Kissing Cousins and a Foreboding EVIL Feline in “Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye” reviewed! (Twilight Time / Blu-ray)



“Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” now available on Limited Edition Blu-ra from Twilight TIme!

Set in the 1970s, the aristocratic McGrieff is on the verge of collapse with financial ruin that’ll cost the once respectable family their castle set in a small Scottish village.  Full of intrigue and ominous mystique, foreboding supernatural superstitions surrounding the McGrieff name, but that doesn’t frighten the young London residing Corringa from visiting her aunt Lady Mary’s castle.  Not before too long, Corringa’s mother, Lady Mary’s sister, mysterious dies in her bed and in the wake of her death more bodies are found with their cut throats all in the presence of the Castle’s roaming domestic feline.  Suspects range from Lady Mary herself in desperation for her sister’s sudden fortune to her unstable, gorilla-saving son James to also her in-house doctor lover who’s also sleeping with a live-in promiscuous woman intended for the young James.   Melodrama runs rampant and so does a killer who cuts down McGrieff Castle residents one-by-one in the dark corridors and gothic-laden rooms.

The Gothic-“Clue” of the 1970’s, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is the wildly entertaining Italian-produced giallo horror from the “Castle of Blood” and “The Long Hair of Death” director Antonio Margheriti credited under his more English-sounding pseudonym of Anthony Dawson.  Otherwise known with more animal ferocity as “Cat’s Murdering Eye,” as well as simply “Corringa, or in the native tongue as “La morte negli occhi del gatto, this mad family murder-mystery thriller is speculatively based off a novel by Peter Bryan, an extremely English sounding author whose original novel has yet to be revealed as the adapted base for Margheriti’s film or if a book even ever actually existed on what is more than likely, in my opinion, based off an obscure Italian author’s oral narrative or short story since the country at that time had laxed or nonexistent copyright laws – a method that produced a mass amount of unauthorized piggyback sequels for quick cash in on the popularity.  Either way, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is a thrilling, uncontained, and verbose black letter giallo co-written by Margheriti and Giovanni Simonelli (The Crimes of the Black Cat), produced by Luigi Nannerini (“A Cat in the Brain”), and is filmed in Italy under Capitole Films who appealed to westernized audiences with low-budget popular genre films at their peaks. 

At the heart of the story is Corringa, a progressive and modern Londoner travelling to join her mother and aunt at Castle McGrieff a few days earlier than expected after being kicked out for sneaking out on late nights from her all-girl Catholic boarding school and consorting with boys.  The “Dark Places’” English actress Jane Birkin embodies Corringa’s free-loving and innocent spirit becoming the white sheep amongst the Castle’s broody and plotting inhabitants.  Corringa is thrusted into the happenstance heroine of unravelling a mystery that causes her to freak out upon every discovery whether be the gruesome and distressing visual she walks into to the mere mention of someone’s throat being sliced open that sends her running and screaming into the arms of her cousin James, played confidently cool with a hint of madness in a red herring role by American actor, Hiram Keller.  The “Smile Before Death” actor had a small stint working in the Golden Age of Italian cinema with “Seven Death’s in the Cat’s Eye” being one of those projects, but his role of James is an interesting one as the Lord of the Castle who is considered mad, uninterested in either women or continuing the family lineage, and keeps a former circus gorilla caged up in his room.  One other at a loss and gross side of James, and also of Corringa, is their incestuous affair.  Yes, that’s right, the first cousins get it on like Donkey Kong as they share the bedsheets whilst embroidered in another arcana that’s more in the life and death taboo category.  Yet, all the characters are essentially in some wanton fashioned relationship with each other.  While cozying up to the Lady of the Castle, French actress Françoise Christophe (“Fantômas”) in order to gain favor within lordliness, physician Dr. Franz (Anton Diffring, “The Man Who Could Cheat Death”) also porks the “French Tutor” Suzanne on the downlow for some lust and relaxation.  German actress Doris Kuntsmann plays nomadically alluring to the dark-haired red herring outlier who is hired off the streets from her solicitating sex position by Lady Mary and Dr. Franz to be James’ break from his internal shell, bedfellow companion.  Meanwhile, the promiscuous Suzanna tries to sack up with Corringa in this full house of varied sexual appetites.  The ensemble cast continues with Dana Ghia (“My Dear Killer”), Serge Gainsbourg, Luciano Pigozzi, Venantino Venantini, Konrad Georg, and Bianca Doria. 

