Bank Robbers Find Evil in “The Vault” review!


Leah and Vee, Two estranged sisters, their knee deep in debt brother, Michael, and a couple of money hungry hired hands take siege of an old bank to score a half a million dollar payday. With hostages bagged and tagged, security cameras disabled, and no outside communication to the police transmitted, the situation and plan seems to be going smoothly, but when the actual pay load is lighter than expected, desperation takes over and panic overwhelms when the prospect of load sharks will seek to take more than just fingers for payment. A more than helpful assistant bank manager is eager and willing to share information about how to obtain the 6 million dollars in an archaic vault beneath the upper levels just as long as nobody gets hurt, but the heist’s meddling into the basement’s vault stirs a malevolent evil force and their fates will be sealed inside an unsafe repository.

The 2007 “The Signal” director, Dan Bush, directs and co-writes 2017’s “The Vault,” a supernatural thriller co-written by “The Reconstruction of William Zero” scriber Conal Byrne. Tense and polished, “The Vault” has the makings of a velvety heist film that holds up formidably strong, setting up a hostage situation after a well-executed pilferage involving zesty characters with dire complexities that drive them to villainy. The opening credits provide glimpses into the duration along with associative theme, much along the same lines as Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers” that scores the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s jazzy “Jeepers Creepers” track from 1938 that inspired fear before the arrival of The Creeper. “The Vault” uses a song 30-years junior to “Jeepers Creepers” with Tommy James and the Shondells’s psychedelic pop track, “Crimson and Clover.”

The sisters could be exemplary examples of fire and ice; Vee’s hotheaded obstinacy and violent tendencies makes her a volatile wildcard whereas Leah’s calm, cool, and calculating measures maintain their heist from derailing into violent panic. Their estrangement boils from a tiff about Leah’s loyalty to her family as Vee burgeoningly bludgeons Leah and her their brother, Michael, that Leah will skate soon after their escape, leaving the family one-third complete yet again, but Leah being involved in this heist, coming to her brother’s aid from her possible story bred locale of South America, or wherever she might have been, has Michael questioning Vee’s steadfast position. “Orange is the New Black’s” Taryn Manning is a natural born roughneck on screen and Vee is no stretch from her Pennsatucky character on the Netflix hit comedy-drama. Manning opposites Clint Eastwood’s piercing round-eyed daughter, Francesca Eastwood, whose a complete badass in her own rite. The two actresses might be short in stature, but Manning and Eastwood effectively symbolize large personalities in “The Vault” to the point where no other character can come close to competing with them, not even James Franco as an assistant bank manager with an all-too-happy to help personality. Franco, who sports a sweet stash and wavy dark hair, provides a steeliness shroud around his character, whose credited as Ed Mass in the credits, but never specially mentioned by name. Mass is a pivotal character to the story and, if analyzed thoroughly, can be unsurprisingly figured out with relative ease, but the who, what, and why are vital questions that go unfortunately unanswered. Scott Haze rounds out the four main roles with Michael, the gentle brother to Vee and Leah whose deep in debt with collectors who have already diced off one of his fingers. Haze, who has worked alongside “127 Hours’” star in a number of films such as “The Institute,” “Future World,” and “In Dubious Battle” to name a few, doesn’t have much interaction with Franco, but is more a satellite in his own regard becoming the protector of his two more than capable sisters. Supporting cast includes Q’orianka Kilcher as lead teller, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline’s” Jeff Gum as bank officer, the late Keith Loneker as a shotgun toting cohort, Michael Milford as the safe cracker, and “Traffic’s” Clifton Collins Jr. as the shady detective Iger.

