Everything is EVILLER in Texas. “The Hoot Owl” reviewed! (Brink Vision / Blu-ray)

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

Blind buying a house is never good idea.  Blind buying a murder house in the middle of nowhere should be on the list of if you bought it, you deserve what’s coming to you.  Scott and April do just that as the recently troubled couple start afresh with a purchase of a fixer upper after suffering a late term miscarriage.  Deciding to not have Chip and Joanna Gains to rehab the dilapidated new residence set deep in the woods, the couple invite a small group of friends and family to assist in the much-needed repair and cleanup.  Interrupting their pass-the-doobie high and their positive high spirits while renewing an old house into a home, death and destruction erupts as a pair of demented squatters don’t take too kindly to the new homeowners. 

As far as debut feature films go, “The Hoot Owl” is a gory practical effect driven, true-to-form independent slasher film born and bred out of the great state of Texas.  The co-directing, co-writing Jasons, Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, are the masterminds behind the cow head-boned masked killer and the very pregnant and very inbred wild woman lying in wait for the naive trespassers to drop their guard and thin out before the slaughter.  Having worked together for years making short films together, the 2022 released slasher was setup by Rader and Godi as a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but out of the filmmakers’ flexible 20K goal, “The Howl Owl” concept received a measly $275 from four backers.  That roadblock was only temporary and didn’t stop the aspiring retro-slasher artists to complete their foot-in to the passion project that took over 9 years to complete from pre-production-to-post-production under their co-created company banner, Vanishing Twin Productions, in association with Rise Above Productions and producer Raymond Carter Cantrell.

If you’re going all out to make a slasher film, then you’re going to need victims to slash! Most indie slashers nowadays have a synopsis that begins something like this, “a group of teens go into the woods…,” and just by those few key introductory words, we know perfectly well what to expect as the drinking, smoking, and sex-crazed youth meet the homicidal maniac with a bloody machete in one hand and a decapitated head in the other. There’s a rhythmic comfort in that classic symbiosis. The downside to the structure always boils down to the shot in the dark cast and cast of characters that can make or break a slasher film’s success. Scott (Jason Skeen, “By the Devil’s Hands”) and wife April (Augustine Frizzell) bring along Scott’s longtime good friend Drew (J.D. Brown, “Cross Bearer”) and April’s estranged sister Suzy (Katharine Franco, “The Inflicted”) offer a little bit of everything in a hodgepodge of backstories that don’t quite become reinforced in the end with the exception of April whose miscarriage and loss transcends into twisted maternal madness. Frizzell’s glow for the first two acts doesn’t really yell grief but when the ardency takes over, stemmed by her vivid gruesome dreams of her miscarriage, the Texas-born actress steps up to the plate of a psychotic break. Suzy’s also interesting enough character to spark curiosity with the enigmatic contentiousness in a heartfelt scene of two sisters rekindling their bond while actually actioning those same emotions on screen; instead, Franco enjoys the blithe nature of Suzy’s indecisiveness about school and about her family but discovers a quick and sudden fascination with Drew, the least interesting principal that hires two colorful buddies: Hank (Carl Bailey, “A Ship of Human Skin”), a father of two who a penchant for sexual harassment, and an obvious long hair wig-wearing oddball Bugs (Roger Schwermer Jr.). Bailey resembles pure Texan posture but is stiff as a board in his sleazy contractor role. “The Hoot Owl” rounds out the cast with Joshua Ian Steinburg playing the boned-face killer and Johnny Wright reaching inside to extract his inner Neanderthal-like wild woman ready to emulate a putridly picturesque birth.

