Romance and Chinese Boxing Don’t Equal EVIL and That’s Okay! “Gorgeous” reviewed! (88 Films / Blu-ray)

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Bu believes in true love.  The young Taiwanese girl, with immense positivity, travels from her small fishing village of Jibei to the big city of Hong Kong after discovering a bottle containing a romantic note floating in the sea.  When Bu is let down by the originating sender, a gay makeup artist in an attempt to use fate and fortune to bring back an ex-lover, she strikes up a friendship with him which leads to a wealthy business owner and Chinese boxing enthusiast C.N. Chan who serendipitously comes into her life.  With a well-known reputation of being a rake, Bu pretends to be a prominent ex-lover of a notorious crime boss in order to not be taken advantage of as she slowly falls for Chan’s playful charm.  A longtime rival businessman causes conflict by driving a wedge between Bu and Chan as fight training intensifies after losing to his rival’s hired professional fighter and Chan loses sight of what’s really important in life – happiness.  

International martial artists superstar Jackie Chan makes his debut on our little boutique review blog for his Hong Kong cult film, the 1999 romantic comedy with stellar fight sequences, “Gorgeous.”  “Forbidden City Cop” writer-director Vincent Kok teams up with Yiu Fai Lo and the “Rush Hour” star to pen a new kind of story for the stuntman and martial artists that would put a roundhouse kick of insecurities onto any action star’s chin.  Based on the Ivy Ho (“The Accidental Spy”) story, “Gorgeous” involves more than just punches, kicks, and high-flying antics with a comedy romance story about two very different people and perspectives finding commonality in unflinching happiness, joy, and love.  Jackie Chan does comedy very well but the comedy in “Gorgeous” is half non-physical, which the action star has mastered the craft by integrating into his physical model.  “Gorgeous” is a production of Golden Harvest Productions and is produced by Jackie Chan and then Golden Harvest president the late Raymond Chow.

Obviously, you can’t have a Jackie Chan movie without high-level martial arts action.  In the same breath, Jackie Chan wanted to give his Asian fans another movie after the tremendous success of “Rush Hour” that sent the longtime East-adored icon into global stardom.  Thus, “Gorgeous” was born, developed, and rewritten to add Jackie Chan as the lead character, playboy and business tycoon C.N. Chan, alongside costar Shu Qi of “Sex and Zen II” and “The Transporter” with Jason Statham.  As Bu, Qi develops a starry-eyed longing for unequivocal romance that you can only find in fairytales and storybooks as she is confronted by the puppy dog eyes of the local fishing boy proclaiming his love for her only to be rejected by Qi’s downplayed naivety that makes her appear to be the village simpleton.   Yet, the character is surrounded by a carefree comedic mom-and-dad of beer-drinking restaurant owners, Sung-Young Chen (“Hello Dracula”) and Elaine Jin (“The House That Never Dies”).  As a flirtatious couple of Bu’s hopeless romanticism driven by the signs and kismet and Chan’s all-business, no-play waning for a girl to be childlike to bring out the dormant happiness inside him, Jackie Chan and Shu Qi manage to never close that gap to fully immerse themselves as onscreen love interests in their 80’s structured amorous narrative and go get’em montage.   Where “Gorgeous” charisma lies is with Chan’s mano-on-mano dual with Jackie Chan’s hired member of his stuntman team, Brad Allan.  The former Australian gymnast and Chinese circus acrobat has a towering magnetism about him despite only standing 5’4” tall, shorter than Jackie Chan.  The fight sequences between the two nimble men with incredible speed and form, mirror each other with precision in their own individual styles, garner some the best one-on-one choreographed bouts ever to hit the screen and to be felt by the audiences with hard-hitting throws.  While the impact of the Chinese boxing is palpable, Chan and Allen pepper in lighter moments of great physical comedy that take the intensity down a notch in a welcoming reprieve from solemn combat.  That solemnity in Allen’s character is greatly received and adds to his magnetic appeal that doesn’t make the mercenary fighter a bad guy though hired by the antagonist (Emil Chau, “Super Cop 2”) of the story; instead, Allen’s fair without pulling punches and without dirty tricks, as he mentions to Chan to avoid, and we end up rooting for both men’s dignified square up being battled not in a square ring.  Tony Leung Chiu-wai (“Internal Affairs”), Ken Lo (“Holy Virgin vs. The Evil Dead”), Tats Lau (“Dating Death”), Richie Jen (“Tales from the Occult”), Siu Wai Cheung, and “Kung Fu Hustle’s” Stephen Chow costar.

While “Gorgeous” may not be evil in the least for our conversational liking and our in-depth coverage with its abundance of lighthearted goodness, romanticized ideals, and slapstick comedy, the turn of a century film has cult qualities with shoddy 90’s effects, intricate fight choreographies, and eclectic, eccentric performances that make the Hong Kong-Taiwan product standup and standout to be noticed.  The fight sequences alone swallow much of the attention and overwhelm a rather flimsy passionate plotline between C.N. Chan and Bu in what stirs between feels more platonic than desire.  “Gorgeous” attempts, and succeeds to a version of a successful end, a theme about positivity and happiness and how that brightness can be diminished by deceits, workaholism, and distracting contentions, sucking the joy from out of life and spitting out a solitude bitterness without any kind of understanding of how it all happened.  We see this more in the dynamics of business rivals Chan and L.W. Lo, two childhood friends driven apart by their subjective comparisons as they try to top one another, culminating from their back-and-forth to see who is the best at everything into the realization that their bond was ultimately worth more than success at material things.  This enriching theme, plus Jackie Chan’s stunt team work, pushes asides the infatuation glop of Chan and Bu’s playful childlike intimacy that just seems to slip through your fingers, unable grasp traction to be interesting enough.