Initially, Dan Bush played his cards right setting up the pre-heist all the way through the locking down the bank and all bank employees and customers are bound and gagged. Conal Byrne’s characters spill enough backstory to water our mouths, eager to know more about the angst between the two sisters, the lopped off finger of their brother Michael, and how the turmoil between the robbers is spurred and transitioned to resolution with the introduction of the helpful assistant bank manager and his helpful information about more money in a dank, dark basement vault. At this point, the salivation is intense when only tidbits of bank’s frightening phantasms are given that place the ball on the tee, stomach high, ready to knock the living daylights out our hapless and woebegone thieves, but the surefire, can’t miss swing tops the ball that scuttles in and out of bounds. The second and third acts are a completely clunky with abrupt and disjointed storytelling involving a copout exposition on the bank’s wretched backstory that ultimately leaves that important Ed Mass character hanging out in the pointless wind. Near the tail end, the film just didn’t feel complete, bordering dangerously in choppy filmmaking waters without a woolly and unexplored antagonist at the helm and Bush can’t quite pull all the end strings together to tightly knit a harrowing climax, vacating character substance with disingenuous plot twists.

MVDVisual and FilmRise introduce “The Vault” for the first time on a full HD Blu-ray home video. The widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, presentation is a great digital asset that favors a night and day conception. Ground level on the bank is pure daylight or exact lighting that vibrant and clear, not a lot of noise, and no observation of aliasing. In the basement, the abyss like somber darkness doesn’t fade away any details, but in all fairness, the haunting figures in the dark are nearly saturated with creeping ill-lit blackness. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo 2.0 audio tracks evenly set the dialogue and ambient tracks with diverse depth, but with the 5.1 surround sound and basement dwelling apparitions that indirectly cause explosions, the range didn’t embark through the varying to and fro levels appropriately and, thus, impresses a lackluster lasting impact. FilmRise has been quite a bust for bonus content lately and “The Vault” is no different with only the theatrical trailer attached. “The Vault” has sturdy initial framework of agitated vehement characters and a clouded venomous basement, teasing the prospect of two powerful rams running to tangle horns, but, without warning, the narrative unfairly falls to pieces as if one of the male sheep decided to swerve last minute before the game of chicken came to a crash and morbid curiosity becomes sorely deprived of cinematic lethal misgivings.

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Evil’s Gonna Need a Bigger Boat! “Megalodon” review!


A covert Russian submarine is trying to drill into the Southern Pacific communications system to benefit from United States secrets, but when the gung-ho captain decides to push the drill team to maximum velocity, the submarine inadvertently release a pre-historic, though to be extinct Megalodon. A nearby U.S. military vessel intercepts the heavily damaged Russian sub with a submersible and saves three uncooperative, Kremlin patriotic survivors from Davy Jones locker while barely escaping jaws of the powerful Giant shark. The aging U.S. sea captain, Streeper, and accompanying admiral, King, rely heavily on Commander Lynch to maintain constant attention on the circling predator, while Streeper attempts extracting vital information from the Russian operatives to further establish the hostile tense and disruptive Russian-U.S. relations. When the shark turns its ravenous attention to the vessel, the crew must use their smarts and what’s on board to go head-to-head against a ferocious, battle ready Megalodon!

You really have to hate-to-love The Asylum for producing and capitalizing on highly lucrative films. This past summer’s “The Meg” was a major blockbuster success for not only director John Turteltaub but also for Warner Bros and as if the Carcharocles megalodon wasn’t exploited enough, The Asylum’s “Megalodon” aimed to reap from Jason Statham face-off with “The Meg.” Director James Thomas, who delivered another knock off with “Tomb Invader,” a cash in on last year’s “Tomb Raider” reboot adaptation to the popular video game, submerses himself into the SyFy movie. The SyFy channel is no stranger in shelling out monstrous shark movies; let’s just name a few to paint a picture of what’s being described here: “Sharktopus,” “2-Headed Shark Attack,” “Ghost Shark,” “Jersey Short Shark Attack,” “Malibu Shark Attack,” and let’s not forget to mention the channel’s most prolific and preposterously entertaining “Sharknado” franchise. Unfortunately, sharks an easy target for villainy that viewers can easily digest and be enthralled by their mysterious nature, but to buffoon them with genetic mutations unnatural superpowers stiffens not only their actual gentle prowess, but also attenuates legitimate shark films. That’s not to say that Thomas’ over-saturated titled “Megalodon,” penned by “6-Headed Shark Attack’s” Koichi Petetsky, is a mega hit, but at least the shark isn’t radioactive, isn’t a spliced abomination, and can’t dorsal slice through sand, ice, and earth. The back to simplicity for the man-eating shark is a breath a fresh air in my book.

