On the campus of Williamsburg University in 2006, a popular fraternity house holds an upscale house party, filled with the most beautiful students dressed in formal wear, liquored with martinis and gin and tonics, and customized to fit the luxurious lifestyle the men of fraternal brotherhood. When the fraternity president Christian Roane conducts a round around to greet guests, he catches glimpse of Sarah Stein, a coed being a good sport by giving into her friends’ urges to party greek. Christian’s unhealthy obsession with Sarah starts innocent enough, but when Sarah doesn’t take that step toward sharing the same affection, Christian’s control goes into self destruction that not only threatens Sarah, but also threatens to unearth the true and ghastly nature of the brotherhood and the brothers aim to lockdown their secret by any means necessary.
“Somebody’s Darling” is the 2016, independent drama horror from the multi-faceted filmmaker, writer-director Sharad Kant Patel, churned out from a story by Sebastian Mathews. In his directorial debut, Patel, known more for his short film work, heedfully courses through detail and treads lightly on the coattails of a sensitive social issue. His film skirts on the subject of rape culture in the American college and university setting while also touching upon sexuality complexities and severe anguish in today’s youth. Basically, “Somebody’s Darling” is a higher education dissertation on the experiences of collegiate life with a horror twist and all the along the way, Patel slowly paints Christian and his brotherhood onto a canvas of ambivalent malevolence by deconstructing Christian to quickly reconstruct him in a ravaging roundabout. Patel throughout leaves a bread crumb trail of clues that don’t make sense at first, that might lead to other conclusions, and that doesn’t explicitly genre “Somebody’s Darling” as a horror.
Christian is the film’s central focus and with a dark and brooding character, a dark and brooding soul must ride parallel and Paul Galvan intently delivers a cryptic persona. Peppered erratic is Christian obsession Sarah Stein, a run-of-the-mill coed playing darlingly enough by Jessa Settle. Then there’s the brotherhood, whom are begrudgingly split on how to action Christian’s off course fixation, consisting of a youthful lineup of white, stuck-up preppy frat boys with an actor list to match including Fred Parker Jr., “Spirit Camp’s” Matt Tramel, and Mike Kiely. Sarah also has an entourage but not as prominent and, to be honest, the brotherhood weren’t just a hair more involved, but Kristen Tucker and Cathy Baron (“The Lights”), who play Madison and Riley, hit the stereotypical college coed right on the head as the two look to score big when scouring their hot boy wardrobe and provide unnatural sexual banter toward their goody-two-shoes friend, Sarah.
“Somebody’s Darling’s” independent genetic makeup doesn’t hide under a flashy production, but presuming an indie dramatic horror that’s more bark than bite isn’t worth wild should is the incorrect assumption as the climatic end will be attention catching. Granted, the dialogue’s overdrawn breathiness can bog down a regular popcorn viewer and turn away heads that have a disdain for immense screenplay scripture, but to comprehend the whole story and to become invested in the characters, being a viewer from start to finish won’t go in vain. Patel personal investemnt extends to much more than spitfire directions and scribing with a hand in producing, composing, editor, and digital effects with the latter being used sparsely to convey the Christian’s internal aspirations and quondam self. When effects do come into the real word, a practical, lifelike approach is taken and that intensifies the horror tenfold.
Distribber released Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” onto various streaming platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on December 1st. I was provided a screener disc and can’t focus on or comment too much on the details of image or sound quality, but the disc did provide bonus material including the making of the score and behind-the-scenes in creating the dream sequence. Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” has an edgy appeal that draws you in like an unsuspecting moth to an alluring light and then zaps a fatal shock right into the nervous system as soon as the undertones are evidently a metaphor for something far more sinister.
After suffering the tremendous loss of her in-home hospice cared mother, Theresa descends into an inescapable state of grief and severe isolation inside her mother’s woodland home. Stumbling through life, she manages to show up at work, a cannabis distributor in town, with the verbal encouragement from her eccentric boss, but Theresa’s mind can’t grasp the reality of the situation and loses focus resulting in another tragic loss when she mistakenly hands over fatally potent pot to the incorrect customer, subsequently a friend. Along with grief and isolation, guilt comes into the fold and she begins lighting up her own stash of mind altering cannabinoids that thrust her mindset into disjointed delusions and sleepless strolls through the forest.