“Gorgeous” receives an 88 Films’ 2K overhaul with a Blu-ray upgrade from the original film materials of the Hong Kong & International versions of the film, delivering two cuts in high definition 1080p and presented in an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The AVC encoded BD50 offers plenty of room for “Gorgeous” to look, well, gorgeous on hi-def with a vibrant, spotless transfer of the 35mm shot print.   Coloring is consistently stable and rejuvenated for a fresh picture image; no one-off blips or glitches on the grading in sight on this very azure and teal toned production.  Despite holding two features and a handful of extras, the dual-layered single disc offers no hint of compression issues, creating a smooth beginning to end viewing.  The Hong Kong cut comes with a Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 MA while the International Cut comes with the same as well as an English DTS-HD 5.1 dub track.  For authenticity purposes, the original native language is always the preferred choice and the Cantonese track on the HK cut simply shines with an orotund dialogue track, robust milieu and ambience, and a blended bubbly and businesslike score whenever the mood hits by Dan-yee Wong.  Balanced and kept in the check, neither track overtakes the other with a timely parallel consonance.  The newly translated English subtitles are paced well with error-free transcription.  Special features include Shy Guy – Andy Cheng, a member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team, discusses the rise of Brad Allen as well as note on the stunt team in general and Jackie Chan’s success at the time of “Gorgeous,” an interview with director Vincent Kok on Chan’s unfamiliar territory into romantic comedies, an archived making-of “Gorgeous” with raw and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, “Gorgeous” music video in Cantonese and Mandarin, and the Hong Kong and International trailers.  The limited edition slipcover feature is a cardboard o-slip with illustrative art from 88 Films graphic artist Sean Longmore overtop a 2 to 3 millimeter thicker Blu-ray snapper to house the 32-page color booklet with daily set report of “The Accidental Spy” by writer Matthew Edwards and behind the-scene photos, a dual-sided mini-poster of Longmore’s slipcover art and the original poster one-sheet, a disc pressed with the image of Shu Qi smiling, and reversible cover art with the original poster one-sheet and a couple of “Gorgeous” stills joined together on one half.  Each cut is drastically different in length with the international cut heavily trimmed at 99 minutes while the HK cut keeps unedited at 2 hours.  Both features are not rated and are both have a region A and B playback with C untested.  Jackie Chan has always been a pillar of entertainment and “Gorgeous” is no exception to the rule.  88 Films refreshes the now 24-year-old film with a new, exciting transfer and physical package that commits one of the best fights in cinematic history to hi-def.

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Doppelganger EVIL Shares a Deadly Family Secret. “AmnesiA” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

Become Caught Up in the Mystery of “AmnesiA” on Limited Edition Blu-ray!

Alex, a meek photographer, is called back to his family home by his estranged identical twin brother, Aram, on the news of their mother’s severe illness.  Agreeing to help look after her for a while, Alex travels back home with his new girlfriend in tow, a pyromania epileptic named Sandra.  Upon his arrival in Amnesia, the home of the family business of tinkering on broken down cars around the property, Alex is met face-to-face with a past he’s long tried to forget.  Aloof Aram’s peculiar involvement with organized crime, his heart-healthy mother’s obsession with heart conditions, Sandra’s fire infatuation, and himself crippled by a imprinted, photographic fear swirls with ridicule tension around the crumbling junkyard estate.  The years long secrets between the brothers about their childhood past have taken a personalized toll on them and being in the same space together after a long time a part has loosed embedded raw emotions and dug back up the past again to finish what they started all those years ago.

“Amnesia” is a curious and mysterious black comedy thriller from the Netherlands and is the surrealistically bold effect of duality and family skeletons in the closet from filmmaker, the Hague native, Martin Koolhoven.  Taking similar household elements from the avant, 60’s inspired “Suzy Q,” writer-director Koolhoven pours another fractured glass of dysfunctional family-ade to sour perfection, squeezing every last drop out of neglected relationships in order for the truth to the be tasted.  With themes around secrets, guilt, processing that guilt, and family, “Amnesia,” or as originally spelled, “AmnesiA,” progresses a narrative of an irreversible broken family from through the looking glass of dark comedy and layered mystery to it’s ultimate destruction perceived as bittersweet.  Shot in Belgium, “Amnesia” is produced by Paul Verhoeven “Black Book” producers, Jeroen Beker and Frans van Gestel, under the partners’ 1995 established, Amsterdam-based production company, Motel Films. 

