An Experiment Backfiring with EVIL Payback. “Moonchild” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

An Inhuman government body of a dystopian future experiments with genetic splicing to create the ultimate weapon, known as Project Moonchild, against the human rebellion. That weapon, Jacob Stryker, is unaware of his newly encoded abilities when he escapes one of their holding labs to rescue his captive son from the very same apathetic regime. Stryker teams up with a group of human rebels and uncover by mistake Stryker’s hidden super solider talent of turning into an unstoppable beast – a werewolf. Hellbent on taking down his son’s brainwashing captives by any means necessary and to do it before an intestinal bomb explodes within 72 hours, Stryker convinces the rebels to assist him and now they have an ace in the pocket as they traverse in search for Stryker’s boy, encountering android and mutant bounty hunters, cannibalistic human survivors, and a surfeit of governmental soldiers hot on his tail, but when the werewolf comes out, Project Moonchild is out to seek and destroy those son-stealing son-a-of-bitches by ripping them to shreds.

Director Todd Sheets has long been considered one of the kings of SOV. The “Zombie Rampage” and “Clownado” Kansas City filmmaker writes and directs “Moonchild,” the 1994 direct-to-video, post-societal, lycanthropy actioner is Sheets’ attempt in splintering himself away from the gore. The American Prince of Gore and the Master of Splatter accomplishes the lessened bloodletting and liquid innards coming outwards werewolf feature with a dystopian rescuer that pits what remains of a separatist human society on a verge of collapse to go on a quest to cure a dividing mutation affliction and to go up against the malign immortals of killers and assassins constructed with nuts and bolts and sawblades on a super independent budget. The ambitious project comes with car chases, a large cast, and a hairy beast that fights for family! Executive producer Greg Petrak returns to Todd Sheets’ side after “Bloodthirsty Cannibal Demons” and is a production of Sheets’ very own Extreme Entertainment, a now 34-year standing product company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Feel old yet?

Playing the lab rat, the werewolf, and the integral hero, Jacob Stryker, to the story is Auggi Alvarez (“Zombie Bloodbath”) as a widowed father who will stop at nothing to save his son Caleb (Stefan Hilt) in the hands of iron-hearted inhuman leader, Lothos (Harry Rose). Alvarez, like much of the rest of the cast, fall into a monotonal expositional black hole that can make “Moonchild” a slog between the excitement. While fleeing captivity, Stryker runs into Rocky (Julie King, “Zombie Bloodbath 2”), Talon (Dave Miller, “Violent New Breed”), and Athena (Kathleen McSweeney, “Violent New Breed), a band of underground resistant fighters who are desperate enough to overthrow the authoritarian ruling class that’s comprised of henchmen with duct tape masks and are skippered by a mustache wearing an unadorned samurai kabuto helmet – catching a tad resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Lord Helmet of “Space Balls.” If you have noticed already, the cast is an entourage of Todd Sheets regulars, a small niche of actors and actress with close ties to the Master of Splatter and have reoccurring roles in most the director’s early 90s indie gems. That trend continues with Carol Barta (“Prehistoric Bimbos in Armeggedon City”) as the bounty hunter, Medusa. Looking more like your next-door neighbor grandmother, Medusa is viper-tongued assassin with an unforgettable cackle and a throaty super ability that’ll inject nightmares for nights to come. Barta’s performance is one of those cliched it’s so bad, its good acts that you have to see to believe. Cathy Metz, Kyrie King, Rebecca Rose, Jody Rovick, and Mike Hellman round out the cast.

Character names drenched with Greek mythology inspiration and a contemporary take on the werewolf canon, “Moonchild” is an interesting and unorthodox story to say at least. Todd Sheets had obviously perfected the limited capabilities of S-VHS shooting or was confident enough to build in a lengthy car chase into a project that didn’t rely on disgusting audiences with blood and guts, but rather actionable thrills and singular characters of the post-apocalypse with only a smidgen of horror. You see, the werewolf doesn’t make too many appearances on screen, only surfacing from beneath Jacob Stryker’s human skin twice in total. The wolfish transformation is shoddy but for the budget, there is an appreciation for the amazing looking effect as well as the other practical effects throughout the feature. “Moonchild’s” pacing can be concernedly plodding to make sure the exposition covers aspect of Stryker’s intentions, slowing down the film to the point sluggishness. It doesn’t help that the scripted word-for-word, automaton performances are not tonally textured with droning dialogue that can’t captivate and contributes to the fatigue at times. Though “Moonchild” is an evolving project for Sheets with conviction in his ability to produce, there are still some editing continuity blunders that downgrade the overall result. Upward closeup shots of Julie King as she looks down when supposedly holding a rifle on Auggi Alvarez show her hand mock holding a rifle as it comes into the frame and then the next cut is the actress actually holding a rifle. Another scene involving King has her smash in the head of a traitor on a concrete floor and the next shot is of her running down the hallway away from where the body should be but wasn’t. The corpse had vanished. Howlers, pun intended, like these conspicuous examples are what depreciate an already discounted movie, curbing any kind of recognition for Todd Sheets going outside his blood and guts comfort zone.