With an international cast, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” enlists heterogeneous talent to continuously keep one on their toes surrounding every dead body that winds up throat mangled or moved from the original death stroke spot and Margheriti certainly has a firm grip on our attention between the polyamorous and dissolute sexual anarchy and the tension toned suspiciousness that ceaselessly keeps not only the characters on edge of each other but also rattles audiences anxiously squeezing their pressurized minds wrapped tightly around a castle-sized amount of distrust and suspects. “Seven Deaths of the Cat’s Eye” evokes the mad family subgenre with Margheriti’s family contending to be one of the most psychosexually and depraved group of backbiters and backstabbers of its time. Margheriti and Simonelli’s story is sensationally complex without being terribly complicated by beginning with the death of an unknown man where rats gnaw and eat away his decaying flesh. From then on, the narrative works ever so hard to purposefully not touch upon or identifying the mystery man’s demise until the bitter encounter end with a revealing finale exposure of a shocking killer that speaks volumes on the filmmakers’ intrinsic misdirection, a machination that keeps characters endlessly on the fence with their motives, and a conversation that is indecorous in a gothic setting.

If you’re looking for a different kind of giallo, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is that atypical wild card and now the Antonio Margheriti 1973 film has been released onto a limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time and distributed by MVD Visual. The unrated, region A Blu-ray runs 95 minutes long in a 1080p high-definition resolution, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I wouldn’t say the image is a complete polished look, but the transfer restoration from Rewind Film and the Screen Archives Entertainment has excellent detail surrounding the textural complications of the cast, interiors, and exterior settings, especially the graveyard. There are minor instances of banding around the skin in low lighting and the illuminating contrasts is rather low, leaving quite a few frames in the dark so to say. Although an Italian production, English is the language spoken and amongst an international cast, dubbing over certain performances was more than likely done, but the overall dialogue track didn’t match precisely the image in about a quarter of a second delay on the English LPCM 2.0 stereo track which also very muffled like being underwater. However, the “Cannibal Holocaust” composer Riz Ortolani has a score of majestically inspirational proportions as far as horror soundtracks go with a tingling guitar riff that sits heavy in the pit of your stomach as the master of orchestration compositions brings this feature to ahead with this arrangement. The Italian LPCM 2.0 is a more obvious lips out of synch dub but offers an equally robust Ortolani soundtrack. While there are no bonus features on the release, the Blu-ray package itself comes with a 11-page color booklet with images and an essay by author Mike Finnegan along with a reversible Blu-ray cover art containing images from the film and a snazzy disc cover art designed by Twilight Time. Much deserved and sorely underrated, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is back on the prowl with a new limited-edition release to sink your teeth into.

“Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” now available on Limited Edition Blu-ra from Twilight TIme!

Gather Around. We Must Call Forth EVIL For the Sake of Our Lives! “Seance” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

A practical joke in summoning a spirit sends one girl to die of mysterious circumstances at the isolated and elite all-girls boarding school of Edelvine Academy. At the top of the wait list is Camille Meadows who finds herself in mid-semester adversity with not only her studies but also the deceased girl’s group of browbeating friends as Camille replaces their friend’s now vacant opening. When another friend disappears and another dies in a freak accident, differences and quarrels are put aside before one of them becomes the next victim. The group conducts a seance to call their friend from beyond to discern whose taking them out one-by-one and the spirit’s cryptic response determined one thing evident, a killer, whether supernatural or real, will stop at nothing until every last one of them is dead.

In what feels like an extremely unquantifiable amount of time that has passed since the last high school teen slasher has graced our once beholding subgenre, “You’re Next” and “The Guest” screenwriter Simon Barrett ends up sneaking one into the fold before the grand fourth sequel release in the “Scream” series come mid-January 2022. “Seance” is the first feature length film directed by Barret who pens the supernatural slasher encrusted with snarky teenage melodrama agitated by a mysterious, unknown killer wreaking havoc upon the catfighting girls of Edelvine Academy. The adolescent cutthroat temperaments give way to actual throat cutting macabre in this whodunit thriller lessoned with a mix of the power of friendships and an attenuated lesbian aura presence throughout up until the very affirming finale in an allegorical show representing hiding in plain sight. The snowy and serene Manitoba-shot Canadian film is a production of HanWay Films (“The Guest”), Ingenious Media (“Unhinged”), and the Gothically-inclined Dark Castle Films (“Thirteen Ghosts”) with select producers Adam Wingard, who has a long his filmic history collaborating with Barret, Tomas Deckaj (“The Green Knight”), and Devan Towers (“Day of the Dead” television series).

