The End of Days Runs on EVIL Fuel! “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival.  At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure.  After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives.  Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.

For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood:  Road of the Dead”, before the first film.  While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously.  Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so.  In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together.  The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.”   “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.

To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.

“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.

The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

Beware! EVIL is Afoot in a Small Town! “I Scream on the Beach” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Mellow Coast is a small, quiet fishing town typically free from big city violence.  When a dead body shows up on the Mellow Coast’s shoreline, a past of enigmatic and thought solved disappearance cases return to haunt Emily whose father was murdered right in front of her when she was little, yet the local police department ruled her father’s case as simply a father-husband leaving his family when no evidence of blood was recovered, and his car was missing.  The murders and disappearances are connected to a now defunct large corporation working on shady experiments and as Emily digs deeper into her father’s case, a light is shed upon the dastardly transgressions of a shifty, under handing corporation as well as more bodies, including her close friends, turn up dead around town. Pieces all the clues together with the help of a keen detective desperate to solve a case no other officer wants to touch, Emily comes face-to-face with an unsuspecting, tightly knitted killer.

As if slasher films are already tough enough in trying to unlock and solve who the mysterious homicidal wolf in sheep’s clothing is before the big, blood reveal, the 2020 horror-comedy “I Scream on the Beach!” surely takes the cake as the impossible and no-win kobayashi maru test of the slasher genre. Hailing from United Kingdom with a retro 80’s VHS veneer, the Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday written-and-directed parodying red herring seeks to be deceptive and as cryptic as logically possible with a masked serial killer storyline stretching over a span of 10 years that culminates to an illogical and shockingly socking finale. “I Scream on the Beach!” is the first feature from the filmmakers working as a pair and as individuals, but Churchyard and Holiday have been skimming together that micro thin layer of the horror stratosphere with college short film works, such as “Fragments” and “The Ratman of Southend,” the latter referencing Churchyard and Holiday hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Southern Essex. The duo cofounded TIS Films Limited during their production of “I Scream on the Beach!” with Churchyard and Holiday as producers alongwith Claire Bowman and executive producer Hill Burton (“RoboWoman, “Slasher House 2”).

The story follows Mellow Coast local Emily, her friends, including a bashful big city transplant with a crush on her, and Detective Kincaid embroiled in a 10-year mystery beginning with the murder of Emily’s father (Rob Shaw) or maybe even beginning with the murder of Dr. Lloyd (Lloyd Kaufman, “The Toxic Avenger”). Hard to tell as Dr. Lloyd expositional death is brought up as background plot painting an unscrupulous picture against a devious, experiment-conduction corporation. In her first feature film and first of many productions with the Churchyard and Holiday team, Hannah Paterson is placed in the final girl role of a VHS decorated slasher that has her twisting and turning from the pub to every which way to find corpses stabbed, gutted, and decapitated in the search for the truth about her father. Her friends, played by Jamie Evans, Rosie Kingston, Ross Howard, and Reis Daniel, are the trope typical asshole, hot girl, filmic nerd, and good guy love interest, in that respective order, are definitely defined to bring out the shine around this specimen of the slasher genre. Lurking in the shadows, as a contemporary scream queen of such films like Debbie Rochen’s “Model Hunger” and “Cute Little Buggers” starring alongside the iconic Caroline Munro, is the Australian born, English raised actress Dani Thompson as a snarky bar keep and aspiring actress who pokes her into the picture as the sort of easy girl and easy target for other characters to love-and-hate, especially amongst Emily and her friends in a mixed bag of feelings toward her role of bitchy Paula. Martin W. Payne (“Toxic Schlock”) as the staunch, Mellow Coast chief inspector, Tess Gustard as Emily’s combative mother, Will Jones (“Terror at the Black Tree Forest”) as the dispassionate inspector, Andrea Sandell (“Patient Zero”) as a fake nun, Chris Linnat-Scott as the creepy Dr. A, and Mark Keegan in a surprising reprising role fill out the cast.

