Frontman Bobby Gray and his Southern rock band, Dark Roads, were supposed to be next big hit next to The Rolling Stones, but there fame and fortune started dwindling after some short-lived success. Barely surviving on a here-and-there gig in 1979, Dark Roads manager, Grace King, secures a secluded cabin in the woods for them to find their new sound before being dropped by their record label. Along with their female companions, chatty coach driver, their sensible roadie named Cash, and a handful of some hallucinogenic drugs, the trouble band members continue to squabble amongst themselves, especially more so against the vain and alcoholic Bobby Gray. Gray holds a terrible secret from his bandmates, a secret involving a pact he made with the Devil ten years ago and, now, the debt is due, placing the entire group in mortal danger…the price for fame and fortune.
Based loosely surrounding the tragic circumstances of the infamous 27 Club mythos, a moniker given for a collection of up and coming talented musicians who die unexpectedly and prematurely at the ripe young age of 27, “Dark Roads 79” incorporates into the fold the legendary tale of Blues musician, a 27 club victim named Robert (Bobby) Leroy Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil at a Georgia crossroads during midnight for to be the greatest blues musician, or so the story is told. The 2017 film is the fifth macabre picture from writer-director Chase Smith who co-wrote the film with documentarian filmmaker, Richard Krevolin, who no doubt kept the script on a historical accuracy path, as much as one supernatural storyline can stay on. “Dark Roads 79” is a production from Smith’s Georgia based independent filmmaking company, Spirit World Productions, and brought to viewers by “Old 37” executive producer “Jason Anderson” and co-executive producer Nicholas Frank Auger.
Already donning many hats, Chase Smith slips on one more broad brim and trashy cowboy mesh hat with Ian Cash, the level-headed, good natured roadie with a voice like an angel, but built like a Mack truck. Cash serves as narrator who sets up the story that swerves across the dotted line into spoiler territory just a tad, but Cash becomes the vehicle that brings the viewers up to speed on the legend of Bobby Johnson and the rise and fall of the Dark Roads, like a cowboy quick connect in case you needed help in establishing that Dark Roads’ success hinges on a fatal pact with the Devil himself. While Cash may seem like the focal point of the story, there’s a split with lead singer Bobby Gray (David A. Flannery, co-star from a few of the homoerotic thriller series “1313”) whose vanity flushes Dark Roads’s stardom down the toilet. Cash and Gray go toe-to-toe many times and Smith’s emits formidable tough guy appearance on screen while Flannery impresses with a complete loathsome veneer. Neither Smith or Flannery make top bill however as long as “Devil’s Rejects” Bill Moseley has a show stealing bit role as the wicked tongue Christian, Caretaker Williams. Moseley’s short, catchy tune of “Boys and Girls they’ll make some noise. They’ll all be burning in Hell” is a classic, archetypal Bill Moseley character idiosyncrasy. Though Moseley’s scenes are short, they’re definitely sweet and rememberable. “Dark Roads 79” rounds out with “Creature Feature’s” Austin Freeman, Lance Paul, Libby Blanton, and Chance Kelley alongside April Bogenshutz (“Attack of the Morningside Monster”), Jessica Sonneborn (“Never Open the Door”), Jennifer Masty (“Rabid”), Eddie George, Ramona Mallory (“Piranha Sharks”), and co-writer Richard Krevolin as the bands’ chatty driver, Thomas ‘Motormouth’ Jones.
“Dark Roads 79” is categorically a a mystery slasher with a supernatural edge that tinkers with blending lore and the theme of lost good times and friendships despite how unfriendly and uncouth they might be, but Smith and Krevolin purely tiptoe around the keynote of terrible, yet sense of family, camaraderie, failing to capture the coherency of the melancholic essence due to loss and despair built upon years of cathartic criticism, distrust, loathing, and continuous bickering between best buds. In fact, the band and it’s entourage displayed little love if it wasn’t under the influence of some drug, but we must remember that the narrative is told through the perspective of roadie Ian Cash who believed in the band, and, in so, believed in each band member albeit their merciless fair share of busting his balls. The editing, cuts, and transitions are, perhaps, some of the most interesting with “Star Wars”-like wipe transitions that effectively heightened as a hallmark of the swanky 1970s era and the emotion-extracting lingering shots, such as with the handheld super 8 cam that roams the room of an abiding jovial moment in time, capture more of the tender times between the group of bitter and weary druggies, alcoholics, and vain temperaments. Unfortunately, the positives do not outweigh the negatives with a scatterbrained and predictable story that comes off as another failed spawn of the 27 Club urban legend and shaves off the emotional baggage with cheap kills and too many unfulfilling characters.