If unable to locate two suitable actors to play siblings, why not have one great actor to be both?  That’s the approach Martin Koolhoven erected when falling head over heels with Fedja van Huêt who could intuitively give Koolhoven the exactness of each brother’s personality.  Brothers Alex and Amar are so distinct in how they carry themselves as well as in their appearance that your mind and eyes can barely keep the registered fact that the brothers are inhabited by the one and the same Huêt.  Huêt, along with some good writing from Koolhoven, keeps insecurities close to the chest, blossoming a massive bubble of enigma that often repels the brothers against one another to keep audiences from homing in too close to the exact cause of their personal strife.  Tension works wonderfully despite not having the ability to act against the actual physical embodiment of the antithesis to spar with and the editing fully supports the duality with perfectly seamed visual effects touchup efforts.  Other support efforts come from a great supporting cast, including the international success Carice van Houten who starred in Verhoeven’s “Black Book” and won an Emmy for her high priestess role of Melisandre on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”  Houten’s cagy, pyromaniac Sandra is just as odd as her appearing suddenly into Alex’s life, or rather into the backseat of his car, when things are beginning to feel complicated for Alex having to return home after many years away.  Sandra’s emotionally supportive, almost as Alex’s backbone or a buffer, when dealing with Aram but she’s interpreted as not normal by the brothers’ mother (Sacha Bulthuis) who herself is a representation of the past that keeps the individualized brothers connected and tries to keep both boys nearby without angering them; she even attempts to turn Alex into his mechanic father, whether done consciously or subconsciously goes unsaid, but in the end, the past always creeps back to the present and the unresolved coming to a close will put the final nail into the coffin of the Amnesia family business for good.  Theo Maassen, Cas Enklaar, Eva van der Gucht, and Erik van der Horst costar.

“Amnesia” is a thought-provoking puzzle box of rearranging clues and drop in visitants that instill an uneasy, surrealism surrounding chiefly these two brothers.  Bubbling to the surface through a series of baby step flashbacks is the root cause for much of the tension coursing the narrative. History becomes the driving force behind Alex’s apprehension in returning home, seeing his naive mother, and interacting with sycophantic brother who’s also jaded by the life’s little lurid lesson by turning toward a life of crime and holding onto not only a grudge against his brother’s abandonment but also against a decision his father made many times over that he now sees as unfinished and unsatisfied. What’s even more interesting is the lack of urgency and empathy surrounding them and to resolve what has been stayed stagnant for years from their adolescence and into their adult established lives. Immediate attention matters become secondary to the underfoot game that occupies mental space between them, infects those around them, and spills out of the shadows to eventually into the light. For example, Amar’s partner Wouter is critically injured after a botched heist and comes to Amnesia to wait for further instructions from Eugene, Amar and Wouter’s boss; yet, while Wouter bleeds from his abdomen, Amar saunters around the house and Wouter is equally leisured when it came down to his mortal wound. Eventually, Sandra and the brothers’ mother grow accustomed to Wouter’s state, just like Wouter, and though their mother’s deteriorating health inches itself back and forth into the conversation, the only thing that doesn’t shy from the forefront and never becomes accustomed is the lingering sense of that something isn’t copacetic between Alex, Amar, and their father in what transforms into a problem of masculinity affairs in which Amar steers the way in accordance to alpha theory. Koolhoven uses closeups and arranges characters in scenes that makes them feel right on top of each other, in various ways, that perpetuates the incommodious communalism of Amnesia.

With the associated restoration from the Eye Film Institute, Cult Epics introduces a new 4K HD transfer and restoration of Martin Koolhoven’s “AmnesiA” onto a limited edition, 2-Disc, dual-layered Blu-ray from the original camera negative. lists “Amnesia” as an Arriflex 16mm film blown up to 35mm, but the is incredibly sharp for 16mm and there doesn’t appear to be a ton of makeup work to cover 16mm’s sizzling grainy and jitteriness. However, the film is presented in the European standard 1.66:1 aspect ratio that’s shot in Super 16 and is particularly fascinating how Koolhoven’s color schemes and depth shadowing adds to the noir fashion of Menno Westendorp’s beautifully warm and splintering specious cinematography. Restoratively, “AmnesiA” is a perfectly graded film with a sharp, invigorating image that exhibits no compressions issues on the dual-layer BD50, available on both discs. The Dutch language audio options on the Cult Epics release has three options: a LPCM 2.0 stereo, a DTS-HD 5.1, and a Dolby Digital 5.1. Jumping back and forth between the audio choices, I settled upon the DTS-HD surround sound mix that produces a better full-bodied output, if only by a little better with notifiable sharper crackling of the tire and car fires to bring an audible warmth to the scene. Sometimes, it’s the smallest vibrations that make a biggest impact. Dialogue renders nicely on each of the three tracks with clarity and a cleanliness of the recordings. Tracks are dynamically distinct in each scene that creates a nice depth in many of the closeup scenes with more than one actor. English subtitles are available on all three audio options. Special features on the first disc include an optional presentation introduction by director Martin Koolhoven, audio commentary by Koolhoven and star Fedja van Huêt that’s moderated by Peter Verstraten, a 44-minute theater aisle retrospective conversation with Koolhoven and actress Carice van Houten, a making-of featurette, an archive behind-the-scenes with Carice von Houten from 2001, and the theatrical trailer. The second disc includes two bonus films from Martin Koolhoven’: “Suzy Q” from 1999 and “Dark Light” from 1997. The release itself comes in a clear traditional Blu-ray snapper case inside a cardboard slipcover with a new burning tire lens illustrative artwork from Peter Strain. The snapper cover art is a split screen of Alex and Amar with Sandra divisively in the middle and the reverse side of the artwork contains original poster reproductions for “Suzy Q” and “Dark Light.” Disc art is pressed with the same cover design on the feature presentation while the disc two is pressed with an image for “Suzy Q.” The 89-minute “AmnesiA” comes unrated and the both Blu-rays are tested region free. A real mind flayer that gets under your skin in a humorously surreal way, director Martin Koolhoven’s “AmnesiA” stuns as an official debut feature film, a real under-the-radar sleeper hit for the Netherland filmmaking canon, that only Cult Epics could deliver pristinely with a time-of-day restoration and high-definition scan.

