Monday, December 5, 2016

The Possession Experiment (2016)

Directed By: Scott B. Hansen
Written By: Mary Dixon, Scott B. Hansen
Starring: Chris Minor, Clay Harper, Nicky Jasper
Release Date: December 6, 2016 (VOD, Digital HD, DVD)

THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT opens with a bloody violent scene of an exorcism going wildly wrong and almost everyone involved winding up dead. It is an opening scene that immediately captures the audience's attention and sets up a promising film.

Then the rest of the movie happens. And you wonder what happened. The set up is decent enough, with a college student preparing a project for his Religion class as he sets out to prove or disprove demonic possession and exorcism using the police evidence and location of the opening scene exorcism. He partners up with a stoner for the project who adds nothing to the film but to talk about eating every time he's on screen and with a pretty med student who will document his vital signs and any changes in behavior. 

This decent set up is marred by completely inept editing, characters that show up out of nowhere in important scenes such as the medium who leaves as fast as she enters and we never see a character call her, talk to her, make any sort of business deal with her prior to her debut into the film. I feel the filmmakers couldn't decide what they wanted the signs and symptoms of demonic possession to be in this film as it changes from the stereotypical green puke and speaking in tongues type to fashioning a homemade Freddy Kruger glove out of X-Acto knives and going on a bit of a slasher spree. It left me with a giant question as to exactly what I was supposed to be watching. 

There's lots of cues and devices lifted from better exorcism and demonic horror films and lots of them have no real reason or explanation for being in this film. Like what is the big deal that the Ouija board was found in the wall in this movie? It's never explained. Any old Ouija board could have done the same thing. That's one of many questions I'm left with in this overly unsatisfying experience. 

If you see Bill Moseley's name attached to THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT don't be fooled as he is gone by the end of the opening scene. THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT ends up having a handful of really well done scenes surrounded by a plethora of bad filmmaking and overacting and it's really not worth your time.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Directed By: Henrique Couto
Written By: Henrique Couto
Starring: Josh Miller, Bradley Diehl, Marylee Osborne
Release Date: December 10, 2016

Straight forward comedies with no real ties to horror or exploitation are not something I regularly cover here but when I saw the trailer for Henrique Couto's NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS it immediately struck a chord with me and I knew it would be something I could relate to. So while you won't be seeing the newest Zac Efron comedy being covered here I think a dark indie comedy like NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS fits in just fine.

Josh Miller stars as Neil, a self employed painter and graphic designer who has just been dumped by his long term girlfriend and ends up drunkenly drinking bleach while drinking away his feelings which lands him in the psych ward of the hospital and on court ordered therapy. Now Neil must sort out his feelings, his friends and most of all his life to find happiness and meaning in his life. Or maybe he'll just waste away eating a lot of Chinese take out.

NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS is a great watch for anybody floating in the purgatory of their 20s and early 30s, not quite sure what direction they should take in their lives when everything they've come to know has seemingly turned its back on them and fallen apart. It's a great coming of age story at a stage in life that we don't get many films that answer the numerous questions we still have at that age. Miller nails the lead role, infinitely likable and easy to relate with, he carries writer/director Henrique Couto's strong script. He's supported by a Bradley Diehl who plays Neil's best friend Dave. The type of friend that rags on you and shits on you and will endlessly make fun of you about everything but has your back every second of every day. He's the type of friend we all need and Diehl is hilarious in his crudeness. Along with Diehl is Marylee Osborne who becomes one of Neil's inner circle after his breakup and proves that new friends and meaningful relationships can pop up from the most unexpected places. Osborne does a great job proving to be a soft soul with a rough and tough exterior.

The film also shows that sometimes swallowing your pride and letting go of a grudge is the best thing that can happen to you and allow you to be free, grow and again, create a meaningful relationship. Henrique Couto's film isn't all hugs and kisses, there's plenty of darker moments and eye opening revelations like not all long term friendships are worth hanging on to and not everyone will fit into you life forever. It's a harsh realization but it's one we all find out eventually. When it comes down to it NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS shows that plenty of good things actually do happen but life is a rocky fucking road and getting to those good spots can really put us through our paces and sometimes it's okay to befriend your local Chinese restaurant owner to get free noodles to eat away the pain... but not everyday. Get real.

NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS is a fine example of an indie comedy that makes use of great characters and writing over cheaper sight gags or gimmicks. I'm of the mind that making a really good comedy, dark or otherwise, is one of the toughest types of films to make and Couto is up to the challenge with NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS.

NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS will be available for purchase HERE and also for rent on Amazon

Monday, November 28, 2016

TALES OF POE (Wild Eye Releasing DVD Review)

Directed By: Bart Mastronardi, Alan Rowe Kelly
Written By: Bart Mastronardi, Alan Rowe Kelly
Starring: Bette Cassatt, Lesleh Donaldson, Zoe Daelman Chlanda
Color/120 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: October 11, 2016

The Film
TALES OF POE is a three part anthology film adapting Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems into horror films. Each short takes on a different story and a different vibe. Kicking things off is a chilling psychological thriller take on The Tell Tale Heart that has some gory moments and a disturbing antagonist. The film continues with chapter 2, The Cask, tells the story of a man who is murdered on his wedding night by his bride and business partner and buried behind a makeshift brick wall until he returns from the dead to take his revenge.

This take on The Cask Of Amontillado is my favorite of the three shorts. I love the visual style and special effects makeup in this rather bloody film of betrayal and revenge. This story has been adapted many times in several different formats and has even had some of its plot devices and scenes taken and added in to unrelated stories. This short stands tall among the better adaptations this story has seen. The story closes out with a very surreal short adapting Poe's Dreams. I think this short is filmed beautifully and has some memorable scenes and creepy moments such as the scene with the tap dancing man which is staged and choreographed perfectly but the non linear storytelling and length of this short left me feeling that it dragged a bit. I did enjoy it for the most part but I thought it could have been trimmed down a bit. It was smart to end the anthology on this short because I think it would have alienated some viewers from giving the film a fair chance or really letting themselves settle into it.

TALES OF POE shows that the stories of the legendary writer are still loved, still relevant and still translate well to film. Horror has a long love affair with Edgar Allan Poe and it's great to see the current generation of independent filmmakers getting on board with these stories and poems. The movie is uneven and flawed in parts but the direction shows an eye for style and artistry and the acting, including appearances from notable horror actors such as Caroline Williams, Adrienne King and Amy Steel, is better than expected and never poor. TALES OF POE is a welcomed horror film for this decade and hopefully will lead the way for more quality modern Poe adaptations.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing brings this indie anthology to market with a nice looking anamorphic widescreen transfer that features true colors and an image that faithfully captures each short's individual feeling and atmosphere. The image is stable and clean. The stereo audio is also well done, with a crisp sounding track that has a nice mix between dialogue and score. There's no pops, crackles or other distortions to speak of.

The Extras
-Behind The Scenes
-Deleted Scenes
-Interview with director Bart Mastronardi
-Kickstarter Campaign Trailer
-Oiriginal Trailer

The Bottom Line
Whether you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or indie horror or both there's a lot to like about TALES OF POE. Recommended!

TALES OF POE is available HERE

Saturday, November 19, 2016

KILLBILLIES (DVD Review) - Artsploitation Films

Directed By: Tomaz Gorkic
Written By: Tomaz Gorkic
Starring: Nina Ivanisin, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: October 25, 2016

The Film
Zina is contacted by her photographer Blitcz for a photoshoot in the countryside with Mia, an up and coming model who's bubbly and perky personality is quite the opposite of Zina who is taking this final gig for the paycheck. Along with their producer Dragica their photoshoot quickly turns into a nightmare when a family from the hills attacks and kidnaps them which starts the bloody fight for survival while the rural killers plan to use them in their recipe for homemade liquor.

In Slovenia this film was original titled IDILA which translates to IDYLL which I think is a much more attractive title than the budget bin sounding KILLBILLIES. Lucky for us KILLBILLIES rises above its generic retitling and is a fine example of backwoods horror in the tradition of Deliverance and Wrong Turn. KILLBILLIES doesn't try to reinvent the wheel but simply does its best to create a tense, violent and bloody affair in the hills of rural Eastern Europe with a twist in the story that connects it to the urban characters and lifestyle that is increasingly encroaching on more traditional culture.

Writer/director Tomaz Gorkic has a natural eye for horror films and knows how to stage all of the scenes from a foot chase through the woods to limbs being lopped off. KILLBILLIES has no shortage of bloody violence and gore. It never shies away from showing the goods and it has little reason to as the special effects are very well done practical effects. Nina Ivansin is a fantastic lead and final girl as she gives a strong performance and plays her character Zina perfectly and is easy to connect with. There's never a moment where I wasn't cheering for her to win, whether that would be an escape or killing her attackers.

