Out With the Old EVIL. In With the New! “Modern Vampires” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

Blacklisted for not killing the vampire nemesis Dr. Van Helsing, Dallas is shunned by most of the underground Los Angeles vampire scene now presided over by Count Dracula himself, but as he returns to the city after decades of being gone and gathers with old – very old – dear friends, Dracula threatens him with being burned alive if he overstays his begrudged welcome.  When a newly turned rogue vampire under the pretense of a corner prostitute starts ripping the throats out of unsuspecting Johns, Count Dracula doesn’t want the potential public attention drawn on his species.  Taking a shine to this mysterious woman’s insubordinate nature, Dallas finds her, cleans her up, and introduces her to his inclusive friends, but little do any of the bloodsuckers know is that the Van Helsing is in town and has recruited local Crips to be the holy servants of God in wasting away the vampiric filth that plagues humanity.

Here I thought Casper Van Dien’s only good film was 1997’s galactic war with the extraterrestrial bug species in “Starship Troopers!”  Nope, one year later, Dien follows up his iconic global militant-nationalism and gory-filled sci-fi blockbuster with the little-known American comedy-horror “Modern Vampires.”  Better known around the world as “The Revenant” to not confused American audiences with a highly ingrained British term, “Modern Vampires” is directed by a principal one-half of the 80’s American new wave band Oingo Boingo in Richard Elfman.  The other half of that duo is Richard’s brother, who we all know and love in his unmistakable musical scores of “Batman” ’89 and “Edward Scissorhands,” Danny Elfman who also scores the opening theme to “Modern Vampires” with recognizable and trademark notes from those previously stated Tim Burton pictures.  The script was also penned by a fellow Oingo Boingo original member and the Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon “Freeway” film, and its sequel, screenwriter Matthew Bright.  Bright and Richard Elfman had previously collaborated on the comedy-musical “Forbidden Zone” surrounding sixth dimensions and damsels in distress as well as the Charles Band produced “Shrunken Heads.”  “Modern Vampires” is produced by Elfman, Brad Wyman (“Barb Wire”), and Chris Hanley (“American Psycho”) under the Storm Entertainment and Muse/Wyman productions.

Ladies, if you thought you’ve seen the last of Casper Van Dien’s backside in “Starship Troopers,” then worry not! As the hunky, cigar-smoking, former World War II pilot Dallas, Van Dien, once again, shows off his hind parts in a steamy sex scene one top of Dallas’s car with costar Natasha Gregson Wagner (“Vampires: Los Muertos,” “Urban Legend”). As the indifferent vampire Nico under the pretense of a prostitute who seduces men into vulnerability before gashing open their necks, Wagner adds a bloodthirsty ferocity to her uncouth, undead character’s tremendous and tragic depth surrounding a trailer park trash childhood of sexual abuse and a grandstand mother. As a pair, Dallas and Nico are essentially made for each other or, rather, Dallas turned Nico because under all that pretty boy veneer, Dallas still has a beating heart for compassion and friendship as noted with Dr. Frederick Van Helsing’s crippled son, Hans, and the choice made between the two young men before the whole debacle of nixing to the fearless and relentless vampire killer of all time. Rob Stieger plays that character beautifully manically. “The Amityville Horror” and “End of Days” actor graces the production with seasoned vitality while also trying something new himself, a slightly fascist German vampire hunter who hires L.A. gangsters to help him do his dirty work and has to be the butt of the joke at times at the hands of Count Dracula (“Striking Distance”) as well as Dallas. Stieger does his scenes with great earnest yet great fun that puts the legendary actor into a new perspective. “Modern Vampires'” star-studded cast doesn’t end there was Dallas’s friends include performances from Kim Cattrall (“Big Trouble in Little China”), comedian Greg Furgeson, Natasha Lyonne (“Slums of Beverely Hills”), and the legendary Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s “Dracula”) as well as a cast round out with Natalya Andreychenko, Gabriel Casseus, Peter Lucas, Victor Togunde, Cedric Terrell, Flex Alexander, and Conchata Ferrell.

