No More EVIL Circling the Cage in “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” reviewed!


Mia and her family have moved from Chicago to Mexico’s Yucatan. As she struggles to acclimate into her surroundings and survives being the school’s most unpopular student, her father flourishes with his archeological findings of an ancient Mayan burial temple hidden under rising waters just off the coast. Mia and stepsister Sasha skip an unflattering weekend boat trip to join friends Alexa and Nicole who are privy to the underwater entrance of the remote ruin. The four use Mia’s father’s scuba gear to go exploring through the numerous narrow passageways and shrined openings of the burial temple, but their innocent adventure turns deadly when the sudden collapse of the entrance traps them inside. As they save every last breathe running dangerously low on oxygen, they come face-to-face with blind, monstrous Great White sharks with heightened senses of smell and hearing to track them down.

Terror has defined new depths with Johannes Roberts’ sequel to his critically praised and genre fan pleasing 2017 shark-horror “47 Meters Down.” Along with the return of screenwriter Ernest Riera and The Fyzz Facility team providing production and financials, Roberts once again dives into the murky waters of deep sea productions with “47 Meters Down: Uncaged,” working mainly underwater once more to capture weightless fear in the eyes of the actors to perform in a tough environment and perform against, what will be, computer generated adversaries. The success of “47 Meters Down” helped stem a sudden revival that swam from being a dwindling and cheap demonizing of sharks that have plagued the direct-to-video market for over a decade to bestowing the respect the man-eating fish rightfully deserve, showcasing that man does not rule the water. “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” continues the trend by chomping serrated jaws through the chummed waters of the great white shark schlock and crest with a heart pounding suspense and scares.

A couple of big names star in the sequel and by big, I don’t mean actresses who are mega superstars in their own rite. What I mean are the well-established and globally recognizable last names of Corinne Foxx and Sistine Stallone, the respective daughters of Academy Award winning actor and singer Jamie Foxx (“Ray”) and of one of the world’s biggest action stars of our lives, Sylvester Stallone (“Rambo”), debuting into the big time as one-half of the group of girls exploring the underwater temple. Across the aisle, the other two actresses that take a joy swim are Brianne Tju (“The Crooked Man”) and Sophie Nélisse, the latter being the high school oppressed and timid Mia who battles through her adolescent problems by being a leader in the shark infested tunnels. As four girls looking for a good time on the Yucatan, they’re tediously whimsical without the virtue of substance behind them aside from Mia’s brief bullying encounter and heart-to-heart moment with step mom. Joh Corbett is the most recognizable face sans just having a famous name. The “Sex in the City” actor – don’t ask me how I know that – has fatherly intentions in the role of Mia’s dad, the archeologist who discovers the flooded temple. Rounding out the cast is Khylin Rhambo (“Teen Wolf” television series) and Davi Santos (“Polaroid”).

All that is right with “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is the isolating suspense and lurking terror that carries over seamlessly from the first film, despite both films’ pre-judging killjoy that is a PG-13 rating, and with the return of Mark Silk’s beautifully murky cinematography and Roberts’ choice of focal direction that engulfs the actors, the story sharpens to completely detach the real world from this shark threatening one. “47 Meters Down” had an equally beautiful, haunting, and industrially trance score, pitched perfect for the lethal space-like expanse, from Tomandandy and the musical duo return for another round with a broody audio vision that can be taken with you long after the credits roll. However, Roberts’ second installment has some issues. For instance, why keep the initial title? The 47 meters doesn’t exist as the protagonists go up and down through burial shafts without the utilization of a depth meter and could have benefited better with a standalone title. Not even a wet suit is worn so the hunt is not too deep where the frigid waters rules. The trend of those scenes that make you go huh? continue in a form of a plot hole of exactly where did those ghostly Great White sharks come from? There isn’t enough food down in the tight confines to sustain such eating machines, but they don’t seem to be crippled by the fact as they appear from out of nowhere after one of the characters makes their presence noisily known.