“The Hoot Owl” is a by-the-numbers man-in-a-mask slasher riddled with familiar tropes and conventional clichés.  Baseline fact is that the film is not breaking any molds here and won’t be a contender for horror picture of the year.  With that said, and as harsh as that may sound, what “The Hoot Owl” represents is pure spirit and appreciation for what the film ultimately represents – a love for the heyday horror. Rader and Godi firmly believe in their film with a sincere attempt at a feature and pulling all the material together during a near decade-long process to get the film released out into the world. Far from perfect, “The Hoot Owl” relies heavily on the gruesome practical effects and there are some good gory terminations with a piledriving beartrap, a split-head decapitation with a large chain, and a long, rusty drill bit through the eye socket that ends in a spurting splatter of blood. The expo is an impressive effort from Allan David Caroll in his first go-round with the effects trade that could rival the early works of Tom Savini or Greg Nicotero. What breaks up the story most of all are the secondary shoots used to swell and cut into the first-round material shots to beef up a feature production. For instance, the opening credit chase sequence of a maniac cop (at least I think it was a cop) hunting down a man and his pregnant wife is a moment that is never clearly referred backed to, but the assumption is that the pregnant woman is the encountered savage later on in the unveiling climatic and the bone-head killer is her child from the rundown who then impregnates his own heathenized mother…? Connectively, it’s all unclear in unfused ends, causing a break in the signal from the lead-in to the trunk of the story, and that underdevelopment pursues throughout with loops never coming to a close.

In my first brush with Brink Vision since reviewing their DVD release of the 2008 alien transmitted dead-resurrecting bacteria film, “Evilution,” a tinge of satisfaction embraces my little heart to see Brink Vision come back across with a Blu-ray release of their latest “The Hoot Owl,” distributed by MVD Visual. The quick-paced 72-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is not rated and is region free. Video quality doesn’t represent the best-of-the-best of the 1080p high-def resolution with a commercial standard definition equipment and know this mainly because compression that doesn’t display a myriad of issues. Details are not as sharp and there is banding more obvious in one scene of negative space, but the picture is otherwise free of artefacts and other data loss issues. The English Language 5.1 surround mix fairs much of the same albeit the electrostatic noise. While not overwhelming the dialogue to a point of murkiness, the steady shushing combined with the poor audio recordings can vary the quality and depth with a blunt flatness. Bonus features includes a commentary with directors Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, a second commentary with Creepy Peepy Podcast, a featurette of Rader and Godi looking back at their 9-year pilgrimage to completion, Godi’s short film ‘The Voyeur,” trailer and still gallery. The physical release has beautiful artwork of the Hoot Owl killer in a throwback, almost Scream Factory-esque, illustration. The back cover is a little wonky with a composite that’s hard to read with deep purple lettering on the credits and bonus material listing almost invisible amongst the black background. “The Hoot Owl” endears the slasher fandom with a callback to the brute strength of a wanton villain and if only the script was smoothed over, this little indie film from Texas could have better laid a stronger foundation.

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

Taxi Driver by Day, EVIL Serial Killer by Night! “Dr. Lamb” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

“Dr. Lamb” is ready to operate.  See him in action on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films and MVD Visual!

Quiet as a boy verbally and physically abused by his stepmother yet laid to experience the adult perversities at the permission of his unconcerned father, Lam Gor-Yu, now as a man, is still quiet and still has unusual interests as an afterhours taxi driver.  Triggered by rainy nights when a torrent of verbal abuse by his female passengers send the usually reserved taxi driver into a homicidal fury, extending his lonely nights into straggling women, returning their bodies to his family homes, and video tapes his exploits within his fascination for amateur medical procedures.  When the police raid his family home after developed disturbing pictures were discovered at the local print shop, Lam’s entire family is hauled into questioning and it’s to Inspector Lee and his team to unearth exactly what transpired to the lifeless bodies seized by a notoriously sociopathic serial killer.

When you think of serial killers globally, Hong Kong isn’t the first place that comes to mind.  In fact, Hong Kong isn’t even a blip on the radar as the Pearl River Delta residence only has two known serial killers attributed to the city.  One of those killers is Lam Kor-wan – aka The Jars Murderer – aka the Rainy Night Butcher – who terrorized the then British territorialized Hong Kong in the early 80s, killing and post-mortem mutilating four young women.  La Kor-wan became the notorious inspirational material for the Danny Lee and Billy Tang (“Run and Kill”) co-directed Dr. Lamb that was released in 1992 and penned by Kam-Fai Law (“The Close Encounters of Vampire).  “The Killer’s” star Lee, who was more Chinese action star than filmmaker, developed the film, reluctantly at first, during the time when Hong Kong’s Category III classification rating was extending from solely high-end erotica and sleaze into extreme horror and thrillers.  Lee served as executive producer with Parkman Wong, who also worked alongside Danny Lee on “The Killer,” under Grand River Films Ltd.