Gory, sexy, and overflowing with politically incorrect humor, Richard Elfman’s “Modern Vampires” more than likely would not be a film made today, but definitely suits the 90’s scene.  There are stereotypes and jokes radically exaggerated for comical effect and land with such insouciant ease that the entire production felt at peace with the humor, emitting “Modern Vampires” as an enjoyable, blood-soaked, outrageous vampire comedy unearthed from over 20-years ago and landing onto a new Blu-ray release where the Elfman film deserved an upgraded treatment.  Los Angeles in ’98 didn’t look extremely different than what’s depicted in the film – late night clubs with half-naked patrons doing all sorts of weird and bloodletting fetishes, leeching prostitution on the delinquency riddled streets, and unsavory, unwilling gang bangs but, in “Modern Vampires’ case, the one tied to the bed is a female vamp fully-transformed into a human-sized bat and those who have sex with her, turn into a vampire themselves.  See the humor and symbolism in that?  Almost as if having unprotected sex with a creature of night is akin to contracting a sexually transmitted disease.  Despite the waggishness, “Modern Vampires” holds other staid themes as well with an arteria one being reflective in the title.  The genesis of the species emerged from Count Dracula who had moved from his old Germanic country to the hip and upcoming L.A. area. With each generation of vampire, the loyalty gap becomes wider until the turned from the 20th century are fully unmanageable by the Count’s supreme power. Nico, the youngest turned is in her vampiric infancy often noted throughout the film, can’t be contained and won’t be told what to do, much like teenagers butting heads with their parents on every little subject. Traditions are broken, heads are severed, bodies are burned, and the “Modern Vampires” is a wildly funny and gruesomely gnarly.

“Modern Vampires” is now the vintage vampires that hit the silver screen some 24 years ago and is now basking with the great 90’s flair of special effects, clothes, and hair on a new Blu-ray release from Ronin Flix in association with Quiver Distribution (“To Your Last Death”). Newly scanned in 2K of the Richard Elfman’s personal film print, the picture retains an unsullied quality with impeccable detail delineation for a story that’s mainly set/shot at night. There’s quite an overlay of purple flush that I’m fairly positive is not intended that pulls away, at times, from clearcut contrasting and blend the objects in the scene together. The film is presented in full high definition1080p in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 stereo that retains the amplitude of every categorical track. Dialogue track provides a clean depth and clarity that doesn’t swerve into boxy territory like many indie productions do. Ambient and foley range is quite limited for a bunch of different locational shots and in a crowded location full of extras but the extent of the quality is good enough. The 91-minute film comes not rated and has an exclusive extra with an introduction by director Richard Elfman plus archival features, such as audio commentary with Richard Elfman and star Casper Van Dien, a behind-the-scenes featurette with on set mini-interviews with the cast and crew. and the theatrical trailer. “Modern Vampires” might now be long in the tooth (get it?) but has the classic campy escapades of an unpretentious good time and, that my friends, is timeless.

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

EVIL Comes Not on the 1st Day, or the 2nd Day, but “On the 3rd Day!” reviewed! (Scream Factory! / Blu-ray)

“On the 3rd Day” arrives onto Blu-ray on March 29th!

A car accident leaves Cecilia dazed and confused as she wakes up in an abandoned warehouse unsure of what crashed into her and how she arrived inside the vacant area.  Her son, Martin, who was also in the car with her, is missing.  Plagued by disturbing visions being reflected through mirrors, an agitated and frightened Cecilia escapes the hospital and with the help of an empathetic, young doctor, they employ a hypnotist to extract her post-accident whereabouts and possibly locate her missing son, but what is unleashed through hypnosis is more terrifying than imagined.  Meanwhile, the other crash victim, a hermit priest, sets forth to reclaim an ancient and deadly Catholic secret lost in the wreckage and will stop at nothing and do anything to get it.  When Cecilia and the priest converge, the truth of what really happened will be profanely revealed with spilled blood.

“On the 3rd Day” is one of those movies that needs tiptoeing around when reviewing it to not divulge spoilers.  The Daniel de la Vega mystifying horror hails from Argentina and is penned by the screenwriting duo of Alberto Fasce and Gonzalo Ventura, the latter of whom authored the 2017 novel “3 Days” (3 días) in which the film is adapted from.  What can be divulged about Vega’s film is that context revolves around a classical monster fans know and revere to be a staple of horror iconography but “The Chronicle of the Raven” director ventures deep into a disoriented mother’s puzzling gap in time, working backwards through her mind’s murky-dirty window to then make the picture wretchedly clear.  “On the 3rd Day” blends abusive relationships and ugly divorce with traditional and appreciable genre tropes to fully convey that those who are to be loved and protected the most out of dissolving unions are those who are ultimately the ones hurt most of all.  Del Toro Films’ Néstor Sánchez Sotelo, who produced Vega’s 2016 supernatural thriller, “White Coffin,” produces alongside the filmmaker in a coproduction with Furia Films.