Like a persevering slasher, the jaws of death just keep on coming for you in “47 Meters Down” Uncaged” onto a 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD home video, with a digital download available, distributed by Lionsgate. Presented in a widescreen, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with the Blu-ray BD-50 in 1080p High Definition, the digitally recorded, shot on an Arri Alexa according to IMDB, image captures, through the some fields of darker tints, the warranted definition and enough softness to maximize the aqua effect of a hazy and shadowy sunken ruin with silhouette inducing dark spots, corners, and passageways. Moments of vibrancy pop, especially with emergency beacons, to dazzle like a neon marquee in the pitch-black night sky. The ruin’s sharks themselves, though ghostly depicted and riddled with scaring, appeared too soft, an inescapable side effect from the visual FX team, and the same can be said with the sharks out in the open ocean that have unnatural movements along with their too clean look as if the light above surface wasn’t bouncing off them correctly. The English language 5.1 DTE-HD Master Audio mix has power and girth in an environment where sound is virtually stiffened. The Tomandandy score is absolute and denotes what it means to have an eloquently disruptive soundtrack to peak fear in conjunction with looming, flesh-ripping presences inside a dooming labyrinth. And what impeccable timing to have one of the recently passed Marie Fredriksson’s Roxette tracks showcased as the main song. #RIP Marie. Dialogue is clean and clear in the depthless communications of opened face scuba masks. Audio accessories include an English descriptive audio option, English SDH subtitles, and Spanish subtitles. Par for the course in the Lionsgate special features department with an audio commentary from writer-director Johannes Roberts, co-writer Ernest Riera, and producer James Harris. Plus, interviews with the cast in the making-of featurette entitled “Diving Deeper: Uncaging 47 Meters Down.” “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is far from perfect and nearly drowns with an uncouth story that doesn’t represent Johannes Roberts first film’s good name, but the frenzy-laden successor has high energy, an olfactory for good PG-13 scares, and monstrous sharks that makes for an entertaining and terrifying swim.

Add “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” to your horror collection!

EVIL Must Be Broken In Before Being Used. “The Wheel” reviewed!


In the near future, paraplegic inmate Matthew Mills volunteers under pressure to join a Satoshi-Telefair Industries experimental treatment program that not only promises to reduce his sentence, but to also to regain mobility in his legs. With nothing more than the hope to return to his daughter, Mills is enticed by the agreement and gives himself to a shadow company who regularly contracts with the military, facilitating deep underground at an isolated site. Shortly after signing the release form, he awakes in a dark, steel cell known as The Wheel and is able to move his legs again, but the jubilation quickly subsides as armored men with batons visit his cell to beat and break his body in order for the nano technology, injected amongst his anatomy, to rebuild damaged tissue and make him stronger. The ordeal torments him, but to the researchers observing every detail of his recovery and behavior, Mills is just subject 2-1, another potential subject destined for the Future Soldier Initiative where the unethical testing must continue.

Shady shadow corporations, experimental nano-material rehabilitation and enhancement, and high level science fiction noir from writer James S. Abrams and director Dee McLachlan with 2019’s “The Wheel.” As if not already obvious from filmmaker’s nationalities, “The Wheel” is produced by and shot by Australian production companies SunJive Studios and Film Victoria, a state government agency that advocates funding and other filming assistances for shooting films in sectors of Victoria, Australia. “The Wheel’s” steely posture mirrors the frigid winter snow of Melbourne, Victoria’s covered forests that’s beautiful, yet deadly in the conventional beauty of nature. Yet, “The Wheel” delves into the meddling of what makes man and what also drives man as the story persists on the subject of redesigning the human body, but what that notion doesn’t take into account is what if the human body’s reactions doesn’t go as planed and a clapback ensues with all the synthetic re-wiring behind it? This is what Abrams and McLachlan intended to explore.

