EVIL Fillets Family Strife. “Broil” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

Chance Sinclair is a rebellious 17-year-old closeted lesbian and Catholic student.  After a couple of school related incidents she didn’t instigate, Chance’s parents send her to live with her despotic grandfather, August Sinclair, despite her parents’ reluctance.  August rules with an iron-fist not only with his grandchildren, but with his entire family of powerful elitists who have a dark secret – they’re actually soul harvesting demons preying on the malintents around the world and is headed by August.   When Chance’s parents want out of the family business and reclaim their daughter from August’s authoritative grip, they hire a culinary prodigy with a skill for assassinations for a grand dinner that’ll have the whole family in attendance.  Chance is ignorant of her family’s history and the balance of power is not the only stake served on the menu, but also Chance’s very soul hangs in the very midst of the Sinclair’s family game night of internal carnage. 

Like a Gothic storybook enclosed with deception, murder, and unhallowed demons at their last supper, “Broil” is a going to hell in a handbasket supernatural feast and an unholy coming-to-age sophomore feature from by the upcoming “Cosmic Sin” writer-director Edward Drake and co-written alongside Piper Mars.  The 2020 Canadian murder-for-hire thriller vies against the stylish similarities of the “Twilight” saga with well-groomed, well-off, and sophisticated groups of strangers bound as family from supernatural circumstances, but distills itself out the frivolous teeny-bop pulp and teen heartthrobs for a modestly R-rated cutthroat kindred melodrama by the netherworld’s most notorious soul-suckers, shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  “Broil” Is produced by “Cabin Fever 2:  Spring Fever” executive producer, Corey Large, and first time producer Kashif Pasta with 308 Entertainment (“It Follows”) and Good Complex serving as production companies. 

“Broil” doesn’t denote a lead character at the heart of this story, but pinpoints principles along a chaptered structure, signifying their importance by following them with an objective point of view.  The whole setup begins with the granddaughter, Chance Sinclair, who a bit rough around the edge and doesn’t play with her schoolmates, especially having an affinity for the same sex while being a student in a Catholic school, but that factoid doesn’t blossom into thing though be noted a couple of times.  Instead, Chance, played by Avery Konrad in her first principle character role, struggles with her teenage angst and hormones like any more adolescent, but she finds her educational woes pale in comparison under her family’s archaic secret ruled by the patriarchal domination of August Sinclair, a ruthless enforcer and head of the family business brought to an autocratic fruition by Irish actor Timothy V. Murphy (“Snowpiercer” television series). While Chance and August strongly convey a presence in the first act, Jonathan Lipnicki reins in the latter acts in an unexpressed spectrum performance of Sydney “The Chef” Lawson, a calculating killer taking out the transgressional trash informed by a mentor and father-like man named Freddie Jones, “Jason vs. Freddy’s” Lochlyn Munro, who may or may not have ulterior motives in exploiting The Chef’s gift for murder. Lipnicki’s work is a culinary delight in as much as The Chef’s actually culinary expertise, braising the character to eventually be the mainstay character. There are other exigent roles that seem important, but are only keystones that hold more principles roles from crumbling, such as Chance’s parents, June (Annette Reilly “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and December (Nels Lannarson “The Cabin in the Woods”) Sinclair, who initiate the murder-for-hire spark that set things in motion. Rounding out “Broil” is Corey Large, Megan Peta Hill, Abby Ross, Jenna Berman, Phoebe Miu, Alyson Bath, David Hennessey, John Cassini, and Kyra Zagorsky.