As one of Visual Vengeance’s SOV cult-horror titles, we come to expect temperamental image and sound quality from the Wild Eye Releasing banner due to the consumer grade S-VHS equipment and the novicey of the filmmakers as, and mostly related to the former, Visual Vengeance warns of prior to the start of every feature so thus far, but the 50GB, MPEG-4 encoded, 2-disc Blu-ray set, that presents the feature in 1080p of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is the best technical-looking SOV to date for the company. Hardly any tracking issues, artefact issues, and any tape distortion of any kind and while still lacking premium quality as we all expect today, nothing is taken away from “Moonchild’s” original SD master transfer that is a director supervised. The single soundtrack audio option is an English analogue 1.0 mono mix and the dialogue as well as the score come over nicely despite a less punchy channel output. There’s a steady, feature length electrical interference from start-to-finish that is no surprise and is not terribly audio intrusive. Depth suffers mostly with the type of equipment that doesn’t filter and level out ambient noise, but the range of sound is pleasant with the added clip tracks. English subtitles are option. The bonus features include two new audio commentaries – director Todd Sheets and star Auggi Alverz and Todd Shoots and Visual Vengeance. Other bonus features include the alternate VHS cut, Wolf Moon Rising documentary, archival behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews featurette, the original VHS trailer, deleted ending, the Todd Sheets’ directed music video Burn the Church by the now defunct Kansas City-based, goth metal band Descension, short film “Sanguinary Desires,” trailer for Todd Sheets “Bonehill Road,” and other Visual Vengeance trailers.” The phyical release comes with a 2nd disc, a bonus audio CD of the movie soundtrack, reversible cover art featuring original VHS cover on the inside, new art on the clear cased Blu-ray snapper, and original art on the cardboard slipcover by The Dude Designs aka Thomas Hodge. Inside the snapper lining are four-page liner notes by Matt Desiderio, folded mini poster of the snapper front cover, and the standard VHS throwback sticker sheet. “Moonchild” on a Visual Vengeance Blu-ray comes unrated, region free, and with a runtime of 87-minutes. Todd Sheets is a maniacal moviemaking machine with “Moonchild” being released a decade after the gorehound began and there’s plenty of admirable spirit and effects in the Kansas City werewolf in dystopia tale, but one can’t shrug off the oversights and the exasperating exposition that goes way off trail the turbulent path of indie filmmaking.

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

EVIL Comes in Pairs. “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

A top-secret lab, known as the Ark 1 of Jeju Island where The Witch project is being conducted, is raided by ruthless mercenaries armed to the teeth with weapons and an enhanced superpowers resulting from The Witch project.  Eradicating every living person in the tundra camouflaged facility, one teenage girl emerges bloody from the carnage and wanders off into a neighboring snow-covered forest.  She’s rescued by Kyung-hee and her brother Dae-gil who inherited the land from their recently killed father.  The siblings are in a contentious situation of their own with a gangster uncle, Yong-du, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the property, especially when he took care of the previous landowner.  With her Witch powers, the girl helps her kind rescuers to fend off a Yong-du shakedown, but the problems only begin there as the Ark 1 mercenaries are tracking down the girl’s whereabouts to finish what they started and a tactical team, enhanced with Witch powers too, has also been dispatched to eliminate the girl as an unpredictable global threat.  When all forces collide, the Earth will shake in a bloodbath of superpowers. 

A direct, but not an entirely direct sequel to the 2018 high-action Korean thriller “The Witch:  Part I – The Subversion,” writer-director Park Hoon-jung (screenwriter of “I Saw the Devil”) returns with a follows up the long awaited sequel “The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” that promises to be just as excitingly unrestrained with more players in the superpower game culminating to an explosive head that plays out like a hard-hitting Guy Richie storyline of intersecting plot threads except without wisecracking Englishmen.  The sequel follows another, and a handful of others in sperate, funneling threads, like the first installment’s principal character Koo Ja-yoon with insurmountable supernatural abilities except now everyone and their brother can “Twilight”-jump and Wolverine-heal, making the field even-steven to a known extent up until the grand finale.  Park returns as producer as well as newcomer Hyun-woo Kim, producer of “I Saw the Devil” and “Snowpiercer,” with Next Entertainment World and Goldmoon Films serving as production companies.