To be portraying one of two Hong Kong’s serial killers feels like an unsurmountable responsibility burdening the actor’s shoulders in order to parallel the motivational intricacies and the mental mindset as accurate as possible knowing that the character can’t just blend into a vast serial killer fold where you can find multiple variations of John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer being grossly rendered for U.S. pop culture exploitation.  Yet, in steps in front of the camera Simon Yam, one of Hong Kong’s prolific action stars in the late 80s to early 90’s now stepping into the shoes of a real-life maniacal persona and relatively close to where all of Lam Kor-wan’s dirty-little-deeds took place.  Simon Yam could very well be the killer himself, that’s how brilliantly Yam’s performance is in what’s certainly a confident display of range in contrast within his acting opus.  Replacing a gun with a scalpel, Lee and Yam dig deep into the character’s psyche with an interpretation of why Lam Kor-wan did what he did and, frankly, Yam just went stoically wild to reach Lam’s staggering levels of crazy as he descends deeper into the retelling of his encounters with each victim. While “Dr Lamb” is a grim tale, there’s a comical side to it with the police force, supervised by Inspector Lee, played by Danny Lee himself in a duality position of cast and crew. More of the comic relief stems from Inspector Lee’s second-in-command, an experienced, yet overweight, cop who lets others handle his workload. Literally named Fat Bing, comedian and “Human Lanterns” actor Kent Cheng continues his whimsical routine in unvarnished subject matter revolving around separate bits and pieces of people’s tissue and organs for twisted pleasures. Collateral damage of Lam’s horrifying late-night exploratory surgery antics on women involve his family as they also become suspects. Lam’s father (Siu-Ming Lau, “A Chinese Ghost Story”) keeps his blinders on while the evidence piles only to be turned when his son’s transgressions include a minor family member does his own flesh and blood then cross a line of no return.

There are always two sides to every story. No, I’m not saying there are two repelling sides to The Rainy Night Butcher’s homicidal havoc. “Dr. Lamb,” as a film, has a dichotomy about it that’s half biographically true and grim while the other half is crime drama peppered with clownery. The combination is odd and equally as frustrating as the black tone of the historical background and the graphic nature of some authentical depicted acts of inhuman urges find their way weaved into the fabric of cavalier cop buffoonery who, on one hand, seem really good and really intense at their job while, on the other hand, lack the gumption for sobering behavior. Even when investigating Lam’s videotape (to which there is no way in Hell Lam videotaped that himself as the camera moves as he’s engrossed with necrophilia and removing body parts), the cops overact the disgust with what looks like chunky tuna being forced out of their mouth along the lines of appearing like vomit. The underplayed theme is anything but funny in its psychological context of misanthropy and misogyny. All of Lam’s scenes of cruelty are told in flashback through his perspective, molded by his undertone hate for women. “Dr. Lamb” is a misogynistic tale bred out of childhood abuse by a woman close to his family and unabashed and unattended by his lenient father’s lack of concern. Three out of the four women Lam taxis-to-taxidermy often verbally and physically assault him and plague his personal space with their awful behavior, setting a dial backwards in his battered brain that reminds him of the time his stepmother slapped him or forced him into a closet for hours. Is “Dr. Lamb” a Freudian lemma that Lam sees his ruthless stepmother in these women and turns on them to humiliate their corporeal existence? That’s a deep dive, but not as deep as “Dr. Lamb” cuts as a visceral experience based off of one of Hong Kong’s notorious serial killers.

