The Devil Is Never Pretentious with His EVIL! “Satan’s Little Helper” reviewed! (Synapse Films / Blu-ray)

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Obsessed with his new video game Satan’s Little Helper, where a little boy helps the Satan dispense murderous bloody mayhem, naïve Dougie, sporting his own hot red Satan costume and mask, swears he’ll have a chance to meet Satan himself during Halloween.  Who Dougie believes he stumbles upon is the master of darkness but, in reality, the overactive and imaginative adolescent has discovered a deranged, untalkative serial killer in a Satan costume going house-to-house setting up realistic looking gruesome displays as Halloween lawn decorations.  Feeling slighted when his college-age sister comes home to Bell Island with a new boyfriend unexpectedly, an upset Dougie wants Satan to kill the boyfriend, but the killer insidiously uses the boy as a pawn and works his way into Dougie’s family home and everyone thinks it’s the new boyfriend masked as Satan to impress and please the difficult child.  Set in motion is a flight of wickedness throughout the night on the island town that’s unprepared for the chaos yet to come. 

Jeff Lieberman is already something of a cult horror director amongst fans. Having written-and-directed obscure classics “Just Before Dawn,” “Blue Sunshine,” and “Squirm” within 5 years between 1976 and 1981, Lieberman took horror by varietal storm by dipping his toes into different subgenres and doing moderately well at it., establishing a legacy with re-releases of his films into the new millennia. Though quiet for many years in the realm of horror, Lieberman makes a return with 2004’s “Satan Little Helper,” a killer horror-comedy filled with an innate fear of the unknown with what or who is truly behind that devilish mask. Lieberman wrote and directed the feature with a dark and morbid stamp perfect for the Halloween season. If you’re looking for a good Halloween movie, “Satan’s Little Helper” should be on your short list. Set on the fictional location of Bell Island, which is actually Long Island, New York, “Satan’s Little Helper” is a production of Intrinsic Value Films (“The Last Thing Mary Saw”) and the limited liability company under the alteration of the film’s title with Satan’s Little Company and is self-produced by Lieberman as well as Mickey McDonough, Isen Robbins, and Aimee Schoof with Carl Tostevin serving as executive producer. Screen Media Films waived the theatrical rights route by releasing the insta-cult film directly onto the video market.

Gracing prominently most physical releases with a sinister grin is a dialogue-less and faceless principal character, who with every centimeter of his latex teeth and showing a lackadaisical posture as he turns Bell Island upside down as his own massacring playground, is obviously the serial killer, played by Joshua Annex. Annex spin on Satan Man reaps the story’s benefits by creating a mischievous antagonist to the likes we’ve never seen on screen before despite being playing the murderer behind the mask trope. Annex might be playing Satan but the actor is not playing the titular character, or is her? The double entendre can be interpreted in two ways: the masked killer is actually Satan’s helper on Earth or Dougie, the annoyingly naive brat with an unhealthy infatuation with the Lord of Darkness. Played by a then adolescent Alexander Brickel in his debut performance, Dougie’s only kicks the hornet’s nest even more for not only the residents of Bell Island, but also for his family as the young loutish lad invites the killer his family abode under false pretenses and never revels the truth until it’s too late. Brickel is intense in an aggravating Dennis the Menace kind of way, but the act works all too well with the flanking character players who need to feed off of Dougie’s hellion deposition that all stems from wanting to marry his sister. Is there some kind of symbolism or metaphor there? Speaking of the sister, Katheryn Winnick (“Hellraiser: Hellworld,” “Polar”) levels the eccentricity with normal reactionaries as the sister Jenna. Counterbalancing to make sure her normalcies don’t overstay their welcome is the great Amanda Plummer (“Pulp Fiction,” “The Prophecy”) with sublimely odd mother that only Amanda Plummer could pull off and make it feel right. Stephen Gramham, Wass Stevens, Melisa McGregor, and Dan Ziskie round out the cast.