“Woodshock” is the 2017 drama thriller directed by two sisters: Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Credited as their freshman film, the Mulleavy sisters embark on an internal, unhinged perspective from their main character, Theresa. With that in mind, the filmmakers’ use of nature has both a symbolic and practical substance that paints the inner workings of Theresa’s thought process. Shot on location surrounded by the giant red oak trees of Northern California puts Theresa, this tiny human being, right smack dab in the middle of ginormous towers of pure ancestral nature and unable to fathom the full scope of the trees metaphorically explores how Theresa is unable to fully comprehend the overwhelming amount of emotions she ultimately succumbs to that lead her down a darker path. Nature, whether trees, butterflies, or, more so in general, landscapes, becomes a familiar motif throughout the film with the trees being the most repetitive aspect being exhibited in numerous scenes of being harvested by loggers, stripped and stored at mills, and lingering remnants of their once intact past.
“Melancholia’s” Kirsten Dunst fully embraces the role of Theresa with her mind, body, and soul by not holding back in a role that demands more of a solitary, voiceless performance blanked with grief. Dunst nails it with ease. Accompany the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” actress is Denmark born Pilou Asbæk as the pot dispenser shop owner Keith who conspires to work out deals with his special customers in need of once and for all ceasing the pain of ailment. The dynamic between the two is hot and cold as the sensation of tension is always present even if the dialogue is not. Asbæk’s Keith actually drives the plot, creating situations that put Theresa in a dilemma inducing pickle and he certainly takes advantage of her grief. Asbæk smug performance couldn’t get anymore complex as he portrays an arrogant, hippie-esque pot shop entrepreneur in a small Washington state town, but exhibits a softer side, especially for his friends and for Theresa, at times. Joe Cole (“Green Room”), Steph DuVall (“Scanner Cop”), and Jack Kilmer costar.
“Woodshock,” as a whole, attempts to grapple too much in the dimension of the subliminal. The Mulleavy sisters focus on symbolizing and using metaphors rather than being straight shooters to communicate Theresa’s internal struggle and between the montage of trees, the vibrant visuals, the double exposures, and various angles of a single action, there’s a choke that occurs, making apprehension hard to swallow. The siblings also display their inexperience at times. Despite completing impressive artistic visuals and able to create some slight movie magic as independent filmmakers, the directors’ choice to keep scenes from being cut and left on the editing room floor are questionable. One example would be Keith in the bar, moving his arms in a slow, locomotive motion, listening to a mellow track on the jukebox This scene is late is near the latter part of the film and doesn’t convey anything more about the character than already established with no transition scene to provide any kind of setup, background, or foreshadowing.
Lionsgate Films presents “Woodshock” onto a slip-covered High Definition, 1080p Blu-ray plus Digital HD. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-25 disc has an widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 that’s conventionally stable. Faint grain filters through, but this could be an intentional cinematography tactic. The English DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t wired to pair with such slow, mellow storyline that doesn’t have a range to fully test the HD quality except for invigorating Peter Raeburn’s enlightening hodgepodge score. The dialogue track is muddled and nearly unintelligible by the overshadowing score. Bonus material includes “Making Woodshock: A Mental Landscape” that opens up Kate and Laura’s intentions in expressing Theresa as a character, their style in filmmaking, and to up sell their cast and crew. “Woodshock” is an artistic visual stimulation with no rival, but Kate and Laure’s inexperience emanates through more than their subliminal sub-contexts. Kirsten Dunst marvelously challenges herself that inarguably gives her even more of a range as an actress that only proves her ability to not be a one trick pony in and out of Hollywood.
Zaki owns a small kebab shop in England’s vern own party central in Bournemouth on the South Coast. Every night, Zaki withstands the late night drunken antics of the local party goers in the hope his son, Salah, would continue his graduate studies and to also, maybe, one day own his own fine dining restaurant, but when he becomes involved in a scuffle with a late night rowdy bunch, he’s killed in a fit of alcoholic whims. Salah takes over his father’s shop, neglecting his studies, and continuing the serve the intoxicated public in his father’s memory, but when he accidentally kills one stubborn customer, he mincings his body parts into kebab meat instead of calling the police and whenever a deplorable enter his shop, he serves them the newest menu item. One sloppy drunk customer after another, Salah wages a vigilante’s war on party world, especially toward a new dance club that masks over a drug trafficking ring.