For High School girls, all the actresses with the exception for Ella-Rae Smith are mid-to-late 20’s with lead actress Suki Waterhouse (“The Bad Batch,” “Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies”) tipping the pendulum nipping at her 30s. However, Waterhouse and the others defy their actual corporal ages portraying teenagers in the throes of adolescent social clique.  Waterhouse plays the cool as a cucumber newcomer Camille to Edelvine Academy, befriending right off the bat with her personal Academy introductory host, a solitary Xanax-popper Helena (Smith).   Immediately, new girl Camille becomes public enemy number one with Edelvine’s most smug impractical prankers led by Alice played by Inanna Sarkis. On paper, Alice might have been the group’s ringleader, but the character doesn’t throw around a lot of power or is admired by followers, albeit Sarkis role permanency as the uptight and sarcastic bully or rad bad gal. Following Alice are ancillary player pieces to the group’s effort as a whole to be a thorn in Camille’ side just for being the unfortunate replacement of their dear dead friend. Between the brainy Bethany (Madison Beaty, “The Clovehitch Killer”) and the more elegant Yvonne (Stephanie Sy, “Tales from the Hood 3”) vie the potential right hands of Alice deduced from the dialogue and screen time hierarchy of their roles but they are definitely more interesting than Alice with a punch of flavor in the personalities, especially in Bethany who is built to be a master-whiz in conjuring up devilish pranks to play on her friends and enemies. Furthermore, there’s also the hint of pizzaz that is shamefully cut short and slidden under the radar with the last two in the coterie with the playgirl subtilties of Lenora (Jade Michael, “Fatal Friend Request”) and the unexplored suggestions of Roselind’s (Djouliet Amara, “Tales from the Hood 3”) sexuality, leaving their arcs unfulfilled. “Seance” cast fills out with “Books of Blood’s” Seamus Patterson in the single speaking male role in the entire film, “Cult of Chucky’s” Marina Stephenson Kerr as Edelvine’s firm-handed headmaster, and Megan Best playing the narrative’s lamented backbone of mysterious tragic circumstances.

Portions of where “Seance” flourishes are within the parameters of the teen slasher, a subgenre that lingers on into severe tedium much like the zombie films of the early 2010 decade. The late 90’s and well into the 2000s saw a slew (pun intended) of killer adolescent atrocities in film. Moviegoers were intrigued by the allusive masked killer that, for most of the time, had a palpable-to-satisfying twist ending after roughly 90 minutes of frantic chases, dooming nudity clauses, merciless kills, and one stupid decision to go back into that ominous house after another. Then, when 2010 came along – poof – teen slashers were now a thing of the past, literally. Attempts were poor renditions of previous successes, rehashes of the once was, and didn’t quite tickle the right places. Slowly and surely, the wheels are turning on a rejuvenation of a new generation and Simon Barrett’s “Seance” serves a prime candidate for admittance. Isolated in the stillness of a snow-covered all girl school sets the intended mood for a campus killer, the girls have a warring dynamic mended by a need to survival commonality, and the what or the who that is slaying them is well kept out of sight with misdirection cues to make audiences think they have it all figured out. Plus, the climatic finale has not one twist, but two in its full of blood and surprise double twist spectacular. “Seance’s” character development is one annoyingly flawed aspect that bends the elbow at the wrong angle at times is how characters wonder off alone having just filled their youthful, spongy minds with knowledge that something or someone malevolent is after them. “One friend is missing. My other friend has mysteriously died in an accident. The Ouija board spells out certain doom and gloom. Yet, I’m going to practice my recital routine alone on a dimlit stage with my noise cancelling headphones on,” says nobody ever. “Seance:” “hold my beer!

