The Bends Can Be EVILLY Depressurizing. “Breaking Surface” reviewed! (Music Box Films / Digital Screener)

Two half-sisters, Ida, and Tuva, return home to spend time with their mother, preparing for a family dive in the frigid Norwegian waters near an isolated rock cliff.  When the mother withdraws because of her health, the sisters embark without her.  When a sudden rockslide traps Tuva, also the more experienced diver, between a rock and a hard place Ida must race against the clock to free her from being pinned to the bottom floor before viable air runs out, but with most of their gear under the rockslide rubble on the topside and only a few usable spare air tanks available, Ida, paying no heed to decompression sickness with her hasty reoccurring ascents to the surface, will do whatever it takes save her sister, even if that means being detrimental to her own life.

Scandinavian filmmaking has always been in this personally dissatisfying commercial stasis of public recognition oversight for years even though there are a number of projects, birthed from Sweden or Norway, that have the budget for success, compelling storytelling, and still fly shamefully under the radar and most audiences, speaking more for the U.S. based general admission moviegoers, don’t ever get the chance to experience without the bombardment of marketing or, perhaps more so, they intentionally skip over to titles with, who in large popcorn and soda glazed eyes, are well-known, recognizable thespian faces, or maybe a trailer they’ve seen during their morning daily talk shows and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” or for the worst reason of all, the subtitles are a big deterrent since Scandinavian films are in Scandinavian languages, but one of those films that depicts the immense Baltic beauty landscape but can also be edgy with touch of sensationalism is Joachim Hedén’s “Breaking Surface.” The director’s fourth feature length film in 2020 is woman versus nature, time versus the elements, when scuba diving hits direly rock bottom. Hedén wrote the film that’s presented by a Swedish and Norway co-production of companies, including Water Feature Films in association with Film i Väst, Film i Skåne, Umedia, Filmfond Nord, Sveriges Television, and Weggefilms. Julia Gebauer and Jonas Sörensson serve as producers.

At the core of the diving mishap are two sisters, Ida and Tuva. Half-sisters to be exact that are written with tremendous interfamily complexities because of their mother remarries Tuva’s father angle plus incorporating their own personal hang ups in adulthood with the genesis of their problem is stuck in the past. “Breaking Surface” is a woman domineered thriller, challenging the stereotyped patriarch activities of men and, to an extent, whatever role that is inhabited by a man is exhibited in not a good light. It’s reminiscent of the “47 Meters Down” films in more ways than one with scuba diving and an inclination for female principle characters dealing on hand with the cards dealt together to survive the elemental odds. Moa Gammel and Madeleine Martin play the respective leads of older sister Ida in the midst of divorce proceedings that comes complicated with two small children and has mother issues that she projects onto her younger half-sister, Tuva, who lives at the top of the food chain fearlessly and isn’t grounded by anyone, anything, or anywhere. Gammal and Martin instill into their characters a reaffirmations of their talents with Ida being a more recreational diver whereas Tuva lives and breaths underwater professionalism. This dynamic unfolds nicely when Tuva is trapped under a rockslide and her older sister has to be instructed, painfully detail-by-detail, what to do. At times, Ida is a character at a point of collapse because of how overly incompetent she can seem with no-brainer solutions; yet, this is where I believe Hedén to excel at scribing realism because no matter how frustrating can Ida’s actions be, any situation under that much pressure (pun intended) can discombobulate the mind, body, and senses. If my sister was trapped under a rock at the bottom of the sea floor, my id would explode and she would asphyxiate and drown before I could compute the situation. Yet, Ida comes around in her arc, completing more confidently and independently the challenges that face her despite their increase in difficult and severity with only minor eye-rolling cringes loitering in and between the second and third acts.

