Evil Gets Snuffed and Blued. Blu-ray That is! “Effects” review!


Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.

In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!

“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.

Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.

AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?

“Effects” on Blu-ray by AGFA and MVDVisual!

Roe v. Wade? More like Dee Wallace v. Evil Cletus! “Red Christmas” review!


On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!

“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.

When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.

Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!

Get “Red Christmas” gift for the holidays!

Sit Back. Relax. Let Evil Take You For a Ride. “The Glass Coffin” review!


Her night was supposed to be a wonderful occasion of celebration, a night to showcase her lustrous career as an established actress, a night where she was set to receive her crowning lifetime achievement award, but when the gowned Amanda stepped into a luxurious, fully-loaded limousine, the night that was to be a collective jubilee of the last twenty-years of Amanda’s life will be turned into a terror ride of unspeakable acts in the name of pure hatred. Once inside, the limousine’s inescapable locks detainee Amanda as a voice behind a voyeuristic camera commands her every subversive move and a sadistic chauffeur uses pain to thwart any of Amanda’s attempts of refusal in on an interrogation on four hellish wheels.

“The Glass Coffin,” aka “El ataúd de cristal” is a 2016 Spanish thriller from first time feature film director Haritz Zubilaga and co-written with Aitor Eneriz. From the moment Amanda steps into the limousine built like a tank, Zubilaga’s film goes from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes with thick tension and high horsepower suspense. “The Glass Coffin” is a depraved film. This isn’t a sugar-coated stuck in a glass box Hollywood thriller like “Phone Booth.” Oh no. Zubilaga and Eneriz hitch your emotions on a tow bar and drag them through the filthy muck without as so much of a care. Is this a game like Jigsaw would construct in “Saw?” No traps or snares here, but there’s an ominous shroud of mystery behind Amanda’s captor that could certainly give Jigsaw a run for his money. “The Glass Coffin,” in fact, goes more in tune with Joel Schumacher’s “Phone Booth” when considering the villain. Well, more like a Eurotrash, alternate version of “Phone Booth” antagonist anyway because aside from deriving the guilt and the sin from Amanda, there’s a sleaziness about the captor whose presence becomes more and more gothic the closer we learn more about them on top of their already extreme methods in the right-the-wrong stance.

Very similar to most films with a slim-to-no cast, like the Ryan Reynolds’ thriller “Buried, “The Glass Coffin” fits the bill as a one actor film. Paola Bontempi stars as the targeted starlet Amanda and the Canary Islands born actress musters enough courage to accept such a punishing role where her character’s humility and pride stems from a base layered motivation in not wanting to become the masked Chauffeur’s punching bag. Amanda goes from high time to gutter low in an ugly show of stripping moralities and ethics in order to reveal one true self. A pivot does occur, turning the shredding of facade into plain and simple revenge that becomes the flashy bullet points of European horror and Bontempi changes with it in one fluid motion of character revival and redemption.

The diabolical game is, well, diabolical and sincerely rich in providing an attractive story, but the film doesn’t go without it’s problems. Whether lost in the Spanish translation or just simply unexplained, an opaque mystery clouds Amanda’s captors, especially with the maniac Chauffeur and his bizarre relationship with the planning perpetrator, that puts a sour afterthought into analyzing “The Glass Coffin.” The Chauffeur was one realistic element of an intriguing conglomerate that tipped the ice berg of sinister deplorability and I was yearning for more of that; instead the game turned, the plot transformed, and “The Glass Coffin” took an approach that routed far into left field. Not a bad route to take as, like much of Zubilaga’s film, the moment had me at an astonished state as the film continued to keep me guessing what was going to occur next.

MVDVisual and Synergetic Films distributes the Basque Films production, “The Glass Coffin,” onto DVD home video. Short in giving any sort of physical or emotion breaks, the 77-minute runtime feature is presented in a vibrantly engrossing widescreen presentation and while at times soft on the auxiliary background, the image quality is flashy and sharp surrounding Amanda. Darker scenes in the tail end lose quite a bit of definition that makes eyeing the moment difficult to capture. The Spanish 2.0 stereo mix does the job and profusely invigorates the voice behind the camera, a voice made of nightmares and all that horrifying in the world. The English subtitles sync well, but I spotted a couple of typos along the runtime. There are zero extras on this release and even though a smidgen of behind-the-scenes material would have been curious to view, the film is a simple bliss. “The Glass Coffin” arches over the niceties and lands right smack into obscenity to destabilize integrity in a cruel ride of exploitation. I wanted more, the unfiltered, fully unadulterated, story of Amanda and her polar opposite antagonist, but I’ll settle for the Cliff Notes version. For now.

A Must See! “The Glass Coffin” to purchase at Amazon.com!

Evil Finishes a Long Over Due 90’s SOV! “Jungle Trap” review!