Distributing in at number 8 on the spine of the Unearthed Films’ Unearthed Classics banner is “Dr. Lamb” on a new Blu-ray home video. The region A locked, AVC encoded, BD50 is slicked up with a 1080p high-definition upgrade presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As one of cinematographer Kin-Fai Mau’s first few pictures, the cool blue and misty has an interesting allure like a hazy bad dream subdued by an infusion of looking through blue glass with a prism of white light filtering through. Perhaps not as detailed as desired, the release does stand above the rest with low-level continuous speck blemishes that are only noticeable if you’re searching for them. Two audio options are available: a Cantonese LPCM 2.0 Mono and a Mandarin LPCM 2.0 Mono. Both tracks do come with well-sync and accurate English subtitles with the only downside is in their quick sojourning. There are a few instances where the subtitles pop up for literally a second as a result of quick nature of the dialect to get to the next set of text. While toggling between the two languages, my audio receptors really took to the Cantonese for a more natural flow and visually for unison between speech and speaking. The Mandarin is certainly more powerful but also too over-the-top as in watching I relate to watching old Japanese with English dub. The special features include an audio commentary by Ultra Violent’s Art Ettinger and Cinema Arcana’s Bruce Holecheck, a background interview about “Dr Lamb’s” genesis with the story producer Gilbert Po Lamb to the Slaughter, an interview with film critic James Mudge on the Golden Era of Cat III Three Times the Fear, a talking point conversation about “Dr Lamb” from film academic Sean Tierney, an Atomic TV interview with star Simon Yam, and trailers. The physical release itself comes with a 6-page, color booklet essay from cinema academic and author Calem Waddell (producer of “The Collingswood Story” and many horror-film related documentaries). A cardboard slipcover with one of the more provocative poster arts. Unearthed Films’ Blu-ray comes unrated with a runtime of 90 minutes. When perusing what to watch one night, be sure to hail down this cab of fact-based macabre driven by “Dr Lamb’s” psychological psychopathy and his pathologic urge for unnecessary medical procedures.

“Dr. Lamb” is ready to operate.  See him in action on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films and MVD Visual!

A Gondola Ride of EVIL! “Gore in Venice” reviewed! (Full Moon Features / Blu-ray)

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

A man stabbed to death in the abdomen. A few feet away, a drowned woman, pulled from an adjacent Venice canal, wearing no underwear beneath her dress. A double murder of a husband and wife has baffled a young, hardboiled egg-eating Inspector named De Pol, but the inspector knows one thing for sure, drugs were certainly involved. As the inspector digs deeper into the horribly confounding case, he learns that husband and wife were into a wide variety of kinky perversions that may have led to their untimely demise. Unable to make sense of some of the case’s facts and as more bizarre murders flare up all over town, De Pol leans on the behavior expertise of the department’s medical examiner as well as anecdotes by key suspects to piece together a prurient plot of perversion-killings sought to be handled quietly and quickly before tourists catch wind of what’s happening, and more dead bodies are discovered in the unparalleled canal-laden landscape of Venice.

Sex, drugs, and eggs run rampant on the walkway bridges and watery canals of the beautifully conglomerated Venice, Italy in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”   Also known by other titles such as Giallo a Venezia, Mystery in Venice, and Thriller in Venice around the globe, the “Supersexymarket” and “Patrick Still Lives” director Landi helms one of the more controversial Italian crime mysteries to come out of the golden age of giallo horror during the turn of the decade of 1979.  A script that houses a hellbent killer in super cool and reflective aviator shades, a sex-crazed married couple, and a detective racking his brain to connect the motive dots is the last treatment penned by writer Aldo Serio in what’s a non-linear, flashback driven, sordid piece of salacious culprit candy that’s more sexually explicit than is a whodunit thriller.  “Gore in Venice” is one of the few productions of Elea Cinematografica produced by Gabriele Crisanti who has produced “Satan’s Baby Doll, “Malabimba,” “Burial Ground:  The Nights of Terror,” and many others notorious for their sleazy and gory controversial content.

