Youtubers EVILlog a Malevolent Presence Inside Their Home! “8ight After” reviewed! (PovertyWorks / Digital Screener)

Vlogging husband and wife, Vince and Deanna, digitally showcase their married life to the world from their vacation travels to exotic coastlines to the day-to-day, mundane tasks that includes home renovations.  When they demolition a wall in order to install a French door in the master bedroom, they discover a mysterious box containing a Portate (carrying) cross hidden within the wall.  Every night since then, Godfearing Deanna has felt a profound presence in the house, experiencing supernatural phenomena, such as grabbing at her feet and possessing her body, almost on a nightly basis, especially 8 minutes after 1:00 AM.  The compilation of footage from Vince and Deanna’s vlog cameras around the house capture the seemingly malevolent events, but Vince, being the ever agnostic skeptic, tries to invalidate any paranormal occurrences, passing them off as more feasibilities explanations.  Yet, the bumps in the night continue to place Deanna in inexplicable danger, forcing Vince to reconsider his position on God in order to save his wife.

CCTV horror has been quiet over the last few years, but 2020 has seen a fair share of the stale, declining genre that’s become more repellant than a draw for audiences; yet these new ventures into CCTV horror have splashed into a Lazarus pool, rejuvenating a slither of lifeforce within genre, with limited theatrical and VOD releases into the volatile cinema market.  Vincent Rocca’s written and directed multi-camera spectral thriller, “8ight After,” is a found footage horror-comedy that is an analogue releasing on the heels of moderate success, following the making-of an active shooter thriller, “Mother of Monsters,” and the hellish hotel imprisonment of souls of “Followed,” another apparitional aghast blending CCTV and handheld footage in a vlog style.  Rocca’s sophomore directorial comes nearly a decade and half after his 2006 feature film debut, a comedy entitled “Kisses and Caroms,” and is produced by Rocca’s less-is-more production company, PovertyWorks Productions, that aims to produce funny and profitable films and shorts on a miniscule budget.  In “8ight After’s” case, the production cost totaled a whopping zero being Rocca’s own actual camera footage of and around his home and the use of handheld’s and phone cameras when out and about. I’m also positive he didn’t pay his wife a dime.

“8ight After” fits right into the PovertyWorks’s comedy portion of its business model, especially with Vincent Rocca in the lead role as a practical joker-goofball of a husband (who really has the vocal projection of the late Bill Paxton), leading the charge of the voyeuristically invasive vlogging lifestyle as well as being a religiously laidback soul with an atheist belief set.  In stark contrast to his convictions is his wife Deanna, played by his real wife Deanna Rocca, who brings a knowledge of faith for a subplot of inner family squabbles about their mixed relationship to God.  When I say “8ight After” is invasive, I mean the film is a truism of invasiveness that not only is a near tell all of Vincent’s life as a videophile and Deanna’s vocation as a zoo vet but also fractures into the story their recorded travel escapades from their VinceRocca Youtube channel show, “Life Doesn’t Suck,” that discusses and logs their destination highlights of various locations from around the world.  The energy from their Youtube channel transcends over into the scenes committed to the necklace narrative with a bout between comedy and horror that peers Vince and Deanna’s religious fervors.  Deanna shoulders more of the in character plights with the subtle, but effective, person plagued by a unremitting presence and has to become possessed, sleepwalk, and look menacing toward her husband when the time is right for the all-seeing camera.  