Dr. Chris Carpenter aims to assemble a team of grad students to search for lost idol artifacts from one of the last, and deadliest, known South American native tribes who were thought to be exterminated by a military force. Despite her severe objections, her ex-husband and anthropologist, Dr. Josh Carpenter, is hired by the university department head to lead the expedition to the infamous Palace Hotel, a proclaimed millionaire’s playground overtook by the jungle after the natives beheaded guests and staffed. Unequipped and ill-prepared, the team journey to the most remote parts of South America, winging the entire trip with their haphazard ambitions, and seek means of transportation any way possible even if that means flying in a cramped plane with an alcoholic pilot. Upon their arrival at the Palace Hotel, hotel manager Madam Trudea and her odd bellhop Obie welcome them to the incredulously pristine resort grounds where one-by-one the team ends up dead with their heads chopped clean off and shrunken to fulfill an vengeful oath of retribution.

twenty-seven years. twenty-seven long years since director James Bryan’s film “Jungle Trap” saw the light of viewership day. “The Executioner, Part II” and “Don’t Go Into the Woods” director interlaced his cult filmography with also notable adult features that starred recognizable talent with Ron Jeremy, Peter North, Kitten Natividad, and Kristara Barrington helmed under a pair of monikers Emil Hightower and Morris Deal that Bryan used to separate his classes of work. Unfortunately, Bryan’s colorful career came to a complete and sudden halt right before the decade turn into the 1990’s until Bleeding Skull! Video unearthed haunted hotel in the deep jungle film “Jungle Trap.” Filmed in 1990, Bryan and his co-writer/female lead, Renee Harmon, use the latest and greatest technology of the time, tape. “Jungle Trap’s” shot-on-video, aka VHS, appeal is an exuberance of maddening creativity only bested by the “Troll 2” style bad acting.

Co-writer Renee Harmon stars as Dr. Chris Carpenter, marking the sixth collaboration between Harmon and Bryan along with “Run Coyote Run,” “Hell Riders,” “The Executioner, Part II,” “Lady Street Fighter, and “Boogievision.” Harmon’s relationship to her character, Chris Carpenter, mimics that of Eva Gabor if she had somehow wound up in the thick Jungle instead of that farm on Green Acres. “Night of Terror’s” Frank Neuhaus had more appropriately succumb to the distressed anthropological victim accustomed with this horror and Neuhaus opposite of Harmon, performance wise, is night and day making their former relationship hard to fathom. If there’s one character that was genuinely creepy in “Jungle Trap,” Jan Vanderberg’s bell hopping Obie wins the prize. THe elderly Vanderberg has spry movements, wide-wild eyes, and a sinister smile that mingles around in the grey area of friend or foe. The remaining cast, including Heidi Ahn, Tim de Haas, Valerie Smith, Rhonda Collier, Glen Serebian, Bill Luce, and Bette Bena, share the same remarkably and overly dramatic bad performances that make “Jungle Trap” hard to skip.

I’m sure the picture is starting to materialize. “Jungle Trap” is nowhere near a good movie. However, vast improvements to render the “Jungle Trap” enjoyable, as well as to scrape by finishing the Bryan project, was courteously contributed by Bleeding Skull! Video’s kickstarter initiative. The company has a history of gathering unreleased film’s loose ends, tying them together, and creating a fetching film; in this case, “Jungle Trap” didn’t have a score, wasn’t edited, and was shelved for decades. Now, “Jungle Trap” isn’t a mystery in the public eye, has a semicoherent storyline with an edited in arbitrary opening, and, thanks to the synth-heavy Euro-trashy sounds of Taken by Savages, a gloriously catchy soundtrack has been laid down. The entire package puts more girth and more value into Bryan’s shamefully quaint horror.

Bleeding Skull! Video presents “Jungle Trap” on DVD, VHS, and VOD for the first time! Since provided with a streaming copy, critiquing the audio and video won’t be solid, but the shot-on-video image keeps the obsolete VHS quality attributes with tracking lines galore, blurry-soft quality, and a slew of inconsistent coloring that works under the maestros of Joey Ziemba and Annie Choi, high ranking members of Bleeding Skull! Video, synthesizing a score under the Taken by Savages moniker! There were no extras with the streaming screener, but the 72 minutes feature includes with the VHS and DVD a fold-out poster, making-of documentary, and Bleeding Skull! Video trailers. “Jungle Trap” is a mondo masterpiece, a terrific terrible, with a heart of gold (skull) and a kickass soundtrack from a colorfully careered director who now has this blast from a past as his legacy film.

Get Bullied Or Make An Evil Deal with the Devil! “Devil’s Domain” review!


Lisa is just your average high school student, except this particular teenage girl bares the blunt carnage of on and offline bullying. From her extreme bulimia to her sexual orientation, Lisa absorbs daily taunting from her peers in a merciless presentation of harassment and she has lost the connect between all of her close and dearest friends, even her childhood friend Andrew, the boy living next door, betrays her trust and privacy. Nobody seems to care about whether Lisa lives or dies, except for one individual who has taken an interest in Lisa and her situation. A mysteriously beautiful woman, who goes by the name of Destiny, befriends the teen, offering her hand in friendship as well as physical intimacy, but when Destiny reveals herself as Satan, Lisa is offered a trade that’ll not only benefit Lisa’s status and exact revenge on all who have done Lisa wrong but will also require an enigmatic desire of terrible consequences from the unholy beast. As Lisa soul hangs in the balance, she’s stuck between an deal with the devil and the evil bestowed upon her by her schoolmates.