The sequel does not specifically revolve around first film femme fatale Koo Ja-yoon and turns the focus on a new prodigal Witch who has been cooped up in a lab since birth, hence why the film is not a full-fledged direct sequel as the storyline goes into an offshoot that later intersects. The face of the new witch is played by Shin Si-ah who makes her feature film debut.  When not covered in blood, Shin’s mostly reserved performance opens to light-hearted and childlike wonder as her character is experiences everything for the first time outside the Ark 1 lab.  Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin, “Death Bell 2:  Bloody Camp”) and Dae-gill (Sung Yoo-bin, “Manhole”) take in the girl and become the warm absorption resemblance of family life or a life with romantic interests that can quickly be ripped away at any moment, sending the emotionally teetering girl into battle mode.  However, that sensation of relationships and tenderness hardly translates well on screen.  Perhaps losing some impact in literal translation, the trio’s dynamic retains a goalless fruition of connecting with other people, especially the superhuman powerless ones.  I found more complexities in the two factions seeking the same target – the girl.  Enigmatically opening with the mercenary raid on the secret Ark 1 lab and executing all in their path, we’re not immediately introduced to, and then barely given an introduction at all, is “The Cursed Lesson’s” Chae Won-bin’s mercenary boss lady and her squad of lesser-though of subordinates who all carry this overly murderous confidence with the latter being often measured inside their own group.  The other group is quite the opposite with the official tactical response team deployed by the Witch project head Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo), a returning character from “The Subversion.”  Compiled as chief agent Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) and her second-in-command, a South African named Tom (Justin John Harvey). Seo and Harvey have a better act as the exchange is degrading and goofy in a comical manner with Jo as a workaholic lone wolf leader of an elite group of special ops while Tom brown noses his commander with new tech and offers helpful suggestions to which his commander either breaks or doesn’t use the new tech and views him as more of a warmhearted nuisance. Jin Goo completes the principal cast as a high-level gangster boss that would be big time in reality but in “The Witch’s” universe equates to an insignificant goon in a fancy coat. With an entourage of loyal henchmen, Jin Goo rubs elbows with his business smarts to get in bed with a clandestine organization as well as staying alive as long as he can in order to rob property right from under his niece and nephews’ nose. Goo plays the part with sly astonishment as he creates a pompous persona mildly shocked by awesome abilities of a young girl with the strength of 100 men.

What garnered much fascination with the 2018 film was the Korean dark, neo-noir tone intermixed with the uncanny abilities of a mystery person who can’t remember jack about their past. Park Hoon-jung essentially removes the simplified spine of “Part 1” and transplants it as the basis of “Part 2” with the similar added angles of a destroyed lab that supposedly no one survives but one person ultimately does and a pair of benevolent landowners who rescue, nurse, and essentially adopt the amnesiac girl back to 100% percent. “Part 2′” mirrored storyline is then targeted by at least three different angles represented by each bird-dogging group to add elements of change that include a contrast of comedy and austere posturing, the former being refreshingly novel to the two-film series that promises more to come after an open-ended finale. Returning to the sequel is the insane visual effects of “Twilight”-esque rapid movements and epic fight sequences with large explosions, a cold and bloody violent complexion, and high body count and while that’s all good and dandy for surface level popcorn effects, what’s agonizing is the how sped up they are as if every super occurrent was purposely depressed on fast forward by the power of three. If Park and his creative visual supervisors and gurus could have tempered down every other two moments with instead of having thrown cars, and among other things, seemingly skip multiple frames would have had more of a plausibility impact. The mélange complexity of multiple pursuers armed to the teeth and converging onto an unexpected teenage girl shacked up in a humble abode is a great classical spell of barnstorming besiegement that has the same improbability odds of survival as before betting on David versus Goliath until upended unto the aggressors, with all their guns and knives, who now need a prayer and much more against the prodigal youth with a considerably more amount of Witch power.