Compiled like a documentary (or mockumentary?) and presented in a meta format by spinning and weaving the Rocca’s exuberant régime of life and love into an undercurrent of hidden terror, “8ight After” has unique cinematic properties, utilizing his reality television fluff techniques and editing, and tackle themes of family upheaval contentious topics like religion and gun control, to wrap “8ight After” complete on a zilch budget that rides the seams of fact and fiction.  For the most part, “8ight After” tenderly progresses organically with little staged affect as the high school sweethearts play to their most innate strength – 20 years of marital bliss – and chips in sparsely the sarcastic wit of Vince Rocca (did I mention he sounds exactly like Bill Paxton?) through a tech-recorded compiled story that’s well built up initially with convincing acting and strange and spooky incidents that, like most found footage films, point to specifics pieces important to the narrative. There are even a couple of homages to great horror classics like “Jaws” and “Exorcist III.” But then in a turn of sudden events, the revealing climax fizzles like the air wheezing quickly out of an inflated balloon.  The finagled ending stinted completing something uniquely branchlet from the found footage genre and something that had solid momentum and steam of an escalating snowball toward the essence of a presence, but became grounded by the acute conclusion to the matter in such a matter-of-fact fashion that it completely killed the mood, tone, and disposition “8ight After” carried in preponderance.

Become wrapped up in the lives of a pair of vloggers and see them suffer the wrath of a stubborn spirit in “8ight After” that was released October 15th on various digital retailers, including Amazon’s Prime Video. The film is unrated and has a runtime of 97 minutes and has an accompanying English language 5.1 surround sound audio mix with optional English subtitles. There were no bonus material included, but you can live vicariously through Vincent and Deanna’s touristy adventures of swimming with manatees, paddle boarding, and visiting breathtaking waterfalls. Also, you can purchase Vincent Rocca’s journal notes put into paperback, of the same title as the movie and also on Amazon, that goes hand-and-hand with the film; it’s also available as an audiobook. “8ight After” tempers with a well braided blend of found footage comedy and horror from a pair of seasoned Youtubers that then suddenly trails off, leaving us holding the baby in trying to make sense of an nonsensical ending.

Watch “8ight After” on Prime Video!

 

Read or listen to the book on Prime Video!


The Apocalypse is Four EVIL Active Shooters and the Hell They Create in “The Dead Ones” reveiwed! (Artsploitation Films / Blu-ray)

Four errant students are ordered to do a summer cleaning of their high school after a terrible tragedy that has left the hallways and classrooms in shambles.  As they meander around the closed school doing more chatting than they are cleaning, a masked and armed group calling themselves The Four Horsemen chain the doors and windows, barring every means of escape, and snake through the school’s layout setting a plan in motion to deliver a macabre message to the campus grounds.  Something just doesn’t feel right when the students try to track down the masqueraders who move around more like specters with an eerie clamor of theatrics that’s becoming more and more eternally harmful the longer they remain inside the school. 

“The Attic Expeditions” and “All Souls Day:  Dia de la Muertos” director, Jeremy Kasten, has a new ghoulish, outcast teen horror on the verge of release with the American made, calamity surrounding “The Dead Ones,” entailing a theme of choice on the wrong side of deviancy when influentially steered by the negative forces of the besieging cruel society.  The script is penned by Zach Chassler on his fourth collaboration with director Kasten, following their efforts on the vampiric allegory for drug use “The Thirst,” “The Wizard of Gore” remake, and “The Theater Bizarre,” a horror anthology, in over a span of a decade’s time.  “The Dead Ones” presents a two-timeline parable with an inciting, yet disturbing, core involving every parents’ worst nightmare and America’s most disgraceful statistic, a high school shooting.  Sick-O-Scope Motion Pictures serves as the listed production company behind the film.

Detention attendees is comprised of four teenage outcasts who are also quasi-friends that seem to know each other well, but are personally rough around the edge, denoting more distinct tensions amongst their insoluble secrets.  In an introduction with the teens, we’re glimpsed into flashes of a nightmare images inside one of the teens’ head as their driven together to the school by their principal, Ms. Persephone, played by “The Thirst’s” Clare Kramer who is just as stunning as her in-story goddess inspired moniker.  Ms. Persephone’s passengers include the “The Dead One’s” core characters with a victim of relative abuse in Alice “Mouse” Morley (Sarah Rose Harper), a bullied nonconformist in Scottie French (Brandon Thane Wilson), an unhinged self-cutter in Emily Davis (Katie Foster), and an aggressive sociopath in Louis Friend (Torey Garza).  Performances are heavily relied upon as the cast of four are called forth by the story’s dual timeline where various plot points from two individual paths are needed to be crucially achieved for the unfolding to be organically ambiguous for it to converge in a blend of reality and, possible, damnation.  “The Dead Ones” round out the cast with Amelia Talbot, Michael James Levy, Shane Tunny, and “Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money’s” Muse Watson whose always a nice addition to any horror character set in an eviscerated and sleazy father figure role.

