Saturday, December 31, 2016

CHILDREN OF THE CORN Franchise Retrospective Part 3: Fields Of Terror & Isaac's Return

CHILDREN OF THE CORN V: FIELDS OF TERROR started out with a glimmer of hope when the opening credits listed a few names I was not only familiar with but that I was a fan of. Alexis Arquette, Fred Williamson, David Carradine are all performers I enjoy and I was thinking "okay, maybe we've got something here." On top of them Eva Mendes, Ahmet Zappa co-star and even Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder, has a role. I'll tell you right now he was only in a single scene as a bartender and not as a machete wielding corn stalk monster. What a let down. The opening scene features a clunky 90s CGI murder featuring the main child that would be running the show of our misfit kernels. Sadly shortly after we lose Alexis Arquette and Ahmet Zappa who had great energy and would have been a nice contrast to the rest of our main cast of college students who are basically running around with dumbfounded, mouth agape, looks on their face for the majority of the film.

Oh you're interested in the plot? Well, six college friends (more like 4 friends after the first few minutes of the film take away the two most entertaining characters) go on a road trip and end up stranded in a small rural town that they not smells of burnt popcorn. After getting warned to leave by the sheriff (Fred Williamson) they hole up in an abandoned house for the night and later find that one of the girls missing brothers is in town living with Luke (David Carradine) who seems to be the leader of the strange kids. Luke lets her see her brother who informs her that he has no interest in leaving and is going to be marry a younger girl who is also pregnant with his child. The child leader Ezekiel chooses the brother who has reached 18 years of age as the annual sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind The Rows which means he would have to throw himself into the burning corn silo but the brother refuses and tells Luke his religion is a lie which leads to a battle between the college friends and the runaway brother and the pitchfork wielding psycho children. There's even a showdown between Luke and the sheriff which is my favorite scene in the film and is easily the best special effect moment of the film as well.

The plot is weak and the film isn't interesting enough to keep your attention throughout so that you really settle in to it. I found myself getting restless and bored and simply didn't care about a single thing going on. Fred Williamson and David Carradine are both wasted by given little to do. Our main group is filled with bland characters and uninspired performances and the one thing that these movies have given us each and every time until now is creepy kids but they even ruin that as these kids looked like any child you'd see getting dropped off at junior high and not a group of rural religious nut jobs. Ethan Wiley wrote the first two House films and even directed the second which is a wacky mishmash of ideas that works for a wonderfully fun 80s cocktail but his entry in to the CHILDREN OF THE CORN series is my least favorite through the first five entries.

I spoke too soon. It gets worse. You might think, and I would be right there with you that the return of John Franklin who played Isaac, the preacher leader of the children in the original film would be an upgrade to the series but no, CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC'S RETURN is yet another step down on this ladder of shit. I'm not sure how much lower this thing can go.

Natalie Ramsey stars as Hannah Martin, the first baby born from the cult in the original film, now she has decided to return to Gatlin to find her birth mother. After a strange encounter with a preacher that ends in Hannah crashing her car into a corn field she is taken to the local hospital by the sheriff. At the hospital she finds out Isaac was not killed but ended up in a coma. After she leaves the hospital Hannah begins to get stalked and terrorized during her stay at a local motel. The townspeople speak of a prophecy between her and Isaac but Hannah won't leave until she finds out about her mother.

Well we're scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Isaac is in a coma for years and only Hannah's return wakes him which is an okay plot device, especially five sequels deep but this movie is as painfully boring and disjointed as we can get. Dead birds, messages scrawled across the wall in nail polish, and mentally unstable patients at a hospital are the majority of the horror elements until the eye roll inducing ending where we finally meet He Who Walks Behind The Rows and find out he's some local douche bag in a leather jacket. He manhandles Isaac, killing him and Hannah escapes but is no pregnant with the baby of He Who Walks Behind The Rows.

It's so bad. So so so bad. If you're not bored to tears then you're surely getting infuriated at how stupid the whole thing is. It was bad enough that I was complaining to myself that there was barely any corn! And yet again the creepy kid factor is kept to a minimum. I was hoping Isaac's return would at least bring something of merit back to the series, not that I'm any sort of lover of the original but it's by far the best of the series but no, the plot device was a waste and I'm sure this film is only remembered for being the film that brings back John Franklin and Isaac to the series.

If I was beginning to regret the decision to go through this entire series before I am now in full regret mode. These movies are awful.