Australian actor Jackson Gallagher stars as Matthew Mills, a cripple with a purpose. The “Patrick” actor has been adrift from the darker roles since 2013 until up now with his main role in “The Wheel” that demanded a certain physicality that involved fight sequences with one, or two, or even three opponents and some ariel ropes work. The physically fit Gallagher not only survives the daunting workload, but hastily pulls Mills through his character’s tough transition from hopeful paraplegic to overly confident ultimate fighting weapon without an earnest core of struggle. The same can be said with Dr. Allison Turner played by Kendal Rae (“Out of the Shadows”). Turner’s a rogue researcher who had her practicing credentials revoked after the mistreatment of lab monkeys and was sought after by the Satoshi-Telefair for her detachment qualities, but her Turner’s character also didn’t quite arc properly and resembled a midway plateau from the moment Mills became her research subject. The only character that stayed the course was Dr. Emmett Snyder, a loyal Sataoshi-Telefair researcher to the bone. When he’s not suplexing or drop kicking in a championship wrestling match, David Arquette does dabble in acting. The “Scream” veteran actor fills in a rather unlikely antagonistic role, but the wild eye Arquette remains taut in his performance. “The Wheel” also costars Belinda McClory (“Matrix”). Christopher Kirby (“Daybreakers”), Victoria Liu, and Ben Still.

The spoke of the “The Wheel” rotates on a monotonic and frosty shoulder axle colored in gun metal and iced with dystopian immoralities. Every breathing element and inanimate objects is in a state of distant identity being bestowed labels in a combination of letters and numbers. The utilitarian wheel, an underground experiment facility that shifts rooms up and down and can be rotated to the other side, has no windows or any kind of necessary function other than to test subjects. Where “The Wheel” goes full “Equilibrium” by lacking emotional depth and substance without a coup d’état of the bleak authority, “The Wheel” also lacks vigor to break the blank uniformity and tries to speed through Mills patriarchal fluff to provide reason for his endurance and to provide reason for audiences to care. The epicenter theme to Mills motivation and escape is the thought of getting back to his daughter by any means necessary and was deemed fit to lay by the waist side to rely more on the hand-to-hand fighting like an overly glorified 70’s martial arts film.

Umbrella Entertainment distributes the sci-fi, action film, “The Wheel,” produced by SunJive Studios and Film Victoria onto a region free DVD home video. The clean digital picture in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, has a crisp demeanor that exact a bunch of natural lighting outside with a bit of a lower contrast inside dark “The Wheel” itself. What I found more appealing the anti-aliasing of the drone footage over the snowy covered Victoria forest, suggesting a higher bitrate compression that offers a seamless and smooth recording. The 5.1 English language Dolby audio is offered up with no whiff of an Australian accent in a lossless track that sounds good on the surround channels during action scenes. Dialogue is clear amongst the ample range and depth of ambient layers of researches watching and speaking through comms from inside a box watching another guy inside a box. Like other Umbrella releases, “The Wheel” has no special features nor a static menu. “The Wheel” has ice in the veins, but no warmth in it’s heart that seems vertically challenged on a horizontal slope of dystopian disorder.

The Wheel on DVD

Nihilism Brings Out the Evil in All of Us! “The Vicious Sweet” reviewed!


Popular B-movie scream queen, Tyler Phoenix, just walked out belligerently from the latest screening for her new schlocky horror film. Fed up with worrisome managers, pressuring producers, and hot-headed directors, the leading lady glazes over her career as the past creeps back into her life, sourly affecting the platonic, one-sided relationship with her boyfriend. Tyler’s downward spiral toward the depths of depression and frustration attractively consider suicide by pills, but when Tyler awakes, she finds herself handcuffed to a bed with a mysterious masked man looming over her. What the man wants is unclear to Tyler, but one thing is absolute, he’s an adoring fan of hers who seemingly knows more about Tyler than she knows about herself. Hours seem like days, days seem like weeks, and weeks seem like months as Tyler is continuously drugged and asked personal questions about her past and about the disparage campaign to capsize her life. Tyler begins to hallucinate and can’t tell what’s real or not as she confronts internal demons while being completely forthcoming to her dangerously devoted captor.