“Seance” is more than a teen slasher, it’s Simon Barrett’s genre-bending good time and this Shudder-streaming 93-minute horror from Edelvine Academy is coming to Blu-ray home video courtesy of Acorn Media International come January 17th. The Region B UK release, PAL encoded, BD25 is certified 18 for strong bloody violence and presents “Seance” in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Many of the scenes circulate through repeatedly – the snow-covered school, the drab hallways, the quaint rooms, and the bleak storage room – that don’t offer a ton of vivid aesthetics within a limited range, but quality-wise, there’s a dour, shadowy coating accompanying the coarsely, unpretentious realism. However, the fishbowl lens on certain scenes poorly captured smaller spaces, leaving already thin actresses looking anorexic, and for some reason, the decision to position the actresses shoulder-to-shoulder does antagonize that realism as those, who were mischievous back in the day and sent to the principal’s office, never sat right up against a fellow classmate. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has favorable qualities with a well diverse mix of ambience, a strong dialogue track, and a Sicker Man aka Tobias Vethake laying down a spectrum from brooding synth string pops, piano, and cello bass that stands out with profound poignancy to a lo-fi hip-hop beat and EDM noise of embroiled sounds. Special features include a commentary with Simon Barrett, a behind-the-scenes with select cast, minor outtakes, deleted scenes, a crude pre-production setup for the VFX decapitation scene, and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. “Seance” isn’t all Ouija boards and flickering candles as there’s more obscurity to the slasher than what meets the eye with its mania-driven motives and orientational undertones making this little-known film worth a look.

EVIL Bottled Up is EVIL That’s Life Ruining. “Repossession” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

“Repossession” Available on Amazon Prime Video!

Jim Tan is a middle-aged engineer earning more than decent living for his luxurious lifestyle with a high-rise condo with private swimming pool, his daughter’s university tuition, and an insanely expensive car. When he is suddenly forced to leave his job after decades of service, Jim’s inability to face the truth and retain his pride results in not telling his family upfront. As his bank account dwindles but his family’s lavish spending continues, Jim’s drastic measures of gambling what he has left in the stock market trading goes against his best friend’s advice as he also submits to a meager income as a transportation driver, but as Jim sinks deeper into the red, the secret he keeps from his family eats more and more at psyche and his traumatic past, full of more secrets, leave the door open for a pernicious dark figure to infringe upon his crumbling reality.

Filmed and set in the multicultural, larger-than-life city of Singapore, “Repossession” is a transfixing cautionary tale of the grim side of pride, society’s devaluation of experience, and the return of past demons. Written and directed by the predominantly television producer, writer, and director, Goh Ming Siu, and Scott C. Hillyard, the 2019 thriller about the ugly failings of falling personal stature grace is the first feature length venture from Siu, a Northwestern University’s Communication’s graduate, and Hillyard, a Mass Media Management grad of Nanyang Polytechnic School of Business Management, that showcases not only his drive to create a structurally sound narrative, but also a vision of one man’s minimalistic mental terror backdropped inside a vibrant, heavily urban surrounding where madness can be lost and confused with the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Siu and Hillyard have tapped a handful of short comedy films over his career with “Repossession” being the directors’ first attempt at a fright film, even if it’s only a diluting portion of the considerable drama elements and is a production under their private limited company Monkey & Boar, operating out of Singapore.

“Repossession” revolves around the fall of a prideful patriarch performed by Gerald Chew (“The Tattooist”). Chew, who previously acted in one episode of Siu’s comedy series, “First Class,” has to enact a man torn from the breast of affluent society and forgo the weening process of learning how to manage life’s obstacles without a steady, lucrative income. As the corporate terminated Jim Tan, a middle-aged man forced back into the current job market after 20+ years at the same company, Chew reaches into our darkest corners for anxiety and panic when everything in Tan’s life that has felt secure and sustainable is now on the precipice of tumbling down into a heap of loss. Instead of coming forth with his mare’s nest of occupational troubles, Tan hides it away, keeps it a secret, and tries to maintain status quo from his wife, daughter, and friends, but the daily life of was once sustainable yesterday is not sustainable today and Chew does the immaculate reformulation of proud man who never needed to worry to now a man whose pride is getting in the way of his acceptance and progression. To add an extra little something to the narrative, Tan’s backstory creeps into the fold one flashback at a time to underline the bubbling trauma now aggravated by his newfound sense of desperation that leads him down a concealed path of disturbing distraught. The mostly all-Asian cast rounds out with principle actors in “Just Follow Law’s” Amy Cheng as Jim Tan’s wife Linda, Rachel Wan as his daughter, Jennifer Ebron as the condo-keeper, and Sivakumar Palakrishnan, as his confidant and common-sense life adviser he never thoughtfully considers, along with bit roles from Daniel Jenkins and Grace Chong.