“On the 3rd Day” pursues the storyline of two principal characters: Cecilia, a mother recouping her memories after a shocking car accident, and Padre Enrique, an off-the-grid priest guarding the Catholic Church’s dark secret. The Buenos Airos-native actress Mariana Anghileri becomes lost in Cecilia’s constant struggle against the forces guiding her down a subconscious alter ego path that’s unveiled at the tale-telling end while at the opposite end of the spectrum, Padre Enrique, played with a feverously somber faith from Gerardo Romano, who also had a role in Daniel de la Vega’s “Necrophobia 3D,” knows exactly what’s at stake after accidently crashing his truck into Cecilia’s car and the displaced crate he was hauling to Santa Cruz at the behest of the church opens and sets loose an unspeakable evil to lurk. Romano is purposeful in Padre Enrique’s mission with a scrap of uncertainty splayed on his face, but never discloses a sense of true concern or panic-stricken hopelessness which makes the character refreshing in his confidence rather than tense in his unwavering assurance. The same can’t be said about Cecilia who suffers a continuous reeling over the missing gap of time. However, locating the sincerity in Anghileri is difficult as the actress doesn’t convey that primo motherly instinct of a sudden and violent detachment from her child properly. Anghileri wonderfully denotes an obfuscate posture but condoning her as a loving parent just doesn’t seem justifiable, even in the finale that is while still impactfully poignant, misses utterly gutting audiences with Anghileri’s lukewarm care. “On the 3rd Day” rounds out the cast with Osvaldo Santoro, Mathias Domizi, Lautaro Delgado, Susana Beltrán, Octavio Belmonte, Sergio Boris, Rodolfo Ranni and Verónica Intile.

“On the 3rd Day’s” first act didn’t fill me with confidence. I was about as lost as Cecilia waking up disoriented in a vacant warehouse. Vega jumbles sequential order and interjects flashbacks into an already copiously edited narrative with a slither of surrealism to the style of early David Lynch or Terry Gilliam. We’re thrust into Cecilia’s post-crash nightmare, witnessing irrational visions through standing oval mirrors and departing characters who don’t come out alive on the other end of meeting her. Vega seldomly gives into definitive trope context as he reshapes with miniscule precision what we already know traditionally about this particular monster into seemingly something new. By the second and third act, Vega begins whittling down obscuring barriers, leaving more dead bodies in Cecilia’s wake although we definitely don’t ever see death by her hand as it’s always just implied between before and after cuts. The script also pieces in more clues with Padre Enrique’s razing of collateral damage stained with the blood that is not their own. I’m enamored by this phrase that embodies a mystery on the tip of the tongue hungry to be solved and as the padre proceeds to liquate an innocent bystander because of clues he only recognizes, his character, however vilified Vega makes him out to be, becomes far more interesting in a role as a priest with a less than a pastoral posture and as a persistent caretaker of an ominous being, cleaning up after whoopsie daisy incident in losing his oversight. What “On the 3rd Day” boils down to, thematically, is when the sight is lost on what is most important, there becomes an indefinite loss that can’t be put back safely into the box. Between Cecilia’s radical escape from an ex-husband and Padre Enrique’s hastiness, they both take their eye of the prize and ultimately suffer loss in the worst possible way, turning “On the 3rd Day” into a distilled gaslight of unquestionable terror.

Hopefully, to this point, I have not spoiled Daniel del la Vega’s “On the 3rd Day’s” elusive revelation. One of the only ways to see what happens, to see the shocking ending, check out “On the 3rd Day’s” on Blu-ray from Scream Factory arriving Tuesday, March 29th! The AVC encoded, region A Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition and in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Mariano Suárez carries over the tenebrous “Terrified” low lighting to provide a tonal dreary environment akin to noir, which “On the 3rd Day” fashions itself. Skin tones, practical effect textures, and even the retro-esque compositional special effect flush out nicely. What’s a little disappointing is the forced English dub track on both the audio options: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo. With no alternative languages to opt into, even a native Spanish track, the English dub is obvious desynched between the speech and delivery. The ambient range and depth fairs better with adequate detail and an Italianomysterio soundtrack by Luciano Onetti, who worked on the modern giallo films “Francesca” and “Abrakadabra” with brother and co-founder of Black Mandala productions, Nicolás Onetti. English subtitles are available. The 85-minute film releases not rated and without extras other than the snapper case sheathed inside an image redundant cardboard slipcover and a wide still capture on the reverse Blu-ray cover. “On the 3rd Day” starts messy but ends in a gothic aghast that sets the seal on Daniel de la Vega’s slow burn evolution as a genre filmmaker.