“The Vicious Sweet” captures visceral surreal existentialism from Sub Rosa Studio’s own Ron Bonk in the shoes of writer and director. The 1997 thriller is a cinematic blend of psychological horror, self-deprivation, and coming to terms with one’s own identity. All shot on analog video and on a micro budget, Bonk’s able to depict dreamlike scenes hauntingly and pragmatically without the assistance of costly visual effects that often cheap in appearance on video transfers. Shot in Syracuse, New York, “The Vicious Sweet” could be set anywhere, USA and with locations that set the main characters in close knit quarters for nearly most of the 90 minute runtime, the “House Shark” is able to fashion an under the radar overwrought mystery. Though the SRS Cinema retro DVD cover is lustfully tasteful with an illustrative Tyler Phoenix handcuffed to the bed and in her underwear, “The Vicious Sweet” isn’t about abduction for sexual exploitation. Yes, one scene does represent the DVD cover; however, Bonk’s story tickles the frayed and blurry realm of the mortal coil that can push the limits of not only the story, but also Bonk’s ability to explore that plane of existence that inhibits zombies, large rat-faced looking creatures, and the intangibility of time.

Tyler Phoenix whirls as an angsty actress with a chip on her shoulder and a metaphorical duffle bag full of internalized secrets. Sasha Graham straps herself right into the role, exhorting all the right kinds of anger and cynicism into her seemingly successful character’s career. Graham has seen her fair share of mid to late 1990’s lowballed b-movie films, such as having a substantial role in “Polymorph” directed by “The Dead Next Door” director J.R. Bookwalter and in “Bloodletting” helmed by the “Witchhouse” screenwriter Matthew Jason Walsh, but “The Vicious Sweet” marks the debut of leading lady, a true scream queen role, and Graham wears it well. She’s complimented by the debut performance of the late Bob Licata as the mysterious tormentor who goes by the name of Grimaldi, one of the performers from Phoenix’s early, short-stinted porn career. Grimaldi, who repeatedly notes, is a part of Phoenix and, for a lack of a better term, symbolizes the actresses betwixt past and present on a conscious level of trying to make sense of all that’s entangled in that screwed up and complex mind of hers. Licata, in regards to his character, is cold and consistent, playing the act of a passionately solemn and unpredictable serrated fan hellbent on trying to expose Tyler Phoenix’s true self. “The Vicious Sweet” also stars Jason Wicks, Theresa Constantine (“Bloodletting”), Jeffrey Forsyth (“Gut-Pile”), Al Marshall, Steve Wood, and Jeff Jones.

The story progression through Tyler’s figuratively personal hell hardly goes stagnant despite, for most of the her status, being manacled to a bed for relentless interrogation. Tyler’s put through a variant ringer of drug induced hallucinations and cerebral caprices and much of the credit, alongside Sasha Graham, should go to writer-director Ron Bonk who is able to translate from script to screen his vision. Contrary to the restraints of a SOV production, the creativity of Bonk’s camera work in masking, in more ways than one, Grimaldi’s stoic façade and centralizing Tyler’s and her experiences is evocative , the antiquated practical effects are still appositely poignant, and the diverse content holds “The Vicious Sweet” to a larger scale than the finances suggests. I’m not trying to elevate Ron Bonk’s film up to being the Holy Grail of low budget horror held in the vibrancy of limelight, but in my opinion, to dismiss the appreciation for producing something out of nothing would be a tremendous disservice to all auteurs. “The Vicious Sweet” leaves us with an open for interpretation perspective that somehow manages a jaw-dropping mound of shock and perplexity, nothing short of the likes of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” ending.

The SRS Cinema DVD home video release of Ron Bonk’s “The Vicious Sweet” is presented region free, 1.33:1 aspect ratio from a S-VHS Betacam SP, that mostly result with black bars on each side of your 16:9 HD television. The limited edition Blu-ray is marketed as remastered, but the DVD image quality is awfully poor from the analog master transfer and doesn’t seem to have a smidgen of touch up where marco-blocking artifacts and aliasing run rampant. What also doesn’t help matters is the faded coloring and the blacks nearly void of any shape of definition as if you’re in a bright room and the light is shutoff and nothing but a blurry black void is present between the light and the time you’re eyes can adjust. The English language lossy 1.0 uncompressed mono track is frail and shaky, but still manage to push through without an obfuscate obstacles. Dialogue cozily lies low on the audio totem pole and the range and depth lack during more fantastical moments of zombies and monster swarming about. Bonus features include a director commentary, a director and Sasha Graham commentary, and SRS Cinema trailers. The best DVD feature, along with the film itself, is the illustrated, VHS letterbox DVD cover of the aforesaid Tyler Phoenix beautifully bound to the bed with candles lit by her table side and dressed scantily with a nice Please Be Kind, Rewind cherry on top. Despite the technical woes, “The Vicious Sweet” remedies the longstanding misinformed notion that independent b-horror movies are a hack and burden to the cinema fuselage with vast imagination and sturdy ambition.