Churchyard and Holiday embark on a VHS faceplate journey with their inaugural film complete with faux tracking lines, low-quality picture, lo-fi audio, and rounding out the semblance with schlocky f/x composition and content.  “I Scream on the Beach!” is a non sequitur, yet perfectly fitting, title for a seemingly beach-themed slasher that evolves erratically and radically as the story progresses into an eyebrow raising “…what?”  I would also dare to say that the acting isn’t the best but rather reflects the modeled era of straight-to-video indie low-budget horror with mild ostentation exaggeration with a character or two grounding the film with relative gravity from floating toward a too far-gone outcome. “I Scream on the Beach” is a kind of film that sits in the nosebleed section of the video rental and physical media aisle (if there are such things as video rental or physical stores anymore) but, sometimes, the cheap seats can be the section where anything goes, and no one will ever know about what happens near the roof. I’m not saying the Churchyard-Holiday production is a raunchy, nudity-laden, immodest, grindhouse peepshow worthy of the now ousted 42nd Street; in fact, “I Scream on the Beach!” mounts a tame and respectable horror-comedy that, like the cheap seats, is nothing to be ashamed of because in the end, they both provide entertainment on a budget.

Continuing to pluck out atypical wild horror genre films, Darkside Releasing distributes “I Scream on the Beach!” onto Blu-ray home video as part of the UK release collection. Keeping with the VHS effect, the stretched 1:78:1 aspect ratio feels to mimic only the very summary of details that continue into employing other SOV gags such as tracking lines, as I mentioned above, as well as a flat coloring palette. The English language PCM 2.0 continues to stay the antiquated technical course, taking the joke all the way, with a badly dubbed and ambient filled lossy audio tracks that keep with the kitschy package. The unrated, 87-minute, full director’s cut release comes with retrograded previews, such as “Mask of Thorn,” optional cast and crew introductions to the film, an audio commentary, complete short films “The Decorator” and “The Hiker” that were briefly spotlighted in the story, and promo spots from the Music and Film Festival. “I Scream on the Beach!” falls above being better than low-rung horror that’ll still knock your socks off, literally, with surreptitious corporation experiments insidiously embedding its clandestine claws into small town denizens in the dark and being stalked.

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Catalepsy EVIL Blended with Japanese Folklore! “Snow Woman” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

Trekking up a mountain side are three male villagers hauling up a wooden casket.  Inside the casket is thought to be the malevolent Yuki Onna, the urban legendary beautiful snow woman spirit who roams the snowy landscape enticing men to their death.  Found seemingly dead and half naked amongst the village at the bottom of the mountain, this will mark the second trip up to the crag with her corpse that suddenly comes back to life.  Feared by the men, her casket is left abandoned and stranded atop of the icy, cold mountain yet the thing inside the casket isn’t a ghost, but rather a shunned woman, Yuki, with a thought supernatural evil power that’s actually a death-trance condition where her intense sexual climaxes render her unconscious and not breathing for long stretches of time.  Lodge owner Hyubei discovers her predicament firsthand after bedding the strange woman and the two use her condition to feign the killing of the “Snow Woman” when other persecuting-seeking male villagers coming calling for her head.

Many unusual, but still erotically stimulating, pink films have come across my desk for a professional review and for personal viewing.  Shintaro Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman” might be the goofiest, nonsensical one, and threadbare storied one yet.  Based off the Japanese folklore of Yuki-onna, various versions of Yuki-onna revolve around the freezing harm or death of children as well as succumbing those near the child to an icy grave.  For Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman,” the 2009 released adaptation follows more closely to the Ojiya region of Niigata Prefecture where a beautiful and mysterious woman sought out a man to marry for her own sensual desires only to dissipate into frozen droplets when forced into a bath.  While there’s no forced bathing in the film, the writer-director does pull inspiration of a woman immediately eager to please and marry the first man who doesn’t expel her permanently from companionship upon her climatic death-trance and is, in fact, more inexplicably inclined, aka an inkling of amorousness, to keep her around despite her unsettling disorder that locks their genitals together until she awakes from her stupor.  “Snow Woman” is produced by Takeyuki Morikakuo (writer of “Rika:  The Zombie Killer” and producer of “Legend of Siren XXX”) and is a production of the AMG vintage erotic catalogue.