A fierce force of controlled power, and unforeseen surprises, the long-anticipated sequel, “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One,” has finally landed post-pandemic. Well Go USA Entertainment, who released the first installment on Blu-ray, has picked up the rights to release the sequel on the high-definition format, presented in a sleek and sharp 16:9 aspect ratio. Virtually no issues with the digital presentation, the Blu-ray’s 1080p heightens every aspect of detail, even to a fault with the wonky visual effects as mentioned earlier. The overall darker lit tone and range can sometimes give off the appearance of softer details but with solid contrasting, the outlining shapes up more so than often and there’s no compression distortion to render an ill-defined texture. The Korean-English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, also available is a Dolby Digital 7.1 Atmos and a Stereo 2.0, delivers a formidable, comprehensible, and frenzy-favorable mix of balanced action and dialogue. Depth perfectly pitches the focus properly while the range fuses together mostly during the fighting sequences until there’s a deep and punch-packed explosion mushrooming into a ball of crackling fire. No evident issues with dialogue and the English subtitles synch well with no flaws. Bonus content features a glossy and sped-cut behind-the-scenes featurette and the theatrical trailer. Physical features include the original Blu-ray snapper case with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same cliff-note touching cover art as the snapper case. The NTSC Blu-ray come region A hardcoded, is unrated, and has a runtime of 130 minutes. Time flies when you’re engrossed in “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One’s” take no prisoner thriller of transcendent turbulence.

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

The Dark One’s EVIL Sucks the Air Out of You! “Robot Holocaust” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Year 2033 – a robot rebellion turned the once convenient machines into man’s most deadly adversary.  The aftershock of war has left mankind almost extinct and most of the atmosphere uninhabitable with radiation.  The last standing metropolis on what is now known as New Terra has the only breathable environment monopolized by the tyrannical Dark One, a disembodied machine that uses human slave labor to fuel the air producing contraption for the entire city.  A motley band of heroes, led by an outsider from a wasteland tribe who can breathe the toxic air, embark on a perilous journey to the Dark One’s factory lair, evading deadly flesh-eating worms, wasteland mutants, and a ruthless robot subordinates under the command of the Dark One.   Their mission is to rescue a purloined scientist after developing a device that lets people breathe outside the Dark One’s grip of a controlled environment.

The 1980s is a goldmine for post-apocalyptic cinema that has virtually no ambit.  Whether a big Hollywood studio or a rinky-dink production, inhospitable badlands filled with cutthroat survivors and malformed beings unfortunate enough to be left alive to battle it out to the death over the Earth’s last remaining precious resources was (and to an extent, still is) a salivating story prospect with vast barren landscapes, dangers around every corner, an untamed primal violence, and a BDSM-like wardrobe that hits the suppressed kink nerve in all of us.  Tim Kincaid’s “Robot Holocaust” is right smack dab in the middle of the subgenre and plays tune to every crowd-pleasing characteristic.  The 1987 post-apocalypse actioner is written-and-directed by Kincaid who cut his teeth on gay adult films in the late 1970’s and has maintained a healthy dose of homosexual erotic and adult films throughout his career until 2017 under his pseudonym of Joe Gaga.  After complete stag only cheapies “Cellblock #9” and “…in the Name of Leather,” Kincaid received a hankering to dip his directorial toes into sci-fi and horror, beginning with the sexual assaulting alien flick “Breeders” in 1986.  “Robot Holocaust” became the filmmaker’s subsequent feature one year later, shot mostly in the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard buildings as well as the undeveloped then Roosevelt Island in New York City.  Presented by Wizard Video (“I Spit on Your Grave”), Tycan Entertaiment and Taryn Productions are the companies behind the film. Taryn Productions is a subsidiary created by Charles Band (“Puppet Master’) and named after his daughter Taryn. Cynthia De Paula produces the film, who she almost exclusively produces every Kincaid sci-fi horror fixation, and the film likely supported by Charles Band in an executive producer role.

“Robot Holocaust” follows the narrative of a ragtag bunch of good-guy survivors journeying to rescue a friend and take down a tyrannical overlord.  While not one role stands as a principal lead, the band of heroes is led by Neo, played by Norris Culf.  Starring in his first lead role following a couple of smalltime gigs in supporting roles in another Taryn Production, “Necropolis,” and in Tim Kincaid’s “Breeders,” Culf receives his big break as a wasteland conqueror able to breathe outside in the radioactive atmosphere.   As a leader, Culf isn’t as charismatic as Keanu Reeves’ Neo nor is he fierce enough to be intimidating; instead, Culf is quite reserved, unpowerful, and lacks coordination to pull off choreographed fight sequences with a believable plausibility.  Nyla, on the hand, is played Jennifer Delora of “Frankenhooker” and “Fright House.”  Delora, an martial arts blackbelt, brought the proper attitude to her fiercely feministic leader of the She Zone women tribe by adding the mean to Nyla’s demeanor.  The other woman of the group is Deeja, Jorn the Scientist’s daughter who terribly reliant on her father, sparking major contrast between her delicacy in daddy issues and Nyla’s hardnosed, man-hating feminism.  Nadine Hartstein and Michael Downend reconnect from their minor roles in “Necropolis” to be the daughter and father team at the core of suicide mission. More ceremonious than being an emotional wreck of being separated during the middle of a robot run world, Harstein and Downend bring little flair as they themselves often are more automaton than the automatons. Joel Von Ornsteiner (“Zombie Death House,” “Slash Dance”) had the most flair as Klyton, a pickpocketing free-thinking droid that looks like a cross between Star Wars’ C3PO and MAC from “Mac and Me.” Ornsteiner never let up or broke the eccentric droid’s light-hearted Robin to Neo’s Batman antics complete with rigid, robotic movements and a ray gun that never seems to work. One of the more painfully pressed roles is Valaria, the Dark One’s flamboyantly dressed second in command. Think “Forbidden Zone”-esque. Angelika Jager performance in cahoots with the Dark One is about as dry as toast and at odds with her own vestigial accent. Jager’s the congenial visual to her counterpart Torque’s effectual exoskeletal mechanical cover who could pass for a T-800 with the teeth replaced by dangling like Lobster antennae. Rick Gianasi, who went on to be Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, plays the underestimated and underrated villain, leading the way for other sidelines roles with a cast that rounds out with George Grey, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, and Nicholas Reiner.