In the cast’s lead of this Italian production is an American actor.  The California-born, “Weapons of Death’s” actor Jeff Blynn has lived in Italy for much of his career and had become tapped to play youthful inspector De Pol, an arrogant prodigy of Venice sleuths with a habit of constantly cracking open and eating hard boiled eggs in the office, out of the office, at the crime scene, during the questioning in suspect’s home, and in just about every single scene Blynn is messing with an egg in a symbolic gesture of trying to trying to crack a strange case is to crack an egg strangely.  Blynn’s pale complexion, large perm afro, and thick caterpillar mustache make him stick out against his Italian counterpart costars that include Leonora Fani (“The House by the Edge of the Lake”) and Gianni Del (“Sex, Demons and Death”) as the deceased wife and husband, Flavia and Fabio.  Fani and Del’s impeccable Euro traits are flaunted all over Venice as sexual maniacs, exhibitionists, and voyeurs who take their relationship to the next level every time they step outside their character’s love nest full of erotica books and wall-to-wall mirror bedroom.  However, trouble in paradise sends the couple hurling toward jagged rocks with salacious orgy photos involving a prostitute (Maria Mancini), a drug-dealer named Marco (Maurizio Streccioni), and Flavia’s best friend Marzia (Mariangela Giordano, “Killer Barbys”) that omits no one from the suspect pool.  Not even Flavia’s ex-lover, a cartoonist Bruno Neilson (Vassili Karis, “An Angel for Satan”) is safe from Inspector De Pol’s investigation.  Unlike traditional giallo films, we’re already privy to the killer, a voyeuristic madman (Andrea Caron) with slick aviators and a complex hardon to kill everyone involved in the orgy and it’s up to Del Pol and his troupe of professional colleagues and chums, who provide not only the vigor (“Private House of the SS’s” Eolo Capritti’s gung-ho assistant to the inspector) but also sage, scientific guidance surrounding sexual deviancy (“Satan’s Baby Doll’s” Giancarlo Del Duca as the case’s pathologist).

As noted in the previous paragraph, “Gore in Venice” is less giallo than one would expect despite an alternate title denoting the film as such in Italy as “Giallo a Venezia.” Does the killer have gloved hands? Yes. Is Landi’s film stylish enough to pass criteria? Absolutely. Does “Gore in Venice” live up to the eponymous title? Blood flows freely. Yet, why doesn’t “Gore in Venice” feel like a traditional giallo? One of the more clinching reasons is the mystery dissolves roughly halfway into the story by exposing the unmasked, unconcealed killer, trailing off from that unsolved perplexity of who the killer might be at the conclusion. However, one could argue that though the killer is revealed, the question of why all the carnage still remains, leaving the giallo more or less intact. Violent tropes aside, Landi’s film abundantly saturates itself into carnal exploits that linger on-and-on more than necessary to get the point across. These scenes of masturbation, public exhibition, and raging erotic zigzag along a blurry, indistinct line of pornography, coming (and coming!) away from the intended murder-mystery subgenre with more skin and slaughter. That’s not the say “Gore in Venice” fails to live up to the moniker as the kills are as grisly as implicitly promised with a large blade to the vaginal cavity, one poor soul gas drenched and lit up like a bonfire, and a one gal having the naked legs cut out right from under her complete with an extreme closeup of the sawing pellicle perfection. Whether because of Mario Landi’s direction or Aldo Siro’s script, the explicit eroticism eats way too far into the story that, in turn, ultimately betrays any kind character development aside from the tragic perversive arc of Fabio and Flavia. Inspector De Pol often skirts around much of the action being only an investigator continuously trapped in the accounts of other people’s tales of debauchery and always one step late to the crime scene party that baffles his keen scrutinizing eye. I’m not one to deprecate graphic sexual content, especially in works that display actual fondling and masturbation in their art, but “Gore in Venice” mildly entertains as a low-end giallo albeit a spectacularly vivid and vehement blood show in front of the unique waterways of Venice.