Demonized as an inky black and towering dark figure with long, sharp hands is Jim Tan’s bottled-up trauma ready to pop like a screw loose on an airplane engine that’s flying 10,000 feet above a populated city. A catastrophe of psychological collapsing looms constantly around every corner when the figure first makes its presence known and only Jim experiences its menacing presence. Viewers won’t know if the glomming figure is a figment of Jim’s mounting pressure or a haunting dose of realism from his past. The otherworldly shadow is just that, a tenebrous shadow of Jim’s foreboding hesitancy in coming clean, and, just like most secrets some of which can be monstrous, harmful, and wicked, Jim’s withholding cleans house with his relationships, hurting everyone in his path from friends to family from his past and to his present. Siu and Hillyard offer a slow chug displeasure cruise of one man’s course through dormant madness, triggered after years of comfort and security, in repossessing a lifelong psychological issue thought long suppressed. The wordplay is clever in design with the character’s default on payments as well as defaulting on his own life and, thus, everything he ever owns falls onto the grounds repo-horror. What can be considered asymmetrical in Siu and Hillyard’s film is the concerting connection of the dots, through Jim’s sometimes off-topic flashbacks and startling visions of the dark figure, that lead up to, what I consider to be, one of the best simply shot and powerful climatic endings experienced to render a pitfall of rueful heartache with a gory final moment.

On December 21, “Repossession” came a-knockin’ on the North American market’s digital door with a multi-platform release from Gravitas Ventures in association with Kamikaze Dogfight. The film has a runtime of approx. 96 minutes and bares a not rated certification. Since “Repossession” is a digital release, the audio and video quality critiques will not be covered. However, I was impressed with cinematographer Chow Woon Seong’s wide lens celebration of Singapore by capture various sentimental landmarks in the area and establishing a contrasting space between the actors and the stunning visuals screen monolithic and serene, creating a conflicting blend between ominous and wonder that also translates into the film’s industrial-lite soundtrack by composer Teo Wei Yong with a brooding mechanical perfunctory to match Jim Tan’s hardly lifting a finger effort. There are no special features or bonus scenes included with the digital release. Powerfully relatable, the human condition for survival, despite the trivial circumstances surrounding one’s dignity, can turn deadly in the blink of an empty bank account.

“Repossession” Available on Amazon Prime Video!

EVIL Ditches Satan, Picks Up a Camcorder. “Midnight 2: Sex, Death, and Videotape” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

The sole survivor of the murderous, devil-worshipping cult family, Abraham Barnes, continues to kill under a new outward show as amateur videophile recording everything and everyone to gain their trust.   Instead of harboring his mother’s dark intentions of eternal life, Abraham simply thirsts for killing, documenting his premeditated methods using a camcorder.  When his latest victim goes missing, her friend initiates an investigation with a police detective, but Abraham is always recording, always one step ahead of them both, always on the hunt.  With the trap set and the play button pressed, the blood-lusting survivor of the maniacal, serial killing Barnes family preserves a lineage legacy of death. 

Screenshot from AGFA

Ten years after releasing his moderately successful All-American shocker, “Midnight,” John Russo returns with the Barnes family.  Well, at least one of them in the 1993 release of “Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape.”  Also known as simply just “Midnight 2,” the secondary title references the widely popular 1989 Steven Soderbergh film of sexual testimonial video-tales in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” starring James Spader and Andie MacDowell.  The sequel gives way to a new motive and theme that’s very different from the satanic panic aspect of the original.  “Midnight 2” enters the mind of a serial murderer with every calculated and cold thought and whim that crosses the killer’s mind laid out in detail to paint a compulsive picture. Behind the scenes, conjuring up resources to make the sequel exist as it stands today, is “Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja’s” J.R. Bookwalter, the head-honcho in production and distribution of his own created company banner, Tempe Entertainment. Bookwalter, who also wears the director of photography and editor hat on this film amongst others, produces the Russo sequel that was shot on location in Bookwalter’s home city of Akron, Ohio.