As mentioned earlier, “Robot Holocaust’s” acting isn’t good.  It borders old-timey melodramatic in a proclamation sense.  There are no in-depth discussions, debates, conversing naturally, or any aspect of the dialogue having a normalcy about it as everything is vigorously proclaimed or is awkward narrated for exposition.  The other half of the problems is in direct result of Kincaid’s poorly written script that can’t capture ordinary conversation, much like those of his pornographic films, I would think. Nor could Kincaid write himself out of the erratic flippancy of some principal characters who woujld go from bad to good then from good to bad in a blink of an eye.  While the communication is about a dull as a butter knife, the costuming is where “Robot Holocaust” balances the scales with 80’s ridiculously appropriate garb of what the ruined future would sport.  A metrosexual mixture of v-neck pelt shirts of mystery animal origin and early WWF professional wrestler spandex turn the men into “Conan the Barbarian” types, to which a few other influencing aspects are pulled from the Schwarzenegger epic fantasy.  The women are equally suited but with more finesse in the way of warrior princess as well as a goddess. With a title like “Robot Holocaust,” the android designs better be spectacular and in all for its time period, Ed Fench’s designs and Valarie McNeill’s fabrications are a mixed bag of good and bad. Klyton derives too heavily from “Star Wars'” inspiration without wowing into something of the tiny production’s own while Torque radiates power and fear with a complete head-to-toe body suit of an acolyte with attitude. Both designs don’t compartmentalize by operating individual body parts, such as moving mouths or even hands for that matter, which would have nailed the robots down for a film called “Robot Holocaust.”

Ronin Flix, under the re-distribution of Scorpion Releasing and MGM, release “Robot Holocaust” on a 1080p high-definition AVC encoded Blu-ray. The hard coded region A North American release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative. Natural grain, a palatable and diverse color palette, and swelling textures, such as fine details in the skin, scuffed up droids, and a grimy industrial complex provides a zestier interest that parallels the languishing storyline. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably clean, much like the transfer, with a coextending presence of robust range, depth, and quality. The proclaiming dialogue is crystal clear, hanging on every syllable and syntax, with no issues with hissing, popping, or other flaws. Jager’s accented monologues and conversations are kitsch guilty pleasures to hear her laissez faire style and delivery. Special features include a new interview with Nyla actress Jennifer Delora touching upon little-by-little her experience with cast, crew, and overall project. There’s also the official trailer included. The physical release comes in a regular blue snapper case with one-sided grindhouse artwork of a looming Torque, an explicitly worn skull, and Angelika Jager’s Valaria with her eyes closed and slight smirk. The unrated film runs a brisk 79 minutes. The “Robot Holocaust” is only 11 years away according to the film’s timeline, but director Tim Kincaid’s future can’t help but feel like a vintage hunk of junk by the stale performances and skimpy Tarzan-like duds and getting through the brief runtime proved unfortunately challenging.

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Channeling the EVIL from the EVIL DEAD! “Slaughter Day” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

A pair of friends who run a small construction company drive up to an isolated cabin project in the outskirt nooks of Hawaii.  When they arrived, they encounter disgruntled employee John Jones who dabbles in the dark occult.  Having murdered already one of their construction crew members, Jones invokes the evil from the book of the dead, the Necronomicon, to bestow upon himself unnatural powers to seek revenge for years of abuse on the job.  Enslaving two other members of the construction Crew, Jones relentless goes after his former employers who must fight tooth and nail for every minute of their lives.  The fight stretches across the island and spills into the streets, abandoned factories, tropical brush, and even on the side of a mountain. 

