Daryll, a New York City night shift janitor and decorated Vietnam war veteran, becomes obsessed with beautiful female reporter and wealthy socialite Tony Sokolow. When Daryll claims to be a key witness to a murder of one his business building’s high profile tenants, a once in a lifetime opportunity opens up to meet Tony when she’s assigned to cover the murder and as Daryll pours his heart out to the reporter, he’s also torn by his claim that could place his war buddy friend Aldo, a hapless former employee of the recently deceased and the prime suspect in the murder investigation, in jeopardy even more. Is Aldo the killer or is the mystery much deeper, tied to a world unforeseen by Daryll whose working in the depths of the building’s janitorial confines?
Hot off from her success from Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Sigourney Weaver goes from sci horror-thriller to mystery-thriller and alongside her is up and coming co-star William Hurt in Peter Yates’ 1981 mystery drama “Eyewitness.” The film sparks a string of obsession suspense features that would span a decade and firmly place the genre into a popular notoriety among audiences who couldn’t get enough of the peeping tom debauchery. A hefty roster of talented actors also co-star, some on the verge of stardom to the likes of Hurt and Weaver, including Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”) in the prime of his career, the crazy eyes of James Woods (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”), an un-grayed Morgan Freeman (“Se7en”), Kenneth McMillan (“Dune”), “Mission: Impossible” television series’ Steven Hill, and Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”).
Performances all around are phenomenal as every actor and actress cultivates their character’s purpose in the story and you can surely experience the humble beginnings to some of the biggest A-list celebrities of today; however, Hurt’s performance was one of the only concerning factors. Hurt’s portraying a modest, perhaps slightly traumatized, Vietnam veteran with an afar obsession toward an attractive public figure and his presentation was overly awkward and certainly creepy too the point where I even felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. What made the situation more bizarre was the verbal and facial exchanges between Hurt and Weaver’s characters. Tony didn’t quite seem affected by the oozing creepiness this supposedly good man seeps from every pore of his skin and she, in fact, embraces his forward, if not crossing the line, affections that would certainly warrant a restraining order in today’s society. Maybe social interactions vary from generations and decades, but this type of relationship building dialogue and scenes didn’t produce the appropriate type of chemistry between Weaver and Hurt reducing the strength of their bond.
The Steve Tesich script strummed the strings reminiscent to my viewing experience of George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” Yes, you read that correct – “Land of the Dead” – and what does this zombie horror film have in common with “Eyewitness?” Well, in the 2005 film about the continuous decline of humanity in a zombie apocalyptic world, Romero had written a social commentary about the separating of social classes where, even in a dying world, the rich stayed safe in their loft, sustaining an obsolete lifestyle, and the poor suffer below their feet living in the present, but in the end, anyone and everyone is fair game for being unprincipled and for the undead. Tesich’s script does the same without being lavishly upfront and without the hordes flesh eating zombies. Beneath the obvious murder mystery lies the merger of the classes as Dyrall and Tony eventually fall for each other, but their friends and family on either side condemn the relationship, making the statement numerous times that a janitor absolute can not fall for someone as wealthy as Tony. James Woods’ Aldo becomes just another example out of many where a court-martialed and discharged Marine with erratic behavior and struggling with living a middle class life becomes suspect number one in a murder case, but with a victim whose profession was international trading, the pockets might be a bit deeper and with a laundry list of ill-will individuals.