“Reservoir Dogs’” star Michael Madsen headlines with his name splayed right about the titular creature about to swallow a submersible. Madness, sporting a military non-regulation curly hairstyle, portrays an naval officer, Admiral King, at the end of his lustrous career. King’s lame duck presence is a formulaic means to an end that will decide the fate of more prominent characters so Madsen, as an unconvincing and unconventional U.S. admiral, has screen time that’s limited mostly to the first and third acts and scarcely peppered in between the dynamics of Captain Streeper and Commander Lynch. While Streeper and Lynch essentially share the lead and neither have the star-studded power to be an influencing purchase-me-now headliner, the two onscreen officers are structured as a one-two punch against two opposing forces. “The Demonic Dead’s” Dominic Pace, as Captain Streeper, has promising capabilities as a military ship commander as Pace maintains his usual type casted tough guy role from prior credits while his counterpart, Caroline Harris, plays passively strong in Streeper’s shadow that’s supposed to display edge-bordering defiance but never comes to fruition. As Pace and Harris jockey for lead, Russian submariners, Captain Ivanov and Yana Popov, sheathed a more interestingly perspective on duty versus mortality. Ego Mikitas (“Nazi Overlord”) and “Fear Pharm’s” Amiee Stolte lined “Megalodon” with a sub-story, no pun intended on the sub, as bullheaded survivors aiming to complete their clandestine mission without lifting a finger to assist the opposition. To be fair, the James Thomas script didn’t exactly put the U.S. in good light, scribing Streeper, Lynch, and others as pushy information extractors and the Russian are stereotypical misers of information. If I was being intensely interrogated while a massive shark circled our boat, I would also question the intentions of my captors and not give them squat. Other shipmate actors include Scott Roe (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), Sebastien Charmant (“Halloween Hell”), Elizabeth Cron (“SuperHot Apocalypse”), Paulina Laurant (“Triassic World”), and Luke Fattorusso.

“Megalodon” provides a laugh track of production inadequacies and a cinematography from Paul Thomas could be said to be straight out of the Michael Bay school of filmmaking, but as far as SyFy premiered movies and The Asylum Home Entertainment films go, “Megalodon” is a Giant Shark sized leap of success. The CGI shark has surprised me being an object of crude, but of commending detail that exhibits an ancient beast marked with battle scars and also exhibiting realism with the donning of an acceptable gray-blue hue. Plus, the shark doesn’t have atomic level laser vision, can’t breathe fire underwater, and has the normal shark fins instead of octopus tentacles. Thank the shark Gods! While the megalodon passes plausibility of natural facts, it’s swimming motion and trajectory checks the box of clunky territory with a rudimentary, two-dimension view of the shark swimming at an unnatural diagonal angle away and toward the ship, like something out of the NES “Jaws the Revenge” video game. The CGI ship and submersible is more of an immediate concern than the CGI shark as Roger Rabbit has more realism. Suffering succotash! Actual location of the ship is a the USS Lane Victory, a defunct military vessel from WWII turned museum that’s docked off California and the museum aspects tactlessly are not veiled from view and, if a modern day military ship is supposed to go toe-to-toe with a megalodon, a ship with brass communication tubes. The obvious museum décor ships “Megalodon” into a strange and bewildering backwards alternate universe that causes confusing and complexities with a quarry full of questions.

MVDVisual and The Asylum Productions presents the SyFy original film, “Megalodon,” onto DVD home video. Original being the suspiciously key word here as original never really goes hand-in-hand with The Asylum produced films. Presented in the original widescreen format, “Megalodon,” for what it’s worth, has distinction despite the questionable special effects. No blotchy or aliasing detected and the coloring renders consistently. The 5.1 surround sound audio tracks has clear verbal dialogue, ample gunfire and explosion range and depth, and no distortions to note. The painfully generic stock score is an ear sore, but has balance and isn’t an overly commanding and obtrusive presence. The trailer is the only special feature available, but to broaden upon the lack of bonus material, the Asylum DVD releases always have kitschy graphic cover art and “Megalodon” is front and back gold standard that exaggerate the film’s action-packed appeal. Director James Thomas’ dual story batters the pre-history shark narrative to nearly null, but “Megalodon’s” unwavering action chums the water that begins with a large shark taking a bite out of a foreign reconnaissance submarine and ends with Michael Madsen extinguishing a cigar on the said shark’s large snout in pure Michael Madsen fashion.