“The Dead Ones” is a film that’s always in a temporal flux, weaving back and forth between utter chaos of an active shooter situation in the normal light and the near totalitarian order saturated with an infernal hue inside a dislodged environment.  As the band of misfits reflect on their battered existence, one mentions, multiple times, his stint in Juvey while another can envisage the patterns to cut into her flesh, a bread crumb trail of hints and past misgivings lead them down a path of self-awareness, of remembering exactly how they landed into the ruined capillaries of the school in the first place.  Yet, “the Dead Ones” isn’t solely about paying for one’s sins, honing in toward more of a cause and effect choice for redemption, which begs an essential question, that goes slightly under the radar of Kasten’s direction, on whether the two timelines are rather parallel to each other instead of rendering past and present events?  It’s certainly one of those open ending conversations about what perils our souls could be fatefully curtailed under the corporeal spectrum by the choices we make while still living and breathing.  For myself, connecting with Kasten’s carnivalesque and ultra-sleek horror panache has been difficult to digest and become accustom to, especially with my own personal dissatisfaction with the remake of “Wizard the Gore” that starred one of my favorite eccentric actors, Chrispin Glover, but Kasten relishes an unorthodox methodology that goes against the traditional grain of filmmaking and while that usually isn’t the problem for him, or any director, to be discouraged from,  “The Dead Ones” ultimately tips over into the same disheartened gray area for one main reason – the editing.  “The Dead Ones” is edited by Maxx Gillman whose chief credits are on short films and documentaries, marking Kasten’s film Gillman’s debut into feature film market, but as like a good documentary editor, “The Dead Ones” is overtly choppy that cuts up the scenes in an egregious way, thwarting any sense of conveying emotions and shortening them to near nauseating back-and-forth cuts.  With a 73 minute runtime, the potential for lingering on the morose rhetoric or teetering compassion of the teens is lost and could have been stirred into their affixed affliction for a more targeted approach to their limbo circumstances. While timing might be less than desirable, Jeremy Kasten summons judgement for “The Dead Ones” to be convicted of unnerving decorum and executes psychological absolution with the tenderness of a Satan himself.

Surreal with a hard, open-hand slap of realism, the metaphysics of “The Dead Ones” shoots for an otherworldly life sentence as the September 29th release day for the Blu-ray and DVD is on the horizon courtesy of Artsploitation Films in association with Raven Banner. The Blu-ray was reviewed and is presented in high-def, 1080p with a 2.39:1, anamorphic widescreen, aspect ratio. The digitally recorded image is packed with visually popping nightmares under a slightly greenish warm tint while still propelling range into heavy fog, a seamless composite of scene transitions and matted visual effects, and copious amounts of rich shadows and shadowy characters. The overall tone of the “The Dead Ones” has a strong 90’s grunge manifestation with some CCTV black and white moments that would fit rightfully in before the turn of the century teen horror collective. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD master audio maintains clear dialogue pathways and a resounding, almost mechanical, score resembling that of an infernal machine at work. The ambient range and even a good chunk of the dialogue has a softer demeanor that sidesteps to the incessant score that would have rung about in Virgil’s Dante Inferno, as the school auditorium playbill show that’s transparent through the film. There is also optional Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The bonus features include a special effects featurette of the special effects work by the late Elvis Jones, on one of his works with “The Dead Ones,” and his intern Jax Smith, a set tour with production designer Jeffrey Pratt Gordon to showoff his vision of hell, and two commentary tracks alongside the film with commentaries by the director, producer, and crew. Saving a soul damned to hell sounds like an enormous feat of only divinity interaction can accomplish, but Jeremy Kasten finds virtue in sinful acts, imbedding a safety net in the guise of a forked path, and opens an ingress to a putrid perdition for those under more severe scrutiny than just “The Dead Ones.”