Signal One Entertainment releases “Eyewitness” in the UK for the first time on Hi-Def region B Blu-ray anywhere with a 1080p presentation in a widescreen 1.85:1 format. The video quality is far superior than, of course, it’s DVD revival with the restoration of much of the natural color tones without a hint of compression artefacts or obvious image or edging enhancements from the 35mm stock footage. The English LPCM audio 2.0 track is fair, full-bodied, and well balanced with really no issues, especially not with composer Stanley Silverman’s lively score. Signal One Entertainment certainly knows how to treat a classic film providing a slew of extra features including an audio commentary with director Peter Yates and film historian Marcus Hearn from 2005, an audio only conversation with the director along with film critic Derek Malcolm and another conversation with another film critic Quentin Faulk on a separate extra feature. Composer Stanley Silverman discusses his approach to scoring “Eyewitness” and there’s also an alternative VHS presentation of the film under one of the original titles “The Janitor.” Original trailers and TV spots round out this robust bonus feature cache. “Eyewitness” on Blu-ray is a must own with a clean and refreshing version of a this classic whodunit thriller from Signal One Entertainment!
A dense English forest surrounding a decaying manor house sets as the hunting playground for a pair of seductive female vampires, Fran and Miriam, who have reigned a disconcerting terror through the area’s local inhabitants. When Fran lures and imprisons a touristing male as her bloodletting sexual hostage, Miriam believes Fran is diverging into a dangerous game of simply playing with her food for too long. Miriam proves to be right when a trio of campers stumble upon the vampires’ manor lair, causing a fair amount of distraction when the three friends attempt to uncover the secrets of the area and the myths of the house that will expose the true and terrifying nature of the two vampires. A mistake the three may wish they never would have made.
“Vampyres” is a Victor Matellano 2015 rendition of the 1974 José Ramón Larraz directed abundantly sensual, over sadomasochistic vampire film of the same title but also known as “Vampyres: Daughters of Darkness.” Matellano’s remake faithfully follows the original storyline and with the assistance of Larraz himself tacked on as a credited writer, Matellano was able to keenly hone in on the ambient tone and the graphic slaughtering display the story necessarily requires to quench it’s own thirst for blood. Let’s also not forget the sex, the sex, and the sex that absolutely sinks it’s teeth into of most scenes. Long time has passed since the rebirth of an erotic creature of the night; a plague of mindless ferocity has been the modern vampire. From “Blade” to “The Strain” to one of the more recent reviews of an independent film in “Black Water Vampire,” a dark cloud of a deformed and mutated species of bloodsuckers have been more popular with the masses. Matellano’s “Vampyres” is a love song to the erotic European vampire that’s powerfully seductive, classically gothic, and simply pure blooded with two fantastic femme fatales.
Underneath the dark and ominous cloaks are the beautifully succulent Marta Flich and Almudena León as blood fiend lovers Fran and Miriam. Flich and León have a combined total of 5 feature length films between them, including “Vampyres,” but where the duo lack in experience, Flich and León thrive with their onscreen chemistry that delivers an piercing intensity with a dynamic blend of softcore porn and tantalizing terror as if they’re real life lovers with a real life knack for killing. León has previously worked with Victor Matellano under the Spanish director’s prior horror film, 2014’s “Wax,” and their relationship growth comes whole with the addition of Marta Flich, a buxom brunette willing to savor every moment and put forth every effort into some extremely difficult scenes. No two women can make gore sexier than Flich and León.
Vampires Fran and Mirian heavily overshadow the remaining characters consisting of actors such as Verónica Polo, Anothony Rotsa, Victor Vidal, Christian Stamm, and Fele Martinez who, as a whole, do a fine job performing in this rekindled niche of horror. To add a bit of flare and to help “Vampyres” stick out from above other remakes involving an slew of unknown faces, “Dracula A.D. 1972” and Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’s” Caroline Munro and “Tombs of the Blind Dead’s” Lone Fleming have more than cameo appearances, providing familiar genre faces fans know and are attached to when riding along the reminiscing train from the era of which this film’s story is birthed. Munro and Fleming are also accompanied by other genre vets including “Zombie Lake’s” Antonio Mayans, Concrado San Martín from “The Awful Dr. Orlof,” and Hilda Fuchs and the late May Heatherly from 1980’s “Pieces.”
