Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blackfoot Trail (2014) - Film Review

Backcountry Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A landscaper takes his girlfriend on a nostalgic camping trip but the couple find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear.

Very loosely based on the 2005 true events of Jacqueline Perry and Mark Jordan, Blackfoot Trail A.K.A Back Country has a simmering build up as the two leads trek into the wilderness. The first 45 minute trek is broken up with a tension filled scene where Eric Balfour's Brad make's a subtle move of sorts on (Jeff Roop) Alex's girlfriend.

Refreshingly, its' not a found footage film and traditionally shot. Director/writer Adam MacDonald is wise to take a less is more approach keeping the 'monster' hidden for the most part. After the couple become lost the first major attack comes in around the hour mark and it's worth the wait, the bear and gore effects are particularly brutal. MacDonald uses an unconventional interesting pull on focus. This unorthodox technique adds to the on screen proceedings especially as Jenn, played realistically by Missy Peregrym, is put through the mill.

The small cast ensemble are effective right down to the bit parts, notable is Nicholas Campbell as a Ranger. Although Balfour's Irish accent is unnecessary, it's a shame that his part is only an extended cameo. It's fitting MacDonald plays against expectations as Balfour's Brad doesn't simply save the day, but it would have been effective if MacDonald had weaved Balfour's character into the story a little more. But it's a little quibble. Frères Lumières music complements Christian Bielz's raw cinematography and MacDonald's on location shoot adds to the realism.

The real black bear moments sell Blackfoot Trail, expect a slow burner with great scenery and grounded performances. With the recent spate of killer bear features MacDonald's sober offering is probably the best of the bunch since The Edge.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Dead the Damned and the Darkness (2014) - Film Review - iDiC Entertainment

*** This review may contain zombie spoilers ***

A group of uninfected band together to escape the mutants to get to a coastal road.

After a wacky action packed opening, director Rene Perez delivers a low budget infection affair. Perez's heavy score is excellent when reminiscent of Euro splatter flicks and it harks back to Italian horror's when a woman's shirt (Raven Lexy) is ripped open exposing her breast. Writers Barry Massoni and Perez offer some interesting moments, mainly those involving a deaf character Stephanie, played notably by Iren Levy. Lead Robert Tweten with a practical and cool costume also deserves a mention.

Akin to Zombie Massacre's dead make up, the mutants also growl. Nevertheless, plenty of effort has gone into the production which is traditionally shot, its not another PoV or found footage movie. It's a zombie mash up, while not as well executed as Wyrmwood or as stylised as Bomshell Bloodbath, thankfully it's not as sleazy as Zombie 108 or Zombie Fight Club. Sadly, Perez links it to his 2011 predecessor Cowboys and Zombies a.k.a The Dead and the Damned in the latter half, jarringly taking the edge off this with some unnecessary flashbacks.

At times in the spirit of B exploitation flicks its better than anything made for the Syfy channel, zombie completest may get a kick out of this low budget offering.

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Galaxy of Terror (1981) Film Review - New World Pictures

Galaxy of Terror Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On a desolate, storm-lashed planet called Morganthus, survivors of a crashed spaceship are attacked by their fears.

Director Bruce D. Clark offers a choppy edited and scripted affair. Nevertheless, there are some interesting kill scenes including a man fighting his doppelgänger, a woman being consumed by a giant maggot (Taaffe O'Connell's notorious death scene), another man being killed with a throwing star by his own severed arm. As with most Roger Corman productions there's plenty of imagination but low budget production values.

The cast are an assortment of familiar TV and film actors from Happy Days to V and a Nightmare on Elm St. who do their best with the script and ill-fitting costumes. There's Sid Haig, Robert Englund to name a few. There's some nice effects on display, along with matte paintings and sound effects. Interestingly as a precursor to bigger things, James Cameron serves as production designer and second unit director, there are reminiscent smidgens of The Terminator and Aliens visuals on display, even though not as well lit or executed.