“On the 3rd Day” arrives onto Blu-ray on March 29th!

EVIL Infiltrates to Seduce All Your Women! “The Vampire Lovers” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

“The Vampire Lovers” Now Available at Amazon.com!

The Karnstein family’s notorious legends of evil spread vast throughout 18th century Germany. Once thought their wicked leeching of nearby villages exterminated after the Baron Joachim von Hartog dispatched all the villainous vampires after his sister fell victim to their seductive fangs. However, years later, the aristocratical General von Spielsdorf and his niece Laura find themselves in the unexpected company of a houseguest with Marcilla, the beautiful daughter of a new neighboring countess. Days later, Laura unexplainably dies from continuous nights that drain her of energy and flourish her mind full of nightmares of being strangled by a large wild animal. In the wake of her death, Marcilla also disappears. Sadden by the news of her friend’s death, Emma and her father take in the daughter of a travelling countess named Carmilla to provide Emma with cheery, distracting company in a time of distress, but the mysterious cycle of enervation and nightmares start back up all over again and it’s up to the survivals of Laura’s death to stop death before it’s too late.

Unlike any other Hammer horror film you’ve ever seen before prior to 1970, “The Vampire Lovers” blazed the trail for permissiveness of the era’s newly reformed certification system that moved the bar from 16 years order to 18 and kept in line with society’s leniencies toward the favoring sex and free love.  “The Vampire Lovers” opened up to not only a new line of exploitation and violence at the turn of the decade but also introduced the longtime fans to new faces, especially actresses, who would accumulate labels and prominence inside the genre that last until this day.  Based from the story of “Carmilla” from Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, relatively new at the time Hammer director Roy Ward Baker (“Scars of Dracula,” “Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde”) took the Harry fine and Michael Style adapted original story and ran the distance with the screenplay from Tudor Gates whose writing forte was not specifically well-known within horror genre nor was horror Gates’ personal interest, yet Gates tweaked the Le Fanu female vampire tale to accentuate more of lesbian themes in a very turmoiled time when lesbianism, or just being gay, was seen as a disease or an unstoppable influencing evil force amongst the young people.  Fine and Style serve as producers in this co-production between Hammer Films and American International Pictures.

“The Vampire Lovers” comes under an atypical rule of the protagonist role or roles.  Previous Hammer films oriented themselves with a male lead from Christopher Lee’s domineering monster Dracula to the fearlessly courageous vampire hunter played by Peter Cushing, but “The Vampire Lovers” has Hammer trade in the masculinity presence for femme fatale with the introduction of Ingrid Pitt (“Wicker Man”) in the role of the hungry Karnstein vampire, Carmilla as well as Marcilla and Mircalla as the sneaky creature of the night infiltrates estates. Pitt’s exotic look and uninhibited attitude discerns obvious sex appeal for the Polish actress who can also act with gripping emotion that develops compassion for her malevolent facade. Add another pretty face and innocently sensuous woman arm-to-arm to Pitt with then 20-year-old Madeline Smith (“Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell”) and you have a two-front protagonist made up of women. Tack on the dark features and piercing blue eyes of Kate O’Mara (“The Horror of Frankenstein”) and “The Vampire Lovers” evolves into the something unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Hammer horror trifecta as once the scene settles into the narrative’s girth, the dynamic turns into a love triangle of unspoken women intimacies and jealousy, under the guise of supernatural persuasion, rears its ugly head. The menfolk really do feel absent from the excitement despite being pivotal pieces to the story and despite being the iconic representation in face and name of Hammer films. Peter Cushing’s longstanding work with the company has branded him forever legendary in the eyes of horror fans young and new. As the benevolent General von Spielsdorf, “The Horror of Dracula” Cushing looks wonderfully regal, gentlemanly dashing, and epitomizes the very essence of a strong male figure who also takes a very noticeable backseat for much of the second and into the third act. Same can be said for that other vampire portrayer who’s not Christopher Lee, Ferdy Mayne (“The Fearless Vampire Killers”) as the village doctor with a scene plopped here and there to inch the story along as a motivational vessel and another player caught in the Karnstein fang-game. “The Vampire Lovers” sees through to move plot significant characters, played by notable actors, to and from the storyline with performances from George Cole (“Fright”), Jon Finch (“Frenzy”), Dawn Addams (“The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll”), Pippa Steel (“Lust for a Vampire”), Harvey Hall (“Twins of Evil”), and Douglas Wilmer as the Baron Joachim von Hartog who give a great opening expositional prologue that sets the background and tone of the film.