The Vicious Sweet DVD is a must buy!

There is no EVIL like the Firefly Family! “3 From Hell” reviewed!


A bullet-riddled shootout with police left Baby Firefly, Otis Driftwood, and Captain Spaulding full lead, but not dead! The trio barely survives despite getting shelled by 20 gunshot wounds a piece and are tried and incarcerated for over a decade in maximum security prisons. After Captain Spaulding’s wears out his welcome on death row and becomes the first one executed, a merciless escape carried out by Otis’ half-brother, Winslow Foxworth Coltrane aka The Midnight Wolf, leaves a trail of blood and violence in their wake up to freeing Baby Firefly who can’t wait to play and unleash her uncontrollable crazy cyanide upon the world. However, there’s only one itsy-bitsy problem – they’re faces are about as dangerous to themselves as they are dangerous to others. The three from hell vamoose to a dumpy Mexico town to start afresh, but little do they know, no place is safe for long.

Over the span of 16 years and 14 years since “The Devil’s Rejects,” shock rock and rockabilly, metal rocker Rob Zombie returns to write and direct the third and highly anticipated sequel film in the Firefly trilogy with “3 From Hell.” The 2019 continuation of the Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding rejuvenates interesting in returning hellions that’ll undoubtedly wreak havoc across the midwest plains, splatter some brains, remove some flesh, and, well, you get the gist of their unholy hobbies. “3 From Hell” had to literally dig out these characters from the grave since being shot to shreds at the end of,***spoiler alert***, “The Devil’s Rejects” and Zombie was able to sell Lionsgate and Saban Films on the story divergent from the last film, much like “House of a 1000 Corpses” horror show went straight into exploitation extravaganza with “The Devil’s Rejects.” “3 From Hell” is a whole new animal, an anti-hero’s indulgent fantasy of crime, action, and still barely kickin’ to kick ass through the rampaging blood.

The three in “3 from Hell,” Baby Firefly, Otis Driftwood, and Captain Spaulding, return for one more three amigo misadventure through hell and brimstone and the original cast, respectively include Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig, suit up to be a depraved family once again. Sadly, Sid Haig’s health rapidly deteriorates in the midst of filming, leaving Zombie no other choice other than to write him quickly from the script and introduce a new character, a transgression tyrant to pass the torch to, with Winslow Coltrane played fittingly by “31’s” Richard Brake. As though like never missing a backwoods bumpkin beat, Richard Brake embraces the Midnight Wolf and breaks in the character with such ease and fortitude that the question never arises if the Midnight Wolf should be a part of the sacred Firefly pack. Sheri Moon Zombie steps out of a time machine and right into Baby Firefly, despite being a little aged around the eyes. The quirky and unpredictable Baby doesn’t reinvent the wheel, which should please the fandom, and is a wonderful sadistic mecha with Sheri Moon at the helm. The same can be said about Bill Moseley who, goes without saying, has a unique voice that’s been rebranded as Otis Driftwood. Every other movie, old or new, with Bill Moseley starring, or not starring, will forever be tainted by Otis Driftwood for when Moseley monologues or even just speaking one or two words of dialogue, the spine starts to twinge and tingle, the hairs shoots straight up, and that stepping on your grave feeling of cold desolation swallows you in an instant. The “3 From Hell,” plus Coltrane, face the world with a big knife and lots of guns and those who stand in their way are played by co-stars Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Jeff Daniel Phillips (“31”), Emilio Rivera (“Sons of Anarchy”), Richard Edson (“Super Mario Bros.”), Pancho Molar (“Candy Corn”), Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Sean Whale (“The People Under the Stairs”), Clint Howard (“Evilspeak”) and Bill Oberst Jr. (“Dis”).