Become Caught Up in the Mystery of “AmnesiA” on Limited Edition Blu-ray!

Watch Out! EVIL is Coming for Your Dysfunctional Family! “The Bloody Man” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / Blu-ray)

Better Behave or “The Bloody Man” Will Get You!  On Blu-ray at

Set in the 1980s, Sam doesn’t cope well with life without his recently deceased beloved mother.  Getting along with his new stepmother proves to be challenging at best, his older brother continues to disregard him as an insignificant pest, his little sister gets under his skin in playing with his action figures without consent, and the school bully makes his life that much more difficult.  The young boy’s unhappiness spurs him into desperate measures by reciting a spell passage on the back of his favorite comic book, hoping the passage truthful to conjure up his deepest desire – to bring his mother back from the dead and fix a broken family.  The passage instead summons a demon, the Bloody Man, who seeks to rip fractured family apart even farther until their eventual dissolve and demise.  Able to possess and take shape of his stepmother, Sam must reunite his family in order to save not only his siblings but also his stepmother from fragmenting into nothingness and death at the hands of a demented demon trickster.

An homage to all things 1980s, “The Bloody Man” is a modern-day resemblance of one the more recent golden ages of cinema with a synth-laden soundtrack, all the popular play toy trinkets and new wave styles of the era, and a magazine loaded millimeter film stock shot in attempt to remove as much of the digital aerodynamics as possible in contemporary times.  Daniel Benedict, the director of the Halloween-themed slasher “Bunni” involving a sexy, leather-cladded, fishnet stockings wearing costume killer with bunny ears, takes a step back from extreme slashers and hops into more family-oriented terror with the protagonist heroes being kids stepping up against the forces of evil, think of films like “The Gate” or “Ernest Scarred Stupid.”  Not as slapstick as the “Ernest” droll-troll paragon of ritualized Halloween movie lineups, this crowdfunded project can be a little more vicious in delivering on the lines of the same heartwarming message that instilled into us from the Jim Varney 30-years-ago, that love is key in overcoming darkness.  Benedict pens and helms the 2020 production with wife Casi Clark, aka Casi Benedict, co-writing a script that loosely pulls in and indirectly references Benedicts’ collaborated efforts on a He-Man inspired fan made short “Fall of Grayskull” into their boogieman story.  The Benedicts’ production company Red Serial Films confects the film into fruition with Mercedez Varble, Jason L. Watson, Garrett M. Johnson, and Rihannon Crothers producing. 

Despite not having top bill on the film, David Daniel leads us through the angsty complications of a new family dynamic as well as being the centric force of rebuilding a crumbling household as the middle child, feeling every bit like the world is against him, Sam Harris.  Daniels debut feature and leading role depicts well the internal argumentative aspects of having to go along with a life-forming change no child should ever go through, the death of a mother, and that sends him and his family careening toward dissolution despite his cheerful father’s overly confident optimism.  The top bills go to a pair of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” alum who both play mother to Sam.  Lisa Wilcox (“A Nightmare on Elm Street:  The Dream Master” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street:  The Dream Child”) and Tuesday Knight (“A Nightmare on Elm Street:  The Dream Master”) switch back-and-forth, between flashback-and-present, Sam’s biological mother and his new, soon to be, stepmother.  Surely, it comes to reason that the Wilcox and Knight names not only provide a couple of “The Bloody Man” selling points for die hard Freddy Kruger acolytes but could also be seen as an homage to the Robert Englund franchise with a similar living between two planes of existence nightmare antagonists hunting down a house full of kids, using unhappiness as a vessel rather than dreams.  Though not scarred by full body burns, wielding a finger bladed glove, and sporting a dirty striped sweater and fedora, the Bloody Man has his own characteristics being a black magic sorcerer.  Dressed traditionally in a snug black Chinese robe and blood running down his wild eyed face, Nicholas Redd enlivens the Bloody Man on a playfully perturbing level but the script doesn’t allow Redd to deliver the Bloody Man’s full potential while also not cutting the villain fully into the fold until the nearly last act.  Instead, the Bloody Man is reduced to a few here-and-there appearances, some one-liners, with half of the character’s screen time awarded to Tuesday Knight in a duality role as the Bloody Man uses the caregiver’s looks to draw in the Harris children.  Redd has promising lunacy that’s sorely underutilized in more ways than one and in so much so, the film itself shouldn’t be titled after the character.  “The Bloody Man” remaining cast includes Sam Hadden, Olivia Sanders, Jeremy Carr (“Calm Before”), Dominick Wilkins (“6 Feet Below Hell”), Dan Eardley (“Retro Freaks”), KateLynn E. Newberry (“O9en Up”), and Ellie Parker (“Bones and All”).