“K-Shop” is the 2016 horror from writer-director Dan Pringle in his first helmed feature that aims to explore the troublesome nature of the after party, intoxicated human plagued upon sensible people. Pringle strengthens the social commentary by implementing actual footage of drunken debauchery filmed right on England’s South Beach that range between spewing chunks onto the sidewalks to heated back and forth fisticuffs. Pringle’s script tackles that insatiable inner urge everyone has felt at least once in their life when dealing with unreasonable nightlife and that is to raise a fist against them to show how to act like a decent human being. “K-Shop,” which denotes being a double entendre for Kebab Shop and Kill Shop, takes the act one step further, introducing a cannibalistic element to the mix as Salah rids scrum from the earth by slicing and dicing them into his kebab mixture. Salah’s father, Zaki, is a Turkish refugee and him and his son are essentially immigrants that becomes another script undertone brought up the club owning, drug trafficking, all over bad guy Jason Brown.
Salah is brilliantly executed by Ziad Abaza who brings a cache of raw emotions to his character. “K-Shop’s” trailer hinted at a horror-comedy feature, but there’s nothing funny about Abaza’s Salah who seems that life is wholeheartedly against him as a downtrodden college student in a search for basic human decency and compassion. Salah is pitted against an egregious Jason Brown played by Liverpool native Scot Williams and Williams embodies and embraces being a person of high social status and fame, a person of who lavishes in luxury, and epitomizes being a slime ball. Brown’s a stark contrast against Salah who has to slave away and earn his living while Brown takes his life for granted. The supporting cast are also very interesting starting with Reece Noi as Malik who voyeuristically takes an interest in Salah’s vigilantism and who also, perhaps, shares common cultural aspects, but Malik is just a kid acting beyond his age at times and then drastically at his age at the most crucial moments during his dynamics with Salah. Another character is Salah’s potential love interest in Sarah portrayed by Kristin Atherton. Atherton provides a sweet, quiet, and intelligible demeanor to Sarah that projects onto Salah whereas other women in Salah’s life, mostly his patrons, are loud, obnoxious, and corrupt. Lastly, “Doomsday’s” Darren Morfitt instills a catalytic character in fallen from grace Chaplin Steve. There’s a bit of a confessionally staged event between Salah and Steve that offers a realization and a tale-end twist that just puts that unwanted pit into the bottom of stomachs.
Now “K-Shop” isn’t totally perfect, especially in the flow of the film. Pringle doesn’t clearly provide a timeline of progression. Between the holidays Christmas and News Years is perspectively prominent, but Salah’s calling, or mission, seems to extend weeks, if not months, and that isn’t clearly communicated. Plus, there’s slight difficulty understanding turn page moments that dilute the significance of events whether it’s through too much exposition or choppy editing. Where “K-Shop” is weak, Pringle makes up with gore and story. The gore is absolute from scorching an inebriated man’s face sizzling in a vat of hot oil to chopping up limbs with a butcher’s knife in order to make his delicious kebabs. Pringle’s conclusion is absolving, satisfying, and also, at the same time, fruitless because even though Salah makes a stand against immorality, a realization washes over him that nothing will ever change despite cutting the head from the snake.
Breaking Glass Pictures distributes “K-Shop” on to an unrated DVD home video. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio and the overall quality is stunning sporting a dark painted picture and still convey a healthy color palette even if lightly washed in a yellow hue. The’s no attempt to enhance the image as the natural color tone comes right out and off the screen and that dark gritty matter really speaks to Pringle’s capabilities to create shadows. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is surprisingly hanging around par level as, some of those key moments once spoken about, are lost in a muddled heap in the dialogue track, but there’s range and fidelity thats good on the output amongst a balanced five channel track. Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes segment and deleted scenes plus Breaking Glass trailers. “K-Shop” is dark, gritty, and eye opening backed by a versatile lead in Ziad Abaza and helmed by newcomer filmmaker Dan Pringle, seeking to entertain and unearth our inner and deadly vigilante doppelgänger in the midst of social indecencies.
Good for nothing Buddy and his two-bit working girl wife Sam bicker slangily about their sexual performances. As Sam lays nude in bed and a naked Buddy flips through a sleazy magazine in search for the new positions to experiment, the two become inspired to ravage each others’ privates all the while expletives toward one another fly. Soon, Buddy decides to start snapping photographs of his nude wife as part of a plan to create an adult spread, like in the magazine. Deep inside Bat Pussy’s headquarters, a tingle in her twat informs her that somebody, somewhere is creating porn in her holy Gotham City and she quickly dresses from nightgown to bat suit to spur into action. The not-so-caped crusader jumps onto her Hoppity Hop and makes haste across town to intervene, but as soon as Bat Pussy dives in to stop the perversive pornographic nature, she dives right into the fold of lustful, foulmouth appetites.