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Let’s Ride the Ol’EVIL Succubus to Chastity High School in “Sadistic Eroticism” reviewed! “Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


At California’s Chastity High School, a strict and sadistic far-right facility body abuse and favor a select assembly of pupils, isolating the semi resembling studious teenagers, who wear black trench coats, innocently worship indie horror flicks, and the idea of women, to the whims to not only a rapist principal and a Nazi fascist assistant principal, but also suffer prolonged torment from the school’s popular kids. When one of the regular teachers slips, falls, and dies on a pool of ejaculate, a voluptuous and alluring substitute teacher, Ms. Lizz, fills in, hoping to become a permeant teacher at Chastity High, but Ms. Lizz has a three hundred year old secret being a vampiric succubus who lures in and possesses the popular, sex-crazed, hormone driven high school jocks who will do her bidding in abducting the beautiful high school sluts and for Ms. Lizz to drink their blood to retain immaculate beauty. Its up to three Troma loving and heroine doping geeks and an odd janitor to stop Ms. Lizz before she laps up slut blood and moves on to the next school.

Like a barrel full of doured high school rape jokes bubbling in a stasis of formaldehyde, the farcical cringe-worthy comedy-horror, “Sadistic Eroticism,” is the brain damaged brainchild from writer-director, Alex Powers, as his debut feature film shot entirely on VHS cassette that pays homage to the SOV horror of the early 1980’s, such as “Boarding House” or “Sledgehammer.” Powers, who went on to helm “GrossHouse” and its sequel, congeals on a slapstick of analogue digressions to introduce himself as an auteur filmmaker who, unrestrained, can exceed beyond the distinct hardline of political suitably that’s not only a testament toward the very title of the film, but also, perhaps, securing Powers on a number of studio blacklists unwilling to touch him with a single junk-destined email originating from the other ends of the Earth. Starchild Video serves as production company, which if entering “Starchild” and “Sadistic Eroticism” in the same search engine field, you’ll get a nice little stern warning about your search results involving child sex abuse and any images depicting such should be notified. Yikes.

More promising than the infamous history of the Hungarian noble woman, Elizbeth Bathory, to which “Sadistic Eroticism” properly appropriates it’s title and abstract character from, is the colorful, if not disdainfully charged, personalities teeming with a variety of depraved intentions and the entire cast embraces the full blown degenerate toxicity. More than likely, most of the cast list is made up of not household names like JD Fairman, James Coker, Nicholas Adam Clark and T.J. Akins as a black Nazi fascist hard up on Christian values and stern punishment. On the flipside of that coin, genre fans can root through the blurry, sometimes overexposed, tape recordings and find familiar faces of the then scruffy looking filmmaker James Cullen Bressack, writer-director of the popular indie found footage thriller “To Jennifer” and producer to the subsequent franchise films, “2 Jennifer,” “From Jennifer,” and “For Jennifer,” suited up in a shirt-sized Confederate flag as one of four high school bullies to fall under Ms. Lizz’s spell. The prolifically half-naked all the time indie actor, Michael Q. Schmidt (“The Pricks from Pluto Vs. The Vaginas from Venus”), straps on BDSM gear for a little sodomy counseling as Principal Buggary, “2001 Maniacs” Field of Screams” Miles Dougal slaps on a wife beater for some sleazy slumber party slime ball in a high school girl’s father role, and, of course, the lovely pornographic actress who branch out and take a break from oral sex, group sex, three-way kissing, and – oh wait – they do and simulate that in this Powers’ as well. Tori Avano, Imani Rose, and Jayden Starr are the three high school sluts who shameless flaunt their assets for Sophie Dee to snatch up and soul suck her way for anomalous aesthetics as a satanic form of cosmetic surgery. The latter actress, Sophie Dee, is endowed, more ways than one, with the role of the vampire-succubus Bathory, keeping well….well abreast her monotonic acting talents with her adult industry persona. All four ladies show an abundance of above waist skin and engage in some solo girl, boy-girl, boy-boy-girl, girl-girl-girl, boy-boy-boy-girl… and now I must sit down a rest my brain. Dou Waugh, Sto Strouss, Paymon Seyedi, Candis Higgins, Mel Martinez, Aaron Granillo, Matt Johnson, Ian Fisher, Jody Barton, and Yajaira Bardales round out the cast.