Make a pact with the Devil himself by watching Chase Smith’s “Dark Roads 79” that’ll debut on stage with a wide digital release by the end of May from genre distributor, Terror Films. No set date has been announced. The film will be hosted on multiple digital platforms, such as TUBI TV, Google Play, Prime Video, ITunes, and various other streaming options. Since “Dark Roads 79” will be a digital release, the video and audio specifications will not be reviewed as it’ll be different for all personal devices, but I will note that some minor portions of the dialogue elements were echoey at times. The original soundtrack has strength behind it with Southern Rock tracks by Black Mountain Shine, Mark Cook, Benton Blount, and HK Jenkins, who composes the single “The Road You’re Going Down,” written by Chase Smith, for the film’s official music video. There were no bonus features with the digital screener. “Dark Roads 79” has the necessary ingredients of a backwoods-frat party gone awry slasher except with Southern Rock, but this Georgia based production is tuneless and tone deaf as it stutters through the Devil’s network of deadly deals.
When Camille’s parents awake to an unknown and encompassing rumbling and what sounds like agonized wailing, they decide to go investigate not too far from their camping tent where their daughter, Camille, still sleeps. When Camille awakes, the rumbling is now deafening and her parents have disappeared into the night, leaving the young child frightened beyond belief. 25 years later and still haunted by the phenomena, art post-graduate Camille conducts recorded interviews with witnesses of the event along with James, a film studies student working on a documentary project. When the rumbling returns in the Nevada desert, Camille and James take a train to record research just outside the affected area and not become too close to the dangers that’s traumatized Camille, but when the train stalls in a tunnel halfway to the destination, Camille and James awake alone with no passengers or conductors in sight and a rumbling noise that isn’t the train’s engine. Camille finds herself once again in the midst of wailing and now something outside the train is trying to get in.
Stick “Infernum” into the sub-horror category of the great and fear-inducing unknown perhaps based loosely off the unexplained low-frequency hums, such as a Taos hum, stretching from the U.S. to the U.K., writer-director Dutch Marich sensationalizes the phenomena by adding the trimmings of tortured souls howling in torment as a rift opens up between Camille’s world and, supposed, Hell. Filmed primarily inside an antique rail train from the Northern Nevada Railway Museum and inside the railway tunnel west of Ely, Nevada, the “Hunting” and “Miserable Sinners” filmmaker, Marich, slow churns a low-budget friendly and simple plot into a materializing worst case scenario with the anxiety-riddle markings of being trapped, surrounded, and alone inside a dark and confined space with a cacophony of screams, as if in a dark-padded psychiatric cell. Mariach’s Luminol Entertainment and Vekinis Studios, headed by former Luminol Entertainment employee, Peter Panagiotis Vekinis, collaborate on the project.
Playing the traumatized Camille is “American Mummy” and “Dude Bro Party Massacre III” b-movie actress, Suziey Block, who has to not only struggle with coping against the hauntingly strange event plaguing her past, but also deal with an overprotective, yet also apathetic boyfriend in a role filled by who could very well be a young Christopher Meloni lookalike, “Happy Camp’s” Michael Barbuto. Block’s become something of a scream queen over the last few years and “Infernum” continues to make the Michigan born actress keep screaming her lungs out; however, its Camille and Hunter’s hot-and-cold relationship that topples the main theme here as Camille, through Block’s insensate performance, feels disinterested in unearthing what happened to her parents while being too engaged in Hunter’s desensitize, if not rightly justified, position toward her glazed over stress, but Block is engrossed by the fear just enough to sell it. Rounding out Infernum’s cast is Clinton Roper Elledge, Sarah Schoofs (“The Theatre of Terror”), and Rita Habermann.
“Infernum” can feel like a simmering slow burn of paranormal byproduct and resonates closely with Milla Jovovich’s extraterrestrial faux found footage thriller, “The 4th Kind.” The lingering scenes with tedious exchanges render a remote sense of terror that’s teamed with more tension from Hunter and Camille’s argumentative discourse. Yet, when things seem to be dwindling as Camille and her filmography friend, James, board the vintage train to the ghost town of Kimberly (and when I say ghost town, I mean an abandoned mining area), that’s when things go from a steadfast numb to a terrifying turn of the inexplicable circumstance kind. Camille finds herself in a familiar situation like 25 years ago, but the environments different with desolate train, an ominous presence over the loudspeaker, and though most passengers have disappeared, there are some who are found, blue as ice in the face, and lifeless. The tension is thick with the engine rumbling of an infernal-sounding machine that reeks havoc with cries and screams to amplify night jitters. The open ending leaves room for a wide berth of possibilities and interpretation, making “Infernum” metaphysically loiter in between the rifts of our minds.