“Tokyo Gore Police,” “Grotesque,” and JAV model actress Tsugumi Nagasawa stars in the folkloric titular role or Yuki. Nagasawa’s a bit all over the board, which is usually the case with all Japanese pink films, with her misjudged ghostly “Snow Woman” that loses all the pizazz when much of the mysticism is removed almost instantly when the immediate revelation of her sexual catatonic disorder renders her into a rigor mortis like state. Nagasawa doesn’t exactly sell the ethereal quality of the folklore of a presence able to float above sheets of snow without a trace left behind or burst into icicles surrounding heat. Yes, yes, I know pink films are strapped with very little cashflow, banking on the nudity and the bump-and-grind of exploiting popular and historical culture. Takishi (listed as Takashi on other platforms) Okabe opposites Nagasawa as the lonely lodger Nyubei who saves Yuki from an icy death by trying to charge her warmth and shelter. Okabe and Nagasawa fail to bring any kind of chemistry to the screen, romantically or sensually, that render themselves far short of saving this pink’s film vitality rebound on the home video market. The villagers who are seemingly more interested in destroying the Snow Woman as well as contemplating speculative conjecture on whether having intercourse with a monster is better than having intercourse with a woman who eats a lot is better. That whole section of the dialogue arc to the portrayed monster in the story, the Snow Woman, and when the virginal deft villager sees the Snow Woman for the first time, he immediately ravages her in a rape-eseque moment to prove no matter how monstrous she is he’s going to conquer by way of copulation. The other villagers round out with a cast in Takehisa Futagawa, Daisuke Tamaru, Horiken Fumio Yamamoto, Tetsu Teraoka, and Nami Uehara.

As mentioned, “Snow Woman” is considered a pinksploitation parody of a well-known folklore and as stated, the film’s financial support leaves much to be desired in the finish product to the point that there’s really not a story here to be told. Ostentatiously goofy without a morsel of A-for-effort lore or supernatural suspense to call a foundation, the struggle is inherently real to get through the entire film, a film that’s only approx. 1 hour long. The humor doesn’t stick and that would have flipped “Snow Woman” to a more advantageous experience coinciding with the one-on-one action that’s puts pink films on the erotica map. “Snow Woman” ultimately is a double flop on both fronts with the humor missing marks in its ultra-dry deliveries and miscued moments to the romping that’s not stimulating, titillating, or satisfying in the positioned choreography or character heterogeneity as a basic setup and cycle that inches toward only a chip of difference between the sexual scenes by adding the accompaniment of villagers with only the usual outcome results. The scenic views are actually pretty and breathtaking in see the snow-covered landscape with plenty of long and wide shots to capture Japan wilderness and while the location becomes only important in its aesthetic beauty, the b-roll footage never becomes important to the storyline as should with any Snow Woman themed media adaptation. I, personally, just wanted the characters to vamoose the lodge, or rather the overly large hut, that kept becoming the place of Yuki’s catalepsy trances because the location is the only interior location and gets old really quick.

For the first time, Shintara Sasazuka’s romantic-pink-comedy, “Snow Woman,” has a North American release from Darkside Releasing and distributed by MVD Visual. The region A coded Blu-ray release is an AVC encoded BD-R 25 presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are two versions of “Snow Woman” available for viewing: the vintage version retains the Japanese orb of censorship around the nether regions and a newly restored version that basically means the removal of the those said orbs. Both transfers are identical in a clean and free from blemishes and damage eyesores. However, banding is a real issue that creates visible clear lines across a shade washed picture. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack renders over quite well with discernable and clean dialogue, but the English subtitles are slightly out of synch and have at least one error that I saw. Special features include the original “Snow Woman” trailer, an erotic trailer reel that contains erotica and horror from select Italian productions, and a pink trailer reel that includes classic and modern pink films from PinkEiga. I guess in a world where pink films are outrageously perverse and can be downright sleazy and horrific, a necessity for balance would come in the form of goofy-romanticism and that’s what “Snow Woman” offers humbly by exemplifying passion and compassion as a cure for the mobbing disorderly and the ones with misunderstood disorders.

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

This EVIL is Why I Don’t Have a Roommate! “2DLK” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

“2LDK” Now Leasing a New Life on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films!

Rana and Nozomi couldn’t be more different coming from different backgrounds with antagonizing behaviors.  The two aspiring actresses live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment hosted by the same production company that has them vying for the same lead role in an upcoming feature film.  The role could jumpstart either of their careers and, internally, Rana and Nozomi believe the other isn’t good enough despite their different approaches in as city girl Rana uses her famine ways and laxer attitude to slut her way up to the top while the country-born Nozomi diligently studies the dialogue and the role to impress beyond her days as a parent-encouraged elementary stage actor.  When tensions rise through apartment sharing irksome nuisances and a man’s affections put an even more divisive wedge in the already gaping hole between them, Rana and Nozomi reach a breaking point and a violent melee of at each other’s throats ensues.