I’m all for a quasi-kid friendly horror of the same antithetical vein as “Monster Squad” or “Gremlins” where the subject matter borders the edge of being too risky, eking above the terror threshold for children who would be roughly the same age as the story’s principal leads battling for the very reconciliation of family before the Bloody Man kills them.  “The Bloody Man” lurks under the veil of being lighthearted in contrast to the brushing scenes of severed, sentient arms, blood streaking down various maniacal faces, a mildly gruesome decapitation, and moments of good ‘ole fashion terror that may induce nightmares for anyone under the age of 12.  A child’s lack of sleep because they’re waking up with fright-filled sweats will for sure not provide parents any favors, but Benedict skirts a fair amount of gore and does imply the significant damage and death offscreen almost as to shelter general audiences’ eyes for a broader invitation to watch the movie and, as mentioned previously, the titular bad guy doesn’t make an appearance until much later in the story that has been setup comically with a wrestling fanatic principal, Perry’s godawful verbal teasing, and a lot of 80’s inspired shots that nailed the decade’s analog paint job – a silver lining against the night terrors.  Honestly, the third act also drags out the culmination of events.  For such a small house, the Bloody Man chasing the Harris kids might as well taken place in a labyrinthine mansion, but the ground level with basement rancher slows down the hide-and-seek or maybe the Bloody Man is just really bad at childish game as the kids could stay in rooms for extended periods of time, even playing pretend with toys at one point, and in not once instance, does the Bloody Man bust in to snatch up a tyke to terminate.  Where “The Bloody Man” also struggles is buttoning up the summoning of the soulless sorcerer who’s conjured up by a mere passage reading off the back of Sam’s favorite Barbarian Man comic books.  The comic, which is introduced as a fairly over-the-counter object, holds this mystical darkness that must be conjoined with a family’s spiraling.  Yet, the story contradicts itself as the Bloody Man pursues another broken home that didn’t warrant the reading of the comic’s back cover passage, creating some confusion on how the cruel chaser of disconcerted children operates on a phantasmic plane.

As far as 80’s-inspired films go, “The Bloody Man” can run with the best of them, even with Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” and Wild Eye Releasing sees fit to drop a special edition Blu-ray of the Daniel Benedict comedic chiller.  The AVC encoded, high-definition 1080p, BD25 is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  What makes the film feel decade authentic and that can suck you into it’s existence is Benedict’s decision to shoot either in 35mm or with a 35mm digital overlay that has characteristic dust speckles and a fine grain.  Image quality remain at a consistent color and black levels with a few flare ups of compression artefact issues, such as splotches in darker scenes, in squeezing this long runtime film onto a BD25 along with an atypical accompaniment of Wild Eye Release robust extras.  The bitrate does have large swings from lower teens to upwards of high 20s Mbps.  Yet, details generally come through with enough depth to create visual spacing between objects.  The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo renders adequate for a narrative that doesn’t have a ton of range with an intimately tight story surrounding Sam and his siblings but is complimented greatly by Johnathan Fan Octo Evans retro-synth soundtrack with an oscillating pulse and a crescendo of tension, solidifying even more the 80’s inspiration. English subtitles are optionally available. The special features include a director’s commentary with Daniel Benedict, a gag-blooper reel, a local newscast behind-the-scenes segment, various promotional videos from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Barbarian Man toys, an emulated One to Grown On based PSA show from the 80s, and a Showbox promo with the original trailer bringing up the tail. One last bonus scene is also at the end of the credits so stay to the very end. The physical features include a clear Blu-ray snapper case with latch that houses glow lit Harris kids geared up to tackle the looming Bloody Man, or that is my assumption of who that is on the front cover as that figure looks nothing like the Bloody Man on screen. A more true-to-form Bloody Man is on the cardboard slipcover in another retro illustrated, compositional mockup with a similar layout as the actual Blu-ray front cover. Inside the snapper case, the reverse front cover has a still image from the movie, typical of many Wild Eye Releases, a folded one-sheet with the additions of Tuesday Knight and Lisa Wilcox amongst the child leads, and a disc art pressed with the unknown version of Bloody Man. The region free release comes not rated and has an excessive runtime of 133 minutes, contributing to the pacing issues of the last act. “The Bloody Man” doesn’t exactly live up to the moniker in this tame throwback but what the film has is a mighty nostalgia that brings back feelings of a superlative horror age that was once, and still is, goosebump arousing.

Better Behave or “The Bloody Man” Will Get You!  On Blu-ray at

A Family of EVIL Walks, Talks, and Comes in a Putrid Shade of Blue! “Super Z” reviewed! (Synergetic / DVD)

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery! Has it on DVD!

A genetically produced, made-to-order zombie foursome are grown in a private laboratory and continue to be experimented on by a greedy CEO and his team of mad scientists from conception to create a group of governable, intelligent, and unstoppable do-bidders.  The latest batch of untested cultivating serum provides the four with the ability to think and talk, the only severe drawback side-effect is the  foulmouthed and uncivilized behavior makes them spitefully aggressive.  Able to speak for the first time, the zombies are actually a family of four and are able to use their undead abilities to escape with their undead lives to plot a revenge on all of humankind for all the cruelty brought down upon the zombie gene.  Feasting on a nearby couple to stave their hunger and infecting the couple’s white-boy rapper son to join the family as one of their own, a male heir of sorts amongst two older sister siblings, the now nuclear zombie family forages for human flesh while turning a rundown cabin in the woods into a place they can call home and plan their worldwide retribution, but as mother and father work on their relationship issues, a son finding love to become a man, and two sisters with an uncontrollable bloodlust, the impatient CEO hires mercenaries to hunt them down as retrievable property.