American Genre Film Archive and Something Weird Video, partnered with distributor MVDVisual, releases a restoration of one of the earliest known porn parodies, “Bat Pussy,” onto Blu-ray that spoofs, horrendously, the Adam West starred “Batman” television series from the late 1960s. As far as a porn is considered, “Bat Pussy” lacks any sensical sexual action resulting in a double one-two punch wham!-bam! of no plot and no actual sex; instead, Buddy and Sam’s southern caints and worsh tub conversing of ignorant and pointless potty mouth conversation is more entertaining than Buddy’s limp impotence that dangles between the legs of being bizarre foreplay with the very freckly and curvy Sam. Since both of whom are seriously unattractive in appearance and performance, “Bat Pussy” has the stigma of being the worst porn ever produced. The actress behind “Bat Pussy” has far superior attributes than compared to her costars, but lavishes in a twang that’s hard to ignore and her vigorously tasteless implementation into Buddy and Sam’s awkward makeshift threesome is beyond the point of cringe worthy.
“Bat Pussy’s” gridlocked and effortless plot isn’t much to write about unless a bonus movie accompanies it and, in this particular release, “Robot Love Slaves” waits to be received in the bonus material. The bonus feature tells the story of Clark, a mad scientist who creates pleasure gifting robotic women in spite of a conniving wife whose scheming to be handicapped to steal her Husband’s groundbreaking work and be in the arms of her illicit and conspiring lover, Dr. Dicks. Clark constructs four pleasure bots, testing two of them on his friends with their specific built in sexual qualities, and keeping two for himself until the very right moment to strike against those who seek to dethrone him of his creation.
“Robot Love Slaves,” also known as “Too Much Loving,” is another early 1970s stag film. The science fiction sexploitation arouses a little better than the main feature and consisting of a plot that starts from A-to-Z and more striking women involving Sandy Carey (“Drive-In Massacre”), Sandy Dempsey (“Country Hooker”), and Candy Sampler (“Flesh Gordon”). Though roughly and technically hardcore, “Robot Love Slaves” is more softcore not by directorial design, but by edited manipulation that serves as a drastically cut-downed final product; nonetheless, the overall tone plasters a more earnest setting of deception, sadism, and pleasure rather than fooling around in a waste of runtime. Billy Lane and Adam Ward costar.
AGFA and Something Weird Video’s MVDVisual distributed “Bat Pussy” and “Robot Love Slaves” is a restoration of cult bric-a-brac right onto Blu-ray home video presented in the original aspect ratios of 1.33:1. “Bat Pussy” has been through a 2k scan from the only surviving 16mm print in existence found in the back room of Paris Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. The restoration puts the pieces in order that result in a slightly washed glaze from the dated print. Scratches and grain remain evident, but, like the not-so-hardcore material, nothing too obscene. The mono audio track is more interesting with pieces of the audio track removed upon the unknown director’s direction; during some points of the awkward romping, the audio would cut out, Buddy would look up, audio would come back in, and Buddy would say, “what?” and then the audio would cut back out. You’d have to see hear it to believe it. “Robot Love Slaves,” which also went through the 2k scan from the 16mm elements, suffers far worse from father time. Doesn’t help that the film is also heavily cropped and edited to avoid being extremely explicit. The audio track cuts in and out near the end, popping with distortion under a low ranged ceiling, and flushed with hisses. Bonus material includes a commentary track from Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis, crime-smut trailers and shorts from Something Weird Vault, and liner notes by Lisa Petrucci and Mike McCarthy. The vivid and hilariously illustrated “Bat Pussy” blu-ray cover is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this release. Though both films are of unknown origins and much of the cast and crew are an enigma, “Bat Pussy” and “Robot Love Slaves” revel in a sexploitation realm all their own with wish-washy filmmaking and poor, but exuberant, performances from a cast who never spoke of these two, under an hour, cult hits ever again!
One of New York City’s popular skyscrapers, the Millennial Building, is a modern marvel with 102 floors sought to be visited by national and international tourists, looking to reach the zenith and take a once-in-a-lifetime, awe inspiring gander across the Big Apple’s urban jungle landscape or seeking to be a working stiff inside the immaculate bones of the building’s historical foundation. Every day, thousands of visitors and employees ride the Millennial Building’s 73 elevators, assuming the safest ride possible to the touch the bottom of the sky, but when a deranged scientist implements a controversial biomedical computer into the building’s elevator vascular network, one tragic accident after another compiles fatal consequences within the vertical box that draws negative national attention. Elevator mechanic Mark Newman teams up with a rebellious newspaper reporter Jennifer Evans to investigate and uncover the a larger-than-life conspiracy behind a killer elevator organism.