“Breaking Surface” is a modestly paced film with a slim runtime of 82 minutes that captures the entire trialing day odyssey of conquering nature, time, and death while decompressing fraught mental retentions of estranged sister and motherhood, parroting life circumstances, and a past event parallel that’s nearly paralyzing. As much as underwater thrillers excite as one of my personal favorite subgenres, there are downsides to “Breaking Surface” timing that felt limitless when Ida struggles to regain control from failure-after-failure of hopeless rescue endeavors of the most easiest of solution routes, but when the older sister resurfaces from below for a second time, a quick lap to a neighbors house didn’t quite jive with time and space, especially when the Sweden-residing Ida has to frantically read a map of a near alien Norwegian coastal topography. Miraculous, Ida is able to arrive at her destination, rustle about an absent homeowner’s isolated cabin for internet, phone, or an essential tool, and be back in half hour to scuba back down again toward her sister. I would imagine the series of event would have been on the better part of an hour, but what do I know about Norwegian landscapes? On the topic of knowing stuff, since I’m not a diving expert or aficionado, Hedén, in my eye, was able to sell explaining scuba diving jargon and actions with brief but natural expositions that forms innately with Ida’s recreational side of the activity. While not as tenderly macabre as “Let the Right One In” nor as wonderfully gory as the inane undead Nazi horror, “Dead Snow,” “Breaking Surface” is an oxygenated subaquatic air gasper tussling with submerged phrenic psychological and physical problems of two sisters trying desperately to save their frayed relationship.

 

As breathtaking as the Scandinavian artic north coastlines are, the icy waters of “Breaking Surface” will definitely take your breath away as an exhilarating underwater survive the clock time chaser. Arriving on VOD platforms on December 15 courtesy of Music Box Films under their Doppelganger Releasing banner, the film will be available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, and YouTube presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and in a Norwegian and Swedish language 5.1 surround sound with optional English subtitles. Anna Patarakina’s nominal two-tone cinematography induces a steely gray and blue cold environment of Scandinavian’s artic snow covered north. Patarakina captures the immense grandiose of Norway’s Lofoten’s mountains of serenity encircling their imminent, uncertain fate. Eric Börjeson joins the crew as the director of photography underwater and Börjeson, whose credits include “Let the Right One In (that unforgettable pool scene), keeps the shots tight from wandering beyond the cobalt blue, almost black, waters, fulfilling a nerve-splintering sense of disorientation. There were no bonus features included with this release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits, but I did find Juliet Simms’ “100 Little Deaths” to be a great rock-n-roll outro singled to signify the multiple possibilities the two sisters could have met their maker. “Breaking Surface” flurries with a cliffhanging suspense in an extreme counterpart of blending family therapy with acute disaster that brings two incongruous sisters back into restored harmony.

EVIL Trifles With a Vindictive Obsessed Cop in “Split Second” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

Global warming has taken a toll on the Earth’s polar ice caps in 2008 with cascading amounts of water flooding around the world bringing knee high waters to coastal cities.  London is hit hard with drenching sewer overflows and coastal run overs that result in an over infestation of rats to storm the streets, back alleys, and even resident homes, carrying a harmful disease in their occupation.  However, something else compounds the rat plague that slashes at random victims, tearing their hearts out violently from their chests without ever leaving a witness except for one, a rogue and paranoid detective Harley Stone whose partner was slain in one of the deadly attacks and himself marred by the killer. Partnered with a new hot shot know-it-all detective following the murders, an obsessed Stone confronts his haunting traumas as he continues to pursue the inhuman perpetrator who has a psychic connection to Stone, personally toying with the on-edge officer, and has kidnapped his girlfriend as bait.

Even though 2008 has come and gone now almost 12 years ago, Tony Maylam’s 1992 actionized-creature feature “Split Second” still holds water just like the rising tide pools on the streets of London.  “The Burning” director, Maylam, helms, with the finishing touches of the final sequences directed by Ian Sharp after Maylam’s sudden departure, a fast paced and snarky script penned by Gary Scott Thompson as one of the writer’s very first big budget outputs from nearly 30 years ago that was followed up with major studio films, including a little project you may or may not have heard of, “The Fast and The Furious” mega franchise.  Before nitrous suped-up cars hot-rodding on asphalt, jumping high speed trains, and flying off cliffs in a lap strap of criminal activity luxury, Thompson created a formidable, heart-devouring beast that became the trap-setting, trophy-hunting predator and the teeth-snapping, chest-bursting xenomorph all in one package to symbolize the irreversible and ignored effects of an overpopulated, warming planet.  “Split Second” is a production of Challenge Film Corporation and produced by Muse Productions with Chris Hanley, Laura Gregory, and Keith Cavele serving in a producer role.