Who better to create an absurd, over-the-top zombie comedy than the people of France, the national birthplace of the absurdism philosophy.  That is what the gonzo-gory “Super Z” reflects, a heightened realization of life and intelligence after many years of being a docile dead becomes the basis for French writer-directors Julien de Volte and Arnaud Tabarly in their first feature length film.  Grossly saturated with explicit pejoratives, zany antics, and is hairbrained on a level I never would have thought could be achieved, “Super Z,” short for Super Zombie, is based off the filmmakers’ 17-minute 2014 short film “The Foodies” and now in 2022, the film unlocks yet again a very seldomly explored narrative that walks the same flip-the-script lines on taking the George Romero-style zombie perspective, such as with 2007’s “Aaah! Zombies!!” or 2013’s “Warm Bodies,” and laces it with an unrestrainable absurdist style.  To be honest, “Super Z” will repel the majority of audiences who can’t embrace its border crossing childishness and cartoon consorting pursuance.   Following the success of the short film, Tabarly and Volte’s Orléans, France based La Ruche Productions is the production company’s first feature film outside the regular shorts and documentaries accomplished by the company and is produced Laura Townsend.

The story engrosses us into the ebb and flows of family dynamics, but not just any kind of family dynamics as it’s made up of genetically modified zombies.  Yet, Arnaud Tarably and Julien de Volte don’t divide the extremities of the living and dead too far apart.  Family dinners are still held together around the table, the purpose of existence within the fragile relationship construct comes into question quite about between father and mother, and even a teenage boy coming into manhood when washed over with an overpowering smitten sensation at first sight of a farm girl are all the things the zombie family experience making a life away from human interaction with the only human interacting being the one where the zombies have the upper hand as well as the severed torsos, the castrated genital organs, or the decapitated heads as a full table spread with dad’s special gravy (aka blood) as the secret sauce.  While their performances won’t win any kind of awards, at all, I do believe “High Lane’s” Johan Libéreau as the father Gertre and “Savage State’s” Julien Courbey as the mother Stephana cater to the bloody nub of gnarly passion between two also covered in filth and body fluid zombies lovingly trying to protect their unique family at a normalized primal cost and formulate a monumental revenge against humans.  One question that rises out of Gertre and Stephana’s relationship is is Stephana supposed to be a man actor playing a woman character assigned gender by genetic disposition or a zombified gay man in transition?  It’s never clear but it also doesn’t really matter as it adds to Stephana idiosyncratic comedy as she removes a female corpses breast to sew to her own chest but also pees blood standing up!  It becomes just a curiosity that arises but the crux of the character is nailed down by Courbey who shows a sensitive and savage side being a cabin-wife to three children and providing for Gertre’s quest to queen her zombie world domination.  Gertre and Stephana’s children are played by returning “The Foodies” actors Fabien Ara as the baby boy Yvon and Florence Bebic-Veruin as sister Georgette with the addition of Audrey Giacomini being adopted into the ferociously multifaceted family cast as the second sister Marcelline.  Ara and Bebic-Veruin reprise their colorfully blue necrotic-skinned and blood-red splattered characters as squabbling siblings as the babied Yvon is coddled to the point of seeking love in a local farmer’s verbally abused but carefree and nearly toothless daughter Augustine, another reprised performance by Marion Mezadorian who was also a farm gal in “The Foodies.”  “Super Z” fills out the cast with lots of zombie fodder but also includes Jean-François arises, (“Time Demon”), Ludovic Schoendoerffer (“Crime Scenes”), Jacques Boudet (“Dracula and Son”), Laurent Bouhnik, and Jo Prestia of “Irreversible” as the mercenary’s very much alive cousin and the zombie family’s bodiless uncle!  Wait, and you’ll see what I mean.

“Super Z” will not sate everyone’s thirst of comedy nor will be gripping horror, but the French absurdist film will quench with gore galore with a setup that’s real light on its feet, swiftly making haste through a narrative that if you blink or didn’t hear a certain part of the dialogue, or read the subtitles if you don’t understand French, than you’re left holding the bag trying to play catchup on what the hell is going on.  Not your fault by any means as “Super Z” goes at a super breakneck speed that aggressively aggregates zombie intelligence, a laboratory escape, a zombie-turned-son, and a quiet, secluded abode to make camp all within the first 15 minutes or so.  From there, we ease into the zombie family country life, getting to understand their troubles, their ambitions, and their family squabbles more-and-more while father and his daughters hunt down bypassing humans with a machete and make a smorgasbord of homecooked organs, blood, and flesh out of them that is fit for an undead king while the wife cooks the food and showers the biologically unrelated brat with pet names and adorable little hairdos to much of his disgust.  Zany can’t describe “Super Z’s” overzealous rubbish yet within that zany overzealous rubbish, a thin stream of guilty pleasures can result in keeping attentions from pressing the off button and burning the disc to a crisp.  “Super Z” is not a too terrible horror-comedy as long as understanding the premised background helps focus on the filmmakers’ key conveyances within an absurdist designed paradigm that just happens to have lots of blood and guts. 