From my personal experience, the only roommate I’ve ever had was my wife during our engagement period and I can tell you that living with someone else – someone’s quirks, someone’s habits, and someone’s tastes – can be utterly earthshattering and explosive in what seems like every little pampered or established, taken for granted role you had living without a roommate is acutely upended and tossed into apocalyptic chaos.  Or, at least, that’s how it feels, right?  The sentiment is exactly perfectly and with killer instinct in Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s written-and-directed fight!-fight!-fight! film “2LDK.”  The 2003 Japanese movie helmed by the “12 Suicidal Teens” Tsutsumi co-wrote the script with Yuiki Miura, who of the last six years penned episodes of the recent various “Ultraman” series.  The 8-day shoot left no time to spare, leaving much of the cast and crew to shoot longer, sleepless nights, on “2LDK,” which in Japan shorthand describes the type of apartment – a 2-bedroom apartment with a Living room, Dining room, and Kitchen.  “2DLK” is a production of Micott, Times in, and DUEL Film Partners and is produced by Kazuki Manabe and Susumu Nakazawa.

When the central plot revolves around two aspiring actresses cohabiting a single living space and, literally, fighting over every inch of space, also literal as well as figural, there’s no room for more cast or even extras.  We’re first introduced to Eiko Koike (“Terra Farmers”) as Nozomi, a small province girl, reserved in manner, and extremely methodical to the point of obsessive.  Koike perfectly pitches Nozomi’s quiet but strong behavior, yet still judgmental about a roommate from the total opposite spectrum in Rana.  Played by Maho Nonami (“Scarecrow”), Rana’s a big city Tokyo girl with a jaded history.  Blunt, sleazy, and inconsiderate of apartment-sharing etiquette, Rana knows how to push Nozomi’s buttons – hard and on purpose with a innocent smile.  The story dives into differentiating Nozomi and Rana with an immediate internalizing of trash talking voiced over for the audience to see how Rana thinks Nozomi wearing high school gym clothes is hanging on to her humble origins whereas Nozomi itemizes every piece of Rana’s expensive accessories with a dollar amount.  Tensions slowly build from there and the actresses do a phenomenal slow burn into madness where the pot lid rockets to the sky when irritations hit the boing point summit.  Before you know it, electric-corded chainsaws are being wielded, spray cleaner bottoms are being spritzed into eyeballs, and eggs and toilet lids are being cracked over heads.   

“2LDK” is compact carnage, relatable dark fantasies of every roommate with a grudge against something thought their roomie did incorrectly or inconsiderately over and over again.  Other factors play into the two women’s meltdowns that provided fuel to the flame the burns with them in.  Rana struggles with the indirect suicidal death of a mother and child during her affair with the woman’s husband.  Nozomi bears the burden of forcedly shepherd to be the best whether to her studies or acting.  Not to forget to mention that both are in the running to be handpicked for a feature film role by the production company and there’s a man in the mix as an exploited chip against the other adoring roommate just to stick that knife into the side and twist for a little extra gut-wrenching spite.  Tsutsumi builds the seething hate, the tension, and the momentum that all comes crashing down in a Tsutsumi tsunami of cat fighting violence, weaponizing every inch of that small apartment from their individual bedrooms to the kitchen as a battleground.  Tsutsumi smartly doesn’t make “2LDK” a story about good versus evil as there are hardly any instances where the audiences will feel Rana nor Nozomi are in the wrong and wish their demise by virtuous-righteous other.  The bout is equally matched at their core and in scrappy ability to pick up whatever is lying around as a deadly weapon. 