Perfect for the season, perfect as a cult film, perfect to just be for everyday viewing, “Satan’s Little Helper” has been kept in the shadows far too long and needs to be risen from the netherworld for all to bear witness the unsystematic carnage from someone who just wants to see the world burned. The Lieberman film intoxicates with spontaneity as you never know what to expect or happen next. The script is simple, yet smartly contrived to work as a haphazard horror with a foundation foe with no limits, no boundaries, and no motivation. There’s a relief that there’s no supernatural or actual Satanic force driving the plot and, instead, unravels in a prevailing fashion with an accepted and logical fear that the person behind the mask is not always the person you believe wearing it. While Lieberman’s script does a nice job fleshing out a feature length film where the doesn’t have one single word of dialogue, there are moments when suspicions amongst the family would have or should have come a lot sooner and that stretches the reality some, making act two gummy around the midsection when the serial killer is playing the part of Jenna’s boyfriend. Lieberman caveats Jenn and her boyfriend, Alex, as a pair of studious actors and Alex is just immersed in his role as Satan to please Dougie and while that seems very plausible, how long the act maintained its course did not. Eventually, Lieberman became wise to the Satan costume’s stagnancy and moved the character along into another facade of choice that then goes into a guess who game of deception. An aspect of the killer’s intelligence that makes the character uber-clever and that much more deadly.

“Satan’s Little Helper” is one of Synapse Film’s more contemporary releases that doesn’t require a hefty image upgrade but the new 1080p high-definition upgrade and a supplemental bonus features make this new Blu-ray release very attractive. Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the AVC encoded Blu-ray craves out a resolute image as expected since the modern film is digitally recorded and hasn’t been affected by the wear-and-tear of age and neglect. Perhaps not as glossy as an expensive Hollywood type production with a late 90’s-early 2000s glaze, gel, or filter, “Satan’s Little Helper” keeps a more than adequate showing of details and a medley of colors amongst is more natural cinematography with a handful of night scenes shot in a day under a dark filter. Only one scene of concern stands out on the ferry pier and in what’s supposed to be a close up of Dougie’s dumbfounded face when meeting Jenna’s boyfriend for the first time has somehow turned into a blown up shot that stretches the image fuzzy and masking the delineation. The English language DTS-HD master audio shows no signs of issues with a flawless and lossless sound design. The clean and clear dialogue raises the bar on Dougie’s testy tantrums and cleans out with the ambient effects toward the killer’s actions to compensate for his lack of chit-chat. Optional English subtitles are offered on this release. Bonus features include a commentary with director Jeff Lieberman, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette, The Devil in the Details making-of featurette that goes into cast and crew interviews with Lieberman, Alexander Brickel (now older and with longer hair), director of photography Dejan Georgevich, and special effects artist Anthony Pepe, a tour of the filming locations guided by Lieberman in Mister Satan’s Neighborhood, and the promotional trailer. The physical release comes in the nifty blackout Blu-ray case with a Synapse catalogue insert in case you want to buy their releases via mailed order form. Synapse Film’s “Satan’s Little Helper” new Blu-ray comes home at the most opportune time during this 2022 Halloween season and is sure to be viewed as a delightful deluge of dark comedy carnage and destruction, some of the best attributes of any good horror film.

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Fausto and His EVIL Queen Will Enslave You in the “Forbidden Zone” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

Intestine to the “Forbidden Zone” on Bluray!

The Hercules family recently purchases a house from a drug dealer who warns them to never open the basement door that leads into, what he calls, the Forbidden Zone.  Curious about the secrets the Forbidden Zone holds, the beautiful daughter, Frenchy, accidently finds herself in the Sixth Dimension, a subterranean word ruled by King Fausto and his sadistic Queen Doris who superintends the torturing of half-naked prisoners. Having laid his eyes upon for Frenchy for the first time, Fausto is instantly enamored with her beauty and the Queen, jealous beyond reason, along with her sadistic daughter, Princess, seek to destroy Fausto’s newest concubine. Frenchy’s brother, Flash, and their mentally invalid grandfather dive into the “Forbidden Zone’s” gonzo world to try and save Frenchy only to find themselves in a labyrinth of skimpy-cladded slaves and nonchalant sex. All hope seems lost for the Hercules family until a deal with Satan might become their only way to salvation.

Remember that opening blurb in my recent review of Richard Elfman’s “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” where I state my only regret in watching Elfman’s zany 2019 sci-fi comedy was that I didn’t priorly and properly experience his cult classic, the “Forbidden Zone,” first? Everything makes sense now in regard to Elfman’s fascination with the harlequin, his esoteric humor, and a knack for ridiculously unconventional in a direct pull of inspiration from his and his brother’s, Danny Elfman’s, time performing with the musical stage troupe, the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, which would later evolve, at the behest of Danny Elfman, into a popular 80’s ska-band with a reduced name simply known as Oingo Boingo. Richard Elfman wanted to take that stage presence of the Mystic Knights and transpose it to the silver screen, effectively doing by penning and helming a microbudget musical complete with series of extremely detailed and cockamamie cutout animation blended with morbid sideshow talent and performances tuned to the over-the-top theatrics of a well-oil, low-budget, far-out comedy. “Forbidden Zone” became the stepping-stone for script cowriters Matthew Bright (“Freeway”), Martin Nicholson (“House II: The Second Story”), and Nicholas James and was produced by Elfman and James along with executive product Gene Cunningham under the limited production of Hercules Films.