If you’re expecting or anticipating seeing John Amplas (“Martin,” “Day of the Dead”) return to the Abraham role 10 years later, be prepared to be severely let down as Amplas does not return for “Midnight 2.” Instead, profound schlock horror screenwriter and composer, Matthew Jason Walsh, brings a whole new peculiarity to Abraham Barnes and I’m not just talking about his face or mannerisms. Walsh, who penned such David DeCoteau C-list gems as “Witchouse,” “Young Blood, Fresh Meat,” and “The Killer Eye,” goes face-to-face with the camera in a hybrid performance as lead actor and lead narrator of his own exposition into his own executions. Being a sociopath is never fleeting from Walsh who can sink into the sardonicism of the Abraham character naturally as one of the two only traits to carryover from the original film with the other being a killer. Aside from a boat load of archival footage and a verbal recap of nearly the entire first film, the whole Devil-worshipping aspect of the Barness family is dropped in favor of a more undisclosed truth in the hidden agenda of a person who thrives off the hunt and the kill. Abraham goes through verbatim his daily, stalking routine in a publicized manner of videorecording everything and everyone to capture as much detail as possible as well as capture their last moments. Russo does throw in escape clause caveat for Abraham in that if he meets the right girl, the love for her will be strong enough to break him away from killing and possibly start a family and while Russo plays into that tangent a little with Jane (“Killer Nerd’s” Lori Scarlett), nothing much more materializes significantly as a romantic conflict that circles back to that subtheme. Russo ultimately gives in to a more cat-and-mouse game with Jane’s worried friend Rebecca (“Chickboxer’s” Jo Norcia) and the detective who rather slip into Rebecca’s pants than actually solve the case in a stiffer than roadkill performance by Chuck Pierce Jr. (“The Legend of Boggy Creek”).

Screencap from AGFA

I wonder how much ‘Midnight 2″ is actually from the mind of John Russo or if it’s more of the J.R. Bookwalter show in calling the shots from the producer’s director’s chair as the film feels very much like Bookwalter’s usual fare, a SOV, DIY, home brew production of local Ohioan talent. “Midnight 2” also goes from the backwoods suburbia of Pittsburgh to the concrete structures of Akron, leaving behind any remnants of Abraham’s satanic past in the ground along with his dead siblings, but the sequel very dutifully leans into us with a heavy archival footage recap with Walsh narrating the entire damn thing. I kid you not, the recap is approx. a third of the runtime and so essentially, “Midnight 2” is a two for one straight-to-video special. Granted, the archival footage remains in its untouched up state so don’t expect the Severin grade video quality. In one way “Midnight 2” is discerned to be more of a Russo film is the very hesitancy of graphic, blood-shedding violence. Bookwalter’s a bit of gorehound in making some gruesome grisliness out of the singles from a Podunk stripper’s Kmart thong. There’s none of that imaginative ingenuity here with a surprising severe lack of that adored shot-on-video nastiness common of its era, especially from the likes of John Russo in filing a rated 13 release according to the DVD back cover, enervating “Midnight 2” as a inferior sequel that tries on a new pair of shoes but ends up limping with a lame gait.

Screencap from AGFA

Russo might always be remembered for his contribution to the start of the “Living Dead” franchise. The cult legendary filmmaker surely found modest success with his first directorial run with “Midnight.” Yet, “Midnight 2” will have a tough time keeping out of the celebrated shadows of Russo’s credits, but the indie, underground horror label SRS Cinema pulls back the shrouding curtain with a newly released, MVD Visual distributed DVD featuring two cuts of the film. Fitted with a retro look and ghastly illustrated cover art, a superb upgrade from the VHS cover, the region free DVD is presented shot-on-video in a 4:3 aspect ratio on both cuts. Essentially, both cuts are the same with reworked scenes and narration with the except of the 90-minute rough cut having extended archival footage of the first film. The main version runs slimmer at 72-minutes. The lossy image quality abides within both versions with a flat color palette that, at times, had a singularity about its choice of unflattering hue, compression macroblocks consistently flare up, and dimly discernable innate tracking lines with video recording destabilize the image. The anemic English Language single channel mono mix is a bottom of the barrel budget sound design and that was to be expected. Dialogue does come over clear enough but lacks vigor and crispness as there is just too much electrical interference shushing in the background. Depth’s a bit awkward too with the actors conversing in the background but have foreground decibel levels. Aside from the two cuts of the feature, the only other bonus content is the theatrical trailer and other SRS home video trailers. “Midnight 2” works as a standalone in a different shot-on-video horror light but is crammed with unnecessary recapping on a story built around the destined, convoluted conjecture of a homicidal narcissist and his videotape addiction.

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

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