Under one of the more slapped together and detailed shrouded cover arts I’ve seen this year comes “Gore in Venice” onto Blu-ray home video as one of the revisited classics purchased and redistributed by Full Moon Features. The Blu-ray is an AVC encoded, region free, 1080p presentation of an uncut (and uncensored) remastered feature exhibited in a full frame 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The Full Moon back cover mentions the transfer was compiled from the best available materials, but, honestly, the original 35mm print looks great with only sparse dirt specks and an occasional frame omission. Details look good as well despite the flat coloring. The Italian language LCPM 2.0 and 5.1 offer nearly identical outputs with no real composition distinction between the two others than a slightly more complex background track of motorboats ripping through the canals. There are no bonus materials with this feature only release that’s house in a standard blue snapper case and a red on black, cheesy, Eurotrash cover art for the 99-minute film. Libidinous with a capital L, expect more of sesso e depravazione with profound tidbits of gore than an engrossingly intelligent crime thriller in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

A 10-Year-Old Girl Pieces Together an EVIL Tragedy. “Martyrs Lane” reviewed! (DVD / Acorn Media International)

Purchase ACORN Release of “Martyrs Lane” on DVD

10-year-old Leah is a curious, quiet child, living in a vicarage household.  Her nightly nightmares surrounding her mother’s necklace locket and her mother’s stern conduct along with her constant obsession with her necklace locket leads Leah into an interest in the ornament’s contents.  Inside is a lock of hair and Leah takes it and loses a day later, sending her mother into a tailspin of anxiety.  That same night, a little girl knocks on Leah’s window and provides Leah momentary comfort and friendship until every visit after that, the little girl grows sicker and more ominously enigmatic in her play, providing clues and the whereabouts of thought-lost items that will open up the truth about the mystery girl’s identity as well as her family’s dark secret.

“Martyrs Lane” is a thoughtful and empathetic drama with supernatural delicacies surrounding complexities in loss and grief of bottled-up family secrets.  The British film is the third feature film, second in horror, for actress-writer-director Ruth Platt (“The Lesson”) who has commented that “Martyrs Lane” is a plucking of aggregated events from her own childhood woven into the very fabric of the story. Platt’s 2021 release is a fined tune extension upon her 2019 short of the same title that recasts the core principal roles from original actresses Indica Watson, Phoebe Lloyd, and the live action adaptation of “Beauty and The Beast’s” Hattie Morahan and turned the short into a 96 minute closed book feature about a scrutinized and consuming locket and a slowly decaying little girl playing two truths, one lie with the main character during bedtime hours who then has to unravel the mystery behind it all. Ipso Facto Productions’ Christine Alderson, who also produced “Valhalla Rising,” “Alpha Alert,” and even Platt’s original short film, produces “Martyrs Lane” alongside Katie Hodgkin and partly funded by the British Film Institute (BFI) in association with Sharp Films, Lypsync, and LevelK.

Recasting the short’s linchpin framework actresses took an audition to bring to light exactly the kind of talent Platt needed to express the different levels of somber ambivalence toward a family obviously struggling to deal with something more than just the day-to-day tasks. Kiere Thompson took over for Indica Watson as Leah in her feature performance debut and Thompson smashes a complex role and gains high marks on the voyeur scorecard as the youngest child who watches as her mother ebbs and flows in various states of anxiety while serving a milder, yet vastly different, dish of dynamics with the levity being around her vicar father and to be always primed to deal with her tormenting much older sister Bex (Hannah Rae). The best chemistry is between Thompson and age-appropriate counterpart Sienna Sayer, taking over Phoebe Lloyd’s role from the short as the strange visiting little girl. You can see two youngsters’ genuine play and natural innocence come through their smiling faces, wide eyes, and contagious giggles and when the winch of fear washes over them, called for by the story’s puzzling rising of events, mirthless moments are quickly produced, snapping us back into Platt’s eerie cold quandary. Hattie Morahan is replaced by Denise Gough as the mother Sarah and though her performance is fine, there just wasn’t enough of the mother’s side of the story to evoke a sense of empathy or sympathy and ultimately just falls into right into apathy even though Sarah is a pivotal piece to the theme. Catherine Terris, Charlie Rix, Donna Banya, Anastasia Hille, and Steven Cree as the vicar and Leah’s father rounds out the cast.