“Forbidden Zone” isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill musical feature as an assortment of styles coursing through what results as an eye-widening breach of political correctness. A smidgen of arthouse, a true to form vaudeville, and wall-to-wall crude comical carpeting would be a challenge to any actor set to play any role in this farcical natured fantasy, yet with the help of the Mystic Knights and Elfman’s madman charm, “Forbidden Zone” lands just the right cast to pull off a production this barking mad, beginning with the casting of Elfman’s then wife, Marie-Pascale Elfman, as the principal lead and anti-damsel in distress, Frenchy. Dredging for comprehension through Marie-Pascale’s thick French accent proved to frustratingly difficult to a linguistical layman’s ear, but her performance is light, fluffy, and defiant against the stark contrast of a brutish, no-nonsense Susan Tyrrell (“Butcher, Bake, Nightmare Maker”) as Queen Doris. Tyrrell is phenomenally “Rocky Horror” in prosaic seething and in dive-bar dress while having her Sixth Dimension King be played by her real-life lover off screen, “Fantasy Island’s” Hervé Villechaize. The chemistry between Tyrrell and Villechaize is more than natural even in Elfman’s pasquinade light. A few of my personally favorite performances are in the grandfather and grandson dynamic duo of Gramps and Flash. Phil Gordon wears a hilarious propeller hat and boy scout uniform overtop his older older-than-the-rest-of-the-cast body and though Hyman Diamond doesn’t say one single world in the entire film, as the former Jewish wrestler, Gramps, his antics are far funnier. Danny Elfman, undoubtedly, has a role in his brother’s debut feature, reprising himself in essentially a reoccurring role from his stage acts as Satan. His brief time on screen solidifies the presence of the Mystic Knights with the musicians taking bit parts playing instruments as Satan’s hooded minions. “Forbidden Zone” fills out the cast with executive producer Gene Cunningham as Pa Hercules, Jan Stuart Schwartz as the servant frog Bust Rod, writer-producer Matthew Bright playing twins Squeezeit, the chicken boy, and Rene, Squeezeit’s crossdressing brother, Gisele Lindley as the topless Princess, Kedric Wolfe as a crossdressing teacher and a chandelier (Yes, you heard right, he plays a chandelier), Virginia Rose as Ma Hercules, Viva as the former Sixth Dimension queen, Joe Spinell as a drunken sailor, and the performance artists Kipper Kids, who I remember seeing briefly from Weird Al Yankovic’s “UHF.”

Creative control is everything and with total control, total madness (or genius) can takeover to recreate a bastardized version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” that follows a young girl falling down into a curvy intestine chute and come face-to-face with anthropomorphic creatures, a dice-decorative land (parallel’s “Alice in Wonderland’s” playing card theme), and a Queen with a strict and haughty dominion over her terrified subjects.  I also wonder if the Mickey Mouse hats worn by many of the characters in the Sixth Dimension is also a direct connection or an Elfman homage to the Disney rendition of Carroll’s story.  The “Forbidden Zone” should be explored, should be experienced, and should be enamored as a cult favorite amongst fans of not only Through the Looking Glass but also of Terry Gilliam, “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and Pee-wee’s Playhouse.  With a barebones production value but with immensely vigorous performances that bring to life the extraordinary and flamboyant in all walks of life characters, Richard Elfman materializes a vision, his own vision, of transpiring a feature length film platform for his founded street theatre group, the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo.  At the time, did the film change the troupe’s musical journey for the better or skyrocket Danny Elfman’s evolutionary, new wave band?  That remains ambiguously unclear, but the project certainly places Oingo Boingo, in all its moniker and various bandmember forms, on a pop culture map and on everyone’s weird science fiction radar with an unforgettable, unimaginable chthonic comedy spurring laughs and gasps of content. 