“The Evil Dead” meets “Double Dragon!”  A fierce bareknuckle fight against a malevolently possessed construction crew is the not-stop action and gore premise of the Brent Cousins’ “Slaughter Day.”  The heavily influenced Sam Rain and “The Evil Dead” 1991 shot-on-video occult survival horror is co-written by Brent’s twin brother, Blake Cousins.  The twins’ filmic debut concept where a maniacal occult enthusiast goes on the offensive with his vindictive side by conducting dark, Necronomicon evil against the two construction supervisors is pieced together, scene-by-scene, from the various shorts created when they were adolescents.  The four short films from their inspired youth were revisited and remade into a full length feature film financed by a nearly a next-to-nothing zilch budget, but with more than a little can-do attitude, a group of close friends and family, and a willingness to drench the cast in splatter bags fill of fake blood, Brent and Blake’s balls-to-the-wall, commercial grade equipment schlocker never lets up and pays endearment to the legendary video nasties that have stimulated their need for tangible blood-shedding effects.  “Slaughter Day” is a self-funded labor of love under the Cousins Brothers Productions and is made in one of the more tropical places on Earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i, with a few scenes shot in the town of Honokaa.

Aside from being one of the two writers, Blake Cousins jumps in the front seat to become one of the hapless heroes in the suddenly twisted, Hellish ride of that classic story of good versus evil. Blake embodies one of the few aspects that makes the viewing of “Slaughter Day” so infectiously exciting with a high intensity level somewhere around near redline critical. The intensity spreads to each and every actor in front of the camera and with Blake’s breakneck pacing as the film’s post-production editor, there’s a side-scrolling, beat’em-up video game quality about the whole run through. The acting isn’t terribly good with haywire yelling and screaming from start-to finish with a lack of professional training that gives way to under developing a story, but story be damned, the brother Cousins ambitiously puts caution to the wind by balancing out the acidic acting with exceptional camera work that occasionally would involve hazardous to their own health amateur stunt work. The unharnessed and unpadded fight sequence in the back of the pickup truck gets mad props in succeeding instead of squashing someone’s head under the tire. If everyone lives and you get the shot, it’s a win, right? The fight sequences themselves are extensive, as I aforesaid, the breadth of the short feature is like experience a live action “Streets of Rage 2,” and they have the smack of decent choreography with near miss blows and head whips. Some of the bigger fake hits lack sterling results but are nonetheless entertaining and expected. “Slaughter Day’s” cast is made up of essentially a closeknit group of friends with performances from Sam Bluestone, Dave Anderson, John Lambert, Kulaka Branco, Jeremy Couchiardi, Joe Ross, and Lincoln Ross who all have never again seen the gaffer lights of another film production.

“Slaughter Day” has many flaws: bad acting, continuity mistakes, not much of a plot, etc. While honest attempst were made to rectify a handful of those sore points, those very same imperfections are what make “Slaughter Day” ironically perfect in the SOV canon. Some of the gags land relatively smooth, such as being John Jones being bent backwards in half and sucked into a copy of the pop media cultural influencing H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon book, and others kind of flounder in the lukewarm stew of unskilled technical know-hows. Yet, I do firmly believe the brothers achieved a memorable salute to Sam Raimi’s breakthrough 1981 video nasty, “The Evil Dead” in pulling more so the macabre-isms then comedic slapstick elements of the “3 Stooges.” Brent and Blake obviously understood what they wanted to see and how much familiar content they wanted to rework to open the recesses of our memory banks to access and recall “The Evil Dead” playbook, but then the flyby the seat of their pants filmmakers take their committed vision farther by adding certifiably crazy stunts and be big and bloody as all bloody hell! Severed limbs, decapitations, exploding shotgun bursts, and impalings are difficult for even the most seasoned effects artist, taking sometimes years to master a simple effect to perfection. With “Slaughter Day,” the brothers are unafraid to take risks, something the filmmakers proved with audacious stunts, by rendering a practical effect inclined storyboard or script thought to the screen tactic and owned it with a pinch of panache pizzazz!