Galaxy of Terror is unashamedly a series of kills strung together with gore moments and effects. But so were the majority of films in its genre at the time. Worth viewing if only out of interest for the practical effects work.

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American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) – Limited Edition Blu-ray Review – Unearthed Films

Japan's Darkest Secret is America's Newest Nightmare

Blu-ray: BD-r (Limited to 300)
Released by: Unearthed Films
Release Date: January 2016
Production Year: 2015
Region Code: 1
Running Time: 1:38
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: 1080p (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: None

The Film – [4/5]:

"Don't leave me." Piercing hand-scrawled pleas become a nauseating, yearning pulp of  hope, entwined in sickly codependency of the experimental test subjects in "Bloodshock", the second in a series of eight American Guinea Pig films. This installment is a demented love story that will "punch you in the soul" in the words of iconic visionary author and Executive Producer, Stephen Biro.

Actors, Dan Ellis and Lillian McKinney had their work cut out for them, as they had no lines in the entire film. Given this circumstance, they each needed to be overtly expressive to convey pain, anger, disdain, exhaustion and a whole gamut of emotions without relying on the crutch of dialogue. Both were in different places within the torture chain, and it's brilliantly moving how Lillian was able to dim the light behind her eyes and seemingly fall into the pit of despair where her character had just given up. This paired with Dan's tenacity and overwhelmingly realistic responses to the physical malfeasance will undoubtedly make you cringe repeatedly on the edge of your seat. Expect a pang of nausea when you reach Dan's foot scene. The greatest feat is the empathy you will feel for these nameless, voiceless characters. Although their situations are dire, Dan and Lillian's characters are relatable and you will care about them as people.   

To say this film is a social commentary is an understatement. You may question your views on love, relationships and even the death penalty by the end. This isn't just mindless blood and gore. Director, Marcus Koch, wants this film to haunt you, and he succeeds. You will continue pondering Bloodshock with each rewatch and you'll be eager to get your next fix from this dealer of the macabre.  

Audio – [5/5]:

With the overall lack of dialogue, sound becomes a character in itself. A menacing metronome clicks away repetitive and intensifying patterns, moaning bassy throbs pulse through dull pains and tension mounts as the torture escalates to a crescendo in a vivid Miike-esque symphony of eroticism and madness. Kristian Day, Gene Palubicki and Jimmy ScreamerClauz are seasoned musicians that brought the sound of "Bloodshock" to life. With eerie tones and background notes fluidly swirling your tympanic membranes and fueling this film we have undeniable proof that these three are a dream trio. 

Video – [4/5]:

Veteran director and SFX guru, Marcus Koch, helms this stunning visual assault that can only be considered art. Filmed in HD digital, a slight grainy effect was achieved to give the film a throwback stark realism that could easily parallel the early works of Richard Kern. As the film builds in intensity, the richness of the black hues give way to sepia tones, then sickly pale blood appears like the butcher paper bottom of an old ribeye, turning to the shocking blast of the crimson finale. Subtlety reigns as the viewer will not notice the transition until that bold ending.     

Most exciting is the growth of Marcus Koch as a director. Known for cult favorites like "Rot", "Fell" and "100 Tears", Marcus shows maturity and beauty in his filmmaking style. The cinematography brings a dimension that almost seems like Hitchcock at times. This is truly a gripping and intense film.  

Special Features – [4.5/5]:

In the Unearthed Films tradition, physical media is made with the collector in mind, and special features are plentiful and make it worth choosing physical media over a digital copy to gain access to these behind-the-scenes gems. 

The star of these is the "FX Preproduction of Bloodshock". Marcus Koch is a staunch believer in the authenticity of the facade, meaning he will never use real blood or organs to achieve an effect. With his team (Cat Bernier and Melanie Dean) at Oddtopsy Effects, he painstakingly builds each silicone piece to meticulously match human anatomy, with unprecedented time and research spent to achieve the appropriate texture, consistency and overall accuracy of the piece.  