A blend between “Let the Right One In” and “The Babadook” but with less blood and less malevolent atmospherics, “Martyrs Lane” offers an imposing exhumation of a secret told in a way that doesn’t carry the sensation of something being hidden from Leah or even the audience in general.  Instead, Platt invests into the thematic subtleties with the bigger picture on the supernatural element of a strange, orphaned girl who knocks on the outside of Leah’s second story window, wearing dress up angel wings and is slowly deteriorating health wise with each passing night.  Yet, despite her appearance and reluctance at times, Leah’s peculiarly drawn to opening her window, letting her in, and even play childish games with her and tell jokes but soon those games become clues, near riddle-like, for Leah to push the envelope that link her mother, the locket, and this strange girl together.  Platt tacks on a silent and tenebrous after-hours backdrop during Leah’s sleepless nights and the stillness is greatly encroaching upon into the terror senses that you find yourself holding your breath and jumping at the breakneck editing aimed to momentarily scare you until a sigh of relief for when it’s over.  “Martyrs Lane” is externally melancholic and mood driven from outside Leah’s perspective as she, herself, internalizes and absorbs the emotions of others, studies them, and puts the pieces together to unravel the truth.

Ruth Platt’s “Martyrs Lane” is a wistful, and often eerie, entry into the creepy child subgenre. UK distributor, Acorn Media International, releases the Shudder exclusive-streaming film onto a PAL encoded region 2 DVD.  Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, there’s virtually no issues with the compression as even the night sequences retain the thick and obscuring black levels with almost unnoticeable banding, and it’s a clean dark too with balanced contrast to really home in on and define the shadows.  Details and textures are good for Platt’s dreamy-presented cinematic approach of slight overexposure and blur are more a stylistic attribute than an issue with the imagery.  I liked the tactile details in the loose strands of hair around Leah and the mystery girl that plays on their differences, and sometimes similarities, really well.  The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound retains no significant issues.  Dialogue track perceives slightly muted or distant in some scenes and clarity, though free from audio blemishes, can be straining.  English subtitles are available.   Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes with snippets of interviews from Ruth Platt and the cast, an interview with Ruth Platt (which contains the same segments pulled for the behind-the-scenes), and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.  The Acorn DVD is certified 15 for strong supernatural threat and injury detail.  In the end, “Martyrs Lane” is a dead-end road to melancholy, a family-affecting affair that peripherally chronicles not only one person’s struggle to maintain a slither of normalcy but also profoundly hits innocent youth who know nothing of the skeletons kept in the closet.

Purchase ACORN Release of “Martyrs Lane” on DVD

Mama’s EVIL Little Boy. “Mother” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

In the deep pocket of rural America, a son is born in a country home and over the years, the baby of the house lives a cossetted life by his mother.  Warped by her mollycoddling ways and unaffected by the death of his father, the now young man apathetically bends to his mother will whether she’s conscious of it or not.  He responds in unkind to overprotect his mother when an envious older brother derides their special son and mother bond and is murdered in cold bold.  As more years pass and his mother succumbs to her health deterioration, the son, now the last of his family, remains in solitary at the family home and the absence of his beloved mother haunts him as he processes his unnurtured and unhealthy sexuality onto the unwilling living and the unresponsive dead. 

In 2003, the NY-based indie horror filmmaker Michael P. DiPaolo gave us “Daddy,” an undead rape-revenge zombie-thriller that brought the corpse of an abusive father back from the grave to exact a fate far worse than death on his daughter and her friends who put an end to drunken state defiling of his little girl.   Three years later, DiPaolo releases to us “Mother.”  However, don’t expect this to a companion film connected to “Daddy.”  Instead, “Mother” is a whole new story with a whole new stylistic approach, including zero dialogue in a black and white frame – much like a silent movie but with more Foley and no corresponding continuous piano tunes. Ed Gein became the core inspiration for DiPaolo who retells the Plainfield, Wisconsin described Ghoul‘s horrifying deeds of exhuming corpses, creating trophies out of the remains, and even the slaying of two women, a tavern owner and a general hardware store clerk. DiPaolo self-produces the film under this Black Cat Cinema productions along with associate producer Zachary Balog and shoots the film most of the homestead around Cropseyville, New York, near Albany, and the surrounding area.