“Slaughter Day” might be release number five for Visual Vengeance but is clearly the Wild Eye Releasing cult-horror SOV sublabel’s second adulation of “The Evil Dead,” following “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.” The rough-and-ready S-VHS quality, presented in a full screen 1.33:1 from the original standard definition master tapes, can take on a grueling affect with a below par outcome. Tape lacks the proper color resolutions and that displays here immensely with full of deep and warm purples, reds, and yellows that you’d think the brothers were using gels to tint the picture. Tape wears, static interference, tracking lines… you name it, ‘Slaughter Day” visually had it. Delineation and details are deduced to a softer, overlapping ghost image that barely yokes together resolution pertinent pixels. Like always, Visual Vengeance’s disclaimer warns of the consumer grade equipment issues. These issues extend also into the English Stereo audio mix with a consciously underlay of static shushing, lo-fi dialogue recording, and zero depth and range to add more fuel to the “Slaughter Day’s” chaotic fire. Perhaps that’s why the dialogue is terribly rampant with the hope to invigorate and illicit engrossing captivation. The video game punch throw sound bites are a good touch and a innovative way to keep with the fighting game motif. The special features include a new audio commentary by directors Brent and Blake Cousins, a new audio commentary with Visual Vengeance’s own Matt Desiderio and Rob Hauschild, a quickly paced new interview with the Cousins Brothers regarding the genesis of “Slaughter Day” and they’re excitement about the new Blu-ray release, all four original “Slaughter Day” shorts, an earlier short entitled “Full Metal Platoon,” the “Slaughter Day” theme song, trailers from other Cousins films, such as “Rising Dead,” and the original trailer cut. Physical release features include a mini poster of the Visual Vengeance cover artwork, a three-page colorful essay from long time cinema contributing writer Tony Strauss, retro Visual Vengeance stickers that has graced all the company’s releases so far, a reversible cover art with new artwork as well as the original VHS art, and a cardboard slipcover with a heavily demonic and menacing Thomas “The Dude” Hodge design. The film comes unrated and has a runtime just shy of an hour at 58 minutes. I always get the warm and fuzzies when obscure works of art receive the red-carpet release treatment and “Slaughter Day” is an exemplar of SOV at its best while being innately its technically worst. Lots of ambition, lots of derived creativity, and lots of guts behind and in front of the camera to make a life-long dream of filmmaking come true.

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

Four Kids to Stop EVIL From Wiping Out The Rest of Mankind. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” final Season reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

The last time we saw the four Colony Campus travelers trekking across country, Hope and Huck were helicoptering back to the Civic Republic Military, Iris and Felix find Will to learn their home has been wiped out, Silas sacrifices himself up to the CRM for his friends to get away, and Elton discovers Percy alive but severely injured after uncovering Huck’s deceit.  Separated and deeply rooted into their own difficulties and dilemmas, the long-term goal is to survive and find each other again while unearthing clarity around the CRM’s true top-secret military operations – wiping out neighboring alliance colonies with lethal gas.  Hope reunites with her father to assist in how to quickly eradicate the dead but the advancement in their works comes across CRM immoral hurdles that force the group into radical action against the most powerful and well-organized military faction known to what remains of mankind. 

“The Walking Dead” spinoff series, “World Beyond,” comes to a close on the two-season arc that aims to die up bits and pieces of connective elements into the ever-expanding universe that is “The Walking Dead.” Showrunners Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrete return to season two with a drive to give fans a broader sense of the enigmatic Civic Republic Military (aka CRM), to supplement a main series character’s hand in the fate of the human race, and to take continue to reach across the domestic planes to show that there’s more than just Georgia-Virginia heat and TexMex dead and drama. Gimple and Negrete’s “World Beyond” is the little brother of the series two predecessors but offers same amount of drama under a blanket of undead gore. Friendships will be tested, moralities will be checked, and the dead will still walk in this ancillary limited series that runs from 2020 to 2021, totaling 20 episodes. David Alpert, Brian Bockrath, Maya Goldsmith, Gale Anne Hurd, Ben Sokolowski, and also across the TWD universe and graphic novelist co-creator Robert Kirkman return to season two as executive producers under the presentation of American Movie Classics (AMC) with Idiot Box, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, and Valhalla Entertainment serving as production studios.