Playing out in chapters, “Broil” feels like a murder-mystery adapted from a on fleek novel written by a panache author from Switzerland, but from what I’ve researched, “Broil” is an original narrative only to be segmented to amass refined character details and redirect turn of events as they unfold. However, the chaptering aspect veers the narrative off course, careening “Broil” more toward edit oblivion that doesn’t layer the foundation properly causing as much confusion as the inhuman characters trying to decide whether the Sinclairs are either vampires, demons, witches, or some kind of incubus-succubus blend for a better part of the film. A theme that doesn’t withstand the pressures of Drake’s zigzag directional layout is the unholy atmosphere the Sinclair’s protrude into the world. Chance, who is ignorant of her lineage and of what she really is, turns crosses upside down, turns crucifix necklaces ablaze, and her family sends her unusual gifts like parceled decorated daggers as seen on sacrificial stones, but the satanic tropes cease to do little more than be hints bound to expose the Sinclair’s true selves and really nothing to do with Satan himself, leaving much of the Sinclair powers left unexplained, like their lightning speed and pulsating purple glow that illuminates in patches under the skin (another “Twilight” element?). The acting is palpable, even if it’s melodramatic and under a slew of unlikeable characters, and the story does throw a few notable curve balls, some wickedly diabolical knuckle curves involving eating a child, to intrigue an inch by inch progression of the story. “Broil” unsheathes moments of Gothic schadenfreude, but the moments are fleeting, too short and far in between, to swimmingly bask in the horror of demonic soul snatchers in the throes of a murderous coup d’état.

A delicacy unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, “Broil” is served onto a Blu-ray release as the plat de jour distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated film is region A coded and presented in high-definition, 1080p, of a 16:9 widescreen format. Details on the image render very soft, undiscerning outlines that infuse where a person ends and the background begins, but as the lighting choices change from flared hues to more hard lighting, profiles are to take more shape. Director of photography Wai Sun Cheng, making his introduction into feature films, keeps the focus primary in the foreground, obscuring the backdrop just enough to make it still perceivable and mixes well in the extreme close ups with wide angled shots to not be a one trick cinematographer. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has severe troubles with Hugh Wielenga’s score tremendously overpowers everything else with a profound overlap. The composition is so unbalanced and loud that the resonating LFE completely drowns out the dialogue at times. “Broil” does not contain any feature specific special features other than a static menu containing upcoming previews of other Well Go USA films. Despite the title and the infernal nature, “Broil” is a dish served too cold with an unsavory plot of a young woman’s coming of age tribulations in midst of family squabbles and treachery that Edward Drake couldn’t quite fuse together.

Pre-order “Broil” at Amazon.com

Burt Gummer Neutralizes EVIL Graboids in “Tremors: Shrieker Island” reviewed! (Universal 1440 Entertainment / Digital Screener)

A wildlife preservation maintains categorizing and tracking of native elephants, but when one of the company’s philanthropist turns his private island, just across the water from the preservation campsite, into a game reserve for apex predators, nothing will stop him from wagering the thrill of the hunt on expensive, top-of-the-line game.  That is until the graboids he’s illegally bred and genetically modified starts to hunt the wealthy trophy gamers back, especially when the Precambrian lifeforms metamorphize into the fast-spawning shriekers.  With an island full of graboids and shriekers that contributed to already one death, graboid expert and arms enthusiast-survivalist, Burt Gummer, is tracked down and brought out of retirement to once again battle his longtime killing machine adversary.  With no munition weapons, an obstinate playboy’s maniacal urge to hunt the fierce predator, and the most powerful of the graboids bred on the island able to wriggle underneath the sea floor between land masses, Gummer and a team of preservationists must band together to stop the graboids from being an invasive and unstoppable species. 

From an icy Canadian landscape in “Tremors:  A Cold Day in Hell” to the tropical beaches of Thailand, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” is the seventh feature film in the Tremor’s 30-year franchise.  Heading straight to video on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, including Streaming and VOD platforms come this October 2020, the subterranean monster action-comedy is steered by serial sequel director Don Michael Paul, who directed the last two “Tremors” installments, off a Paul script co-written with Brian Brightly that set sights on expanding the graboid footprint even farther East and surrounded by the seas of Thailand, further more distancing itself from the dust bowls of Perfection, Nevada and Mexico into new and unexplored terror-itories.  Universal Pictures’ off-shoot subsidiary banner, Universal 1440 Entertainment, and Living Films serves as the presiding production companies. 