Unearthed Films brings this one-on-one battle royale to an all-new Blu-ray release in association with Duel Film Partners and distributed by MVD Visual.  The perfectly paced and timed 70-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 of AVC encoded 1080p high-definition transfer.  Image appearance is quite similar to another Unearthed Films Blu-ray release in “Tokyo Decadence” with a hefty grain product that be very discernible in blacker/darker areas of the image, suggesting maybe a celluloid film gauge that offer a pleasantly filmic presentation instead of a white-glove and sleekly fabricated digital video.  While colors don’t exactly pop, the texture is there surrounding skin pores and facial imperfections that shine in the details.  Unearthed Films presents two options with a Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a 2.0 PCM stereo.  The multi-channel has a tad trouble discerning the inner voice overs between the two woman and never quite isolating their individual dialogues.  Some food for thought in case you decide to not pay attention to the movie and look at your phone as the dialogue courses through.  Some of the action came off with a bit of an echo but the overall soundtrack is robust with a clean and clear dialogue that comes with option English subtitles.  Extras include a commentary with actresses Maho Nnami and Eiko Koike with subtitles, a making of “2DLK,” interviews from the Tokyo International fantastic Film Festival, interviews from the premiere screening, production briefs on the duel between the roomies, a video message for theater audiences, interviews from the screening at Kudan Kaikan, and a photo still gallery.  Duel epitomizes “2LDK” exactly and only the Japanese know how to formulate a 70-minute comedy-action-thriller of two going toe-to-toe to the death.

“2LDK” Now Leasing a New Life on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films!

Prepare Yourself for the Side-Splitting EVILS of Adultery. “Sex and Zen” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

A Must-See, “Sex and Zen” is highly erotic and highly funny.

A wealthy educated man is arranged to marry the beautiful and sexually naïve daughter of a high scholar.  After persuading her sex being a cornerstone to a healthy marriage, she quickly concedes to his insatiable desires.  Yet, the man wants more and decides to venture out into world seeking passionate sexual escapades and when he happens upon a distinguished scoundrel, who’s good at swordplay, martial arts, and as a carnal adviser, the man is schooled about his insignificant manhood needing to be the size of a horse’s.  The obvious thing to do, transplant his penis with a horse’s.  The comical insanity pursues from then on out with the man falling for not only the brutish fabric maker’s wife, but also a bisexual noblewoman with a jealous lady lover.  When the scholar’s secret is found out, the jealous lover imprisons the man’s stay-at-home wife into prostitution, spearheaded by the seduction of the vengeful fabric maker posing as the house’s new gardener.  

Attuned to the same idea as war and peace, “Sex and Zen” is a delicate balance of control between the two and the dire consequences suffered if the sanctity of matrimonial fidelity is not respected.  Hailing from Hong Kong under the infamy of the Category III rating and with surprising staggering budget of approx. 4 million USD, director Michael Mak’s artfully erotic 1991 sex-comedy is by far one of the most entertaining of its genre ever to be produced into the world.  Michael Mak, the director of the three sequels following the “Long Arm of the Law” after taking over the franchise from his brother Johnny Mak, helms a script penned by “To Be Number One” writers Alexander Lee and Ying-Chiet Lee, based loosely off the drama-tragedy novel “The Carnal Prayer Mat” by Yu Li.  While definitely not a mirror dramatization of Li’s novel, “Sex and Zen’s” melodrama is in full-frontal effect with outlandish sex organ transferring and fiendish-flings and betrayals that make this slapstick an absolute riot.  Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest (“Game of Death,” “The Man from Hong Kong”) and Michael Mak’s brother’s company, Johnny Mak Productions,” build “Sex and Zen’s” luxurious sets and wardrobe, bright with colors and backed by phenomenal talent. 

“Sex and Zen” is only as good in its absurdity as it’s actors and actresses and, fortunately, Lawrence Ng and Amy Yip, and amongst the others, infuse and imprint themselves to the carnally comically characters with pleasure.  Ng (“The Underground Banker,” “Madame Q”) plays the travelling sex alcoholic husband Mei Yeung-Sheng to “Erotic Ghost Story’s” Amy Yip character, Huk-Yeung.  Huk-Yeung is an in the closet nympho taught to be disgusted by sex from her father’s puritanical stance.  Though Ng. and Yip’s scenes are few, they sizzle as explorers of each other’s bodies with Ng portraying shameless lust for the flesh against Yip’s innocent purity.  When Mei Yeung-Sheng ventures out into the world seeking erotic flings, that’s when Kungfu superstar Lieh Lo (“Fiver Fingers of Death”) enters the fold as the famous masterful thief Choi Kun-Lun who not only steals from the rich and gives to the poor as a Robin Hood-esque martial arts bandit but also becomes the sexual advisor to a hapless Yeung-Sheng and his itsy-bitsy trouser snake problem.  Lo’s hilariously cavalier and unpredictable in his performance that offers a divergent against the constant yearnings to follow the graphic depictions of pornographic picture art.  The scholar becomes entangled with an abused fabric seller (Japanese-born actress Mari Ayukawa, “Groper Train Hurry Up and Come”) and, in consequence, the fabric seller’s husband Wong Chut, a ultra-physical ruffian played vigorously intensive by Elvis Tsui (“The Boxer’s Omen”), who has a vendetta against the scholar and has an affair with the scholar’s wife that leads to prostitution, frail health, and immense guilt in an parable about the misconduct of unchecked sexual liberties.  “Sex and Zen” rounds out with a solid cast in Hong Kong comedian Kent Cheng (“Dr. Lamb”), Isabella Chow (“The Nocturnal Demon”), Carrie Ng (“Angel Terminators”), and Feng Tien (“Fist of Fury”) as the Sack Monk who warns about lust-induced karma that pulls the story into a full arc.