Season one regulars Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Crumpston, Nicholas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, and Annet Mahendru return to see their characters through the waves of the flesh-biting undead and the unbridled, unchecked power trips to the bitter end. Performances from season one into season two two retain individual natural orders of progression within the slogging imbroglio surrounding one ultimate thematic goal – to survive without sacrifice. From the regular cast, Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, and Nico Tortortella step up in the rapid-fire series of blistering complexions based on the known and unknown facts of the environments or colonies that influence them. Tortorella actually showcases some of his fighting choreography unlike what we’ve experienced in the first season, making his Felix character that much more bad ass. Hal Crumpston, Nicholas Cantu, and Annet Mahendru don’t necessarily provide inedible takes of their equally thrust in turmoil characters but also don’t take their themselves to the next level. I still find Huck, played by Mahendru, to be average in a key role of double-edged duplicity. Plus, that forced deep Southern accent doesn’t do Huck justice, forged to contend with her military trained and tough cozenage. Crumpton remains flatlined with Silas’ two-toned solo-pot of emotions and Nicholas Cantu, who I consider the philosophical voice of reason for the group, isn’t provided enough screen time substance in season two to make an impact as his personal tribulations, such as learning Hope killed his mother during day one of zombie fallout, are dropped with barely a mention. New series regulars come aboard stemmed from their provisional season one stints. Joe Holt becomes more involved as Iris and Hope’s scientist father, Ted Sutherland reoccurs as Percy being found injured and is nursed back to health to seek revenge on Huck as well as become Iris’s love interest, Jelani Alladin returns with a fulltime status as Felix’s partner and has more of security role pivotal to the rebellious efforts against the CRM, and Julia Ormond returns as Huck’s mother and as Lt. Colonel Kubleck aimed to do what must be done in order to achieve mankind’s longevity. The new regulars, with the addition of new newcomer Maxmillian Osinski, breathe new life and new complexities of a narrative’s David and Goliath’s approach with added poignant distress as well as subdued hope. The cast rounds out with Natalie Gold, Anna Khaja, Will Meyers, Madelyn Kientz, Robert Palmer Watkins, Gissette Valentin, and “The Walking Dead” crossover Pollyanne McIntosh as Jadis filling in as a CRM head honcho with a new and approved queerish haircut.

The second season promises a whole new set of perils through the world of the undead and, to be more specific, “World Beyond” pivots the focus from the dead to the cruelty of man, keeping up with the “TWD” universe’s majority themes of staggering scruples and survival barbarity.  “World Beyond” trades decaying dentures for military might as Hope, Iris, Elton, Silas, Felix and Huck exhaust their trek to a divisive end after season one’s from West to East’s coming-of-age, growing-in-ghouls expedition that leads them to step outside their comfort zones and into the real world from the safety of the Campus Colony.  We learn early in season one that going back home is not an option as the Campus Colony has been wiped off the map by the CRM, but that hidden truth runs deep into the new season’s storyline and becomes this paradox notion that causes division amongst the principal characters.  Much of the belief the CRM committed genocide is founded on gut-feelings and hunches, as Iris continues to arduously state and even going as far as killing one of the CRM soldiers without proof of ice-cold facts of CRM’s hand in murdering the close-knit survivalist friends back at the Campus Colony.  On the subject of killing, one of the initial gripes by “World Beyond” was that the first season was gory-lite and lacked a concerning amount of undead rapaciousness for flesh.  The same can be said for the second season that saw little bite from the zombie contingent and, instead, focused more of the dynamics of conflicting groups trying to get the upper hand on each other, but also mirroring the layout of season one, gore and that inherent blood-n-guts cornerstone that, as we all know, makes audiences return show-after-show, season-after season to the “TWD” behemoth.  The latter episodes feature a crimson blood-splattering display of head shots, throat rips, and eviscerations that can sate fans toward forgiveness on being reserved in grisly gaudiness.

If you can’t get enough “The Walking Dead” or “Fear of the Walking Dead” then “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” can help fill that void with a short-lived arc in other parts of the dead-riddled planet and the final season comes to Blu-ray home video with a 3-disc, 10-episode set from Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded UK set is presented in an unmatted 1.78:1 aspect ratio which comes standard for U.S. television programming. Picture image comes from the HD AMC premiere and the noticeable dull details and banding in the digital compression codec. The quality won’t cause eyestrains or be a breaking eyesore as many viewers will notice little difference between television and the Blu-ray data output. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix has no flaws in the digital recording that provides a high bit clarity on each isolating channel and funneling them into one well-blended mix. Range and depth are on point and come through in a tumultuous world of gunfire and that recognizable growling dead. Optional English subtitles are available. With a runtime of 439 minutes and certified 15 or over, “World Beyond” has plenty of content and violence to salivate over but just in case you crave more, bonus features include the Comic-Con@Home 2021 Panel hosted by “Talking Dead’s” Chris Hardwick and includes showrunners Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrette as well as cast members Aliyah Royale, Alexa Monsour, Annet Mahendru, Jelani Alladin, Joe Holt, Hal Crumpston, Nico Tortorella, and Nicolas Cantu in the Hollywood Square-like Zoom panel. “World Beyond” scratches “The Walking Dead” itch for more with a Martial Law look and lockdown theme of military oppression over what remains of the civilian population, an aspect we haven’t seen extensively before in the franchise and slips into the timeline as a needed gap-fill, stretching over a new place and new set of people.