If the zombie subgenre was becoming too stale as week old bread, then “Super Z” keeps the rotting bags of walking meat fresh with a managing ménage of the uncouth undead. Synergetic distribution goes international with domestic releases with “Super Z” on DVD. The Smart-Ass Zombies are presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a picture quality that renders clean just like many modern-day digital models. The Synergetic DVD has consistent Mbps decoding reliability on the DVD5, decoding at a rate of 8.9 Mbps with hardly a blip on compression. In regard to the coloring, the zombie family’s forest background pops with lush greenery that becomes invariably evident in other mise-en-scene aspects as a higher contrast delineation defines the boundaries super well, materializing emerging imagery with deep shadows and a vibrantly eclectic color palette resembling near comic book visuals that luckily absorb Cyril Féron’s cut-and-paste visual effects into the crass configuration. The French Stereo 2.0 offers free from nuisance tracks but definitely output in a two-dimensional standard that, since there’s more range than one might expect, softens the punch of this madcap zombie mayhem to a par mix that works well enough. The zombified autotune adds a layer of obstruction over the dialogue track but if reading the burned in English subtitles, then there’s nothing lost in that respect. The entire mix is an overall healthy dose of ambient bustle, sprightly dialogue, and lots of buffoonery snaking in between. The Synergetic DVD doesn’t support bonus material with only the feature and a chapter selection on the main menu but there is an after credits stinger of a cow and a severed head that attempts one last quick chuckle out of the viewer. Supporting all region codes, the DVD has a runtime of 80 minutes and is seemingly unrated, there is no stated rating on the back cover. Speaking of which, Synergetic DVD covers skirt the cost with slapdash compositions an eighth grader learning AutoCAD could have completed for a solid C+. The mustard yellow with black, nearly indistinct, vignettes don’t provide any kind of appetizing stimulation and, oppositely, can snuff out any sort of enthusiasm toward checking this French absurdist piece out, but don’t let the lackadaisical cover art dishearten a peak into what could be a considerably wild and gory experience. Just be warned that “Super Z” isn’t for everyone and everyone isn’t for “Super Z” living on a different, bizarro plane of existence.

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery! Has it on DVD!

On the Verge of a New Millennium, New Faces and Stories Tell Their Terror on the Same Old EVIL Video Format! “V/H/S/99” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Found Footage is all the 90’s Craze These Days! “V/H/S/99” Available at Amazon!

The year:  1999.  The format:  VHS.  The theme:  The most horrifying experiences caught on found footage camera.  A horror anthology for the turn of the century puts together five of the most terror-drenched short films that resurrects the punk-rock dead, turns urban legends into vindictive playthings, televises Lovecraftian game show frights, peers into the stone-cold eyes of a Gorgon neighbor, and goes to Hell and back!  All caught on camera from a first-person view as VHS vicariously relives the glory days through a digital world, capsulated by the horror realm and all its fanatical acolytes for the analogue video format to live undead forever. 

Living in the age of a VHS comeback is admittedly kind of weird.  VHS has become a hot collectible, especially and obvious the rate and obscure that mostly resides in the horror and cult genre.  Most recently, a discovery on a Brazilian VHS cut of Jaws 2 has a couple of minutes of shot footage that no other release holds to this day.  That, being just one example, is sought after power of VHS that saw various versions of one film be disperse far and wide across continents, which the same could be said about DVD that too saw a variety of different cuts due to the diversity of playback formats, distribute cuts, and numerous levels of censorship between countries.  VHS is also making a comeback in format style with gritty, faded, flat colored image veneer and tracking lines and the absent transmission signal of snow statically adorning the screen with beautifully hypnotical and flickering white dots.  So, it’s now surprise that on the heels of 2021’s “V/H/S/94,” another analog anthology is greenlit in 94’s wake with “V/H/S/99” for 2022, written and helmed by newcomers to the series but not necessarily newcomers to the horror scene.  The movie’s sequential lineup Is as follows:  Short filmmaker Maggie Levin writes-and-directors “Shredding,” taking a break from killer sharks is Johannes Roberts to oversee his “Suicide Bid” entry, musician Flying Lotus directs and co-writes with Zoe Cooper with “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” “Tragedy Girls’” director Tyler Macintyre writes-directs “The Gawkers” along with co-writer and fellow “Tragedy Girls’” screenwriter Chris Lee Hill, and the husband and wife tag team of Joseph and Vanessa Winter, filmmakers of “Deadstream,” helms-and-pens “To Hell And Back.”  The Shudder exclusive series latest is produced by Josh Goldbloom (“V/H/S/94”), David Bruckner (director of “Hellraiser” ‘22), Chad Villella (producer of the of 2022’s “Scream”), Bloody Disgusting’s Brad Miska, and “Scream” ’22 and “Scream VI” director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin under the production banner of Studio 71 and presented by Cinepocalypse Productions and Bloody Disgusting.

A new set of five tales of analog rendered terror invoke a new set of actors in each short film that carrier with them a broad range of experience. While a couple of the stories shred the narrative with hectic editing (I’m looking at you “Shredding”), performances throughout come over with blistering consternation and definitely a late 90’s grunge attitude with “Shredding” and “The Gawkers” delivering the full blunt force of period, heckling away in their baggy clothing, bohemian hairstyles, and a penchant for skateboard thrashing. The other films are merely timeless with only mere mentions of date, or their timestamped on the video tape recording, or are just a thematical proverbial nod to the specific point in time, lacking the keep it real essence that is quite idiosyncratic to the hop from a phasing out decade and into a whole new other. The cast of these shorts play their roles with exuberance and wackiness, which if you have lived in or can look back to the converging decades/millennium and see some of the gameshows or cultural shenanigans that defined America as people or, if you want to go smaller, just the pop culture, wacky is a pinpoint descriptor. The short films’ of “V/H/S/99” are comprised of a cast including, selectively, Steven Ogg (“The Walking Dead”), Ally Ioannides (“Synchronic”), Keanush Tafreshi, Jesse LaTourette (“There’s Someone In Your House”), Dashiell Derrickson, Isabelle Hahn, Sonya Eddy (“Blast”), Emily Sweet (“Castle Freak” ’20), Melanie Stone (“Deadstream”), Archelaus Crisanto, Luke Mullen, and Ethan Pogue.