The Netherlands’ very own Rutger Hauer sheds his nice guy exterior for Harley Stone’s shell-shocked, rough and tough outer shell.  The late “Blade Runner” and “The Hitcher” actor brings a certain cinematic coolant to “Split Second’s” overheating fringe of disproportionate action and science fiction horror, a lop-sidedness typical of a Rutger Hauer production, by being larger than life in the little aspects that add to the dimensions of the scene, making every moment famished for Stone’s next eccentric and animated move.  Stone is partnered with an equally vigorous Detective Dick Durkin who starts out as a cultured drip of criminal activity and an astronomical proficient before quickly blooming into the same gritty mirror image of Stone.  Credited as Neil Duncan, the current vocational voice actor Alastair Duncan has a natural dynamic with Hauer despite their asymmetrical careers and endures an incredible character arc successfully turning Durkins’ relatively square image – though debatable with smart, good looking, and gets sex every day swagger – into a Stone acolyte after witnessing the human threatening existence of an unnatural ferocious monster.  The female love interest didn’t seem to fit the “Split Second’s” gentle steampunk lace and zany character scheme with Kim Cattrall as Stone’s estranged girlfriend, Michelle McLaine.  As much as love the “Big Trouble in Little China” actress’s late 80’s to early 90’s career, the girlfriend role feels sorely plopped into the film for the sake of having a love interest as much of the character is illuminated through exposition with McLaine being the wife of Stone’s former partner stemmed from her and Stone’s affair and then lingers her subsequent alienation from the rogue cop despite an inextinguishable flame between them. As Cattrall provides the sexiness in the city of London, McLanie iss aesthetically airy without tangible substance other than kick in the pants motivation for saving. “Split Second” rounds out with the late Pete Postlethwaite (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alun Armstrong (“Van Helsing”), Stewart Harvey-Wilson and “Scoorged’s” Michael J. Pollard as London’s the rat catcher.

“Split Second” is an early nineties junket spiraling with flashy facets of easily digestible, entertaining chewables that continuously hits all the right flavor sensations in terms of acting, dialogue, production design, creature design, and cinematography. The bonkers script and equally as bonkers visual concept inserts an extremely likable brazen world of the future in the form of a dank, or danker, London under one or two feet of water; in every moment Stone or Durkin hit the streets, they’re essentially swimming in brown street liquid and the overall effect places a blanket of filth glazing over my eyes and secreting out of my captivated body is a cold spine-shivering chill that’s immersive to Stone and Durkin’s slushing around. Stephen Norrington, who went on to direct “Death Machine” and “Blade,” slapped together a fairly effective creature design despite the creature rarely being in full exhibition and for very good reason. A brief flash of razor sharp fingers, a quick dash of unearthly skin, and the gruesome aftermath in it’s wake evolved a better rendition of the creature in our minds than perhaps the actual resulting appearance with result that tacked on one big mysterious allure that doubled down coinciding with the principle characters who also has never seen the killer before. “Split Second” is constantly suspended in action with little down time to reflect on the theme of global warming and it’s life-changing choking effects that not only rushes thousands of gallons of water onto the streets and increase the survivalist rat population up to nearly impossible control levels, but also tampers with the balance of astrometric forces, bringing evil to the world in the form of a heart-eating devil to the surface when astrology deemed the moon in position for such an event and that’s also perhaps the downside to Tony Maylam’s film. The monster bares little backstory to sink one’s teeth into and raises an immeasurable amount of unanswered questions relating to the fate that intertwined Stone into the creature’s inner sphere of extrasensory perception, the origins of the creature and it’s genetic makeup, and the relationship between it and the cult correlations.