Film Scores

Saturday, December 24, 2016

THE ID (Hutson Ranch Media - Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Thommy Hutson
Written By: Sean H. Stewart
Starring: Amanda Wyss, Patrick Peduto, Jamye Grant
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 25, 2016

The Film
Amanda Wyss stars as Meredith, a middle aged woman living for little else than to care for her sick father. Their relationship isn't good as Meredith's father is abusive toward her every chance he gets. A phone call from an old high school friend gives Meredith a small light in her life but quickly pushes her to the brink of a broken mind.

THE ID is a small production, using a single location and only a handful of characters to tell its story. Amanda Wyss carries the film with a strong performance of a middle aged woman who has been stunted in her mental growth by an abusive father. Meredith still lives in her childhood home in a bedroom decorated with high school banners from over 20 years ago. Her only interaction with the outside world is with the girl who delivers food for her father daily but their interactions are brief and usually end abruptly with Meredith being cold and rude. She is not to blame for how she handles interactions with other people as her father, played disgustingly and perfectly by Patrick Peduto, is an absolute piece of shit to her going as far as spitting in her face and pissing his pants on purpose and laughing in his daughter's face while she has to change him.

Meredith's mind is already a mess as she has visions of killing her father and slips into these visions frequently. When her old high school boyfriend Ted looks her up for a reunion Meredith slips further into a damaged state, while something nice has happened to her and gives her something to look forward to, her Father berates her over it calling her a whore and saying she can't go which only makes things in Meredith's mind that much worse. When the reunion finally happens Ted and his wife find an obviously disturbed woman, living in a reality that doesn't exist and cut their trip short but that's only the start of Meredith's problems.

THE ID is small and tight. It's driven by characters and their performances. Wyss and Peduto are really good together, and they endure a lot. My gripes with the film are minor and deal with the writing particularly dealing with the Ted scene. Ted and Meredith hadn't seen each other since they graduation 28 years earlier, how close could they have been if they didn't have contact in nearly three decades? I understand that in her mental state Meredith could make it the big deal she did when hearing from Ted but what are the chances that after nearly 30 years a happily married man with children randomly looks up an old high school girlfriend out of the blue and then fails to mention his wife and surprises Meredith with her on arrival? That didn't make any sense to me and felt like a plot hole that could have been fixed. It doesn't take away from my overall enjoyment and appreciation from the film but it's not so big that much would have to change to fix it.

Thommy Hutson does a nice job directing this film, it's not overly stylish but he's competent in doing what needs to be done to let the film organically shine. This is a psychological thriller based around a bastardized relationship of a father and his daughter and their brief and tragic encounters with the outside world. Don't let THE ID fly under your radar as it is well worth your time.

The Audio & Video
Hutson Ranch Media releases THE ID on region free Blu-ray with a nice looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen Scope aspect ratio transfer. The film has a natural color palette which is pleasing to the eye along with strong finer details and skin tones. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is free of any background noise or imperfections and has a stable mix.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Director Thommy Hutson
-"Needs, Wants & Desire: Behind The Scenes Of THE ID"
-Deleted and Alternate Scenes
-Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage
-Audition Clips
-Photo Gallery

The Bottom Line
THE ID is a really solid modern psychological thriller that deserves to be seen.

THE ID is available HERE

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

KILLER RACK (Camp Motion Pictures - DVD Review)

Directed By: Gregory Lamberson
Written By: Paul McGinnis
Starring: Jessica Zwolak, Debbie Rochon, Paul McGinnis
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: December 13, 2016

The Film
Betty works a thankless cubicle job where she's overlooked by her boss for sexier women and has a shitty boyfriend waiting for her at home. Tired of how things are going she makes an appointment for breast implants and shortly after she realizes she's made a huge mistake as her new breasts have a murderous mind of their own.

Director Greg Lamberson is no stranger to ridiculous and gory movies as he first made a name for himself back in 1988 with the splatter melt film Slime City, which he followed up with a sequel in 2010. These gooey cult classics aren't far removed from KILLER RACK in terms of tone and content as KILLER RACK doesn't shy away from the bloodshed. Unfortunately it takes quite a while to get to anything worthwhile in KILLER RACK as 95% of the action occurs in the last 10 minutes. Before that we're subjected to painfully unfunny attempts at humor dealing directed at a woman with small breasts. Her life is miserable because of people around her with bigger breasts getting preferential treatment. It really isn't funny and it's handled with so little grace that it began to anger me. I'm far from the most PC person in the world but this script comes across like a couple of frat boys crushing beer cans on their head while yelling "sweet tits!".