Visually, “Vampyres” dotes as cinematography worthiness in being a European inspired film from a Spanish production by not being flashy but rather grim and simple. Using elementary special effect techniques, “Matellano” doesn’t cheapen an already intentional trashy vampire schlock film with story stiffening CGI; instead, buckets of blood and practical effects elevate the aspiration toward the resemblance of a 1970’s inspired story complete with broken English performances. Set locations are purposefully vanilla, including a plain small bedroom with white sheets overtop a simple bed frame, a bleak forest inhabited with thin trees, and an isolated manor with middle life bones standing lifeless in the woods, and with key shots staged with vivid conventional colors, such as the bathtub scene that’s feels very clean even with the amount of blood used, and the cellar finale that’s very subtle in it’s background even if it’s the root motivation for the vampires.
“Vampyres” is one of the best remakes there is, there ever was, and there ever will be by staying faithful to the Larraz’s original film and Artsploitation Films should be basking in the fresh, warm blood of their latest and greatest release. José Ignacio Arrufat’s brooding score seizes to snare the soul from the well balanced Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound mix laid over a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. With a slight tilt toward a darker variation on the grayscale, the overall picture is clean and unhindered and even though stark colors don’t run throughout, the bland coloring provides richer qualities toward a excellent homage. One thing is for sure, blood red is the only vivid hue here. Bonus features include an Interview with Caroline Munro, a making of the “Vampyres,” and trailer reels of Artsploitation Films films. The modern masses can have their disease-ridden vampire genres for the very fact that director Victor Matellano’s “Vampyres” entices with an alluring butchery based on fundamental foundations of European horror values and endearment, resurrecting the erotic vampire once again!
Costa Rica’s beauty attracts tourists with it’s crystal clear ocean beaches, idyllic and serene island surroundings, and being a luxurious phenomenal getaway for last hurrah bachelor or bachelorette parties. Costa Rica also conceals Casey’s, the bride-to-be, dark and drunken affair and a deadly murky water dwelling insect inhabiting the depths of a secret sublime pool far off the beaten tourist path. When Casey sustains a bite from the unseen bug, she brushes off the injury as nothing more than a little bug bite, but as Casey recovers from her alcohol-fueled trip back home in the States, she notices strange open sores along her skin, she can’t hold down any food, and her hearing enhances by tenfold. Scared beyond all else, Casey alienates herself from her friends and fiancé as she slowly mutates into a nightmare creature, spawning eggs from her mouth throughout her small apartment and supplying fresh bodies for her millions of offspring as soon as they walk through her door.
Body horror is alive and well and in your face as Chad Archibald’s 2015 film “Bite” is living proof that the human form is completely, and biologically, mutable. Elma Begovic stars as Casey, recently engaged to a financial investor named Jared living in the same building that’s owned by her soon-to-be mother-in-law, and as her personal troubles mount after a night of alcohol induced memory loss in Costa Rica, Casey’s outlook on her future with Jared diminishes as she second guesses long term commitment and the situation doesn’t help itself when you’re biology transform into an acid bile spewing fiend. The film also stars Jordan Gray as Jared, Annette Wozniak and Denise Yuen as Casey’s bachelorette party friends Jill and Kirsten, and Lawrene Denkers as Jared’s overprotective mother whose a real nasty crone and is written by Jayme Laforest.
Secreted with an absolute nod of respect by attributing a creature that’s familiar to David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake, “Bite” also has an individual personality about it with an extreme Jekyll and Hyde complex containing stark contrasts of smooth, clean structures, such as the apartment building Casey and Jared reside, and with conventional presence in the characters themselves. Reality is then turned on it’s head with visually foul and putrid mucus and a slew of glistening caviar covering the walls and the floor, transforming Casey’s apartment into an eerie swamp of terror and vomit green. A metamorphosed Casey, who resembles a blend of creatures from “Species” and “Splice,” is now the proud owner of a home of horror where every room reeks of death and slick with organic discharge.