You'll feel like you're kicking back and having a beer with old friends while listening to the "Commentary with Marcus Koch and Stephen Biro". Quirky stories from the set and the harrowing account of Marcus' near death experience while filming make this extra a must hear. Set pieces, symbolism and future plans are also discussed, making you an instant insider. 

Learn the origins of the American Guinea Pig series from inception and acquisition of the rights to the original Japanese Guinea Pig films on the "Interviews with Marcus Koch and Stephen Biro". Most interesting is each man's perspective on the film and their contributions to create the final masterpiece. 

The "Exclusive Stills Gallery" gives an insider's glance behind the scenes to make you feel like you were right there during the filming. Take a virtual macabre mini-vacation and check these out. And while you're at it, there are some really great trailers included of the latest and greatest Unearthed Films. 

Overall Rating – [4.5/5]:

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Dinner With The Dwyers (2016) - Movie Review - Anti-Hero Films

A serial killer finds himself out of his element when he accompanies his girlfriend to a family dinner in the hopes of impressing her eccentric parents.

I had the great pleasure of seeing this gem recently, a comedy horror short made in the style of classic sitcoms of the 70's and 80's. There are many little nods to classic sitcom throughout the piece, including a canned laughter track, silly puns and a general sense of fun. However the humor is devilishly dark and wonderful, adding in a touch of horror to spice up proceedings.

I adored this horror short, and I also adore the people involved in the making of this movie, but please let the record state that I would have loved it even if I didn't know them, This short has such a fun and dark feel throughout, the performances are wonderfully campy (as they should be for this type of feature), and you can feel how much fun it would have been to work on Dinner With The Dwyers. 

The chemistry between all 4 key players is electric, they work very well together and it never once feels forced or awkward as some comedy horror shorts can feel at times. Playing Nora Dwyer is much loved Scream Queen Felissa Rose, who plays the role with devilish glee encapsulating the role of Cougar Mom perfectly. As many people know Felissa from Sleepaway Camp there is a wonderful reference to this within the movie, I won't give it away, but fans of Sleepaway will spot the joke instantly, and it's a corker!

Playing Peter Dwyer is Marv Blauvelt. I have seen Marv in various movies and shorts over the years and always thought he was wonderful, and the same applies to this movie too. He plays the part of the Inventor Father well and believable, with a slight hint of madness that may shine through towards the end of the picture.

Playing Debbie Dwyer, daughter of Peter & Nora is Tiffani Fest. Tiffani plays the role of the long suffering daughter wonderfully, she is likable and on some scary level, strangely relatable, although that probably says more about me. 

Debbie's boyfriend is played by Jared Degado. I have known of Jared for a while now, and always thought that he was one of the most beautiful specimens of manhood ever to walk the earth, in his role of Max he shows that he is also a damn good straight man to the comedy madness that goes on around him. Plot wise you would think that Max would be the one that is most out there (you will understand when you watch the movie), but this is where this short shines, it's all twisted on it's head. Not only does the poor guy have to fend off the amorous advances of Nora, he also is part of one of the most surreal family meals ever committed to film.

Yes, this review does sound like a love-in and I am fully aware of that. However it's absolutely true, I adored this movie. Possibly the most fun 10 minutes I have spent in a long time. I watched it 3 times in a row and it got funnier and more genius the more I watched it. Yes I am Felissa's biggest fan, however I don't lie. This movie is alot of fun. Seek it out, i'm sure you will be very pleasantly surprised!

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) - Blu-ray Review - Arrow Video

Part of the Limited Edition 'Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers 
by Emilio P. Miraglia' 4-Disc Blu-ray + DVD Set

Killer Dames box set from Arrow Video cover art

Released by: Arrow Video
Release Date: May 24, 2016 (US), May 30th, 2016 (UK)
Production Year: 1971
Region Code: A / B
Running Time: 1:42:48
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono / Italian DTS-HD MA Mono
Video: 1080p (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English, English SDH

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

THE FILM - [ 2.5 / 5 ]:

At the height of the Italian giallo boom in the early 1970's, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own unique takes on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers. This limited edition double pack features two distinctive offerings by Emilio P. Miraglia, which meld twisty whodunit narratives with gothic chills.