After watching “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks,” we had an inkling that Richard Elfman was an ass man and looking back at “Forbidden Zone” only confirms our theory of a cutout animation poop-chute characters pass through entering the Sixth Dimension and the continuous Kipper Kids’ vocal raspberries and revealing jockstrap ass cheeks.  If you like big butts (and cannot lie), then you’ll like the weirdness of the “Forbidden Zone” on a new Blu-ray director’s cut from MVD Visual, presented in its more recently colorized version of its 35mm stock with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  Retouched with a few Richard Elfman enhancements to the video quality and special effects, the Blu-ray display a remarkable durability of film transfer that show no sign of deterioration or damage.  Natural grain goes unobtrusive and there are any detectable egregious enhancements to circumvent any flaws in the used film stock.  The audio is a slightly different story in the English language LPCM 2.0 stereo that often feels lossy, muted, and hissy at times.  The musical numbers are bore a static underlayer that’s faint but there.  This never inhibits the dialogue or other audio tracks in anyway but can be a nuisance.  English subtitles are an available option.  Special features include a new introduction from director Danny Elfman, a new music video of Richard Elfman beating a bongo drum to a tune to a Danny Elfman score with his wife, Anastasia, thrusting her daisy-duke clothed crotch, and a guised band playing behind them, the original audio commentary by Richard Elfman and writer-actor Matthew Bright, A Look into “Forbidden Zone” featurette from a few years back, prior to Susan Tyrrell’s death, that showcases interviews with the cast and crew looking back at the film, black and white outtakes and deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.  “Forbidden Zone” is an ostentatious ornament that’s larger than life in many regards and remains a cult classic to this day with a niche fanbase and tribute theatre productions still being done to this day.

Intestine to the “Forbidden Zone” on Bluray!

Nature is Healing. The EVILs of Industry are Destructive. “The Great Movement” reviewed! (Sovreign Films / Digital Screener)



A group of out of work Huanuni miners march into the capital of La Paz to protest forced labor shortages.  Young miners Gallo, Gato, and Elder roam around La Paz to rummage up piecemeal work to live.  When they find work as commodity runners at an outside market, the job is labor intensive, pays very little, and they must sleep outside with other runners and vendors with essentially everything they own on their back.  The job takes a toll on Elder who is suffering a strange illness that cases fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue that hurts his pockets when he can’t run product in a timely manner.  Elder comes under the wing of a mysterious earthy, old woman who thinks Elder is her godson and she enlists the holistic medicine of a clairvoyant herbalist, living off the mountainous land just outside the city, to extract the unnatural elements that plague him.

Every so often, diving into a dramatic piece of filmic art, with hints of nightmarish surrealism to satisfy the horror element (or, in this case, the EVIL), is worth cracking into and peering into dependent the writher’s personal taste and the influencing environment surrounding.  In this instance, Kiro Russo’s “The Great Movement” spoke to the interests of this reviewer for not only the urban growth is death, nature is life social commentary but also my intimate connection to Bolivia because of my second-generation wife whose mother was born and raised in the South American country before migrating to the U.S.  “The Great Movement,” aka “El Gran Movimiento,” is the first native Bolivian film I’ve ever seen and that, too, sparked a curiosity in the Bolivian film industry that was virtually thought of as nonexistent.  Russo writes-and-directs the film produced by an international conglomerate of production companies with Altamar Films (“Killing the Dead”), Bord Cadre Films (“The Untamed”) and the La Paz based Socavón Cine as well as Sovereign Films who also distributes the film.

“The Great Movement” is a continuation of Elder Mamani’s story in this follow-up film from Russo’s 2016 “Dark Skull” where Elder’s moves in with his grandmother after his father’s death.  Living in a mining town, Elder pickups a miner job which leads to unearthed secrets about his father.  Julio César Ticona reprises his role as Elder, marching from the mines to the capital in protest for work only to be stricken by an illness insinuated from his dirty work at the mines.  Only a little of the previous “Dark Skull” story works itself way into the next chapter revolving around Elder’s suffering from various forms of urban reaping toxicity and also a clairvoyant old man living off the adjacent wilderness.  Max Bautista Uchasara, in his performance debut or at least as stated on IMDB, plays…well…Max, the well-loved, if not hard-loved, and dirty-cladded mystic that sees visions of La Paz in ruins.  Elder and Max cross paths because of Elder’s unexplainable sickness, without hardly a word spoken between them, to eradicate his illness and heal the young man’s failing body.  The connection between them is an old urbanite woman Mama Pancha (Francisa Arce de Aro) who thinks Elder is her godson but Elder, taking advantage of her kindness and generosity, doesn’t know this random person and, in the grand scheme of mysticism, Mama Pancha, which translates loosely to Mother Earth, is a symbolic representation of a forgiving planet lending a hand to an ore reaping miner by introducing a natural healer.  “The Great Movement” rounds out with a cast in Gustavo Milán Ticona, Israel Hurtado, Armando Ochoa, and Richard Aguilera. 

