably when a pickup truck full of watermelons explodes (only the fruit, not the truck, be reasonable). That was probably a few hundred dollars in fruit but the laughs it provides are well worth it the cost. It wouldn't surprise me if the crew had to find the scraps of watermelon around for lunch that day - I'm only kidding of course.


The special effects of the film are minimal but effective consisting of basic camera tricks, some squib packs and questionable but oddly effective FX makeup and plastic devil horns but then that sort of describes the entire Dolemite series and it just plain works for these movies. Unfortunately this would be Cliff Roquemore's last directing credit on a feature film. He would direct Rudy Ray Moore's live stand up special from 1982 called Rude but this would be the end for his feature films. Roquemore would direct numerous stage productions but I feel he never got the chance he deserved to add more to the world of film. Perhaps it was due to the risk of changing the Dolemite formula just a bit and not having it pay off at the box office but it only takes a single viewing to see that Roquemore could direct a great film on a budget and write a damn entertaining screenplay. Luckily Roqumore was brought back to help write the fourth Rudy Ray Moore film, The Disco Godfather.

The Audio & Video
PETEY WHEATSTRAW looks absolutely stunning on this Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome that features a brand new 2K scan and restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. The very sharp image gives way to colors that are vivid with deep black levels that have no crush or problems with blocking. The very strong detail gives life to textures and surfaces from the thread of clothing to a velvet sofa or brick exteriors. They all look as though you can reach out and touch the smooth velvet or rough brick. There is a healthy grain structure that looks natural and there's only a very light amount of speckling in the anamorphic widescreen (16x9) transfer. The DTS-HD Master Audio sounds crystal clear with no background noise, popping, crackling or other annoying distortions. This mix faithfully recreates the film's original mix and ups the quality to modern day specifications. The levels are mixed skillfully letting the soundtrack compliment dialogue without ever overpowering it. English subtitles are included.


The Extras
-"I, Dolemite part 3" - The third part of the making-of documentary of the Dolemite series which features interviews from Rudy Ray Moore, Jimmy Lynch, the sons of Cliff Roquemore and other cast and crew members.
-Audio Commentary with Rudy Ray Moore's biographer Mark Jason Murray, actor Jimmy Lynch and director Cliff Roquemore
-Shooting Locations Revisited with Rudy Ray Moore
-Soundtrack
-Still Gallery
-Trailers
-Reversible Cover Art


The Bottom Line
PETEY WHEATSTRAW is a blast and if you don't check this out you'll find a boot up ya ass!

PETEY WHEATSTRAW is available HERE

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water - Graphic Novel Announcement



Titan Comics’ original graphic novel, “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water,” is  now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  from author Mark Landry.  This is an amazing project with “Interview With The Vampire” artist Ashley Marie Witter, and Richard Pace (“Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham”) serving as illustrators.

About  “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water” 
  • The visceral revenge thriller merges the real-world hopes and horrors of a post-disaster community with an engaging thread of political corruption, class divide and blood-curdling terror! 
  • The 144-page trade paperback features a stunning cover by “The Star Wars” cover artist Nick Runge, as well as interviews with the real-life heroes of the Katrina rescue – US Army and Coast Guard personnel.

Haunted by the catastrophe that tore his city apart 10 years ago, Coast Guard veteran Virgil Lafleur struggles daily with the hardships of a post-Katrina New Orleans. But when his younger brother’s murder leads him into a vortex of intrigue, corruption and violence, Virgil becomes obsessed with bringing the killers to justice and exposing the horrific secret hiding beneath the Mississippi.

ISBN-10: 1785851098
ISBN-13: 978-1785851094

Friday, August 12, 2016

MODEL HUNGER - Wild Eye Releasing (DVD Review)


USA/2016
Directed By: Debbie Rochon
Written By: James Morgart
Starring: Lynn Lowry, Tiffany Shepis, Brian Fortune
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: July 12, 2016

The Film
When a new younger couple move in to the neighborhood they find that the elder residents are pretty boring but the town has a growing list of young women who have gone missing. Eventually suspicion turns to Ginny, a sweet southern lady who loves to share her cooking with the neighborhood.

MODEL HUNGER is the directorial debut of former scream queen Debbie Rochon. Rochon made her name in such films as Slime City and Troma cult classics like Tromeo & Juliet and Terror Firmer. The time spent in front of the camera doesn't necessarily translate to skill behind it and while Rochon is in no way shape or form a virtuoso behind the camera she seems to have picked up enough know-how to put together a competent production. Working with a veteran cast including Lynn Lowry (I Drink Your Blood) in one of her better and more charismatic performances of her career and Tiffany Shepis who is not stranger to B-horror and has worked with Rochon on a number of occasions certainly makes things easier on a rookie director but Rochon never trips up and proves she can helm a horror movie.