A melting pot of feculent and bloodshed pother, “Split Second” arrives onto a high definition Blu-ray courtesy of 101 Films and on MVDVisual’s MVD Rewind Collection banner. The region free, R-rated feature is presented in 1080p with a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a newly 4K scan complete with restoration and coloring grading from the original 35mm negative. The inviting image, with adequate grain and a cigarette burn here and there, basks mainly in a steely blue among other primary colors rearing up while thick with a brightly contrasted neo-noir shadow wrung through. Skin textures are consistently and continuously glistening with sweat setting on top of the natural coloring and the facial follicules present a rather sharp image, making this release the best looking transfer to date. The English language 2.0 LPCM stereo mix doesn’t let up with a robust mix of forefront dialogue, a balance of range and depth, and a pulsating cheesy-action soundtrack Stephen Parsons and Francis Haines. English subtitles are optionally included. The heft bonus features package includes exclusive content such as an audio commentary by action film history Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venerma, a new conversation entitled “Great Big Bloody Guns!” between actor Alastair Duncan and producer Laura Gregory, a “Call Me Mr. Snips!” interview with composer Stephen Parsons, a “Stay in Line!” interview with line producer Laura Borg, a “More Blood!” interview with creature effects designer Cliff Wallace, and a “Shoot Everything!” interview with cinematographer Clive Tickner. But, wait, there’s more! Also included is the original making of feature with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, writer Gary Scott Thompson, original behind the scenes feature with effects creator Stephen Norrington and other cast and crew, the “Second Split” Japanese cut includes the deleted scenes and built in Japanese subtitles, 7 promotional TV clips, U.S. VHS home video promo, theatrical trailer, and a MVD exclusive reversible sleeve with artwork from The Dude Designs, cardboard slipcover, and mini-poster insert. The difficult decision to determine Rutger Hauer’s best work can be daunting as the man is King Midas with every project he touches, but “Split Second” reveals now more than just being pure gold with this MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray release that’s a must own, must have, must see, and a must collect physical release of the rundown of a monster-run amok, neo-noir, steampunk, action-comedy-horror….in a nutshell.

Own this Rutger Hauer classic “Split Second” on Blu-ray!

Chronicling the Cannibalistic, Necrophilism EVILs of a Serial Killer is for Adult Eyes Only! “LoveDump” reviewed! (A Baroque House / Digital Screener)

July, 2003 – a hollow-hearted serial killer, Denise Holmes, moves into a motel room of a populated metropolis of the West Coast.  Journaling every perverse and murder-lust desire in a diary, the unspeakable acts of sex and death blend together as one as the urge to kill grows bolder, leaving a trail of gore in the wake.  Paranoia begins to sink in after the last execution of an innocent victim and desecrating their bloodied, decapitated head in an inerasable moment from the mind. What you’re about to hear are the audio recordings of Denise Holmes’ diary inserts, read by Detective Jamie Reams whose giving a tactile voice to a wraith-like monster.

Over the years, the term Horror has been exploitatively glamourized for capital, trendsetting and bedazzled with glitzy gems of tamed teenager torment that sold the strung up, struck down, and sliced-and-diced adolescent carnage-fodder into each and every way the human brain can conceive with only a tweak of difference adorned with each ornate kill. Horror has also become garish with gorgeous women for the gratuitous donation of bare skin for the camera and the audiences to entice and gawk at the beauty in death. I’m not going to lie, I eat every millisecond of film of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to horror, and, truthfully, horror has been making a strong stance in the last couple of years and I’ve been embracing the subtle tingling of mind game thrillers to the overtly ostentatious gore-soaked slaughterhouses of a genre with the broadest spectrum known to the cinematic universe. The filmmaker under the alias of SamHel pushes our tolerance for extreme content to the breaking point with the written-and-directed 2020 adult-fetish exploitation, “LoveDump,” an independent film from the USA under the production company, A Baroque House, that set out to pay homage to the graphic adult and fetish horror films of 1990s Japan.

The 33-minute short film only stars two performers in non-speaking, purely physical roles. First up, Wolvie Ironbear, an intersex non-binary adult content pansexual specializing in gothic and kink fetishisms, depicts the notorious necrophiliac serial killer, Denise Holmes, and Apricot Pitts, an unshaven fetishist whose also in the adult content creator realm, as a hapless prostitute who becomes a slayed statistic of sadism lured in by Holmes to greedily satisfy the nagging ghastly degeneracies. Most of the runtime runs with Ironbear licking at the chops, contemplating the next libidinous victim. Thick in the air is the sordidness moisture of solo self-gratification with unorthodox sex toys: a pig’s head, human blood, and other interesting, socially ignoble objects not fit to describe without dismantling in spoiler territory. Ironbear has to be a killer and a pretender, playing into a pretense that is a wolf in a sheep’s kinky-gimp clothing when Pitt’s prostitute steps into the motel room. Together, Pitts and Ironbear are electric, sexy, and give a damn good X-rated show of lust and macabre that turns the fever of carnality into a gruesome display of monomania participation.