Jokes and slapstick humor disassociated, “Sadistic Eroticism” still relates to the Elizabeth Bathory backstory told on VHS through a tube television presentation of Ms. Lizz’s abnormal history subjects. The succubus creature is nothing less than a buxom beaut that undresses with her feminine wiles zombifying men to do her bidding without her lifting a finger to break a nail against the hypersexualized school girls; yet, to show this century’s old cacodemon as provocatively dressed and to skim around bellying up the tension isn’t quite enough to sell the dominance an ancient evil should be wielding like she owns the whole damn school. There’s more of visceral presence of evil between Principal Buggary and Assistant Principal Defur and though they’re also vaguely under the influence of the succubus, their combined power is the epitome of “Sadistic Eroticism.” The script, characters, and subject material are indicative of Alex Powers attempting to reel in Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma slum-empire to purchase and distribute the filmmaker’s squawking lechery of a film and yet, perhaps, the Troma acquisition team also saw too much of a yawn-fest to bare the Troma brand as the nearly two hour runtime sluggishly relies too hard on being incoherently schlocky to be coalescing competent to make sense. “Sadistic Eroticism” is more masochistic in it’s ostentatiousness to desensitize power and rape and call it comedy, but rocks a mean cast of players from all walks of life to be a mean-spirited take of The Blood Countess.

Open your lesson books and get ready to be schooled by the twisted and obscene in Wild Eye Releasing’s re-release of “Sadistic Eroticism” on the label’s Raw and Extreme banner, distributed by MVDVisual. The region free, unrated release is presented in a SOV full frame of 4:3 aspect ratio. Tracking is the least of the problems with this uncouth image presentation rendered from pillar to post quality of warm tinges, severe color corrections required, and gauche details emblematic of cassettes, but all that was Alex Powers intended design to relive in the era of SOV. However, there are some less than stellar, even for SOV, that negate the effort, such as high contrast and poor lighting nearly blanking out darker scenes and the entire climatic end has a neon purple border and the scenes are also recorded in an awful tint of purple, making the entire finale be seen through Grimace vision. To top it off, the jagged opening titles, credits, and crooked visual composites are nearly discernible. The English language mono track is touch and go, mostly go as dialogue wanders into a deaden muffle and is also drowned out by a stock score tracks. There’s not much range or depth as much of the audio is picked up by the poor quality of the VHS handheld mics as exhibited on the special features, which include a director’s commentary and a behind the scenes hosted by that James Coker, who does a pretty good engaging the actors for the in-the-face interviews to explain their characters, scenes, and just overall thoughts with porn starlets and actors milling about or in takes. Sophie Dee’s bosomy eye-catchers, Tori Avano’s star-shaped nipples, Imani Rose’s vivacious sexual appetite and a stockpile of lewd, crude, and nude wets the very foundational whistle of “Sadistic Eroticism” bungled in a sloppy heap of first time filmmaking.

Order “Sadistic Eroticism” on DVD at Amazon!