Archibald visually and audibly charges “Bite,” getting up close and personal with Casey’s rancid, boil-infested bite and we’re also subjected to external factors such as extreme outside light, in-and-out screeches, and a clear and positive sensitivity to water to help the audience transition better along with Casey and to not be too much in show when the final result comes to fruition. Elma Begovic’s human Casey constantly feels uncertain. From the first moments of the handheld cam during the bachelorette party, Casey wavers about her relationship with Jared. Back home, she continues to float through the situation and through life. We’re continuously exposed to Casey’s extreme discomfort with marriage, with no having kids, with her displeasure with Jared’s mother, and she also doesn’t even seem to have a job except for walking a neighbor’s dog everyday, which looking back on those scenes seem fairly irrelevant to the story. Only when Casey’s fully transitioned does she firm up her place in life, oozing with confidence and animal instinct, and cozy’s up in a lime green, soft yellow glow comfortable habitat for her new, arguably improved, surroundings. Elma’s glowing bug-eyes are a bit campy, but add to the transforming effect.
Her apparent plight is a synonymous exaggeration of her tremendous guilt and shame for not being truly committed to Jared and for her blackout one night stand in Costa Rica. Her body horror represents sustaining the physical manifestation of a sexually transmitted disease while, at the same time, discovering she’s pregnant. There’s is so much shame in Casey that even when she can’t confront the problem to her fiance, she can’t even go see a doctor face-to-face and reduces her interactions with a physician by using an ineffective tele-doc instead. Stir her shame and guilt with an abrasive landlord/future mother-in-law and it’s not wonder Casey seeks escape from a hell that dominates her normal life.
Sometimes the success of a movie is in the details and while “Bite” has great horror house detail, a few aspects bother me and are more about the consistencies than the facts or production goofs. For instance, the bug bite Casey endures in the Costa Rican pool has a much higher location, just above the line of her bikini bottoms, but changes to just under the bikini bottoms, a shade above the middle of the side of her thigh. A stronger case lies with Characters’, other than Casey, perception of the transform apartment. Neither Jared, Kirsten, and Jill react to the extreme odor emitting from Casey’s apartment that was so clear to the landlord who came knocking to confront with former neighbor complaints about the strong odor and neither of the above characters truly reacted with sheer trepidation upon entering a dilapidated apartment owned by this person they know. The indifference the characters displayed didn’t invoke fear, hindering audiences fear to fully enjoy the film.
While the unfortunate details nag at the back of my brain, “Bite” is undoubtedly icky-sticky effective body and creature feature from “The Drownsman” director. UK distributor Second Sight releases the Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Production film “Bite” onto DVD this October! If you’re a fan of Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Bite” is a simpler, thinner modern version sans teleportation machines and Jeff Goldbum. The DVD specs include a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen of the 85 runtime feature with two audio options including Dolby Digital Stereo and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. I was provided a DVD-R screener disc with no bonus material except a static menu with scene selection and can’t critique the audio or video quality, but the film dotes solid SFX and moderately palatable acting in this gunky-gross story stemmed from one little single bite.
Six patrons become trapped inside a dilapidating New Mexico drinking hole when tainted Mexican tequila infests an unlucky boozer, turning him into a host for flesh-eating larvae and into an unwilling hand against the rest in seeking desperately for more flesh to feast upon. With the back and front doors inoperable and the phone lines dead due to lack of payment, the bar regulars must use every ounce of their fleeting sobriety and every aspect of the small hole in the wall bar to keep hope carbonated and afloat if they want to escape alive.
If you’re a fan of “Night of the Creeps,” “Slugs,” or “Slither,” this campy creepy-crawler will be your go-to session brew of choice because, finally, 2012’s “Rotgut” infests inside a home video distributor, courtesy of always delightful Camp Motion Picture. Director Billy Garberina helms the charge collaborating with another of Devin O’Leary’s scribed films involving a drinking establishment’s handful of thirsty-allured anti-heroes finding themselves literally fighting through their inebriated state against almost exactly the same intoxicating liquid they so desperately crave. Sure beats the hell out of an AA meeting.