 

The smart-mouth, quick-wit, arms-toting Burt Gummer has become, dare I say it, the Ash Williams of the Tremors’ franchise as a perpetually dragged back hero into monstrous circumstances to battle graboids and their offspring on land, air, and in the pits of hell of the innate underground habitat.  Aside from Bruce Campbell, there are not too many heroes in a genre that usually has a villainous backbone and so Michael Gross is the longest lasting reoccurring actor, spanning now 30-years, to return as an original hero who first encountered and killed the bastard creature who “broke into the wrong God damn rec room” in Perfection, Nevada.  Gross, now gray with a few more wrinkles sporting his iconic Gummer mustache, fits into the military-esque attire under his ball cap to square off alongside a ragtag team of unprepared, unqualified, and novice graboid hunters in Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Jackie Cruz (“Orange is the New Black”), Caroline Langrishe, and Richard Brake (“31”).  Heder fills in for the Jamie Kennedy role of Burt Gummer’s son, Travis, from the two previous installments and though Travis is mentioned briefly, the character’s presence is extended through Caroline Langrishe as Travis’s mother and preservation camp leader.  Heder and Langrishe complete that entangled trio that has been a trope present in nearly all the Tremor Films, starting with Val McKee, Earl Basset, and Rhona LeBeck, battling side-by-side to overcome the odds.  Cruz and Brake offer a serious side dish of badass on a polar opposite spectrum.  Jackie Cruz as Freddie, an entrenched team member of elephant tracking, is the Latina MacGuyer and is a weapon in herself that only someone like Burt Gummer would fully appreciate while Richard Brake, with his trademark sinister smile as obsessed game hunter Bill, relishes the role, pulling a watered down, PG-13 version of his typical bad guy motif from the more violent-venomous Rob Zombie films.  However, a minority of characters fall through character development cracks, such as Anna played by the up and coming Cassie Clare (“Death Race 4:  Beyond Anarchy”).  The archery expert Clare is a pertinent show off with a bow and arrow and is Bill’s right hand, but the Anna, under Cassie’s muscular thin frame and ironclad persona direction, has an inclined built up that goes to naught as she’s snubbed-shoved to a lesser role without having a significant impact in the latter half.   The reverse can said for Heder’s Jimmy character with first impressions of a top class scientist with lower class ambitions; yet, in an instant, Jimmy becomes a battle-worn graboid and shrieker killer while more experienced hunters, especially one wielding a mini gun, have less of a handle on the situation. 

While it’s neat and cool and nostalgic to see graboids and Burt Gummer back in action, much like the disconnect with lopsided arch able characters left to be graboid-fodder, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” falls short of earlier predecessors, replacing personal filmmaking style over story substance.  For one, graboids just haven’t been the same since going from practical applications to computer imagery since “Bloodlines” on that has radically evolved the creatures from a less-is-more model to a complete overhaul of their veneer, resembling the dark and slimy man-eating tentacles of “Deep Rising,” and as well an overhaul of the creature mechanics that lead graboids to leap out of the ground and into the air like a flying fish, spiraling and twisting back into their dirt environment.   The graboid burrowing irks me as well as the ground explodes 10-15 feet up into the air in a blatant uses of detonating charges by the effects team to create the earthworm moving effect instead of just a perpetual hump and collapse of the ground that’s more of a menacing effect. Nuances run amok, causing subtle points of frustration in how Paul’s direction is really more a passive glance than a serious absorption of the franchise. Meandering people on the ground when they fully well know graboids are attracted by movement, half the film scaled back to slow motion to accentuate big money explosions, and the mother of all graboids able to target Burt Gummer for a mano on monstro showdown are just more examples of the charmless details in, what is, a palpable comedy with Earth dwelling monsters. “Tremors: Shrieker Island” is the equivalent of “Jaws: The Revenge;” the story may not make sense, but watching gigantic monsters cause mortal destruction is pure creature feature bliss.