EVIL Uses EVIL as a Conduit in “Amulet” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Magnet Releasing)


Tomaz, former Eastern European soldier of war is now living homeless in London, squatting overnight in rundown buildings with other displaced individuals and families. When the building he’s sleeping in goes up in fire, he’s injured upon escape and wakes in a hospital to learn that a nun found him and his belongings, leaving him a note to visit her upon his release. The nun, Sister Claire, offers him food and a bed in exchange for dire house maintenance for a sickly mother, Miriam, and her caretaker daughter, Magda. As time passes, Tomaz begins to fall for Magda, but her odd behavior and the dying Miriam’s severe skeleton living accommodations in the attic as well as her frail, pail body nag at Tomaz’s conscious that something is awfully amiss. However, his present enigma isn’t the only thing tugging at his tormented conscious when faced with the shocking truth of his residence.

Actress turned filmmaker, Romola Garai, makes her full-length feature debut with a fissionable creepy, punish-thy-sinners, slow burn horror film entitled, “Amulet.” The UK production is written and directed by Garai, who previous work includes main cast acting roles in Joe Wright’s World War II dramatic thriller, “Atonement,” the sci-fi horror “The Last Days on Mars” along with costar Liev Schreiber, and filling in some tremendous shoes in the prequel to the 1987 rom-edy, “Dirty Dancing,” “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” Now, Garai peers through camera lens, orchestrating from the director’s chair, an eerie body horror tale that involves demons, past regrets, and a diabolical, antiheroic nun conniving for the sake of humanity. Speaking of which, humanity is one of the central themes that “Amulet” explores in hellish fashion as our actions determine the outcome of our various shade of humanity forged ourselves and how we will be judged accordingly. “Amulet” is a production of Head Gear Films and Kreo Films FZ, and Metrol Technology, who have all collaborated on “Cargo, as well as in association with “Shed of the Dead’s” Trigger Films.

Cast in “Amulet’s” only male role is the Romanian born Alec Secareanu as Tomaz. The graduate of Caragiale Academy of Theatrical Arts and Cinematography actor envelops himself into a trouble ex-soldier without a country, unwilling to return to a worn-torn land in hopes to relieve himself from reliving the past. Secareanu exudes tenderness for Tomaz in order for audiences to empathize for a homeless man who has agreed to assist Magda and her ill mother. Garai engrains Tomaz with such sentimentality, it’s proves difficult to see the man any other way until the filmmaker incorporates Magda into the mix, a capricious role imparted upon to “Blade Runner 2049’s” Carla Juri. Juri moderately reprises her eccentrically free performance from the 2013 comedy-drama, “Wetlands,” as a seething promiscuous and alluring woman but, in the darker vision of “Amulet,” Magda is a servant of her dying mother who has a lying in wait, sheathed vocation yet to be revealed until Tomaz’s curiosity becomes too much. Secareanu’s and Juri’s performances define the characters with no details left out, but the overall best performance goes to Imelda Staunton as Sister Claire. As professor Dolores Umbridge from “Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix,” Staunton was maniacal as she was sophisticated, channeling that same energy into Sister Claire as a double-dealing nun with a fraudulent ebullient attitude. Sister Claire was molded surely for the English actress whose high cheekbones, tight mouth, and round eyes give her a perfect blend of meek malice. “Amulet” rounds out the cat with Angeliki Papoulia and Jacqueline Roberts.

“Amulet” scores well as a feminist’s film, more so as the debut film from a woman filmmaker, that takes the horrifying actions of men and, literally, demonizes their red herring benevolence, but, in Garai’s style, that isn’t overly provocative and megaphoned from a soapbox. The doleful, sometimes frivolous, tone regales in a bleaker light of conniving and withholding intentions. While “Amulet” relishes inside an original thought, the story ebbs with disjointed connective dots. The story itself isn’t linear as we’re moved back and forth between Tomaz’s tenure at Madga’s residence and his wartime past being posted up far from the frontlines in isolation, a moment Tomaz continues to relive while dreaming during his time his hands are self-bound with tape, a curious event that becomes important to note as the story unfolds. While the story isn’t linear, that is not why the audiences’ problematic pursuit will be challenging, but more so with the discerning of the amulets role amongst the trifecta of outcomes for Tomaz, Magda, and Sister Claire. The amulet, which is unearthed by Tomaz in the middle of the woods during his draft, is a woman with a shell headdress. Shells are a common motif throughout, serving as a warning of what to come. In some Christianity folklore, shells are a sign of light and salvation and, in a way, serve as Tomaz’s path toward salvation from a lost soul to provided a purpose with unholy consequences. It’s all interpretation, but “Amulet” is a novel look at blending religious predestination with a grim mythological tenor as an excellent melting pot source of ghastly affliction.