Through Russo’s use of cityscape and natural soundscape compositions, the sound design injects a creeping presence, enveloping the characters either insidiously or soothingly in their respective surroundings. The overwhelming arsenal of concrete jungle noise pollution becomes the harsh soundtrack that contributes to Elder’s environmentally unfriendly downfall. Every car horn, every construction machinery, every hustle and bustle of foot traffic is a spike through the head as Russo wants to make sure you can feel the audible image. In contrast, Max experiences virtually little noise, aside from streams, wind, and the rustle of greenery, in his detachment from clustered society when roaming the mountainous wilderness. Max’s elder ways grant him inexplicable aptitude that allows him to essentially speak to nature, live amongst the trees, and use the land for beneficial properties without waste and destruction. This encourages Pancha Mama, aka Mother Earth impression, to ask Max to heal her godson, aka an Earth child. This is Kiro Russo’s linchpin theme for “The Great Movement” that showcases a distinct dissonance between urbanization and nature. Being a nationality outsider going into Bolivia, that distinction is immensely obvious seeing firsthand the lack of organization, resources, and care for the city I travelled to that has been turned into a comprehensively polluted, dry dust-riddled, population on top of a population where one has trouble simply inhaling a breath of fresh air and struggling with the annoyance of a bloody nose. Now, I’m not singling out or epitomizing this one area of Bolivia I journeyed to as the worst of the worst, much of the same can be said about New York City sans the dust, but once you escape the city limits and step into Bolivia’s lush jungle, the air is noticeably cleaner with an almost healing effect on the body – no more bloody nose! My experiences greatly make visible and nail in Russo’s message as we accompany Elder through his deterioration, hearing about inhaling dust as a miner, drinking nothing but strong alcohol, and being worked literally to death with backbreaking labor. Modern medicine can’t locate or explain his symptoms, diagnosing Elder with psychological manifestation of physical problems. Russo’s “The Great Movement” is powerful and invokes soul-searching about reconnecting and healing with Mother Nature.

An insomniac nightmare that’s haunting in Russo’s solemn vision and full of delirium, “The Great Movement” is an arduous detox from the overdevelopment’s intoxicating prospect. Sovreign Films will release Kiro Russo’s 85-minute disenchanting and revival tale in UK cinemas on April 15th, 2022. With the limitations of a digital screener, I am unable to entirely comment on the audio and video quality, but the film is shot in the faint speckle of super 16mm and is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio to get the full spectrum of the cinematographer Pablo Paniagua shot Bolivia from the market busy streets to the monolithic stone and mountain structures on delineated outskirts of the capital. Paniagua employs the vibrancy of daylight and the scarcity of night light for tenebrous effect already poorly rendered by the 16mm grain. Miguel Llanques’s score is often overshadowed by the conspicuous soundscape, but the impromptu synth-flash mob dream sequence broke up the feverish trajectory at midpoint with catchy beat and dance seemingly out of nowhere. There are no bonus scenes during or after the credits. “The Great Movement” is just as raw with the foreboding circumstances in the rest the world civilization as it is with Bolivia in Kiro Russo’s film that shepherds the overlooked denizens in need for growth back to a natural world of healing.

EVIL Masked as a Religion. “Bryan Loves You” reviewed! (MVD / Blu-ray)

All New Blu-ray release of “Bryan Loves You” on Amazon.com

Something weird is spreading across a small Arizona town.  A chapter of a new religion has influenced most of the community into believing in Bryan, a pure and pious young boy from long ago who was brutally slain by the devil.  Jonathan, a local psychotherapist receives a camera from his uncle, also a health professional, with a self-recording that warns Jonathan that Bryan zealots are a dangerous, violent cult.  Deciding to document the situation himself, Jonathan repurposes the camera to clandestinely record the widespread Bryan gatherings and even infiltrate their church where they speak in tongues and wear the scarred mask of Bryan.  As Jonathan goes deeper into the uncomfortable insanities of Bryan’s world, the more Bryan followers takes an interest in reconditioning Jonathan. 