“Rotgut,” simply put, is just not another run-of-the-mill creature film, oozing a path toward lovers of the said genre while still managing to follow a familiar suit within a typical bar location that becomes the death ensnarement, but this time around, a congregation of alcoholics are the hapless victims that are pitted up against the odds, similar to that of Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk till Dawn” and John Gulager’s “Feast,” but with more enticing and gross body horror and less antagonizing vampires and monsters.
Structurally, O’Leary individually sets up the players – Leon, Tom, Sloppy, Verna, Deena, Allen, and The Professor – to instill a developing persona or just provide an interesting backstory into each body that adds flavor to their character that would evidently punch you in the face when that character bites the fateful bullet and instead of creating good natured, outstanding personalities to fight a ghastly force, as if to underline good versus evil, the roster consists of deplorable and degenerative drunks embodied with past, present, and future hiccups and are on the cusp of not being redeemable toward being a part of society until faced with life and death choices to expose their true nature. Then, there is trio of ATF officers who are literal to each of the words of the acronym they represent; one officer smokes cigarettes, another drinks out of a flask, and the last official carries a sidearm. The dialogue-stricken characters need no exposition as they’re cleverly written into the story that’s already exchanges heavy in confabulation amongst the main roles mentioned above.
The impressiveness with Hank Carlson and teams’ practical effects don’t go unnoticed while, at the same time, the composite shots from visual effects artist Luke Fitch were just as effective. Both departments relayed the visceral consuming nature of the worms, splattering eye-popping blood everywhere, and transmitting their antibiosis organism through some fairly gnarly ways. Working with sluggishly minuscule organisms, whether digital, inanimately practically, or real, can be problematic, but Gaberina and team had the precision and the talent that made “Rotgut” outlandishly enjoyable with a half gallon handle of smeared blood slicked over the cast including Jeremy Owen, Aaron Worley, Megan Pribyl, Paul Alsing, Merritt Glover, Isreal Wright, and Whitney Moore.
Four years have swiftly gone by since this film quietly made debut in 2012 and has finally landed onto DVD from the fine folks at Camp Motion Pictures! “Rotgut” has undeservingly gone under the radar, but it shall no more, gifting audiences with supreme worm mayhem and bloodshed. The not rated DVD is presented in a 16×9 widescreen format with bonus features including a trailer vault and a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette that displays the good times, and sometimes stressful times, of independent filmmaking. In the end, “Rotgut” come out on top with the gooiest, slimiest, and stickiest creature feature this side of the 2010.
Clay Riddell just landed in Boston after scoring a huge deal in New York involving concepts for his graphic novel. With all the cellphone charging stations occupied, Clay calls his estranged wife from a pay phone to speak with his son, but when the landline severs communications, that’s when it started. People on their cellphones turn into Phoners, murderous maniacs who tear through anyone in a destructive path mindless insanity. Clay, in the midst of panic, bumps into subway train conductor Tom McCourt and fight their way out of the city, barely escaping with their lives. Fleeing a burning Boston overran by Phoners, Clay is determined to track down his family in New Hampshire with the help of Tom and two teens, Alice and Jordan, but the Phoners are not just absentminded anymore as individuals start to flock together exhibiting the beginning signs of their telepathic network lending to something far more sinister than just temporary mayhem.
“Cell” is the feature film adaptation to Stephen King’s novel of the same title and reunites John Cusack with Samuel L. Jackson once again since their last costarring venture of King’s book-to-silver screen production of “1408.” King shares screenplay credits with Adam Alleca, who co-penned “The Last House on the Left” remake in 2009, and with “Paranormal Activity 2” director Tod Williams at the helm. From the first inkling of a “Cell” movie, back with Eli Roth was attached, the excitement couldn’t be contained as I read the Stephen King novel and was captivated by the unique story of mixed and varied human emotions and the uncontrollable yearnings to be a part of the collective through being electronically connected that ultimately becomes mankind’s undoing.