When we finally get to a real story for the film to go from it's when Betty, who is played convincingly and likably by Jessica Zwolak, decides to get the implants and sees Dr. Kate Thulu who worships the Elder Gods and in some round about way that makes Betty's new boobs teeth baring monstrous devices of evil. Oh, did you miss the Cthulhu joke? Kate Thulu? You probably missed it because it's so smooth and clever. What's that? You didn't miss it? Oh, silly me. Of course you didn't because they smack you across the face with it. Debbie Rochon made her debut with Slime City and returns to Lamberson here where her over the top B-movie style that I can take or leave but to be fair it fits in fine here.

By the time they flesh out the monster boobs I had lost almost all interest in the movie but they were effectively gross and scary looking all the while looking utterly ridiculous popping through Betty's shirt. They reminded me of a mammary version of the alien monsters from The Deadly Spawn. There's also a tentacle monster moment with the boobs so that we can further try to force the Cthulhu lore in to this film despite there being absolutely no room for it to work organically.

KILLER RACK has some sporadic entertaining moments and when the movie is giving us the visual goods it's not all bad but when it relies more on its writing and humor it fails miserably. The premise of KILLER RACK has "short film" written all over it but unfortunately everyone involved decided on a 95 minute feature that just has little going for it.

The Audio & Video
Camp Motion Pictures releases KILLER RACK on DVD with an attractive 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that features a natural but healthy color palette and good detail. The image is clean and clear. The 2.0 Stereo audio is crisp and well mixed overall. There's no damage or background noise.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary
-Deleted Scenes
-Behind The Scenes Featurette
-"Kill The Bitch" short film
-"The Camper" short film

The Bottom Line
KILLER RACK could have been a fun, ridiculous and bloody short film but as a feature film it has a bad script, shoehorned plot devices and too much filler for 10 minutes of fun to carry. I think your time is better spent elsewhere.

KILLER RACK is available HERE

Saturday, December 10, 2016

THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN (Reel Gore Releasing Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Marc Rohnstock
Written By: Marc Rohnstock
Starring: Isabelle Aring, Robin Czerny, Roland Freitag
Color/115 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 25, 2016

The Film
In pre-World War II Germany Dr. Victor Wolfenstein has become obsessed with discovering the secret to immortality. Upon finding a serum that can stop the affects of aging he has infected himself with Necrosis, a flesh eating disease. The evil doctor must replace his rotting parts with fresh parts and as the local village is under attack by the doctor they bad together and bury the madman alive. Now in present day the doctor has unearthed himself, still rotting and longing for fresh flesh and a group of teens on their way to a giant party get stranded in the village and quickly learn of the curse that Doctor Wolfenstein has put upon the area.

THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN carries on the tradition of not only its writer/director Marc Rohnstock who is no stranger to splatter films, but a longer, deeper tradition of German splatter films dating back to Olaf Ittenbach (The Burning Moon) and Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik). American audiences had a chance to learn Rohnstock's name several years ago when his film Necronos (aka Necronos: Tower Of Doom) was released on DVD by Troma. The bloodshed was the real deal. The gore was incredible. And five years later Rohnstock is back with a dirty, grimy film that  will make you want to take a shower. If you're expecting buckets of blood you should bring barrels because the hordes of nameless victims that Doctor Wolfenstein dispatches in gruesome, grotesque and downright gross ways all have the gore flying.

Make no mistake, you're here for the gore. If you've followed this site for any amount of time you'll know I have very mixed emotions on gore for the sake of gore as simply being gory doesn't make a horror film great. There is that special time where it can make it damn entertaining though and that is the case of THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN. That isn't to say the film is perfect as a good twenty or even thirty minutes could be trimmed without losing anything of substance and it would make the film a tighter product.

But, what the fuck, that would also cut out a half dozen kills or more. And remember, these aren't your cut away, clean up with a single paper towel kills. These are victim after victim stripped down to their most vulnerable position, sliced, diced, chopped and popped. In the best way THE CURSE OF THE DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN is disgusting. I can talk about the acting, which is fine, or I can talk about the writing, which features a standard slasher set up and all of the tropes and the editing or lack thereof has been mentioned but sometimes what can be described as the lowest common denominator can be more than enough for a good time.

THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN does a great job carrying on the German splatter film legacy and you can even spot the king of German splatter Olaf Ittenbach in a cameo as a victim which I count as a seal of approval from him. THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN isn't perfect but it's fucking nasty and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered.

The Audio & Video
The third release from Reel Gore Releasing is another stunner in terms of A/V presentation. The Blu-ray quality of DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN is top notch with exceptionally sharp picture and high detail levels. Colors are strong especially the crimson reds from the arterial sprays. Flesh tones are natural with no signs of waxiness from excessive DNR. There are two audio options, both in the film's native German with optional English subtitles. There is a DTS-HD 2.0 and DTS-HD 5.1 mix respectively. The 2.0 mix is crisp, perfectly clear and stable with no level fluctuations. The audio is free of distortions, hiccups or wobbles.

The Extras
-Behind The Scenes Featurette
-"Trapped And Stabbed" - A short film by Marc Rohnstock
-Blooper Reels
-Still Gallery

The Bottom Line
THE CURSE OF DOCTOR WOLFENSTEIN might be THE release for gore hounds in 2016.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Reel Gore Releasing #4 - The Orphan Killer (Press Release)


REEL GORE RELEASING presents the official release of Matt Farnsworth’s slasher movie THE ORPHAN KILLER on Blu-ray/DVD December 13, 2016

Los Angeles, CA (December 2016) For immediate release. Synopsis: The Orphan Killer is a tour de force murder flick that defies classification. It goes far beyond current trends in gore and breaks open a new suffering genre of horror. Marcus Miller is a serial murderer hell-bent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. His lessons are taught in massive doses of vulgar and unimaginable pain. Throughout her brutal torture we learn that Marcus is not the only Miller with Killer in the bloodline as Audrey proves to be a formidable adversary. Starring: Diane Foster, David Bachhaus, Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Matt Farnsworth.

Price:                              $34.95 
Street Date:                              December 13, 2016
Production Year:                     2011
Country:                                  USA
Film run time:                 Approx. 83 minutes
Language:                                English language with optional Spanish/French/Italian/Japanese subtitles
Aspect Ratio:                           2.35:1 Widescreen Anamorphic 
Audio:                                      DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround/Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Label/Distributor:                    Reel Gore Releasing/CAV
Catalog Number:                     RGR004
UPC:                                        881190600498
Rating:                                     Not Rated

Collectible Blu-ray/DVD O-Card and Sleeve
Behind The Murder - Exclusive Video Diary 
Music Clip 
Collectible O-Card

First pressing of 1000 copies include Collector’s Card RGR004


Directed By: John Lechago
Written By: John Lechago
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Al Burke
Color/86 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: December 1, 2016

The Film
Killjoy the demon clown has escaped hell and his time spent hosting a wickedly weird talk show is interrupted when Beelzebub comes after Killjoy to trap his spirit and bring it back to hell. Killjoy and his crew must fight off Beelzebub and his psychos in an intergalactic battle of bad CGI and body paint.

KILLJOY'S PSYCHO CIRCUS is the fifth entry into the franchise which I admittedly  have very little knowledge of. I know that this film follows the fourth entry Killjoy Goes To Hell (yes, I figured that out on my own), and I've seen very brief footage from the earlier films but I had never sat down to watch a Killjoy film before now. KILLYJOY'S PSYCHO CIRCUS focused much more on Killjoy's relationship with his sidekick Batty Boop who is a fellow clown rocking a body paint suit and arguably the most annoying voice I've ever heard in film. A deliberate speech impediment and whiny, squeaky voice made every line from Batty unbearable, and she has plenty of lines. It was a welcomed surprise to be able to learn about the characters jumping in to a series so far along, I don't feel like I missed much or that I can at least survive without knowing it.

Trent Haaga plays the titular demon clown and he's the high point of the film. He's genuinely funny with great comedic timing and brings great emotion to the character through all of the makeup and latex work. Writer/director John Lechago is no stranger to the franchise having directed the last three films in the franchise and his script is surprisingly good. KILLJOY'S PSYCHO CIRCUS is a well written movie, especially by modern Full Moon standards. The acting isn't half bad from the supporting cast either. Victoria De Mare is quite good as Batty, despite her annoying voice, she plays the smitten sidekick role very well.