“LoveDump” is not an attractive title, but suitable for unattractive content of desecrating the dead to the likes of Jörg Buttgereit’s “Nekromantik” and Marian Dora’s “Cannibal” while striving to be akin to Japan’s extreme horror like “Splatter: Naked Blood” or the notoriously sought after Guinea Pig films. “LoveDump” has an outrush of a snuff film that emanates a deep, dark secret club with elite memberships under pseudonym-ship in the producer and production departments. The makeup and special effects prompt disconcert of an upholding quality for an indie picture and, so much so, the affect of the human soul skin-crawlingly good that we can’t find ourselves looking away when the urge to be squeamish is strong. SamHel’s film digs niche graves that not everyone will have the courage enough to step into by choice. For myself, “LoveDump” is purely curious voyeurism, ingesting and digesting the film as an informational vessel of visceral paraphilias and without a solid plot to chew on, “LoveDump” is a straightforward stitch in time gorging more on graphic imagery than story and that is where the A Baroque House flick loses me to an extent.

Don’t expect palsied love-stricken hearts to be oozing with jubilee affections; instead, expect a romantic bloodbath of narcissism in a solo courtship like none other in SamHel’s ultra-gory “LoveDump” on a limited edition DVD and Blu-ray from A Baroque House. The camera work by the monikered Excessive Menace renders a SOV resemblance from the 90’s with a lot of unsteady handheld shooting as well as adjusting the clarity of focus, but the frames do flicker noticeably which can be a minor nuisance. Almost all the sex and gore scenes are in an extreme closeup the gives you an extreme eye feel for the commingling faux blood and real semen. One of my only gripes is with the angles in the intercourse with Apricot Pitts that didn’t translate over well without the proper focus and lighting to be as a graphic as possible. Since provided with a digital screener and the screener provided is a rough cut of the short film, there were no bonus material included, if there were any. The limited edition physical packaged Blu-ray will include the full HD uncut version of the film, a still gallery, a behind the scene making of, and trailer. I assume the LE DVD contains the same features, but are not specified. Be warned! “LoveDump” is not teeny-bopping horror filmed for any Joe Schmo to casually sit down to Netflix and chill with their partner, unless they’re into switch BDSM with an ichor fetish and, in that case, “LoveDump’s” an avant-garde aphrodisiac bred out of extreme and unwavering compulsions.

A Major Book Deal Isn’t Worth This EVIL. “Writer’s Block” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

Skip Larson has become a one hit wonder in the literary field.  The aftermath of his initial work, a best seller success, has never again been duplicated as Larson’s wretched and dispassionate heart and mind hit an unscalable writer’s block that can’t afford to pay the ever mounting bills.  When a stranger approaches him at one of his dismal book signings, an opportunity presents itself to meet serial best-selling novelist, Chester Everett McGraw, at his private ranch where Larson has to decide whether to sign McGraw’s rigorously partisan and severe contract for wealth, prestige, and a chance to co-author McGraw’s next big novel after being cut off from the outside world for six months or walk away from everything without penalty and return to his mundane life struggle.  Larson agrees to McGraw’s extreme terms and begins working chapter after chapter on McGraw’s next literary masterpiece, but as the days turn to weeks and each draft is ridiculed and critically trashed, an irritated Larson itches to leave but the snake-tongued McGraw, his brutish bodyguard, and even the beautiful maid, who has suddenly taken a liken to him, keep tortuously motivating him back to novel drawing board whether he likes it or not. 