Over three decades ago, Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas wrote, directed, and released the killer elevator film, simply titled “De Lift,” in the Netherlands. About 18 years later after his commercial success for “De Lift,” Mass spawned an American remake of the film entitled “Down,” also known as “The Shaft,” that transformed into the forgotten bastard when compared to Maas’ 1983 feature. To be frankly, “Down’s” terror-comedy knack with spunky characters and zany deaths put the 2001 remake right smack dab at the top of the repeat value charts and despite the lack of rigorous plausibility, the refreshingly no-holds barred, fun zone horror film doesn’t think twice, charging forward with gun blazing in an elevator ride to cinematic hell that shows no mercy and gives not one single care with each surpassing floor level. Be damned the backstory with meager exposition! Be damned the underdeveloped characters who are pivotal to the plot! Be damned the complexities of how the biomedical elevator system is able to live, breath, and reproduce through murder and mayhem! “Down” has a black and white, up and down glory that’s considered b-horror good that’s very reminiscent of the early films of Peter Jackson.
If you’re going to remake a killer elevator film, go big with the cast and Mass surely pulled through by signing cult genre stars of the time. Naomi Watts was just coming into the mainstream scene as she tackled well-received projects around that same time frame between David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” and “The Ring” a year later, but the “Tank Girl” actress showed more than just her aesthetic assets, more than just shrieking horrific screams, and more than just displaying her big guns. In “Down,” she proved to be a gung-ho, rough-it-with-the-boys portrayer of a feisty reporter whose hot on the trail of a conspiracy helmed by surreptitious characters played Michael Ironside, who did not lose an arm in this film like he does in “Total Recall,” “Starship Troopers,” and “The Machinist,” and Ron Pearlman (“Hellboy,” “Cronos”). However, James Marshall, in the lead as the elevator mechanic, couldn’t ratchet tight a performance that called for concern and durability; instead, Marshall, known for playing James Hurley in “Twin Peaks,” schlepped clumsily on screen compared to the aggressively hungry Watts. Eric Thal (“The Puppet Masters”), Dan Hedaya (“Alien: Resurrection”), Edward Herrmann (“The Lost Boys”), and Kathryn Meisle (“Basket Case 2”) round out the remaining cast.
“Down’s” commercial success was plunging disaster. Reasons ranging from a flimsy premise to being an unconventional horror to the genre were, more than likely, not the major players in “Down’s” inability to elevate an audience. More so, the reasons stem solely between one or two factors, if not both. For one, Maas writes New Yorkers as belligerent morons, cocky, greedy, and deranged. Many of the characters are like this and if there was any that embodied any sliver of rationality or humanitarian attributes, there screen time was quick and fruitless. Secondly, though “Down” released in the spring of 2001, a film set in a New York City high rise with multiple mentions of terrorists and even verbally conveying a foiled plot to take down the twin towers probably hurt the film’s home entertainment value to the point where a DVD release didn’t surface until a good two years after the theatrical premiere.
Aside from all the delays, harsh reviews, and a shoddily cropped Artisan DVD release, Blue Underground delivers a godsend presenting “Down” on Blu-ray/DVD combo. The 1080 HD on a BD 50 dual layer disc has a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and radiates with clarity; so clear, that I had a hard time placing the year as the image certainly outshines most turn of the century products. An immense amount of detail just exemplifies the extraordinary content without appearing as a discount deal for special effects. Audio options include an English and French 5.1 DTS-HD and an English and French Dolby Digital stereo with both including optional English SDH subtitles and Spanish subtitles. The amount of range is leaps and bounds beyond the Artisan’s par quality with the 5.1 channelling maximized quality and clarity. Dialogue track is clear and free from obstructions with the only stain being the horrendously dubbed diner jerk that punches James Marshall in the face, but that’s not necessary a make or break blemish. Bonus materials include audio commentary with writer-director Dick Maas and stunt coordinator Willem de Beukelaer, the making of “Down,” behind-the-scenes footage that’s exclusive to the Blu-ray, theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, and teaser trailers of upcoming releases. The casing itself harnesses a collectible booklet with new essays by Michael Gingold. “Down” finally shines through with a stellar release from Blue Underground, a leader in restoring and releasing cult films. If in the mood for a story without much thought while desiring to choke on out of this world terror-comedy then “Down” is a must on the upcoming marquee!