From Magnet Releasing comes the twisted tale of transgressional talisman, “Amulet,” from first time filmmaker Romola Garai. Since this film will release potentially in theaters and definitely on demand on July 24th, the digital screener will not be reviewed on it’s audio and video technical aspects, but Laura Bellingham, the direct of photography working on her debut full-length feature as well, introduces an uncomfortable warmth that engulfs the characters. It’s a reoccurring fire like theme, from Tomaz’s hotel inferno to Madga and Miriam’s home, that could be synonymous to the accommodations of fire and brimstone. Dialogue clarity is good and the ambience is equally fine. The soundtrack by Sarah Angliss didn’t do much for story, striking a pretermit chord in order to focus more on the story. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Amulet” is the very definition of feminist horror that bludgeons the stereotype and is well executed to deliver not just a subvert message of importance, but a damn fine film of dreadful body horror and artful mythos.

A Crush Can Be EVIL’s Best Instrument of Earth Devouring Destruction! “Day 13” reviewed! (Digital Screener / Breaking Glass Pictures)


Colton has grown up more quickly than he expected. His father has abandoned him, his younger sister, Rachel, and mother, he’s become responsible for the daily chores, and has taken over partial parental duties when comes to Rachel, especially when their mother escapes to a 16-day getaway to decompress. While overseeing his daily errands and sister-sitting duties, the old, vacant house across the street shows signs of life when a father and daughter move in. Curiosity gets the better of Colton as he snoops around the house and bumps into Heather, the reclusive daughter who he immediately takes a shine to, but when he witnesses peculiar activity from the father, Colton is convinced of ill-intentions toward his daughter. Colton and Heather scheme ways to prove his wickedness and the mysteries behind the old house and previous family disappearances, but when her father’s grasp grips tighter, Colton’s decides to take Heather’s safety to the next level even if he doesn’t know or understand exactly the occult dealings he’s charging himself into.

Debuting her first full-length feature film, “Day 13” is the upcoming occult horror film that has reckless teenager whims, satanic sacrificial rituals, cat delicacies, and an Earth conquering demon from director Jax Medel from a script penned by Dan Gannon and Walter Goldwalter. Distributed by the genre bending Breaking Glass Pictures, which will be released August 8, 2020 on Video on Demand, “Day 13” simmers vehemently with teenage romance coursing through ominous waters that exploded violently with an archaic doomsday-apocalypse of brimstone and hellfire. Shot in and around Beverly Hills, Burbank and other suburbanite locations of the greater Los Angeles area of California, “Day 13” gleams with a West Coast vibe that quickly clouds over darkly, casting an ominous sensation like a lurking, shark shape shadow gliding through surfer saturated beach waters throughout. “Day 13” is a production on KAPOW Entertainment, which is founded by Jax Medel along with Richard C. Brooks, giving the filmmaker complete omnipotent over her project.