Comes no surprise that the actor who once portrayed the former Republican Vice President, Dick Chaney, for Damon Packard’s Fatal Pulse also plays the details likes of one of America’s most notorious murderers. The Buffalo, New York born John Karyus, who had a minor role in “Daddy,” reteams with DiPaolo to present a dialogue-less version of the life and death of Ed Gein by stepping into virtually his skin – that’s an Ed Gein joke in case you were paying attention. Karyus and DiPaolo don’t hold anything back in the peculiar biopic that dives deep into dismemberment madness, fascination killings, and the loss of motherly love. Half of the praise should be awarded to Nina Sobell as the son’s mother. Sobell not only plays mommy dearest but also the hardware store clerk and the tavern owner in an unrecognizable fashion. The up-in-age actress’s comfort level was high enough even for a nude scene in which Karyus has to dress her approaching older age and invalid body. Karyus might be on centerstage as the star of the show, but Sobell’s in the backstage manipulating the pullies, curtains, and supporting Karyus with different angles that give way to the avenues of an aggressor’s cloistered milieu. Other minor characters quickly come and go amongst the silence feature with costars in Jason McCrea as the bigger brother, Phil Sawyer Jr. as the best friend, Adam Zaretsky as the father, and Svetlana as the exhumed corpses brutally hacked away for her bone-afied trophies.

The distorted mind of Ed Gein must have been a surreal inverted world. I think Michael DiPaolo encapsulates a similar essence of the upside-down perspective seen through the eyes of a killer with what can be said to be his woven auteur’s arthouse tapestry. You would think no dialogue would drag the film through the monotonous much and show signs of repetitive tiresome, especially dressed in a colorless monochrome but the crafty cinematography and grisly gestures never waver interests as we’re along for the fall of man beheld as not only mother’s baby boy but also as her ardent admirer. Her presence was a tattered thin tether that kept him secure to reality and once she checked out, the abnormal fascinations that always laid dormant now flourishing with full force like an unchecked weed in an immaculate garden of prize-winning roses. The son goes from a chaperoned teetering-maligned individual to full-fledged grave robber and skin suit tailor, raping and ripping the flesh from dead bodies over the course of years, denoting just how psychologically paramount a mother’s care is for a boy in the balance of good and evil. DiPaolo more-or-less hits every note in the book in regard to Ed Gein’s past, tweaking a few historical moments for dramatization or budgetary limits, while still maintaining a professional code of conduct despite constructing the film on the cheap. DiPaolo definitely knows and understands what he’s doing and how to work the system as clearly seen between the tone and expression differences of 2003’s “Daddy” to 2006’s “Mother.”

First, there’s was the back form the dead “Daddy.” Now, there’s the spoiling to sociopathic “Mother.” A match made in Hell and both available on a region free home video DVD from SRS Cinema. The “Mother” release is presented in black and white on SOV 1.33:1 aspect ratio, reconstructed in an impressive 6-7 megabytes per second due partly because there is nothing to decode from a RGB color signal. Contrasting is good as you can greatly appreciate the spectrum between light and dark patches. Sporting no dialogue, the LPCM 2.0 stereo features slightly exaggerated Foley and a dissonant vocal score, some in the Russian language nonetheless, from the Moscow born, New York residing folk instrumental artist LJova (Lev Zhurbin). There’s clarity over ambiguity to the action-destined soundbites being conveyed even if a bit over-the-top as if to compensate for the no dialogue. The 76-minute film is coupled with a DiPaolo short film “Brutal Ardor” about a woman trapped inside her small apartment and an immense amount of despair living with a sexually overbearing and jealous husband. Also included in the bonus material is a making of featurette voiced over by DiPaolo as he goes through his creative process and techniques (and is also somewhat of a comedy track), a director’s commentary, the feature trailer, Michael DiPaolo film trailers, and other SRS trailers. Perfect for a double bill with DiPaolo’s “Daddy,” “Mother” is a cynical and desolation ark of biblical proportions adapted from a horrid torrent of truth.

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com