Laced in the traditional gothic style we all know and love from Hammer Films, “The Vampire Lovers” has grandiose late 19th century interiors and costumes with the latter gracing the starlets with strikingly bright tropical colored dresses that are elegant beyond the more stiff, and sometimes more imperialistic, outfits representing the period.  In a way, the outfits contrast against the brooding gothic prominence that speak of subversive liberation much paralleling the very thematic elements of lesbianism, sexual motifs, and a nearly an all-encompassing female lead.  If sex was ever a subtle insinuation in previous Hammer film it was not so subtle in “The Vampire Lovers” that consistently and constantly thickened the sexual tension and produced blunt scenes of eroticism between two or more women.  Even with the powerful commingle of womanhood desires, as much as it was depicted to be devasting to their lifeblood, Tudor Gates’ narrative still pit them up against nearly impossible odds when the male characters, no longer duped by the formalities of chivalrous intentions, figure out what’s really happening under their noses, in their households none the less, and band together to put a to a heart-staking stop to the macabre madness aka metaphorical lesbian evil.  The story has the women’s lusts and desires, whether their choosing or not, be an outlier from normalcy, yet on the other hand, nudity flourishes within the new laxed certification guidelines that see in some way, shape, and form four actresses baring skin in what what would have been considered risqué X-certificated scenes prior to 1970.  “The Vampire Lovers” is by far a perfect film with a lack of character context, such as with the male vampire on horseback indulging his penchant for observing Camilla’s attacks from afar and doesn’t proceed to explain further or with more insight to who he is and what his position may be within the Karnstein family ranks, as well as the narrative format with early on into the story being bit choppy and disorienting when Carmilla assaults nightly the General’s fair niece as a furry beast in the confines of a lurid nightmare.

Deserving of a collector’s edition, Shout Factory subsidiary horror label, Scream Factory, presents a new Blu-ray release of “The Vampire Lovers” scanned in 4K of the original camera negative.  Scream Factory should be extolled for their color grading toward Hammer transfers as the release looks stunning with quality stability and richness that brings the era alive.  Transfer also appears free from any kind of major blemishes and barely of any smaller ones. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio mono has resolute fidelity in the best possible audio offering “The Vampire Lovers” will likely see now and in future releases with a clear dialogue track and a Harry Robertson score that relives the classic studio orchestra in compelling fashion. The release comes with a slew of special features including an exclusive new interview with film historian Kim Newman, who also shows up again in archived interviews in the “Feminine Fantastique: Resurrecting ‘The Vampire Lovers'” (Scream Factory lists it as Femme Fantastique on the back cover) featurette commentary snippets from John-Paul Checkett and David Skal and other historians and collectors of Hammer Films. Audio commentaries with director Roy Ward Baker, star Ingrid Pitt, and Screenwriter Tudor Gates, audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby, two interviews, one of them new, with co-star Madeline Smith that span about 10-15 years apart, Trailers from Hell: Mick Garris on “The Vampire Lovers,” a reading of Carmilla by Ingrid Pitt, a single deleted scene of Baron von Hartog radio spot, still gallery, and the theatrical trailer round out the bonus material. The 89-minute, Region A encoded, R-rated version runs solo as the only main feature and the transfer Scream Factory uses, or licenses, is the edited version of Ingrid Pitt’s bath scene that cuts away to a medium closeup of Madeline Smith holding a towel for Pitt who’s standing up in the tub and then cuts back to Pitt’s bare backside. However, in the “Feminine Fantastique” featurette, you can experience the unedited brief full-frontal of Ingrid Pitt standing up in the tub if that tickles your fancy. The collector’s edition sports reversible cover art with original poster art on the inside and a newly illustrated, and superbly beautiful in its simplicity, front art by Mart Maddox sheathed inside a cardboard slipcover of the same Maddox art. Turning a corner into vast opportunities for more violence, explicit nudity, and unrestrained vampire gore became a new dawn for Hammer Films without entirely prostituting themselves with wayward tactics to the point of unrecognition as “The Vampire Lovers” still emitted gothic characteristics and a partial token cast and now made even more alluring with a feature packed collector’s edition from Scream Factory!

“The Vampire Lovers” Now Available at Amazon.com!