That veteran cast does exactly what you'd expect, giving sturdy and believable performances. Lowry is definitely the star of the movie as she piles on the southern charm before becoming brutally psychotic over and over again. MODEL HUNGER will satisfy most gore hounds with plenty of blood on a fairly high body count. It also has a few gross out moments that will have you squirming and laughing. Along with the graphic violence, MODEL HUNGER also has an underlying commentary on the entertainment industry that frankly plays second fiddle to the more extreme aspects of the picture. You don't have to dig deep to find the commentary but it's easily brushed off and forgotten about as it seems the script never wanted to be too headstrong with it. There is an inherent weirdness to MODEL HUNGER that I appreciated as a popular topic within the film is an infomercial for bizarre, sexy and downright weird clothing. Imagine if John Waters ran QVC and you're heading down the right track.

MODEL HUNGER is flawed, rough around the edges and obviously from a first time director but everybody is fully on board with the project and gives everything they have to make the best horror movie they can and I feel they turned out a successful independent production that will get more and more positive attention as audiences discover it.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing gives MODEL HUNGER a home on DVD that appropriately translates the digital photography to a solid 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture quality is good with relatively good sharpness and clarity. The overall look of the disc is nice and natural. The English audio is loud and clear with stable levels in a pretty strong mix that is free of any distortions.


The Extras
-Audio commentary with director Debbie Rochon
-Deleted Scenes
-Music Video
-Voltaire Interview
-Babette Bombshell short film
-Trailers
-Easter Eggs


The Bottom Line
Is MODEL HUNGER perfect? No, but it is quite entertaining with a raw energy brought to us by one of the most notable scream queens that shows she's still hungry to make fun horror movies.

MODEL HUNGER is available HERE

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

THE PERFECT HUSBAND - Artsploitation Films (Blu-ray Review)


Italy/2014
Directed By: Lucas Pavetto
Written By: Lucas Pavetto
Starring: Bret Roberts, Gabriella Wright
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: July 26, 2016

The Film
Nicola and Viola are recovering from a miscarriage of their first child and decide to take a trip to a family cabin in the woods to rekindle the flame of their marriage and work through some issues but the weekend quickly turns into a violent, paranoid blood rage that will leave both husband and wife fighting for their life.

THE PERFECT HUSBAND is my first exposure to Italian filmmaker Lucas Pavetto and I hope I run into his work again soon if it's up to par with THE PERFECT HUSBAND. The film is in English and the production features actors from English speaking backgrounds but it is quickly apparent that Pavetto's first language isn't English. While there's no major issues with dialogue there are little things throughout that just don't sound like how native English speakers would talk. It's not a major issue however, and that is one of my biggest problems with the movie. Otherwise I think the acting is very good with strong performances from both Gabriella Wright and Bret Roberts. Roberts giving an especially raw performance that channels his inner Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

There's actually quite a few things that remind me of Stanley Kubrick's classic film that was adapted from a Stephen King novel. Lucas Pavetto's use of a secluded setting to isolate a couple that isn't in the best mental state, all the way down to Nicola's wardrobe and appearance consisting of a plaid shirt, disheveled hair all while creating mayhem with an axe. The strong psychological element is also present however in a different way.

THE PERFECT HUSBAND is a violent film, with lots of blood spraying around and thankfully the majority of the effects are practical. There was only one moment that stood out as poorly rendered CGI blood. At times it can be an uneasy viewing experience from several viewpoints. On top of the bloody violence there's also rape, physical abuse that doesn't hold back and the broken psyche of a couple on the edge of a total breakdown. Throughout the majority of the film there's never a true protagonist as both Nicola and Viola have plenty of moments where the audience is given plenty of reason to find them quite unlikeable and at fault for at least some of the problems this marriage is faced with. Then the finale hits and reveals the truth which sort of flips the film on its head. I found the ending to be a bit hamfisted and clunky, perhaps on future viewings knowing it is coming would make it a bit smoother but on this first time viewing it hits like a bout of turbulence in an airplane - It comes out of nowhere, it's shaky and thankfully it didn't ruin the journey. It works but it could have been much smoother.

The Audio & Video
The Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films is gorgeous. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio transfer is sharp with vivid colors, including deep crimson reds and inky blacks. Detail is strong in everything from textures of clothing to surfaces such as the wood in the cabin or the rough rocks at a waterfall. There's no damage or excessive DNR to this very nice looking disc. The English audio is handled with a 5.1 surround sound mix that has a sparkling crystal clear mix. Dialogue and music never compete for the foreground as they compliment each other as they should. The audio is free of distracting background noise or any distortions.

The Extras
Extra features include the original short film, a behind the scenes featurette and a selection of trailers.

The Bottom Line
THE PERFECT HUSBAND is well made, bloody violent and carried by great performances. Well worth your time.

THE PERFECT HUSBAND is available HERE