Hot off the coattails of hit Amazon Prime (“Transparent”) and Netflix (“13 Reasons Why”) series, Alex MacNicoll expands his portfolio further in the feature film market beyond his roles in “The 5th Wave” and “The Last Rampage,” tackling the occult playing a high schooler. The then 18-year-old during production, MacNicoll just left the grades of 9 through 12, but has been an actor since the age of 14. “Day 13” marks his second time playing a character named Colton who has eerily the same personality traits as his “Transparent” Colton that exudes the nice kid persona. As Colton Fremont, MacNicoll has to grow up sooner than he should when his father skips out on the family, a fact that’s barely divulged of any detail. MacNicoll is sure footed in his portrayal of a young, dumb, but great kid, bored out of his mind with the best intentions at heart. When a father and daughter move into the neighborhood’s spook house next door under surreptitious conditions, Colton becomes that old idiom, the mice will play while the cat is away, as he begins to spy on his neighbors, become enthralled by the recluse daughter, Heather (Genevieve Hannelius), and begins to routinely break into her house to see if she is okay from her strange and strict father. The father, who all we know is her adoptive father and has those strict rules we mentioned, is played by “Karate Kid’s” very own Cobra Kai master, Michael Kove. Kove’s relatively hidden away from the camera, given the perception his character, Magnus Travold, is up to no good behind the drapes until he’s hunting for intruders with an axe through the creaky halls and staircases of his new home. The dynamic between Travold and Colton is non-existent and the dynamic between Travold and Heather also sparks little hesitation about the old man’s intentions, but we’re privy to his cloaked dealings of rite and Heather’s unexplained abdominal pangs and it’s as if Jax Medel is literally drawing a picture of a visual 2+2 for audiences who may not connect the dots, fabricating devil perversity for the sake of story structure. “Day 13” rounds out with a supporting cast that includes “Angel 4: Undercover’s” Darlene Vogel, Meyrick Murphy (“The Walking Dead”), and JT Palmer.

While Medel’s experience hovers around the realm of the short film, there’s immense growing pains in her transition into feature film for the young filmmaker. Style, story structure, perception of time, and character development bare the brunt of Medel’s inexperience. The style is ultimately the best out of the four talking points as it’s just a personal opinion and observation that points out the plain rudimentary look of the picture that isn’t establishing a personal touch or a voice of her own talents. Medel can piecemeal a film together, but without any substance to stand out amongst the fray. As for the story structure, it collapses on itself nearing the end of act 2. Colton is now seemingly obsessed rather than concerned with Heather, purchasing nearly $1000 (on who’s credit card and not have the bank ping it?) worth of video equipment to spy on her and her father. Heather, even though she’s aware of Colton’s spying, only embraces on baseless accusations toward her father which blurs the line on Colton and Heather’s bond. At this point is where the perception of time goes into hyperdrive that accelerates their young teenage coupling into a quizzical love for each other without so much of a courtship of any sort, Colton’s deranged obsession with the house and residents that structures more curious enigma barriers over the house itself rather than Heather, and the nights leading up to the twisted climatic finale that skips stirring up suspense with frantic bewilderment of the players wondering the house looking for one another. When Colton’s best friend, Michael, decides to help him spy on and infiltrate into the neighbors house without so much batting an eye, I think he was also caught up in Colton’s infectious mania because all Michael wants to do is go out on his boat and be with his girl.

Countdown the days until “Day 13” hits online video on demand retail shelves, such as Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, Playstation, Vudu, Fandango & Vimeo, courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures. Since the screener was digital, video and audio technical specs will not be critiqued. A couple of things to point out about the inherent A/V aspects are important to note if deciding to stay in one Friday night to watch a scary movie. Though much of the film bares little effect of any kind and relies more on practical realism for the majority, when the visual effects by Mat Fuller (“ABCs of Death 2”) do come into the fold, they are slightly clunky, but by and large, not bad considering “Day 13’s” indie budget and are sorely underused when the full of demon apocalypse takes shape. The other takeaway from this review is about the odd ambient soundtrack as I wasn’t sure if I was watching Colton, Heather, and Travold in a house or on an 18th century mast ship. The house’s creaky hardwood floors sounded more like the swaying of a the Santa Maria pulling up into Plymouth Rock. There were no bonus material included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Day 13” has an intriguing premise of fraught young love topped with black magic, but, like the old superstitions of the number 13, Jax Medel’s debut fell upon bad luck, bad timing, and bad basics.