Let EVIL Free You! “Jakob’s Wife” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



Anne is a minister’s wife living in a dying small town where the only thing left for the residents is their faith.  Once inspired to travel and do something meaningful with her life, Anne has found that the last 30 years of marriage to Jakob has robbed her of her self-empowerment, diminishing her as nothing more as than just Jakob’s wife.  When the opportunity to impress an old fling during a business trip turns into a nightmare with an attack by a shrouded figure in a rundown, vacant mill, the disorienting days after having provided Anne with a sense of expressive freedom, a chance to be bold, and to feel more alive than she has felt in years.  Her new lease on life comes with a ghastly cost, a severe hunger for blood.  With the help of Jakob, they realize the dark forces of a vampire has infected Anne and their road back to normal life, a life where Anne is dull and drab, will the paved in blood. 

Horror is such a versatile and malleable medium to convey allegorical messages, drawing audiences into the writer’s or director’s world of the fantastic and the horrific while laying down a subfloor of real world truth most passionate to them in a social, religious, or political context.  To point out a few examples (most of us already know), George Romero was renowned for his multiple social commentaries throughout his “Living Dead” series and a slew of vampire films construct the bloodsuckers as metaphors for an addict going through the ugly turmoil of addiction.  “Jakob’s Wife” is a different kind of vampiric allegory film that bites into feminism values.  The “Girl on the Third Floor” writer and director Travis Stevens follows up his introductory haunted house film with an inverted Nosferatu-esque dark comedy co-written alongside “The Special” screenwriter, Mark Steensland, and the “Castle Freak” remake’s Kathy Charles.  The Canton, Mississippi location evokes the dried up, small Southern town aimed to build a depression enclosure around the titular character.  Barbara Crampton’s Alliance Media Partners, whose spearheaded creative and imaginative films such as Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Sci-Fi cult looper, “The Endless,” and the Romola Garai demonizing guilt film, “Amulet,” presents “Jakob’s Wife” in association with executive producer Rick Moore’s Eyevox Entertainment (“Purgatory Road”) at one of the banner’s production studio locations in Canton, Mississippi.

In concurrence as a producer of “Jakob’s Wife,” scream queen of horror legend, Barbara Crampton (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” and most recently, “Sacrifice”), steps into the torn role of the titular character.  In Stevens’ direction, as well as Crampton’s portrayal, Anne is so diminutively overlooked in the first act, you’ll hardly notice her even though Anne is practically in every scene.  Between Jakob’s interruptions, meek output, and overall quiet behavior, Crampton’s able to exact the very essence of the idiomatic phrase the calm before the storm.  Also, I must mention, just like I’m sure others have already pointed out, the early 60s Barbara Crampton looks smokin’.  She must have been bitten by an actual vampire in order to seemingly de-age right before our eyes.   Larry Fessenden, who does age accordingly but also very handsomely in his genre characters, is the God-fearing minister playing opposite Crampton.  The “Habit” and “Jug Face” actor has always been quite the character actor and as husband Jakob, that beneficial streak continues as an old ways man of God with an innately built-in chauvinistic ritual of keeping everything the same day in and day out.  Jakob’s absentminded blinders suppresses Anne into a depressive submissive state until she comes across The Master, the sorely underutilized and shamefully absent from more screen time chieftain vampire played superbly by Bonnie Aarons in an unexpected female version of Nosferatu.  Aarons gives her best Max Schreck performance while commanding a distinctive mentorship that’s unusual for the vampire race; The Master is greatly highlighted in the most subtle of ways as being a repressed liberator and Aarons understood that compulsion to educate, revitalize, and blossom others by offering a new kind of death, the burgeoning power and desires of a vampire, from their previous one, a rather dull life stuck in a no-win circumstance.  “Jakob’s Wife” rounds out the cast with Jay DeVon Johnson, Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks (“Girl on the Third Floor”), Robert Rusler (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:  Freddy’s Revenge”), Angelie Simone, Mark Kelly (“Dead & Breakfast”), Sarah Lind (“The Exorcism of Molly Hartley”), Omar Salazar, and Nyisha Bell.

“Jakob’s Wife” is a treasure trove of feminism and lesbianism undertones that stands on higher ground without pulverizing masculism to a pulp.  There’s seemingly little-to-no ill will against the minister Jakob Fredder previous inattentive and subservient expectations of his wife Anne.  Anne even becomes conflicted by her newfound self, a rebirth of life that sheds the shackles of monotony and, as it were, it’s overstepping masculinity, and she questions the power, she questions her choices, and she maintains the unity of marriage despite a little taste of tantalizing freedom from it all.  The Master becomes the allegorical test of faithfulness to another in a bored housewife scenario and I’m not talking about Anne’s old high school fling Tow Low, played by Robert Rusler.  I’m speaking of the lesbian undertones involving The Master, a female vampire who stood in Anne’s shoes and was turned, in more ways than one, toward a new path.   The Master sparks a long-lost fire in what is now only a shell of an unhappy woman and Travis’ scenes of Anne touching herself, mimicking The Master’s moves, plays into theme of fantasizing about that other woman and what secret they share, being perhaps symbolically the intimate nature of the attack that puts Anne into The Master’s craving sites.  The innuendo is rich and robust and coupled with fire hose sprays and gallons upon gallons of an unquantifiable amount of blood and gratuitous violence, “Jakob’s Wife” is the vital vampire film of 2021. 