Putting pen to paperwork with a looming deadline on the horizon is already stressfully hair pulling, but when the cold steel of a gun muzzle is pressed against your sweaty temple, the pressure grows tenfold to get the creative juices flowing before the contract is up in Jeff Kerr and Ray Spivey’s co-written and directed 2019 exploitation thriller, “Writer’s Block.”  The independent feature is the second collaborated project between Kerr and Spivey following their 2016 documentary, “The Last of the Moonlight Towers,” about the obsolete street illumination system, the last of its kind, of electric light towers in Austin, Texas.  Continuing the trend of holding their filmmaking shop in their home state but not exploring non-fictional antiquated monolithic engineering marvels, the directing duo concentrate their Texas-based shot film toward being a cinematic turn-pager saturated with perfidious suspicion and crackpot characters that keep the road toward a clandestine endgame alluring and mysterious, unfolding in a similar regard to that of its general context of an exceedingly multifarious murder mystery novel.  Kerr and Spivey’s Sharp Town Productions serve as the attached production company.

Kerr and Spivey shop locally when choosing their downtrodden literary hero, Skip Larson, plagued with a wretched past and the desirable callings of the bottle.  The filmmakers settle on “Fear the Walking Dead’s” Craig Nigh who can sell smartass with the best of them and be as tough as nails when push comes to shove.  On paper, Larson’s a forlorn gambler risking his chance at life by accepting a seemingly glamorous, one-in-a-life, game-changing deal by a fellow writer he admires, but with a number of fishy, tall-tail signs of deception and corruption by McGraw and his goon, Digger, Larson can come off naïve, especially when he sticks around still after his free will fractures under physical violence and threatened to be shot.  The oppressive McGraw obviously has an ace up his sleeve in his proposed partnership with Larson and, never once, feels sincere in building Larson’s library with his dreams.  I found Mike Gassaway’s performance as McGraw to be one-note.  “The Next Kill” Gassaway tussles with sly intentions of a manipulative best-seller author, devolving into an unintentional weaker ranch obstacle that dwindles down McGraw to be more of a façade behind the true game being played against an unwary Larson.  Though McGraw as the brains, the cowboy hat wearing former oil rig worker, Digger, provided much of the muscle whose anxious temperament kept him from seeing the final stages of McGraw’s malevolent game.  Chris Warner finally lands a principle role that isn’t a short lived bit part that’s labeled Flatbed Driver or Prison Guard.  Instead, Digger Haskell seems like a teddy bear good old boy that Warner can inherently step into without having to get lost in a new persona and Warner fleshes out Digger’s hasty disdain in how the slow progression keeps him for enjoying what he loves to do best – being a hired goon – but the character rarely established a definitive connection of servitude toward McGraw other than the notable writer taking the oil rig injured man under his wing, causing some unresolved character development.  Cataline is perhaps the most underwhelming character as the immigrant house cleaner who falls in love with Skip Larson.  Played by Jeannie Carter-Cruz (“Sasquatch!  Curse of the Tree Guardian”), Catalina bashfully wills herself around the house, not really cleaning much in the audiences scope of her profession, and becomes discreetly entangled with the struggle writer for unknown reasons she herself couldn’t explain, leaving her, and Carter-Cruz, exposed in an under-seasoned character course. Katusha Robert, Avery Lewis, and Natasha Buffington rounds out of the cast.

“Writer’s Block” shoves an easily relatable theme of success never comes easy right into audiences’ laps as Skip Larson’s humiliation exhibits as much through literary famed Chester McGraw’s browbeating tactics ranging from verbal assaults to unwanted sexual persuasions. Not by McGraw. That would be gross. Yet, in essence, the actual frustration condition of writer’s block for an author in any facet is akin to the sensation of conquering in what seems the impossible. Once Skip Larson tips the odds into his favor, the woebegone writer’s line graph to success skyrockets off the chart after a bit of tough love motivation stemmed by McGraw and his boot camp, side-hustling ranch. However, “Writer’s Block” suffers from the titular misgiving in the form of pacing irregularities, a loitering third act, and a paper thin Skip Larson backstory that only dabbles into his post-family tragedy alcoholic stupors and his peradventure subversive dealings with his gangster cousin. The gangster cousin tangent is by far the most offshoot subplot underlined only in flashbacks and at the finale that introduces a character that has seemingly never been a functional part of the story but is pivotal in Skip Larson’s corner. The crux of the story’s issues is that it tries to incorporate too much whereas the basic building blocks, the pure premise, would have sufficed and have been modestly more successful if stuck to instead of throwing a curve ball of horror into the macabre construction of McGraw’s collective work of best sellers as trophies that becomes synonymous with his obsession for hunting, if not more so conquering, the wild game he annihilates.