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The Devil’s Greatest Trick is His Evil Being a Part of You. “Luciferina” review!


Natalie’s dedication to her religious vocation has led her to become a nun. Her celibacy is a symptom of disgust with her family’s household, a home the young virgin could not bear to live in another second or much rather return to that stems from an uncomfortable inkling of unnatural circumstance, but when she is informed her parents were in a tragic accident involving the death of her mother and a father bedridden by shock, Natalie reluctantly returns home. She’s greeted by Angela, her university studying older sister, and her delinquently dangerous boyfriend, Mauro, and alongside a few of Angela’s classmate, the decision to track down a shaman on an secluded island on the outskirts of town has convinced the group to seek alternative and holistic treatments, such as a brew made from the mystical Ayahuasca plant, to battle their own self-complications. What they discover is that some inner demons should be left untapped and undisturbed or else their souls will pay the consequence.

“Luciferina” is a black rites narrative saturated with psychosexual tendencies and religious divergences from writer-director Gonzalo Calzada whose horror mystery footprint, the Argentinian filmmaker’s common foundation for his prior work in “Resurrection” and “The Clairvoyant’s Prayer,” maintains a strong foothold for his latest venture from 2018 with a story of solid foreboding and overshadowing complication that’s naturally opaque, guiding viewers seemingly toward one direction and then obliterating their conjectures in an in a blink of an eye about how characters or events might play out. Layered with themes and heavy with motifs, Calzada summons the internal demon, figuratively and literally, from within an indie picture budget that’s complete with accidental demonic conjuring, eye-devouring effects, and a climax involving temple fornication of various Kama Sutra positions.

Young, beautiful, and, yet, withdrawn and plain, Natalia has embedded herself into nun-hood, a means to escape the unexplainable discomfort inside her own home and even in herself as she’s haunted by visions of a disheveled woman with crooked arms popping unnaturally out of a white nightgown, but not all of Natalia’s visions are bleak as she’s able to, at times, define a person’s gleaming aura during a momentary spell. Sofia Del Tuffo stars as the troubled vocational woman, a role that demands much from the young actress who can easily transition from a screaming and scared postulate to taking charge of her destiny by gripping Satan’s horns. Tuffo opposites Pedro Merlo as Abel who is, well, more or less a potential love interest. Abel has fire inside him sparked by his desire for Natalia, but goes full inferno after downing the Ayahuasca juice. The light and dark of Abel has Merlo flipping the script continuously and the actor keeps up with relative ease. The opinionated downside to roles Natalia and Abel might be lost in translation, but there’s a sense of disconnect between their multiple purposes: shaman visit, the unspoken connection for each other, and their intertwined destinies. These aspects go fairly unexplored or are either, in the script, diluted in the details. The supporting cast also don’t add volume to the story and though not all of the cast are like this, a good chunk are rather auxiliary for the moment of pinnacle prominence and their sub-stories are quickly squished – that’s the Gonzalo Clazada affect. The remaining cast includes Marta Lubos (“Darkness by Days”), Melena Sanchez, Francisco Donovan, Stefania Kossl, Gaston Cocchiarale (“Terror 5”), and Desiree Gloria Salgueiro.

“Luciferina’s” themes bubble quite easily to the surface, the more obvious found in the religious field, but an interesting theme is a woman’s protective, if not problematic, stance toward copulation and the guarded uterus and their right to chose. Natalia has no experience with sex and she’s constantly under the pressure of having sex, even inside the chaste nunnery. Natalia nonchalantly pushes away one of the boys in the nun’s drug rehab program with not much oomph, she then comes under siege by the forcibly accosting Mauro and his verbal rape fantasies toward his girlfriend’s younger sister, and then Abel’s internal struggle with his Faustian under guise who enthusiastically confesses his hard on to score with Natalia to bring forth more evil spawn. A common motif from the baby making is the uterus that pops up in Natalia’s dreams and her late mother’s frantic paintings that circle around the pressures of motherhood and as Natalia procrastinates under the semblance of saving her own life to further prolong her inevitable destiny, she comes to the realization running will prove for naught and becomes empowered. One thing weird in relation is not the uterus in itself, but rather the computer generated baby in the womb; the impression is okay in construction as the baby has some realism in the detail, but the adverse effect is the use of the effect that seems pointless and ostentatious.