“Infernum” is a spooky train ride to hell and back, pulling into the DVD home video and digital platform station from the independent film distributors, Indican Pictures. Unfortunately, the video and audio quality will not be covered because of the DVD-R screener, but I can say that the LFE audiophiles are immensely characteristic and behooves viewers to play on a surround sound system or quality headphones will also do the trick. The film’s innate hues are on the bleaker, gloomier side, backdropped by the frigid air of a wintery Nevada dessert. Other than Indican Pictures’ trailers for other films, including “The Lurker” among other films, there were no other special features beyond a static menu. I highly recommend “Infernum’s” spooky vibe and unlimited possibilities all aboard it’s simple, yet effective paranormal premise.
A pair of struggling paranormal investigator groups have been reduced to the gimmicky capturing and recording pay schemes of alleged ghost and spirit interactions, but when a hack actor is hired to setup a meet and greet with an apparent demon possessed girl, their investigation leads Freaky Link’s Jacob and Shawn and Spooky Links’ Lace and Rob to an abandoned and dilapidated fairground as the source of the girl’s possession. Upon arrival, they’re immediately sucked into the epicenter of Hell to battle for their very souls.
Jacob and Shawn return to confront the ruthless terrors of supernatural forces once again in “Anna 2: Freaky Links,” aka, ITN distributed titled “The Devil’s Fairground,” and aka, better known as simply, “Anna 2,” in this low-key horror-comedy sequel from the Crum brothers, director Michael and screenwriter Gerald, delivering infernal Hell straight out of the Lonestar state of Texas. Honestly, I’ve never seen the prior film, “Anna,” and at first glance, “Anna” was seemingly a rip from the successful coattails of “The Conjuring’s” universe sub story, “Annabelle,” involving a doll embodying the forces of evil. However, despite the comparable titles and a shade of the narrative, “Anna” and “The Devil’s Fairground” veer into a novel realm of the deep and ultra-surreal that became the basic construction materials needed for lush nightmares. The Dallas-Fort Worth based production company, MGI Films, founded by Michael Crum, backed the film saw fit to update the title form “Anna 2: Freaky Links” to “The Devil’s Fairground,” a simple, yet improved title change that landed some viewing confusion when the original title graced the scree when the original title graced the screen, like for myself who enjoys going into a movie knowing nothing. MGI Films has also produced “Lake Fear” and “Blood Vow.”
Returning as paranormal private eyes, Jacob and Shawn, are Justin Duncan and Gerald Crum as the hapless duo who barely survived the first demonic doll encounter and team up with the Spooky Links investigators Lace (Mercedes Peterson) and Rob (John Charles Dickson, “Meathook Massacre 3: First Hunt”) to combine their joint efforts and their holy water filled water guns up against an unknown evil. Initially, Jacob and Shawn are written without much consideration of the first happenstance with only brief hints that mean little to the layman toward the Crum pagan pageantry. There’s obvious history between the two groups beyond being competitive supernatural sleuths that’s difficult to sift through to make a full, clearer picture on their quarrelsome nature, but one thing is certain, both Freaky Link and Spooky Links are desperate to be validated ghost hunters. Gerald Crum’s script might have dissected the thick tension between the characters, but the poor audio quality and the loose preface that dots the eyes between both predecessor and sequel is about as abstract as the Hell they find themselves swallowed in. Daniel Frank, Kenzie Pallone, Shannon Snedden, and Vandi Clark fill out the cast list.