Rob Zombie has mentioned in a behind the scenes featurette that he didn’t want to recapture the magic of the previous Firefly cruelty and the rocker-filmmaker has done that just, straying away from the horror of “House of the 1000 Corpses” and the exploitation vehemence of “The Devil’s Rejects,” which the fans groveled for, and going bravely, or blindly, into crime action with the “3 From Hell” that still’s beholden to Rob Zombie’s hillbilly swank. Rob Zombie risks a new path and also gambling on more of Lionsgate’s capital with showing off more visual effects than in the former films. Bullets tearing through flesh and flying straight toward the camera lend to example of the computer imagery effects that, from a fan’s perspective, dilute Rob Zombie’s adoration for horror who takes less and less chances with this film that not only feels rather ordinary and just another piece of maize in the field, but “3 For Hell” also doesn’t feel to have substance to all the madness. Baby, Otis, and Coltrane go from point-to-point, aimlessly pondering what’s next, and just happen to fall into a barrage of bullets and blood, rather than being the epitome of evil bring vile upon mankind. Just being a Rob Zombie film that resurrects his beloved and beguiling modern iconic characters, “3 From Hell” coopers the longing with a fierce show of violence that opens the door for one more installment.

Lionsgate and Saban Films, along with Spookshow International, proudly presents Rob Zombie’s “3 From Hell” onto a R rated DVD and an unrated, 1080p Blu-ray sheathed inside a slipcover. The two disc, dual format release are both presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the image is about as sleek as they come with an ARRIRAW formatted 2.8k ARRI camera that shoots 48fps. Zombie reins back on the color palette and hones onto more natural coloring. The details are delineating, as aforesaid with Sheri Moon Zombie’s crows feet. The English language 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is lossless with a crisp dialogue and ambient mix. The range and depth are robust with explosions and gunfire. The release comes with Spanish subtitles and English SDH subtitles. In accompaniment with the 115 runtime, bonus features include To Hell and Back: the Making of 3 From Hell which is a 4-part documentary on the Blu-ray only and both formats include an audio commentary from writer-director Rob Zombie. Also included is a digital copy to instantly stream and download onto personal devices. The horror element might be gone, but the inexplicable chaos surges through death row to desperado Mexico in Rob Zombie’s “# From Hell!”

Own “3 From Hell” on Blu-ray/DVD!

A Birthday Bash Festers with an Evil Infestation! “What’s Eating Todd?” reviewed!


Todd’s birthday starts out fun with a birthday cookout that includes family, friends, and his girlfriend Valerie. Afterwards, his easy going uncle Carl drives Todd, his friends, and cases of beer to an abandoned factory in the woods where Todd has planned a one-night, underaged boozing, camping trip. The infamous factory has a manifold of ghost stories that circle around a single common piece – a cannibalistic maniac. When night falls, Todd suddenly disappears and his friends, including Valerie, believe Todd and his uncle Carl are revving up a good scare after Carl’s creepy campfire story earlier in the day, but when a dead, mutilated body is discovered, something sinister is hunting them and those stories about a cannibal killer no longer seem farfetched in an all-nighter fight for survival.

“What’s Eating Todd?” is a Here and Now production from a duo of women filmmakers with director Renata Green-Gabor making her directorial feature film debut from a story penned by first time screenwriter Brandi Centeno. The 2016 horror-thriller is a spun take on the weary zombie genre without necessarily going the full-fledged slow shuffle and moan zombie route from a story involving an antagonistic infected metamorphosing from an infestation strain of flies. The parasitoid concept is a closely related to a sensationalized man versus nature horror tale seen with a fair amount of anonymity attached and, the film, perhaps, could be an indie homage version of the George Langelaan’s short story, “The Fly.” Almost for certain that Green-Gabor received some sort of influence for “What’s Eating Todd?,” which she shot through the summer of 2013, from her thespian mentor Jeff Goldblum, the face of David Cronenberg’s remake of “The Fly” released 1986, and thus answered the call to chance her first steps into feature films that had this connect to her mentor while providing and retaining her own originality into incubational horror or even a small minute into body horror, releasing the film three years later.