Darker powers answered the call of Anne’s internalized prayers. I don’t even think Jakob’s God even picked up the receiver. In any case, pick up your copy of the RLJE Films and Shudder exclusive, “Jakob’s Wife,” on a full high-definition Blu-ray releasing next year, January 17th, 2022, courtesy of Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded, region 2 BD25 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Compression issues have never really been a problem for the Acorn Media releases that detail and texture greatly under “Jakob’s Wife’s” austere color palette that favors more of a nature fixture than a stylish one. Darker color tones, such as the blood, are viscosity rich looking and, perhaps, the most color the film plays to its strength. The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track bares no complaints either in the distinctive and effective channels that isolate each output neatly, cleanly, and blemish free. Prominent is the discernible dialogue, that in due course becomes more pivotal to the story, while giving way to an original score from Tara Bush. Special features include the making of the film with clip interviews with the film’s stars – Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, and Bonnie Aarons – and deleted scenes that provide more insight and background on the finished cut’s bit characters. The Blu-ray is rated UK 15 for strong bloody violence, sex, and language (there’s also brief nudity for all you puritans in the U.S.). With the duo of Crampton and Fessenden in the middle of matrimony-macabre, “Jakob’s Wife” is a no-brainer success.

Dinner Parties and the Special Guest is EVIL. “Climate of the Hunter” reviewed! (Dark Star Pictures / Blu-ray)

MIckey Reece’s “Climate of the Hunter” Now Available on Amazon.com

Sisters Alma and Elizabeth meetup at their childhood cabin for a quick getaway.  Their individual neurosis induces the incessant minor league friction between them but never causing any real strain until an old friend, returning from abroad, arrives at his neighboring cabin alone.  With his wife suddenly committed to a mental institute, the well cultured and practically single Wesley finds himself in the company of the desirous Alma and Elizabeth every night for dinner as they vie for his attention and affection.  When Alma crosses paths with Wesley’s strange and curious vibes, they compound upon her baseline suspicion of Wesley possibly being a vampire.  Elizabeth finds herself the victor of Wesley’s adoring warmth, leaving Alma to ramp up her scrutiny into their longtime acquaintance before her sister falls victim to his deadly charm.

Arthouse meets grindhouse in this Mickey Reece written and directed mystery thriller “Climate of the Hunter.”  Co-written alongside frequent collaborating screenwriter John Selvidge, the 2019 take on subtle vampiric ambiguity is punctured, tapped, and drained from the same blood rich veins as Robert Bierman’s “Vampire’s Kiss,” starring Nicholas Cage, and George Romero’s “Martin,” but instead of a protagonist believing in the transference into a bloodsucking creature of the night, “Climate of the Hunter” steps back furthering by approaching with a more elusive and Lynchian-like 3rd party perspective as the story focuses prominently the sisters’ thoughts and actions while Wesley does what Wesley does without self-doubt or obvious distinction.  Shot during the winter months of the diffusely populated woodland area of Welling, Oklahoma, “Climate of the Hunter” is the sole released presentation of Mikey Bill Films and the more seasoned VisionChaos Productions (“The Field Guide to Evil”) under executive producers Uwe R. Feuersenger and Sasha Drews in collaboration with production companies of Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath’s Divide/Conquer and Jacob Snovel’s Perm Machine Productions.