“Bryan Loves You’s” grainy SOV pseudo-documentary lacquer not only captures the icy blank stares, the unabating drone chanting, and the brainwashed coup of an insidious cult assimilating small town America, but the Seth Landau written and directed film also homogenously captures, all too presently well, that sense of ambivalent and conspiracy dread that knots apprehension uncomfortably in the pit of the stomach.  The 2008 released “Bryan Loves You” has the story set in 1993 Arizona made out to be a historical home video and CCTV recorded account of the analyzed and dissected suppressed footage coming to light for the first time incomplete with censored last nights and specific addresses to make the pseudo-doc appear more genuine and shocking.  Filmed in and around the suburbs of Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, “Bryan Loves You” is a found footage subgenre production self-produced by Mike Mahoney and Seth Landau, under the filmmaker’s Landau Motion Pictures, and marks the debut feature film of Landau’s humble career that started roughly around 2003 as a production assistant on “Arrested Development.”

For the average popcorn movie goer, “Bryan Loves You” is about obscure as they come with a no-name director and a cast with relatively no-name actors with the exception of one that might have a chance of recognition by the common Joe Schmo.  Old heads may recognize George Wendt, one of the barflies from the sitcom “Cheers” and the Saturday Night Live sketch of Super Fans, in his brief and strange scene as a patient holding a doll that speaks to him about people who talk about him.  For chin-deep genre fans, Wendt is about the biggest A-lister you can have in an indie film and what’s unusual about “Bryan Loves You” is the stacked list of iconic made-by-horror names that make up the cast list.  It’s impressive.  Landau’s connection to the late great master of horror Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”) opened the door to George Wendt, who starred in Gordon’s “King of the Ants,” and, likely, led to the onboarding fan favorites such as Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Tiffany Shepis (“Tromeo and Juliet”), Lloyd Kaufmann (“The Toxic Avenger”), Daniel Roebuck (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Chuck Williams (“Demon Wind”), and Tony Todd (“Candyman”).  Now, with these many names, none of them have starring roles and few have reoccurring scenes, but they are headlined to draw attraction for “Bryan Loves You.”  Honestly, the performances are hardly worth nothing.  Steves and Kaufmann have little dialogue and are shot at weird angles that makes them hardly recognizable.  Best scenes go to Tony Todd as a hesitantly disturbed and full of fear narrator standing in an empty board room and talking directly into the camera about what we, the audience, are about to witness, even directing viewers to turn away or to be ushered out of the theater (did this get a theatrical release?) if the content becomes too shocking to behold.  Seth Landau stars as the principal lead Jonathan who can’t be taken seriously as a psychoanalyst as there is no depth to the character in those regards.  Plus, as someone who’s supposed to uphold ethical standards, Jonathan breaks quite a few HIPPA regulations and breaks into houses with a camera, filming Bryan acolytes without their consent.  “Bryan Loves You” rounds out the cast with Tori King, Candy Stanton (“Exit to Hell”), Shane Stevens (“The Graves”), Jilon VanOver (“Bad Blood”), Tom Noga (“Anonymous Killers”), Jesse Ramiawi, Jacqui Allen (“Blue Lake Butcher”) and Daniel Schweiger (“Die-ner”)

Seth Landau’s found footage cult film is a rough cut of rudimentary psychological suspense restrained by its limiting low-ceiling budget.  The acutely hard cut editing and wonky framing is enormously puzzling within the narrative’s supposed single camera source documentary structure that suddenly diffuses into being a splice between Jonathan’s camera, which he loses halfway through the story, and a bunch of randomly placed CCTV footage across all of Arizona, in which some scenes are randomly placed in the desert where no structures are seemingly present to house a camera.  Who gathered and edited all this multi-video footage together?  Or does that play into the mystery, no matter how illogical, of adding to “Bryan Loves You’” unsettling allure?  What Landau does accomplish compares closely to what directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick were able to profoundly achieve with their unexpected breakout found footage blockbuster, “The Blair Witch Project.”  Now, I’m not saying “Bryan Loves You” had the audience gasping power as the “The Blair Witch Project” but the air in the story still feels very uncomfortably still, like in holding your breath, because something sinister is closing in and that type of disturbing presence, coupled with the erratic demonic behavior boiled to the surface if love for the almighty Bryan is absent, is all too relatable in today’s political climate.