“Devil’s Domain” is the 2016 new age horror from writer-director Jared Cohn. The New York born Cohn, known for his various contributions in the direct-to-video horror market, attempts his taste for horror by commingling the ongoing social issue of high school cyber bullying with a polished satanic spin. Cohn’s depiction of bullying, though a bit exaggerated, radiates with a lot of truth with the way kids nowadays treat each other from conniving behind their backs to exploit their privacy to straight-to-the-face insults. The way in Cohn constructs Lisa’s responses and reactions to all of that tormenting punishment is more-or-less accurate, if that’s fair to say, as Lisa is reclusive to her well-decked out room, showers with a hint of self-inflicted cutting, and attempts to fit in by committing dangerous acts of being thin.

Conscripted to tackle such a burdened role is Madi Vodane with “Devil’s Domain” being her only film to credit. Though Cohn squeaks by with the proper junctions at which a trouble teen might take, I can’t fathom actress Madi Vodane looking the part of the bullied Lisa. The whole scenario feels like how “Not Another Teen Movie” spoofed “She’s All That” with a good looking young girl portraying the unwilling participant of high school oppression and to top it off, Cohn has Vodane prance and lounge in her underwear for a good portion of the film, making Lisa’s plight even more harder to swallow. Lisa even partakes in a four-way with three scantily-cladded women in a devil manifested fantasy with one of the women being “Ratpocalypse’s” Linda Bella as Destiny/Satan. The French born Bella eagerly takes on the role of Satan in a familiarity akin to Elizabeth Hurley in “Bedazzled.” In the beginning when Bella comes onto the scene as the Devil, the supermodel statured actress is tucked into a skin tight, short skirt party dress wearing a long horned and barbarically cool satan latex mask. As she dances seductively toward her first victim Lexi (Molly Nolan) before commanding her minions to rip her to shreds with a chainsaw, the first thought was how interesting and intriguing this portrayal of Satan might be in Cohn’s film, but the character quickly becomes conventional, less evilly frisky as the story unravels around Lisa, and transforms more into a more grislier version of a trickster devil that we’ve all seen before. “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight” star Michael Madsen headlines the film despite being just a familiar face playing a side role of unimportance as Lisa’s sketchy, but understanding step-dad. As much as he tries and as much as I love him for it, Madsen can’t grasp being uncool, can’t fathom being understanding, and knows more about anger, thrills, and being the tough guy in the room. There other characters, played by Zack Kozlow, Kelly Erin Decker, Desanka Julia ilic, and others, but they come up short with sorely underdeveloped worth that they’re offed even before getting to know who they are and why we, as viewers, should care about them.

Cohn and his special effects techs bring some gore to the table in a few over-the-top kill scenes that show promise early on, but the blood flows tamer after Bella’s Devil character drives a machete over-and-over into one of the cruel schoolgirls at a kegger party. Also, when Destiny morphs into her true self, a wide wing-spanned and hideously grotesque Balthazar, played by a shorter actress named Angie Stevenson, the effect hardly sells itself, but Stevenson, I must admit, looks great in an elaborate, if not slightly Halloween-esque, costume accompanied with a set of razor sharp dentures on top of her bat-like outfit. However, one scene reaches new heights when the devil, though female in true form, rapes one of the female characters from behind in a show of pure malicious dominance that leaves a cold sweat and a gloomy mood over the treatment of dumped upon characters to whom never really dig themselves out of that deep hole from which they start, but rather they lay stagnant throughout without any hint of redemption. So you can say the whole story peters out after the apex of the she-devil climaxing because even though that particular moment is pivotal, the outcome briefly captures the meaningful intention as the message of the entire film becomes utterly lost and not anymore about resolving cyber bullying.

MVDVisual delivers the Cleopatra Entertainment production of “Devil’s Domain” on high definition Blu-ray. The unrated, 91 minute runtime of the 2.39:1 presentation is stored on a region free MPEG-4 AVC (BD 25). The image palette goes through a score of colored filters, from a scorching red to an intense blue, that removes much of the detailed definition, but natural coloring and skin tones do emerge from unfiltered sequences and bring full definition to the scene. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track heavily promotes Cleopatra Records music talent for obvious reasons, such as Iggy and The Stooges, DMX, and Onyx. However, much of the track looses transitional traction between layers that abruptly pop in and out. The dialogue comes out clean and coherent. Extras include a making of featurette entitled “The Devil Made Me Do It,” a slideshow, the red carpet premiere featuring brief cast and crew interviews, and the theatrical trailer. Despite having gleaming moments of pure demonic appeal and a taste from many women in many undergarments, “Devil’s Domain” looses a bit of ground covering the topic of severe high school abuse and cyber bullying and doesn’t have the stamina to keep out from being a candy-coated horror film.

See Michael Madsen as a Step Father in “Devil’s Domain!”