Diving into his best performance as an enigmatic rake with unpronounced intentions is “Minari” actor Ben Hall, who recently costarred as a crises of faith priest in Mickey Reece’s latest release, the comedy-horror drama, “Agnes.”   As the sophisticated wordsmith neighbor, Wesley commands every ounce of oxygen all in thanks to Hall’s elegant pacing of Wesley’s uttered mannerisms and inflections.  Hall is joined by fellow “Agnes” costar Mary Buss as the pining Elizabeth.  Elizabeth practically resents Alma’s seemingly historical persistent hold over Wesley’s affections and Buss bitterness, whether because of Wesley or because of Alma’s uncharacteristic behavior as of late, oozes into the stagnant folds of their relationship.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, “Climate of the Hunter” has an Oklahoma-centric and Mickey Reece’s staple go-to cast, which brings us to the other sister Alma played by Ginger Gilmartin who fits into that aforementioned niche category.  Alma is running from something that goes essentially unsaid that leads her to hide out in the family cabin and Gilmartin, as best as she can, shepherd’s that motivation without the better part of context.  Alma’s also dresses like a crazy cat lady, except she owns a dog, and so reading Alma’s state can be taxing to nail down in an arthouse film where nailing down anything in arthouse cinema is inherently taxing in itself.  The small cast rounds out intermittently with smaller roles that build upon Wesley’s vague nature beginning with a local friend to the sisters named BJ Beavers (producer Jacob Ryan Snovel).  Witnessing Wesley’s strange behavior but oblivious from his own strangeness, BJ becomes a confidant and a collaborator with Alma in revealing Wesley as a vampire.  Sheridan McMichael grows resentful toward his father as Wesley’s spiteful son Percy, Danielle Evon Ploeger seeks incompliancy from her mother Alma as her daughter Rose, and, in the more curious role, is Laurie Cummings (“It Lives Inside,” “Army of Frankensteins”) as Wesley mentally incapacitated wife who somehow manages to lose her wheelchair as it drops from the sky.  You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it!

Having watched “Agnes” before diving into “Climate of the Hunter,” I mentally prepared myself for a breathy, long-winded, talking head film.   That readied mindset 100% gave me more clarity into Mickey Reece’s shadow narrative.  “Climate of the Hunter” is an uncharacteristic slow burn for the idiosyncratic grindhouse veneer.  With a 4:3 aspect ratio and a color reduction into a warm hue palette that glows, Reece insists on a design that usually offers loads of cheap thrills in action, sleaze, and gore, but the director’s story is toned down, subtle, and very much ear candy as opposed to a rush of visual adrenaline.  Instead, lucrative character building fizzes with tension as elements of the past and present unravel who’s who and what’s what before the climatic finale that suggests nothing was what it seemed to be.  Though prepped for profound exposition, the dialogue can still be boggling with a composition of Wesley’s personal anecdotes and philosophical quips and quotes.  As stated, Ben Hall is amazingly poised in this film, the unflinching star, rolling easily with Wesley’s gift of gab, persuasive magnetism, and maintaining an oblivious eye to an undercurrent of potential classical madness in Alma.  Between her recreational use of drugs and an ugly divorce, Alma has retreated into herself as well as her isolating cabin and when the spotlight isn’t on her, is her perception of Wesley really fantastical or is there actually something broken within her.  Reece explores a related theme of loneliness around the table with each principle character and how differently being lonely is digested and secreted through the pores of desperation.  Once aspect of Reece’s film that will puzzle viewers, and did puzzle me, is the narrated introduction of the food whenever there is a tabled conversation.  Since there already Portuguese titled chapters segmenting the story, a bit of a harp back to Wesley’s travels abroad, announcing what the character are dinning on seemed virtually unnecessary other than the idea that food brings people together in which it then fits the narrative of loneliness. 

“Climate of the Hunter” is quintessential Mickey Reece melodrama tinged with droplets of horror and subtle dark comedy.  Dark Star Pictures releases the film onto region free, dual layer Blu-ray home video in full 1080p High Definition.  Reece and director of photography Samuel Calvin aim for a vintage but not superannuated look for “Climate of the Hunter,” in which follows suit with the story set circa 1970s, with a 4:3 image on a pillarbox 16X9 display, relying also heavily on a softer lens to produce a dreamlike and luminescent effect but not overdoing it.    The release comes with two audio options – an English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and, if one wants to fully immerse themselves in the era, a stereo 2.0.  Dialogue is crisp and clean as it is refined as expected. Levels are balanced, range and depth are acceptable, but with this sort of wordy production, switching between the 5.1 and the 2.0 only discern subtle differences. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. The not rated, 82-minute-long film has special features that include another full-length Mickey Reece entitled “Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart” as well as a short film “Belle Ile,” deleted scenes, production designer Kaitlyn Shelby’s preparations of the food presented in the film Recipes from the Kitchen of Alma Summers, and production stills and behind-the-scenes gallery. “Climate of the Hunter” deserves at least a once over and, in my opinion, a second viewing to become fully submersed in Mickey Reece’s dialogue rich and nebulous style.

MIckey Reece’s “Climate of the Hunter” Now Available on Amazon.com