Though “Bryan Loves You,” MVD Visual really loves Bryan right back with a high-definition Blu-ray release, remastered and upscaled from the original master source, a digital recorded standard definition, with an approved up-conversion of 172,800 pixels to over 2 million pixels per frame to achieve full HD.  For SOV, the handheld cam footage turns out more detailed than expected with suitable tinctures that are often less vivid in the found footage genre; however, there are still varying levels of quality from lower quality posterization to better than mid-grade delineation.  Though stated as presented in a widescreen 1:78:1 aspect ratio on the MVD Marquee Collection back cover, the actual ratio is a pillarbox 1:33:1 without straying from that display. The English language dual channel stereo track also has varying fidelity levels using the inconsistency of a built-in handheld mic but the good bones behind the range and depth retain the natural auditory proportionate. A few augmented audio tracks are snuck in for effect, such as the preacher’s demon-speak and the school PA system. English subtitles are optional. With a new Blu-ray release comes all new special features with a few short film-length interviews between filmmaker Seth Landau and George Wendt (44:50 minutes), Tiffany Shepis (50:49 minutes), Daniel Roebuck (59:35 minutes), and Brinke Stevens (31:46 minutes) touching upon more than just “Bryan Loves You” but also various career moments and other media cultural topics. Also featured are two commentaries: a 2008 commentary with Landau, select cast and crew, and JoBlo critic James Oster and a new 2022 commentary with only Landau. Plus, a brand new 2022 theatrical trailer. “Bryan Loves You” draws parallels to the 1993 Waco, Texas cult led by David Koresh of the Davidian sect preaching fire and brimstone, but writer-director-product Seth Landau adds his own supernatural concoction in a trade-in of doom and gloom for mindless devotion and diabolism that turns folks into followers and flesh-hungry fiends at times. Maybe not the prime cut of the cult genre but does stand out even if you don’t really love “Bryan.”

All New Blu-ray release of “Bryan Loves You” on Amazon.com

Mindy Robinson Takes on EVIL Strippers in “Brides of Satan” reviewed! (Dark Side Releasing / Blu-ray)



“Brides of Satan” available at Amazon.com!  DVD and Blu-ray!

Engaged happy couple Mary and Charlie want to dip their toes into debauchery before tying the knot.  When they patron a dive strip club, looking to unwind a nervous Charlie down a notch with a sultry, on-stage lap dance, the club is suddenly seized by three well-armed Satanist strippers looking for quick cash and a virtuous sacrifice to conjure a demon.  Kidnapped for the dark ceremony, Mary and Charlie find themselves in their grip with Charlie being murdered to complete half the ritual, but Mary is able to escape when a rival gang claims rights over the territory that sidetracks the Satanists summons.  Mourning over her fiancé’s death, Mary is taken under the wing of a junkyard sensei who trains her to fight and to be fearless against all those in her path for vengeance. 

From horror enthusiast Joe Bizarro comes the filmmaker’s first written and directed feature film, the pastiche grindhouse revenge-thriller “Brides of Satan.”  Bizarro, who co-produced “Another Plan from Outer Space,” the Lance Pollard offshoot homage to the Ed Wood Jr.’s iconic science fiction-horror “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” co-writes his 2021 exploitation with “Take Shelter” cinematographer and first time screenwriter Noel Maitland penned to be a wild-and-strange ride through the various territories of genre landscapes.  Film in and around the greater Los Angeles area, “Brides of Satan” stitches the perceived strange and unusual charisma of L.A.’s alt-scene offerings around a familiar framework with a few arbitrary bits of bizarre.  Along with Bizarro and Maitland is fellow executive financier Lance Pollard, who we mentioned had previous dealings with Bizarro, and the jacks of all trades Victor Formosa (“Iron Sky:  The Coming Race”) along with William Wulff, Celeste Octavia, Lisa Mason Lee, and Mike Ansbach serving as producers on the Joe Bizarro Studios labeled production. 