Where the film stumbles is that it's rather uneventful. This is a case where too much character development and story is just too much. I was left wanting more demon carnival shenanigans and only later on in the film do we really get any sort of action with a quick shoot out scene that easily dispatches of most of Beelzebub's psychos and a final battle that is cheesy as hell and features a Mortal Kombat soundtrack. Both of the big action sequences are definitely fun but there's just not enough of them and the film's reliance on sex jokes and toilet humor ultimately lets it down.

The Audio & Video
It's a shame that KILLJOY'S PSYCHO CIRCUS isn't being released on Blu-ray because it is a very colorful production and has interesting sets that would look fantastic in HD. That said, the DVD from Full Moon does look quite good. The colors shine through vividly and the detail level is strong. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and clean. The 2.0 English audio mix sounds good as well with steady levels and a complimentary mix between dialogue and soundtrack. The audio is clear and crisp with no distortions.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
Returning Killjoy fans will likely find a lot to enjoy here but newcomers may want to watch some trailers or the first film in the series before diving into KILLJOY'S PSYCHO CIRCUS to see if this is their cup of tea. Recommended for returning fans of the series.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Directed By: Mark Pirro
Written By: Mark Pirro, Alan Gries
Starring: John McCafferty, Robyn Blythe, Beano
Color/81 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 25, 2016

The Film
Chuck Toedan is the host of the popular but wildly controversial TV gameshow Live Or Die where death row inmates compete for a chance to beat their sentence or at least win some prizes for their family on the way out. Toedan's own life is put in jeopardy when he kills a local mob boss and a hit man comes to the studio for Toedan. A battle for survival ensues as Toedan tries to outsmart and outmaneuver the mafia hit man while being put in the same situations he's used to seeing his contestants in!

Mark Pirro directed DEATHROW GAMESHOW only having had experience making Super 8 shorts and his debut feature A Polish Vampire In Burbank which was also shot on Super 8. Pirro was given the chance to make his first 35mm feature and didn't squander it despite being overwhelmed and realizing his tight knit crew from his days with 8mm were going to need some help with a more experienced crew. The thing Pirro didn't need too much help with was writing a hilariously dark comedy that is full of colorful characters and fun sight gags.

John McCafferty is absolutely fantastic as Chuck Toedan and perfectly embodies a corny gameshow host. His chemistry with Robyn Blythe is natural and their character progression is handled nicely. Blythe is quite likable and is a genuinely nice person who gets caught up in a bad situation, and during her dinner with the hit man a rather disgusting and off putting situation as well. Beano does a great job playing a caricature of a typical mafia hitman, playing up his Italian heritage to a comical level. The best scenes of the film are of course the gameshow scenes and seeing the inmates meet their ends in all of the hilaroiusly staged events. Or is it of their family's reaction to their demise and the surprising upswing in their mood when they find out they've won some wonderful prizes? It's both. The cheese smothered script works so wonderfully that all of the over acting and hokey parodies of all aspects of game shows bring nothing but laughs.

DEATHROW GAMESHOW has grown on me to be among the most underrated comedic gems of the late 80s and it's low budget nature and campy vibe only add to its charm.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome releases an impressive looking Blu-ray that easily outshines previous DVD releases that frankly didn't look bad themselves. It's the immediately noticeable improvement that speaks volumes for the quality of this transfer, taking a film that looked fine on home video and making it look truly outstanding. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer retains the film's original aspect ratio and has been restored from a brand new 2K scan from the original 35mm negatives and features a natural and healthy grain structure. Colors have never looked better for this film than they do here, with an increased richness and vivid quality. Black levels are deep and inky and the picture is quite sharp and clean. The English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono is especially crisp and clear with steady levels and no distortions or background noise. The film certainly hasn't sounded this good before. English SDH subtitles are available.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with director Mark Pirro, and stars John McCafferty and Robyn Blythe
-"Revisiting DEATHROW GAMESHOW" - A well done documentary clocking in at over a half hour long.
-2015 Director's Cut of DEATHROW GAMESHOW
-Multiple Director's Introductions
-"Buns" - a 1978 short film from Mark Pirro
-"The Spy Who Did It Better" - 1979 short film from Mark Pirro
-Original theatrical trailer
-TV Spots
-Image Gallery
-Reversible Artwork

The Bottom Line
Two cuts of the film, short films from the director and a host of other entertaining and high quality extras are just the icing on top of the cake for this hilarious black comedy that looks and sounds like you've just won the grand prize on an exploitation gameshow.


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.