However, “Cell” was heading in the direction of certain doom from the moment Roth unattached himself from the project, sending “Cell” into the annoyance of limbo until a production company conglomerate formed to pull “Cell” from it’s stagnant state and attached Williams to direct. Yet once again, King’s beloved story goes into the throes of uncertainty with distribution after filming wraps in 2013. 2016 comes and Saban Films, along with Lionsgate , distributes “Cell” theatrically and within the home entertainment market respectively.
After all the monumental problems, I personally wanted to “Cell” to be one of the most entertaining and frightening horror films of the modern age, but as fate would have it, the Williams’ film disappoints. An film adaptation of a King novel needs more minutes to cover the story’s girth and “Cell” lacked pages of warranted minutes to be a full tell all for Clay, Tom, and the Raggedy Man. Portions of the novel were translated to the screen, but for the majority of the film, a rushed version of the story debuts to silver screen audiences that loses the book’s essence and dilutes character development, such as with Raggedy Man who has a sizable role in the book, but the character in Williams’ movie barely scratches the surface with being just a figurehead for the Phoners and not the collective’s soap box looming leader. The film started out great with intense chaos at Boston airport, pictorializing to life the Phoners from the King’s book with pinpoint precision, but from there on, the story’s time span goes vague whereas the book stretches out the length of time. Only a matter of two or three days does it seem the survivors jump from Boston, to the school, to the bar, to the story’s final location of Kashwak, but in reality terms and in the amount of devastation and character portrayal, weeks have passed.
The ending has been rewritten from a surprisingly mixed reaction to the book’s and yet, the unravelling of the finale does more than convolute matters when Clay finds his son. There lies almost a dual ending where one’s interpretation can be the film’s own storybook ending. Stephen King’s “The Mist” had an ending that, when compared to Frank Darabont’s totally new ending for the film, was totally inferior to Darabont’s and I feel like that’s the stage that was trying to bet revisited here with “Cell” and it just missed the mark completely. Not all changes are for the worst. Character Tom McCourt, whose white in book, went to Samuel L. Jackson who absolutely fits the role without question, nailing PTSD stricken McCourt with little emotion but with untapped hurt. If I ever had to choose an middle aged white actor for the role of Clay, John Cusack would be my first and only choice even before casting began for the film. I do feel like having a white Raggedy Man was purposefully steered away from social sensitivities with an antagonistic young black male in a hoodie. The cast rounds out with Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, and Stacy Keach (“Slave of the Cannibal God”).
The digital visual effects were so poorly constructed and composited that I’m not surprised “Cell” didn’t have a longer theatrical run. The book had a number of jaw-dropping visuals the imagination could run with and now with seeing the depictions of those visuals on screen, they seemed seriously slapped together in such haste to where the devastating sensationalism turns inane and bland. King’s apocalyptic story warrants Hollywood scale effects, but received a few levels below that bar, failing to deliver major catastrophe on a world ending scale to the likes of “War World Z” or to cleverly style the film through a smaller medium such as George Romero accomplished with this first three “Living Dead” films.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release is presented in widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the 1080p Hi-Def resolution becomes a disadvantage that clearly outlines the quality of the effects. The English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is par for the course, but slightly in-and-out with dialogue that’s difficult to balance. The 98 minute feature’s bonus features includes an director’s commentary and “To Cell and Back: The Making of the Film” which is redundant if you’ve read the novel. Bottom line is if you’re fan of Stephen King’s novel, you’ll be sorely disappointed with Tod Williams’ “Cell” that’s nothing more than a long awaited entertaining rated-R apocalyptic horror with obsolete effects and with star-studded names attached to this Stephen King story adaptation.