Right off the bat, the montage introduction of the tri-gang strippers, played by Alice McMunn, Joanna Angel, and Rachel Rampage, with sizzling eroticism and skin, seductively gazing into the camera and pole dancing captured in slow motion immediately sets the tone for the rest of the story. Laden from their colorfully neon-dyed hairstyles to their fishnet-led leathery platform heels with body ink, their focal opening is a bit of Joe Bizarro in a nutshell as well as an eclectic look into a cast comprised of goth, burlesque, body-mod, and fetish aficionados.  I was also hoping for a cameo from adult actress Joanna Angel’s husband Aaron ‘The Small hands’ Thompson, but alas, no such luck.  Though McMunn, Angel, and Rampage get the juices flowing and motivate the narrative into a plot point of character deconstruction, reconstruction, and revenge, neither of them are the top bill for lead role.  That responsibility falls solely on the “Evil Bong” franchise – wait, there’s an “Evil Bong” franchise? – actress Mindy Robinson that, through a (Joe) bizarro world, adds an interesting element of casting for the outspoken Republican commentator who happens to also be the girlfriend of former mixed martial artist and “Expendables” actor Randy Couture.  Robinson amiably plays a loving fiancé Mary to an equally amiably, yet unresolved, Charlie (Michael Reed, “The Disco Exorcist”). Eventually, Mary’s woman scorned vengeance becomes a juggernaut of kickass, learning geriatric kung-fu from a junkyard hobo, but Robinson disingenuously leaves her fluffy and bubbly self into a character who’s supposed to be this badass that beats half-naked Satan acolytes in one blow and can vanquish netherworld demons in the bat off an eyelash. Much of the film is Robinson promenading provocative and oddball locales, meeting more provocative and oddball characters, to track down her fiancé’s murderer in a forfeiture of commanding the scenes with scene-stealing presence. Though she bests an array of stud-cladded, garage punk baddies armed with arm drills, nail bats, and switchblades, their brief moments on screen leave more of an impact than the principal protagonist and much like the gang of three strippers, in which two-thirds of them cease to exist after approx. 15 minutes into the film, they’re built up as more prominent players in this psychos-ville showdown yet fizzle to literally just a passing moment in the narrative, giving way to a film full of nothing but near essentially cameos from Anatasia Elfman (“Shevenge”), Ellie Church (“Frankenstein Created Bikers”), Sarah French (“Art of the Dead”), and Damien D. Smith (“The Purge”). There are also true cameos from “Blood of the Tribades” filmmakers Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein, professional burlesquer Olivia Bellafontaine, and Madelyne Cruelly from the pirate punk band Yours Cruelly.

“Brides of Satan’s” gimmick is to live up to representing the yield of grindhouse cinema and for the most part, Joe Bizarro cultivates a passable resemblance by borrowing from the constructs and the ideals that came from them of the golden age of independent cinema decades between the 60’s and early 90’s and reworked them into his own passion project. “Brides of Satan” is undoubtedly derivative in most of designer elements, but I did find Bizarro’s concept of uniting the alternative network and B-movie troupers into a singular movement to be refreshing in it’s something you don’t regularly see or experience too often out of the shadows and living in the daylight. As disparaging as it may sound, the sensation becomes that carnival sideshow effect where the societal outcasted abnormalities entrance and pluck at your curiosity strings much to the same effect that ostentatious or surreal horror and sci-fi movies are a way to escape the harshness of one’s own bleak day-to-day reality. However, Bizarro didn’t quite achieve the paragon of his idea not because of his cast, who are mostly stupendously talented in their own rites, but rather more with a watery script barely sustaining flavor to its revenging aspects and supernatural rifts, the imbalance amongst characters, and a dialogue so intrusively oversaturated with hackneyed one-liners that the next words out of their mouths are predictable ones. That tiredness, that sparkless originality, that familiar taste again and again is what ultimately quells “Brides of Satan’s” fetching title and it’s weighted of promise.

Rowdy and burning with streaks of fluorescent colors, “Brides of Satan” is a come Hell and high-water tribute for exploitation film lovers and the Joe Bizarro debut is now on high-definition Blu-ray home video from Dark Side Releasing.  Presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio on a BD25, Bizarro and Maitland, whose technical trade in director of photographer is implemented here, opt for a tenebrously smoky and shadowy obscured grindhouse-noir that innately secretes tactile details but do offer that sense of mystique danger and a carnivalesque veneer at times, using lighting techniques to accomplish the desired look.  The English language Dolby Digital stereo has lossless quality from a 384kps bitrate that, despite its dual channel limitations, outputs decent robust tracks.  Dialogue is crisp and clear, ambient background noise and ransacking has ample range and depth, and the original soundtrack from Ausie Jamie Coghill (Jimmy C) of The Jimmy C Band offers a lounge-grunge-like Rock and Roll score hitting all the right notes apt to the narrative.  The opening monologue from Rick Galiher doing his best Vincent Price vocals.  If you closed your eyes and just listened to the tracks, you can distinctly hear every tone and note in everything from a wonderfully broad audible spectrum. The special features include an audio commentary with the director Joe Bizarro, a handful of deleted scenes and bloopers, a photo gallery of stills and alternate posters (which there are a ton of), and a short skit entitled “Rad Roommates,” a pseudo-sitcom produced by Bizarro about a man and his monstrous hairball of a lowlife roommate.  If you’re lazy and don’t feel like navigating through the menu options to the special features, wait until after the feature’s credits roll through as the special features will follow, beginning with “Rad Roommates.” The Dark Lord takes a bemusing backseat that drives “Brides of Satan” more toward solely being a revenge thriller with few incomplete spidering out subplots that belly up by its own creator. 

“Brides of Satan” available at Amazon.com!  DVD and Blu-ray!