In "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave," troubled aristocrat Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen, "Django the Bastard"), haunted by the death of his first wife Evelyn, tries to move on by marrying the seductive Gladys (Marina Malfatti, "All the Colors of the Dark"). Marital bliss is short-lived, however, as various relatives meet untimely and gruesome deaths, prompting speculation that a vengeful Evelyn has risen from the grave…

I wouldn't call this a particularly strong film in the giallo sub-genre, but it does have its moments and some highly entertaining scenes. As is often the case, we are treated to some attractive, scantily clad and also nude, women. The film is not graphically violent and you really could call it rather tame when compared to many other giallo films. The story I though was, a bit sloppy. That's not to say the film is bad. It's just that with a little bit of tinkering it may have gone from okay, in my opinion, to great. Others will totally disagree and love the film and that is what is great about film and art in general, there will always be varying degrees of opinion about everything since we all have different tastes. 

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

AUDIO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

The Blu-ray comes with two audio options being English and Italian DTS-HS Master Audio Mono tracks. Audio on the Blu-ray sounded excellent and help aid the atmosphere of the gothic-themed film.  I did not notice any issues with it. Bruno Nicolai's score sounded wonderfully exciting and haunting. Sound levels were balanced well and the inclusion of two audio options was a nice bonus. English and English SDH subtitles are also included. 

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

VIDEO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

"The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" makes its Blu-ray debut thanks to Arrow Video and its U.S. distributor MVD Entertainment Group. The film received a new 2K restoration from the original camera negatives and is presented in 1080p with a 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio. The film looks beautiful. One thing some may mention is the pesky hair that appears at the bottom of the screen around the 90 minute mark, but viewers should be very satisfied with this presentation. Colors be it from the red-haired women in the film or colorful costumes pop off the screen specially during some scenes featuring drab backgrounds. Film grain looked quite good and never overly heavy. The film looked fairly sharp and even better in closeups. Skin tones looked very good as did black levels. 

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

SPECIAL FEATURES - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

Play With Introduction (:54) - You have the option to play the film with or without a 54 second introduction by star, Erika Blanc.

Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth - Mr. Howarth is an author of books like "So Deadly, So Perverse" and "The Haunted World of Mario Bava." He says this was his first commentary and I think he did an admirable job. I found the track to be very informative as he discussed and somewhat dissected the film. He was able to provide additional information about the cast including some of their other films. The giallo sub-genre was talked about as well. In some ways I found the commentary to be a little more enjoyable than the film itself. 

Remembering Evelyn (15:12) - A new interview with film critic Stephen Thrower who discusses Miraglia's film as well as stars Erika Blanc and Anthony Steffen. He also talks about some of the films prior releases. 

The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave (9:44) - A new interview filmed in 2015, actress Erica Blanc discusses her memories of shooting the film including her dance scene that introduces her character. A little bit of the interview is repeated from the archive interview that appears in The Whip and the Body archive extra. (In Italian with English subtitles)

  • Italian Trailer (2:44)
  • English Trailer (2:44)

Archival Special Features:
  • 2006 Introduction by Erika Blanc (:37) - Another brief introduction to the film.
  • The Whip and the Body (20:57) Actress Erica Blanc talks about her part in the film and other topics such as censorship at the time the film was made. Ms. Blanc also talks about some people she's worked with as well as some other films from her career. (In Italian with English subtitles)
  • Still Rising From the Grave (22:49) - Production Designed Lorenzo Baraldi speaks about his early career, getting started in the business and among other topics, other great designers. (In Italian with English subtitles)

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Killer Dames - Limited Edition Extras:

  • Limited Edition box set (3000 copies) containing "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" and "The Red Queen Kills Seven Times."
  • Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing new writing by James Blackford, Kat Ellinger, Leonard Jacobs and Rachael Nisbet.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

OVERALL RATING - [ 4 / 5 ]


The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Arrow Video Blu-ray screen cap

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