“The Fair Ground” is a tricky trickster when judgement comes during the credit roll. With all the audio issues during the story setup, as aforementioned, connecting with the characters and the story proved dreadfully challenging conjoining against the fact that I have never seen the film’s antecedent, “Anna.” I was lost, confused, and struggling to keep up with the exposition that didn’t circulate visibly a perfect picture of “Anna” to bring the viewer up to speed. Also, the very fact “Anna 2: Freaky Links” title is displayed and not “The Devil’s Fairground” threw me for a loop; I had to pause and look back at the press release to see if I was watching the correct feature. However, in the end, “The Fair Ground” became an absolute diamond in the rough with a delectably profound scare factory of terror imagery, wallowing in the timely executions in Michael Crum’s editing and Gerald Crum’s imaginative visual and special effects. Though some will see the effects being rough around the edges, the shock-horror discordances work without question with a pack of ghoulish bug-eyed zombies, a carousal of shuttering specters, a foreboding carnival PA system, an aborted past lurking in dark waters, and an overgrown monster with the biggest butcher blade you’ve ever seen while peppering with scenes of powerful gore interjections. It’s something very reminiscent of the cinema adaptations of “Silent Hill.” A lot of the imagery doesn’t make sense, like the jarring slivers of a bad dream, but I wouldn’t expect Hell to be or need to be a place of complete rational and our minds are able to grasp the nuts and bolts of it. “The Devil’s Fairground’s” interpretation is just as real, as scary, and as aptly damning without the grounded laws of physics to ease the dispiriting attitude of multi-faceted and gratifying torture and soul swallowing the investigators are subjected to. Whatever was left of a meaningful plot is whittled down to a more basic posture, a group of people engulfed by the fiery Abyss, and the movie is all better for it.
Get sucked into the depths of the blazing inferno thrill ride with “The Devil’s Fairground” on DVD home video, announced by MGI Films and distributed by ITN Distribution. Unfortunately, the video and audio specs won’t be reviewed due to being an online screener, but I did mention the dialogue is limited, capturing very little of the softly laid discourse leading up to all hell breaking loose. There are no special features included with the screener or incorporated within the feature itself. There were times I knew the jump scare was coming and, still, I couldn’t contain the tension as a little part of me died from the inside. “The Devil’s Fairground” is an up and down roller coaster of feeble and fright with a weak story abutted against concentrated horror and gore in a must-see film.
Obsessed in locating a relic that has cursed his family for generations, archeologist John Brock desperately searches the cave his difficult father’s dispatches him to to locate and destroy the artifact that has plagued his lineage. His last expedition kills a man and John begins to question his father’s ranting and whether a curse actually exists, but when a mysterious accident sends him to the hospital, horrifyingly devilish visions nearly kills him in the unconscious state. As he snaps back to reality, John is hellbent on ridding the relic’s clinging evil and his family joins him for one last expedition to the cave that’s also a portal to hell and the Devil is waiting for him.
The above synopsis sounds terribly convoluted for such a rectilinear plot of the William Shatner story of demonic spelunking entitled, “Devil’s Revenge,” from 2019. The “Devil’s Domain” and “Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!” director, Jared Cohn, tackles the position’s obstacle of frustrations working with a rumored overly difficult Shatner as well as flushing out a cohesive story suited strappingly as can be on establishing a hell bound narrative with little backstory mythology from a script by Maurice Hurley, a writer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” What’s unusual is Hurley isn’t credited at the end or on the backcover of the Blu-ray and it’s a project he supposedly collaborated with Shatner up until his death in 2014 at the age of 75. Luckily, Cohn’s on the record saying Shatner was professional and precise, a true credit to his skill. “Star Trek” does become a constant motif not inside the frames, but more behind the camera with the cast, including Shatner, and Hurley who is the creative parent of one of outer space’s biggest nemesis, The Borg. “Devil’s Revenge” is a far cry from the final frontier, seizing on the border fringes of the underworld that seeps above ground.
Trekkie fans will appreciate the Captain Kirk star’s uncharacteristic doomsday pessimism and grand finale grenade launching that turns demons into canon fodder. Shatner is a savage as John’s fanatical father, bombarding his grown, near middle-aged, son with constant disappointment and disparagement that becomes one source of John’s (“Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey’s” Jason Brooks) dire motivations to risk his family inside the gaping mouth of the netherworld, a questionable and ill-advised move especially when death is evident. Brooks is a career television and TV movie actor who can settle right into a third rate production with ease without batting a condemnatory eye lash. While Shatner and Brooks’ one-sided family role quibbles over languishing curses and John’s inability to man-up for the situation goes into the hilariously bad category, the second “Star Trek” star, Jeri Ryan from the “Voyager” series, lands a subdued role as John’s foot mat wife who just goes with the punches without making too much of a wake serving as John’s better half and reasonable conscious. Ryan and Brooks’ on-screen relationship is a supposed marital one, but the chemistry just isn’t present and wanders into questionability with their relationship status. The script’s backstory on John and wife is obliquely exposed through exposition without any of the visual depth and discharge of fleshing out a better dynamic for Ryan and Brooks to work with in building their characters. The remainder of the cast list includes Ciara Hanna (also from “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey”) and Robert Scott Wilson (“American Fright Fest”) as John’s college(?) aged kids who add little substance to the narrative.