Monday, November 7, 2016

KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (Blu-ray Review) - RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: John Stockwell
Written By: Dimitri Logothetis, Jim McGrath
Starring: Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 8, 2016

The Film
Eric Sloane is a renowned marital arts champion and in an attempt at making life changing money he agrees to fight in the high stakes world of underground fighting in Thailand. Eric isn't prepared for the  violence that is common in these fights and when he faces the ruthless Tong Po (Dave Bautista) he meets the end of his life. Eric's brother Kurt (Alain Moussi) has a plan to assassinate Tong Po but when that fails he decides to train under the man that trained his brother in a quest to avenge his brother's death.

John Stockwell handles KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE with as much grace as you want out of an ass kicking action movie, that is to say he made me believe that this film is a product of the 80s when action films were arguably at their best. Many of the best parts of 80s action films are present; the training montage, marketplace battles where produce flies, the passionate love scene and the dramatic climax where time seems to slow down. As a director John Stockwell has never really done it for me with his best work dwelling in so-so films or worse but he has won me over with his remake/reboot (however you want to look at it) of KICKBOXER. The movie is most certainly flawed but I don't think that moments of clunky editing and storytelling, largely due to scenes being cut and left on the editing room floor which would have helped better fill a couple of small plot holes and wouldn't have made the movie drag any, hurt the overall product. Stockwell handles the action scenes with skill and doesn't revert to annoying modern tendencies such as shaky camera work or unnecessary slow motion. The fight choreography is fantastic and the use of actual martial artists is not only noticeable but appreciated.

Jean-Claude Van Damme cemented his legacy in films such as Bloodsport, Timecop, and of course the original KICKBOXER and he returns here in the role of the trainer and mentor. Van Damme steps into the role seamlessly which is aided by the fact that he still kicks ass and gets to showcase his stuff. And while I loved seeing Van Damme get to show off his stuff, the man has kept incredible shape, there's no mistaking that the star of this film is without a doubt Alain Moussi. It's immediately apparent that Moussi has that old school action star charisma, that it factor that guys like Arnold, Sly and JCVD were all able to harness and capitalize on. If Moussi finds a way to fully capture that likability and "it factor" he could definitely be the next big action hero. It doesn't help that he bares more than a slight resemblance to a young Van Damme. Moussi is also a legitimate ass kicker, he's not the biggest guy around but he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has worked stunts on X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Suicide Squad just to name a few. Moussi's testosterone fueled quest for revenge is kept in check by Sara Malakul Lane who plays an agent for the Thai police and tries to protect Kurt from being locked up or even worse out on the street. She's the feminine side the movie may not have needed but is certainly better off having.  She portrays her character, Liu, perfectly as smart, cunning, and just the right amount of sexy. I first became aware of her when I reviewed Sun Choke a few months back and was pleasantly surprised to see her here because she's not only beautiful but a fine actress as well.

But no hero is complete without his main foe, right? Guardians Of The Galaxy proved to me that Dave Bautista, known from her on out as Batista, could act because he rarely showed much charisma in his WWE days. And while he's not asked to do as much here as he did in Guardians, he's a really solid big boss type character. Batista is not a small man and he looks every bit as intimidating as you want your big boss to be. His look is a throwback to that of the original Tong Po and he carries the torch well.

In fact the movie as a whole carries the torch well. KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE doesn't re-write what a good action movie is and it didn't have to. It is a remake but it doesn't get too cute with things in trying to be new and different or to make things more slick and polished than its predecessor. Movies like the original KICKBOXER work for a reason and remakes are an inevitable fact in current Hollywood so all we can hope is that they turn out to be a good movie. That is exactly what KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE turned out to be- Just a good old fashioned action movie.

The Audio & Video
RLJ Entertainment delivers this new KICKBOXER chapter with a stellar A/V presentation. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very sharp and features strong detail. Colors are vibrant and vivid while skin tones are flehsy and natural with no signs of waxiness. The blood, sweat and tears shine on this disc! The audio is handled with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix that is strong and crystal clear. English dominates the dialogue but there are a handful of scenes in what I believe to be Thai and those have subtitles that are translated very well but the subtitles are stylized and splashed across various parts of the screen. I'm not a fan of getting crazy with subtitles but it's a minor gripe that doesn't effect the film much.

The Extras
-Photo Gallery

The Bottom Line
It's not easy to revive a franchise from decades passed and have the film feel like it belongs under the same umbrella as the original films and be a good movie but KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE gets it right. While the film can easily stand on its own it also feels like a KICKBOXER film.