Artsploitation Films and Reel Suspects presents “Luciferina” onto Blu-ray home video. The anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ration, presentation is quite sharp with textures and details in a lossless image. Calzada uses much of the natural coloring in daytime sequences and the night scenes are moderately bluish and director of photography, Claudio Beiza, has immense range and depth that provide astonishing interior and exterior backdrops that can be subtly pleasing. The Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound substantially keeps with the tone and pacing of the story. Dialogue is balanced and verbose in the forefront. The release also comes with a Spanish language 2.0 stereo track. Both audio tracks come with English subtitles that saw minor issues with translation errors and timing. The only bonus feature available is the film’s theatrical trailer. “Luciferina’s” contemporary tale of possession and sexual innuendo is rabid. Director Gonzalo Calzada’s ambiguity of mystery horror is grossly engaging while “Luciferina” can also be glossy with splayed monstrous savagery and graphic sexual content, two genre commodities that churn easy entertainment.

Evil Sows With Others’ Body Fluids! “DIS” review!


Ariel Konk, A former soldier fleeing from his regrettable past, seeks refuge in an isolate cabin located deep in the forest, adjacent to a lagoon. Struggling to live off the land and coping with loneliness, the soldier marches on, exploring his new, secluded surroundings. His loneliness comes to an end when investigating the ruins of a dilapidating building structure, spotting a masked half naked female and as he pursues her, Ariel witnesses her voluntarily jump from the highest level of the opened air building. Wrought with anguish, Ariel attempts suicide only to be knocked out before he could pull the trigger on his rifle. He wakes up being chained to the wall with a mute, mask figure drugging him and extracting his blood and semen fluids as necessary nutrients for a nearby Mandrake garden. A practice that has been executed many times before Ariel’s arrival.

“DIS” is a bordering arthouse horror film from writer-director Adrian Corona (“Nariz Ioca”). A blend from a horror influenced literary poem and a mythological folkore, Corona crafts a lurid, hyperbolic story that pulls, as Cornoa describes as a prefix of sorts, from Dante Alighieri’s epic journey through hell told in Dante’s Inferno, using the City of Dis that’s described as a lower hell for sinners who’ve committed violent and fraudulent transgressions, and interlocks that inspiration with the archaic lore surrounding the Mandrake plant that involves superstitiously condemning those to hell after reaping the intensely narcotic plant with the human shaped root and that would, also superstitiously, scream when pulled. “DIS” is full of interpretative terror through the 61 minute runtime that’s virtually expressive. Corona provides little dialogue to his script, keeping most of the dialect scribal incased within flashback confines, and let his actors’ raw emotions and visceral eloquence provide the tale that’s peppered with moments of visual shock and cathartic abhorrence.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bill Oberst Jr. is one hell of an actor. The upcoming Rob Zombie “3 from Hell” actor has become a prominent staple professional in the indie horror film circuit, tackling the bizarre, the inexplicable, and the most difficult of roles with such vigor and passion that his motivation is seemingly inhuman. Right up there with “Deadly Revisions,” “DIS’ tops or equals being one of the best performances of his career, from the perspective of this reviewers’ cache of Bill Oberst Jr films. There’s quite a bit of difficulty catching up to the man who roughly does, whether as a lead or as support, 10 films a year! As Ariel Konk, Oberst captures the essence of pain and anger that saturates the character’s own personal delirium and hell with his past mistake catching up to his self-battered soul. The faceless figure who opposites Ariel feeds off the ex-soldiers repugnant and guilt-riddled past actions in a seemingly perverse mission that’s actually mandated by the suspected demon’s Mandrake lot. The plants are held in a nursery for engendering creatures, but what kind of creatures exactly? Other demons from the seed of murdered vehement people?
Remaining cast include Peter Gonzales Falcon, “Prison Heat’s” Lori Jo Hendrix, Manuel Dominguez, and Anne Voitsekhova.