The marketing and selling points for “What’s Eating Todd?” is not the humble acting talent. It’s not a criticism. It’s the truth, as the cast is constructed of unknown names and unrecognizable faces. However, what is also true for a film written by female writer and quarterbacked by a female director is a leading role arising for an aspiring or established female actress. In this case, the role of Valerie goes to a modestly versed Madison Lawlor (“The Axe Murders of Villisca”) who not only becomes the strong and adaptive survivalist protagonist painted against a backdrop of coarse and flawed men who are either exposed of their short comings, involved in illegalities, or anguished to reveal their true nature. Lawlor maintains Valerie’s unwavering love and faithfulness to Todd, being the voice of reason amongst a naïve and obnoxious crowd that are mostly consisted of her cousin Alex (“Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark’s Phil Biedron) and his friend Duane (“The Zombinator’s” Scott Alin). Alex and Duane are a couple of super frivolous “bros” primarily integrated into the story to raise the body count. Cousins Valerie and Alex do attempt some kind of meaningful connection regarding identity and status in the hierarchy of high school, but was meagerly written and comes to be more a bickering battle of perspectives. Biedron and Alin sufficiently exact the right amount of goofball, oversexed, and dumb-wit to pull off a surface level duo. Todd (“The Z’s” Adam Michael Gold) is certainly the biggest failure out of the group of friends. The birthday boy’s upheaval from being the luckiest guy in the world to the world’s biggest problem goes into squandered territory that floods more questions than answers into Todd’s from baseline growth relationship with Valerie to his revamped mentality and accomplishments from ambiguous, circumstantial backstory of flesh eating and conspiracies. The weight of Todd and Valerie’s connection is only expositional rather than shown and the groundless Todd absorbs the downfall during an anti-climactic finale of internal struggle with Valerie as the source material. The film rounds out with Danny Rio and Carlos Antonio.

Though the cast won’t draw in an audience, the snappy “What’s Eating Todd?” title might turn some heads in it’s direction. However, “What’s Eating Todd?” inherently sounds like a farce and if you’re expecting humor, disappointment will rear its ugly, funny-less head as Green-Gabor had no intentions for a comedy element. Another misleading of marketing is the Indican Pictures’ DVD cover, which I’m assuming is also the film’s actual poster, of a woman in a cutoff sleeve jersey t-shirt with “Zombie Killer” in the name field and holding a sword (katana, maybe?) while blurry silhouettes of lumbering undead move at an unknown pace toward her in the background. Let’s analyze the comparison between cover art and actuality. As mentioned, the story’s female heroine is appropriate to the cover, but isn’t contextually accurate to the film. Valerie, the supposed character on the cover, isn’t holding a sword nor is she dressed in a “Zombie Killer” jersey t-shirt. As for the zombies, the term zombie is only made in jest by one of the bros and there is some undead moments of gore including gnawing and ripping out the jugular, but no tearing out of intestines, no munching on fingers, nor are there any instances where eating people like finger-licking fried chicken is happening here. Plus, there is only one adversarial fiend and not more as the cover suggests.

Indican Pictures distributes a Here and Now Production of “What’s Eating Todd?” onto a not rated DVD home video. The region 1 release has a runtime of 89 minutes and is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 1.85:1 flat aspect ratio, on a 35mm, hand held camera. The digitally shot image renders brightly and clean with hardly any flaws worth disclosing. The night scenes are slightly tinted blue with a higher contrast to lighten up the image without being overly dark in the middle of the woods without much natural lighting and the digital noise has little intrusiveness despite the budget constraints of an indie production. The English language Dolby Digital surround sound has adequate range and depth and, for the most part, a dominating dialogue presence. Brief moments of Revenge of the Bimbot Zombie Killers’ Andy George’s original score would drown out dialogue during imperative, but happened too far and few in between. Other than a typical static menu and preview trailers from Indican Pictures, no other bonus materials reside on the release. “What’s Eating Todd?” is not a zombie movie despite the hoodwinking cover. What Renata Green-Gabor did direct can be categorized as a branch of the undead, an infestation altering DNA that mounts to destruction on and around of the affected that, technically, no longer makes them a part of the living human race. In short, expect a sheep in wolf’s clothing in this roughly run-of-the-mill horror that aims high, but misses low by offering too little to sanction a good story.

Rent. Own. What’s Eating Todd? Do you know?