Without a better way of putting this, there’s much to demerit against “Devil’s Revenge.” The concept is sound: a disarrayed and browbeaten archeologist must locate an evil transmitting relic from destroying his family with a everlasting demonic curse. Sounds good, right? Combine that with Shatner blasting demons to smithereens with a multi-barrel grenade launcher, the potential for a solid and fun viewing experience would be a no-brainer. However, what’s sold is the made in China version of what’s being marketed. Hard to imagine Maurice Hurley’s, the man who helped re-pioneered space exploration and developed The Borg adversaries, script was so out of whack and had gone into various limp curvatures that I don’t expect all blame should point to him for the posthumous misstep as the direction is emphatically coarse and incoherent of too many ideas without any connective tissue much unlike boldly going where no man has gone before. In fact, many filmmakers have gone this route before by taking all sense of a rounded script and dissolving it the way Cohn does. The path Cohn ultimately takes is to splice loads of unnecessary and repetitive flash backs into the story to try and retain into viewers over and over again the events that conjured hell’s minions to surface. I’m sure we saw the same scenes at least five or six times from beginning to end, even during the opening credits. There’s also a looseness about how this curse attaches itself to John’s family from long ago that inexplicably goes without being conveyed and we find ourselves asking, why these people? What have they’ve been suffering through all these years? What makes them important? The curse seems rather recent rather than historic and for John’s family legacy to go uncharted just poses too many unanswered questions. What’s fundamentally right is Inan, the head demon, who represents the best parts of the “Devil’s Revenge’s” netherworld rock and roll presence with a large and ghastly humanoid with blank, fiery eyes and a protruding clasping mouth and the visual effects surrounding Inan are pretty good despite their some minuscule glossy bad aftertaste. An aftertastes that extends into Shatner using the grenade launcher with the goofiest of detonations in an unrealistic distance between him and his targets without so much of a single piece of shrapnel grazing his well postured gun-toting stance.
MVDVisual distributes “Devil’s Revenge,” a Cleopatra Entertainment production, onto a region free, special edition Blu-ray and soundtrack CD combo. The Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen, 2.78:1 aspect ratio, in a BD-25 with a 1080p transfer. “Devil’s Revenge” implores more than the natural lighting used through much of the 98 minute runtime and while natural lighting isn’t a flaw in any sense, Ryan Broomberg’s cinematography falls flat, uninspired that doesn’t represent well the presentiment eventualities past, present, or future. Technically, “Devil’s Revenge” isn’t soft around the details albeit minor banding in closer quarters of the cave. Practicality versus the computer imagery really do go head-to-head between Vincent Guastini’s (“Art of the Dead”) special effects and the visual effects team of Eric Chase (“The Black Room”) and Mike Rotella (“The Predator”). The detailed rubber body suits and the composited explosions akin to the military hellfire creatures were bombarded with in monsters movies from the 50’s are of the campy independent film culture and purgative of any expectations of the Devil actually making good on revenge. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio is not as lossy as the usual Cleopatra Entertainment Blu-ray releases and certainly regales with the theatrics of a William Shatner monologue (can’t you tell I love me some Shatner). Range and depth are concurrent appropriate with each other and dialogue is clean and clear. Surprisingly and rarely does a Cleopatra Entertainment releases goes without a soundtrack intertwined with the score that contracts their signed artists from parent company Cleopatra Records; instead, we receive a brooding industrial score composed by Jürgen Engler, co-founder of German punk band “Male” and “Die Krupps,” which can be gorged on as the film’s coveted silver-lining. Luckily and conventionally for a Cleopatra special edition release, an un-cursed 13-track CD of Jürgen Engler’s score accompanies the feature Blu-ray. That being the height of the special features, other bonus material includes a picture slideshow and theatrical trailer. “Devil’s Revenge” won’t shudder your bones to milky pigments of sawdusts and will likely strikeout with fans, as perhaps the Devil’s actual revenge for portraying him so ill-conceived. Still, I suggest checking out the Jürgen Engler’s gnawing and insidious industrial score, a gleaming highlight for sure.