When a wordsmith’s mental typewriter stalls and the hands hang still with fingers dangling above the alphanumeric keys, waiting for inspiration to flow through the very fingertips that provide financial stability and creative vigor, use the Gravitas Ventures released “Writer’s Block” as a tool to unstick the tacky words, pry open the oppressive blockade of the expression dam, and let the flood of literature be unbridled. Released earlier this month on November 3rd, “Writer’s Block” is now available on VOD and streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Fandango Now, and Google Play as well as all major cable and satellite platforms. The 98 minute film is shot in the capable hands of Alex Walker who stays put mostly in natural lighting, swerving almost unnoticeably at times into various colored lighting (mostly blue or purple) and utilizes the story’s drone to capture effective aerial shots. There were no bonus features included with the screener nor were any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Writer’s Block” is a tousle survival-thriller careening toward a grisly surprise that requires a little more spick and span shaping for a grittier exploitation.

Own “Writer’s Block” on Prime Video!

 

EVIL Hatches a Plan Against EVIL! “Death Laid an Egg” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

The Chicken farm and trading association industry lies on the fringe of near collapse and poultry scientists are hastily working on a solution experimenting with chicken embryos to create more meat for a nosediving commerce, but that doesn’t concern farm owner Marco whose more interested in having an affair with his wife’s young and beautiful cousin, Gabrielle, as well as moonlighting in his perverse side hobby of killing prostitutes at a hotel room.  Marco’s wife, Anna, who runs the farm single handily with the assistance of newly purchased machines, is ignorant of Marco and Gabrielle’s more-than-casual dalliance.  When a genetic modification accident produces the bulbous, meaty parts of live chickens without the heads, necks, and wings, the chicken association sees this changing event as the potential saving grace for chicken farmers everywhere and a financial reconciliation from foreboding ruin, but Marco wants nothing to do with the horrors of livestock manipulations and abominations.  Unable to understand his hesitation, Anna’s frustration is compounded by an anonymous note about Marco’s “affairs” with prostitutes that sends a simmering love triangle into a deadly internal coup.

What came first, the Chicken or the Egg?  In Giulio Questi’s inverted giallo thriller, “Death Laid an Egg,” the insoluble question parallels another question, who is deemed more sordid, an unchaste husband with a decadent desire for killing prostitutes or those conniving a plot involving murder to expose his vices and overthrow his wife for total control of their budding chicken farm? The 1968 Italian Giulio Questi and Franco Arcalli (“Tis Pity She’s A Whore”) written collaboration roosts at the edge of being an Italian murder mystery because of the atypical structure not terribly familiar to the genre and it’s fandom. Instead an unknown, gloved hand killer with a switchblade reflected with gleamingly terrified eyes of a barely clothed young woman screaming at the very top of her lungs, “Death Laid an Egg” is an Italian-French coproduction between Summa Cinematografica, Cine Azimut, and Les Films Corona.

At the epicenter of this switcheroo intrigant and strange triangular love affair are Marco, his wife Anna, and Anna’s younger cousin, Gabrielle, and only one of them, one of the three inside and out of the chicken farm, don’t entangle themselves in illicit activity.  French born actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, stars as the diverging Marco with infatuating love sickness for his wife’s secretarial cousin, Gabrielle.  The “So Sweet… So Perverse” and “Malevil” star emits a pressurizing performance, ready to melt down and volatilely combust, when Marco agitatedly paces between Anna (Gina Lollobrigida of the French versions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” of 1956) and Gabrielle, played by a relatively newcomer to the silver screen from Sweden in Ewa Aulin (“I Am What I Am”) to traverse from an old love to a new love despite the possibility of losing his entire livelihood.  The two female principles’ distinct personalities make for a great Trojan horse of shocking betrayal that goes against the grain and against the proverb that blood is thicker than water and Questri exploits with hard unstrung scenes of choppy segues that leave behind granular clues to their intentions in an almost abstract, auteur series of events.  When the love triangle because a quartet and actions become clearer with the clarity in advertisement specialists, Mr. Mondaini’s, underhanding involvement, a role shrouded in apprehensive mystery by Jean Sobieski, the enigma dissipates rapidly into a more tempered narrative of ill-tempered acts.  None of the four actors are cherished with equivalent screen time, orbing around more Marco’s ping-pong, zig-zag unconventional philandering and Gabrielle’s supporting role as Anna’s relative confidant, and this creates a visceral tension in the forefront of a economic crisis in the chicken farm market.