Anthologies have been around for decades and are a great medium to showcase a multitude of individual storytelling from a variety of filmmakers walking different paths in life.  Fans can often salivate over these types of jump-the-shark formats that can start off with the zombie undead, transition 10 minutes later into a supernatural spooky, and then segue into a creature feature with a wraparound bonus story that may or may not connect them all and squeeze each episodic terror vision in a full-length feature runtime.  Though I enjoy a good collection of short and sheer frightful films, anthologies are not my cup of sanguinary tea.  Hopefully, no partisan takes seep out of this review as I attempt to examine “V/H/S/99” objectively.  Out of the five segments, three have landed strong with a right amount combination of style, gore, performance, narrative logic, and, of course, terror, and if you like comedic sugar in your black cup of horror then “To Hell And Back” is a perfect Venti-sized, well-blended mulatto of choice that thrusts two dimwitted demonic ritual documentarians into the pits of dark, gloomy, and malformed creature Hell and fight their way back to their own plane of existence.  Though one flaw some make catch when watching the caboose film of the anthology is that it doesn’t particularly reflect 1999 other than the small caveat, which is pivotal to the story, that at the turn of the millennia is when the veil between our world and Hell is as it’s thinnest.  The other two better entries capture more infinitesimally in detail of the late 90s, early 2000s clothing and discourse.  “The Gawkers” taps hard into the weird aggressive hormones of a teenage boy while exploring the newfound ways to use technology as spyware.   Webcams aboard big boxy desktops chauffeur in a whole new way to be creepy that lands them in hot water not by the law but by the wrath of ancient femme fatale of Greek mythology.  Johannes Roberts rounds out the better half with a sorority haze gone wrong that evokes an urban legend to become more than just a story and Roberts “Suicide Bid” offers, again, that period presence that feels like a tribute throwback to the 1998 “Urban Legend” film itself, but adds a supernatural surprise that utterly creepy and not as deep with only 6 feet underground rather than a 47 meters down, the director is slowing raising his fear to the surface.  The shorts left hanging below the bar are “Shredding” and “Ozzy’s Dungeon” and for reasons that have to do with their style and story. “Shredding” promising premise is plagued not by punk phantasms back from the dead but simply pilfered of focus with a hectic, if not severely chaotic, VHS-graded editing scheme that shocks the perception senses while “Ozzy’s Dungeon” is inspired by Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple gameshow where kids have to compete in toned down ancient society games to race up the temple to win the big prize. “Ozzy’s Dungeon” definitely is weird, sadistic, and Lovecraftian-inspired for sure but its story design loses motivation and often cheats rounding the bases in order to reach the shocking climatic finale.

Acorn Media International brings tape to the United Kingdom with a Blu-ray home entertainment release of “V/H/S/99.” Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, though doesn’t cater to the standard 4:3 ratio of video tape, the provided image quality purposefully varies to give audiences the titular analog experience. Faded grading, tracking lines, static and that jittery playback is all part of the visual environmental experience and even a few of the filmmakers shoot the film digitally to then run it through VHS to garnish with unnatural base video turbulence. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound mix heightens the exposure and familiarity to of being that person behind the camera as all of these shorts of short POV. Intense and, often, cacophonous, the audio tracks still manage to level out, be discerned, and manage to relay the chaos no matter how much bedlam is thrown at the screen. From the zoom in-and-outs of the video tape recorder, there’s a clean sense of depth and the range is bountiful as the ambient track runs the gamut of omnifarious sounds that give each episode an individualized stamp. English SHD is optional. Bonus content includes an exclusive panel from New York’s Comic Con with guests producer Josh Goldbloom, “The Gawkers'” Tyler Macintyre, and “To Hell And Back’s” Joseph and Vanessa Winter as well as a total arc gag reel. After that encompassing project feature, the girth of the bonus content breaks down into the individual shorts with “Shredding” having a deleted scene and the complete fictious band BitchCat music video, “Ozzy Dungeon” has two deleted scenes, “The Gawkers” has a deleted scene as well as bloopers, camera tests, and The Making of Medusa, and “To Hell And Back” rounds out the features with a hefty look at the raw footage, scouted location, and a storyboard and blocking rehearsals. There are no bonus features for Johannes Roberts’ “Suicide Bid.” Physical features include a slightly thicker traditional Blu-ray snapper, a Europe standard, with a cover art that matches the North American RLJE release, a city being loomed over by skull made out of colorful galactic stars and a pair of video lenses for blank eyes. The disc art is pressed with the same front cover image. Though no mention of a region playback on the back cover, I suspect a region B encoded release as per usual with Acorn Media Interntional. “V/H/S/99” has a total runtime of 109 minutes and is UK certified 18 for strong blood violence/gore. “V/H/S/99” is not my kind of off the heasy subgenre, but the latest series anthology packs a punch and I would never discourage anyone from not experiencing firsthand an homage trip through terror.

Found Footage is all the 90’s Craze These Days! “V/H/S/99” Available at Amazon!