The casual viewer will inherently disavow the hour spent watching “DIS” due to a number of reasons, whether it’s Ariel wandering the forest for more than half the film, or dialogue is fairly infrequent, or the chaptered sequence of events don’t perfectly describe just what the hell is going, or, just perhaps, the motif of genital masturbation and mutilation is just too much to stomach. Either way, “DIS’s” traction will slip and only a few are willing to get dirty and push the story forward with open mindedness and artistic appreciation. Speaking of artistic appreciation, Rocco Rodriguez’s cinematography is a character upon itself. The top of a Cofre de Perote volcano in Perote, Veracruz, Mexico during principal photography has breathtaking visuals that Rodriguez captures exquisitely and becomes a backdrop against the coarse material. Outside is vivid, bright, full of life, but when in the belly of the rundown structure, the manmade confines are claustrophobic and crummy, infernally ablaze for ritual, much to the akin of Dante’s Inferno. Rodriguez, again, depicts lustrous imagery that assists in telling Corona’s nightmarish story and that’s a skill all can recognize.

MVD Visual and Unearthed Films present Adrian Corona’s enigmatic and surreal “DIS” from 1922 Films onto high definition Blu-ray. The region A release is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and has the near epitome of perfect with, again, Rocco Rodriguez stunning photography. The lighting really comes to the fold that upheaves the brilliancy in the textures, such as in the building’s illustrious graffiti, and dares to switch to black and white when appropriate. Skin tones are fresh looking and natural in colored scenes. Only a minor aliasing issue around Obsert flared up momentarily, but ceased going forward. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has forefront dialogue, but not a bit soft, especially with Peter Gonzales, that made following difficult. There was not enough examples of range or depth to necessarily comment as Oberst was essentially alone for much of the film. Bonus features include an explanation introduction by writer-director Adrian Corona, a behind-the-scenes featurette that exhibits three takes of two scenes, a wonky static menu Q&A formatted interview with Bill Oberst Jr., a short film entitled “Portrait,” still gallery, and Unearthed Films trailers. Bill Oberst Jr. is, basically, a one man show knitted into an Adrian Corona allegory of unknown terror through conduits of literary works and medieval folklore, making “DIS” prime real estate for viewers seeking a film as an open book toward abstract gardening.

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A War Criminal’s Evil Influence. “Apt Pupil” review!


Next time you suspect your neighbor is a wanted criminal, they just might very well be as in the case of Todd Bowden, an excelling high student who discovers a WWII Nazi war criminal has been secretly living in his quaint hometown. Through his own investigation of photograph comparisons and retrieval of finger prints, Bowden confronts the old man, Kurt Dussander, about his notorious past. Living under a pseudonym and wanted by the Israeli government, Dussander attempts to dismiss the boy’s claims until his bluff to call the police is called, resulting in Bowden’s curiosity to become a blackmail gambit that puts Dussander under the student’s quizzical thumb. In return for not informing the authorities, Bowden requires Dussuander to reveal his story, the story of his stint at the extermination camps without sparing any details no matter how gruesome. Bowden even goes as far as purchasing a replica SS officer uniform that he forcibly commands Dussander to put on and march. Through his reminiscing of the past, an evil reawakens in Dussander and their banal friendship of psychological warfare goes into the dangerous trenches of survival and eradication that spreads like a cancer inside and outside their private lives.

Before the monumental eruption of continuous claims of sexual misconduct by various accusers, Bryan Singer furnished significant prominence as a director and overall filmmaker before he inadvertently kick started a very long, very successful, and very lucrative series of superhero films and their related and unrelated sequels and spinoffs, starting with Marvel’s “X-Men” in 2000…19 years ago, Holy sh*t! Well, in 1998, coming off his success of “The Usual Suspects” with fellow accused celebrity and now blacklisted actor Kevin Spacey and currently untarnished Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, Singer and Phoenix Pictures presented and released the suspense-thriller, “Apt Pupil,” a Bad Hat Harry production. Inspired by the Stephen King novella, “Apt Pupil” is the polarizing observation of two evil souls where one might be significantly eclipsing the other. Brandon Boyced (2005’s “Venom”) drafted a script based of King’s novella that was comprised of a different, and less pessimistic, ending to the novella while still uncompromising King’s baseline evil theme.