“Sex and Zen’s” mighty price tag is beyond being obvious with elaborately detailed set designs and structures, equally elegant and era appropriate wardrobe and makeup, elevated stunt work that blends highflying Kungfu with softcore eroticism, a physical and omnipresent choreography, and a few complicated shots, especially the one involving the back-and-forth editing of above and below the surface of a steamy hot tub sexual assault-to-fantasy fornication.  The inexplicit story can be difficult to follow at times without much being conveyed to what the characters are doing, especially in the first act that jumps from a licentious Mei Yeung-Sheng debating with a temple-residing Sack Monk on the principles of polyamorous relationships, to the scholar fulfilling his engagement to and the slow deshelling into wanton exercises of the aristocracy daughter, to finally his sudden departure from her as he ventures out into the world for untamed carnal delights with strange women.  From that point, “Sex and Zen” becomes a little more cohesive and coherent, building upon the scholars need for a bigger penis at the suggestion of his newfound friend Choi Kun-Lun and bedding the wife of a loutish fabric maker while paralleling a forbidden lesbian love affair of two stepsisters without the meddlesome of man in the mix.  As Mei Yeung-Sheng and the lesbians’ paths collide, stiff and unforgiving karma catches up to each and every one of them with the welting sting of tit-for-tat cuckolding.  Yet, Mak’s depiction of the story is wilder than the slapstick and melee humor with a stark contrast of, or maybe a complete overshadowing all together of, the perversion of foreign sex toys.  From the hilt of a scroll brush to both ends of a golden flute (I’ll let that visual sink in)the women of “Sex and Zen” have a knack for insertion talents in this Hong Kong Cat III sideshow of debauchery and comedy. 

Coming in at #2 on Umbrella Entertainment’s Sensual Sinema label, “Sex and Zen” lands on a sleek Blu-ray home video from the Australian distributor. Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the “Sex and Zen” Umbrella Blu-ray has impeccable full high definition, 1080p quality that pops right off the screen. The original 35mm transfer has a healthy amount of good grain and the colors lavishly seize control over every scene with a full-bodied range of hues. Blacks are inky and unaffected by any major artefact issues and the skin shades are poor-riddles and hair-laden in every since of the detail spectrum. Umbrella’s Blu-ray offers two audio options with a Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD master audio with optional English dub or a Cantonese 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with optional English dub. The dubbed-dialogue overlay is slightly asynchronous with the image, but there’s robust dialogue amplification centralized out of the five channels coinciding with isolating individual ambient sounds, such the swooshing of the swordplay or the chains clinking during acrobatic coitus. Special features are a little slim and of yore for a second title on a new sublabel, but the release offers an achieved, English-subtitled interview with director Michael Mak diving into the budget, working with the actors, and creating certain scenes. The theatrical trailer is also available on special features. The hot pink Sensual Sinema cardboard slipcover has a retro impression with various posters of the film on the slip and the snapper case surrounded by also a hot pink border. The film is listed as region B coded but played on my region free player without issue, runs at 95 minutes and is rated R+ for high level sex scenes. “Sex and Zen” is, by far, one of the best and most fetishized sex comedies ever produced and though a notorious Hong Kong CAT III production, the film is absolutely riotous and one-of-a-kind, deserving of praise from hedonistic crowds around the globe.

A Must-See, “Sex and Zen” is highly erotic and highly funny.