Giulio Questi always seemed to be pulling back the, excuse the pun, yoke to never let “Death Laid an Egg” fully nosedive into a blaze of a gruesome glorified giallo full of sleuth paranoia and scantily-cladded female victims stalked, hunted, and, eventual, murdered, but the Italian film, which saw a fair share of censorship cuts bordering around those aforesaid attributes, had no pretense about being a part of the traditional sense of the genre in the first place.  I wouldn’t even consider Questi’s film a typical example of the giallo’s Poliziotteschi subgenre though may have been more of a byproduct of the time period with the chicken economic crisis being a metaphor for the socio-political unrest, known as Years of Lead, that began in Italy in the 1960s.  The story’s crestfallen poultry association and it’s desperation for a godsend out of the newfangled embryotic manipulation procedures parallel, or perhaps even dominate, the plotline with a subplot coiled around Marco and Anna’s estranged life together in an allegorical fashion; the bastardization of genetically altering embryos is forcing the chickens’ hands to unravel a certain, horrible way and the same can be said for Marco and Anna who succumb to duplicitous external forces manipulating their every move toward an outcome that’ll likely destroy and takeaway not only their nest egg farm but could also cost them their very lives.  “Death Laid an Egg” does present a substantial amount of sexualization where Questi focuses, and sometimes lingers on, the half-naked portions of the actresses bodies.  The established Gina Lollobrigida and the up-and-coming Ewa Aulin, plus a handful of bit role prostitutes, show a fair amount of skin without ever baring the tongue-lapping essentials with Questi, in a stream of elegance, captures their shadowy curvatures and even loiters on the more publicly unpopular parts of women, such as around the abdomen or the shoulders, while obscuring more private areas with on set censoring, perhaps due in part of the Italian censor boards guidelines of the time.  In a feverish attempt to unclog Giulio Questi’s inscrutable character exploits, “Death Laid an Egg” shrouds itself with pygmy themes of obsession between death, lust, and control that tip-toe over a cracking, crackling egg shell in a rouse of debauchery indiscretions.

Releasing on a very special edition Blu-ray release, genre label Cult Epics proudly issues a limited edition, Hi-Def package of “Death Laid an Egg” with two versions of the Giulio Questi avant-garde giallo on a region free BD50, a 105 minute director’s cut and a 91 minute alternate international giallo Plucked version. Both versions of the film went through a 2K HD scan from the original 35mm negative, that’s been preserved quite well, renders a touch of pristine celluloid with hardly a flaw in it’s crisp technicolor perspicuity amongst the natural, stressed grain in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation. The Italian-English mono 2.0 LPCM casts a lively track across it’s broad audio spectrum with clear, forefront dialogue leading the charge with the purposeful and prosaic ambience and the harshly dissonance of viperous synth-and-string soundtrack from Bruno Maderna in strong supporting roles. Bonus features are aplenty with no only the alternate Plucked version of the film, but also with exclusive content such as a director’s cut commentary with Troy Howart & Nathaniel Tompson, a review by Italian critic Antonio Bruschini, a final interview with Giulio Questi entitled “The Outsider,” the short film by Questi “Doctor Schizo and Mister Phrenic” from 2002, with English and Italian language trailers, a reversible sleeve, and a limited slipcase printed with Fluoro inks! “Death Laid an Egg” dispenses more than just an effectual variation of giallo being also an odious bullet piercing the ramifications of modern technology and played on the blinding perversions of the weak minded that became the seeds that sowed their own ruin.

Own SE of “Death Laid an Egg” on Blu-ray!