High school students, especially males, often have an aggressive temperament. Whether it’s sports, girls, or just trying to fit in, guys almost always take their tunneled focus to the extreme. For Todd Bowden, a brilliant young student, a fascination with the grim extermination of Jewish people and the Nazi culture tickled his fancy. Brad Renfro, only 14-years-old at the time of filming, stars as Bowden and really digs into the character’s adolescent psyche of relentless obsession, having his character converging all power from a big time war criminal and, even more simplistically, an older adult male, to himself, but when things go sour and Bowden starts to lose grip of his pawn, panic sets in and Kurt Dussander’s wicked and warped mind structures a counterattack that seemingly befriends the boy, but really demonizes Bowden’s already appalling obsession. Sir Ian McKellen, in a performance of pure brilliance, masterfully crafts a representative of evil in Kurt Dussander. The scene with McKellen stepping into a SS officer uniform and then marching with prerogative purpose that’s topped with a Nazi salute is perhaps one of the best chilling and unsettling performances of our lifetime. The dynamic in the scene between Renfro and McKellen, carefully shot and executed in direction by Singer, respects the bleak humanity enthralled by Stephen’s King body of literary work. There are some other amazing performances here by the supporting cast including David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Bruce Davison (“Willard”), Ann Dowd (“Hereditary”), Joshua Jackson (“Urban Legend”), Elias Koteas (“The Prophecy”), James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”) and Heather McComb (“Stay Tuned”).

As aforementioned, “Apt Pupil” has an evil duality narrative that contain descriptive horrors of the past, paints the means of callous obsession, and symbiotic necrosis of any good left in Todd Bowden or Kurt Dussander when together, but on the surface level, Kurt Dussander’s murderous duty to the cultural cleanse severely overshadows Bowden’s seemingly curious obsession, his blackmail of a notorious war criminal, his deception amongst those close to him, and, the inevitable, stony perception to murder. More than likely innocence could be blamed for the fact that Bowden is a child and Dussander’s a man living the last moments of his life, but Bowden becomes the catalyst for Dussander, reigniting the evil thoughts and actions of SS officer’s former life. Dussander attempts many degenerate actions from his past and never successfully succeeds in completing them whereas Todd ultimately finishes it either for Dussander, willing or not, or for his own self-preservation. By the end of “Apt Pupil,” the question you might ask yourself is how do you feel about either character? Despite the scale of their evils, which character ultimately, in the scope of Singer’s film from beginning to end, is the true representation of evil? To me, the finale feels like Dussander inadvertently passes the torch to Bowden and with his obsessive nature toward Nazism and extermination, the boy will grow up to continue being that representative of evil?

Umbrella Entertainment presents Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil” onto Blu-ray home video. The region B, full HD, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the quality is crisp excellence with a sharp hi-def scan of textures and the details in Mckellen’s facial curvatures that just open up to expose the wily diabolical smirk from the vet actor. Coloring and skin tones are okay despite the release being slightly yellowish and inkier in comparison to other releases. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio does the job and is balanced all around with dialogue clear and present and the John Ottoman (“X-Men” franchise) is menacing without being overwhelming, but the ambience’s depth and range are stiffened from a lack of surround sound that could have been achieved with this release. The special effects are slim with a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s more surface level depth with cast brief cast and crew interviews and also includes theatrical trailer and TV spots. Viewers too caught up in the superhero hype might not recognize that Bryan Singer helmed “Apt Pupil” or might not even care in lieu of sexual accusations, but hardcore Stephen King fans and horror aficionados can certainly appreciate a blanket thriller with haunting performances that will be remembered more than the marring scandal behind-the-camera.

Might be a REGION 2 release, but still available on AMAZON.COM here in the states! Click the cover above to purchase 🙂