The rest of the cast is quite good as well from Nika Rozman as the increasingly stuck up and annoying Mia who is the perfect counterpart to Zina to Sebastian Cavazza as the rude "bratty" photographer Blitcz and rounded out by Lotos Sparovec and Jurji Drevensek who are the two main killers whose deformed faces, perverse actions and downright scary demeanor are all handled perfectly by this duo. They certainly rival the inbred clan of the Wrong Turn series.

KILLBILLIES is a fast paced, over before you know it ride that will leave your heart pumping. You've seen plenty of similar movies but that won't stop KILLBILLIES from impressing and standing out in your memory as a damn good entry into the backwoods terror style of horror.

The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films gives KILLBILLIES  a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very nice. The picture is sharp with bright colors and good detail for a standard definition release. The 5.1 digital surround audio mix handles audio decently. Early on in the film the audio is quiet and specifically the dialogue is a bit lost in the mix. This is remedied after the opening bar scene but if the film didn't have subtitles it'd be difficult to understand. Dialogue is in the film's native Slovenian with optional English subtitles.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
KILLBILLIES is a really solid horror movie that is definitely worth your time despite not breaking new ground. I wish the DVD had some behind the scenes featurettes or interviews because I think it'd be interesting to hear about horror culture in Slovenia but the film itself is worth a recommendation.


Friday, November 18, 2016

THE EXOTIC DANCES OF BETTIE PAGE (Blu-ray Review) - Cult Epics

Directed By: Irving Klaw
Starring: Bettie Page
Black & White/60 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: September 13, 2016

There's nothing in the way of narrative here as this is more of a historical document (an important one at that) of Bettie Page's early films in what could be considered the 1950s version of stag films than any sort of narrative film or even a documentary. These films by Irving Klaw feature Page dancing in home settings in lingerie with tinted photography. The preservation of these films is equally important in preserving Irving Klaw's history as it is Page's. Klaw operated a mail order business for photos and film of beautiful women and was one of the first notable fetish photographers in the country from the 1940s until censorship of the 50s ended his career with attempted court hearings trying to link pornography to juvenile delinquency. After closing his business Klaw burned many of his negatives with estimates of up to eighty percent of his work being destroyed. Having these reels of Bettie Page dances is made all the more important by that fact.

These films were shot on presumably cheap 8mm film so the image quality isn't incredibly sharp or detailed but it is still perfectly watchable and enjoyable. The image is quite clean however and free of damage or dirt and debris. The audio sounds wonderful but it is nothing more than overdubbed music and doesn't feature any talking from Bettie Page which is standard for what these films were intended to be. The Blu-ray presentation from Cult Epics is solid top to bottom and features a brand new 2K scan. It's safe to say this is the best these films will ever look. There's also a selection of special features including a selection of Bettie Page's Kamera Club Films which are more short 8mm films presented in HD and a Q&A with Bettie's nephew Ron Brem called Bettie Page Uncovered: The Private Life and Photographs which is a perfect companion piece of Bettie history to these films.

There's so much to love about this release from the historical value in the preservation of these films to the loving presentation and quality release and more importantly it's just a fun time to watch Bettie Page do what she did. Fans of Bettie Page, pin-up culture and stag film buffs all need to take note of this release.

Support the Cult Epics IndieGoGo campaign HERE

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Possession Experiment - Trailer and Release Dates

ON DEMAND, DIGITAL HD AND DVD:  December 6, 2016
DIRECTOR: Scott B. Hansen
WRITER:  Mary J. Dixon, Scott B. Hansen
CAST:  Chris Minor, Jake Brinn, Nicky Jasper with KT Fanelli and Bill Moseley
SYNOPSIS:  THE POSSESSION EXPERIMENT tells the story of Brandon (Minor), who has always been drawn to the supernatural.  So when asked to pick a topic to base his final world theology class project on, he decides to explore the dark world of exorcisms. Teamed up with three classmates, the group investigates a multiple homicide that they eventually discover was an exorcism gone horribly wrong. Brandon becomes obsessed with the event, and in a strange turn of events, decides the only way to research this topic is to undergo an exorcism himself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

MANHATTAN BABY (Limited Edition Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground

Directed By: Lucio Fulci
Written By: Elisa Livia Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Christopher Connelly, Martha Taylor, Brigitta Boccoli
Color/89 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Limited Edition

The Film
A young girl on vacation in Egypt with her archeologist father is given a beautiful but mysterious charm of a jeweled eye which causes her father to go blind in the middle of a dangerous pyramid. Things only get worse when the family returns home to Manhattan as a series of supernatural horrors plague the family and the family must find a way to break the ancient curse they have fallen under.

MANHATTAN BABY was a bit of a departure from the films horror fans had come to expect from Lucio Fulci as it came at the tail end of his extreme gore era that he is perhaps still best known for today and more immediately came directly after the hyper violent and ultra misogynistic The New York Ripper which in all fairness is a rock solid giallo but received poor reviews and a lot of criticism for being overly cruel towards women. Perhaps this made Fulci take a step back with MANHATTAN BABY which was released in the same year as The New York Ripper but is a much different type of horror film.  MANHATTAN BABY features visual effects that we had not seen from Fulci before, including computer generated laser beams which were the cause of the father's blindness. While these  computer generated effects were nothing more than your standard effects of the time this created a bit more of a "high tech" film for Fulci for the first time, something we'd see him continue with in his next two films, the sword and sandal epic Conquest and the futuristic post apocalyptic sci-fi/action flick The New Gladiators. Both of those films would make more use of computer generated special effects than the practical gore effects that Fulci made use of so frequently and masterfully immediately before these pictures.

MANHATTAN BABY is probably best described as the bridge between those short eras of effects work for Fulci as it has its own memorable scenes with practical gore effects including the first death inside the pyramid and the bird scene, both leaving their victims a bloody mess. Unfortunately I think MANHATTAN BABY is overlooked as it isn't lumped in with those gore classics and isn't mentioned in the same breath as his non-horror films that came in the two years after. It's almost an anomaly in that regard but it shouldn't be. While I admit that MANHATTAN BABY didn't leave the greatest first impression on me when I first watched it as I found it to be slow and just a bit tedious it has since grown on me with subsequent viewings and is now something I find to be unfairly overlooked. First, Fulci creates a thick dream like atmosphere that almost gives the film a surreal quality. Fabio Frizzi's wonderful score accentuates these moments with a pulsing synth and almost jazz-like sound. It's almost worth checking out the film for Frizzi's score on it's own. MANHATTAN BABY also has some creative and innovative scenes that will stick with you such as a child's bedroom vanishing into a desert of sand. This is just one of several moments that has really good cinematography from Guglielmo Mancori who photographed some of Italy's best genre films of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

MANHATTAN BABY does suffer from the same problem that many Italian horror films of the era do in that it just doesn't make a ton of sense. Now this is no problem for me as a massive fan of these films I've come to accept that it's really style over substance quite often and you can piece together enough of a story to make it all work but be warned the story of MANHATTAN BABY is fairly thin. The visuals should more than make up for it. I don't think MANHATTAN BABY is the Fulci's best film or even his best of the 1980s but I do think it is much better than it usually gets credit for. It's also an interesting piece in Fulci's filmography to look at from a historical standpoint. Shocks, gore and Egyptian curses... what more could you want?

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground's anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 transfer comes from a new 2K scan and restoration and maintains the films original aspect ratio and looks quite good. Detail is easily the best it has ever been on home video for this film and is strong enough at times that you can almost count the individual grains of sand sliding through a hand. Colors are vibrant and vivd while skin tones are fleshy and healthy and not at all waxy. Black levels are deep and have no issues with blocking or compression. The disc features two audio mixes, both in English - A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is strong and allows Fabio Frizzi's memorable score to really pump through the speakers. There's also a DTS-HD mono mix that features the film's original mix in the finest quality. Both mixes are a pleasure to listen to and are crisp and clear with no distractions or distortions. There's also no background noise to speak of. English, French and Spanish subtitles are available.

Please note: Screen grabs do not represent the new Blu-ray's image quality.

The Extras
-"Fucli & I" - An hour long interview with composer Fabio Frizzi detailing his career spanning releationship with Lucio Fulci
-"For The Birds" - Interview with co-star Cosimo Cinieri
-"25 Years With Fulci" - Interview with make-up effects artist Maurizio Trani
-"Beyond The Living Dead" - Interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti
-"Stephen Thrower On MANHATTAN BABY" - Interview with Stephen Thrower on the production and history of the film. Thrower is the author of "Beyond Terror: The Films Of Lucio Fulci"
-"Manhattan Baby Suite" - Live studio performance of the score by Fabio Frizzi
-Theaterical Trailer
-Poster and still gallery
-Soundtrack CD
-Booklet featuring new writings by Troy Howarth

The Bottom Line
Blue Underground has given this underrated and overlooked Fulci film new life with this packed limited edition Blu-ray release and I don't foresee a better release of MANHATTAN BABY coming down the pike anytime soon.