What may be Burt Gummer’s last ride (or so they said in the last film), “Tremors: Shrieker Island” tunnels onto Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD come October 20th, 2020 and soon to be streaming on Netflix shortly after. The BD50 Blu-ray will feature an anamorphic widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, with an English language DTIS-HD Master Audio 5.1 while the DVD9 is presented in a widescreen 16:9 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Both formats will include optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 as well as a dubbed French, and Spanish DTIS Digital Surround 5.1 with a slew of option subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, French European, and Latin American Spanish. Since the film was reviewed on a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be critiqued. The exclusive bonus features listed on all physical and VOD include a Burt Gummer narrated “The Monster of Tremors” that gives you everything you need know about the diabolical monsters, “Tremors Top 30 Moments” that hone in on 30 years worth of scenes that provide laughs, Burtisms, and some of the most gory moments in graboid history, and, lastly, “The Legend of the Burt Gummer” that focuses on the iconic graboid hunter character told by his persona creator himself, Michael Gross. Richard Brake, once again, nails the villain, Jackie Cruz stuns as a resourceful Gummer-ite, and Michael Gross fleshes out one more commando swashbuckling Burt Gummer in the zany seventh installment of the unstoppable “Tremors” franchise.

Pre-order Tremors: Shrieker Island on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital!

See Through the Eyes of EVIL. “Dahmer” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

On February 15th, 2992, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted on murder, dismemberment, and sexual offenses on 17 young males.  Before then, Dahmer preyed on the desperate and the unsuspecting males living undisclosed in the then tabooed gay culture between 1978 and 1991.  Drugging, raping, killing, and then sometimes raping his victims posthumously became the Wisconsin serial killer’s unhinged obsession for companionship while working auspiciously as a chocolate factory warehouse worker.  Dahmer’s mind blossoms through the graphic dual prose narrative of events that circle around his lonely existence from a novice outcast drawn to kill to a calculating cold-blooded manhunter with deviant tendencies. 

Jeffrey Dahmer is one of those cerebral oddities you wish had a sight tube or a port hole to gape into and absorb the torrent of deranged thoughts in order to get a better understanding of how a serial killer’s mind functions and rationalizes vice and death as a sustainable life style.  Writer-director David Jacobson attempts to explain that very concept that sordid Dahmer’s visceral vision of the world around him in the 2002 interpretational blend of fact and fiction film, “Dahmer.”  Based on real events with some tweaks to protect the identities of real people, Jacobson’s crime biopic forces the uncomfortable measure of a bedeviled seduction, placing viewers in both the objective and subjective hot seat of Dahmer’s beginnings to his submersed praxis of his warped theoretical longings.  “Dahmer” is a production of a Peninsula Films, Inc., the same production company behind another serial killer biopic, Clive Saunders’ “Gacy,” a year later.

Surrounding the film, it’s been rumored that many actors don’t want anything to do with playing the titular sociopath; perhaps, Dahmer’s past scruples the filling of his size 10 shoes smeared with blood or, perhaps, exploring the dark caverns of his mind was too treacherous to traverse and come out unscathed from a crippling, crestfallen place of trauma.  Then, there’s Jeremy Renner.  Before his fame and fandom from “The Avengers” franchise, even before his breakout role in the pro-cop action blockbuster, SWAT, Jeremy Renner filled those monstrous size 10 shoes in the most quietest of ways, but the Hawkeye star’s skin-crawling version of a notorious killer he eerily takes a resemblance of provided that much more of a tactile insight into Dahmer’s inhuman nature.  Renner carries the film through two stages in Dahmer’s life, one being as an adolescent with homoerotic obsessions and deranged peculiarities whose living with his parents and grandmother while the other is paved by his own hands as an emotionless and manipulative rapist and murderer.  The distinct development is brilliantly illuminated by Renner’s understanding of Dahmer at certain stages of life.  Rounding out “Dahmer’s” cast is a fellow cinematic Marvel comics movie actor in Bruce Davison (“X-Men”) as Dahmer’s father, Lionel, Artel Great whose character is derived from real life Dahmer victim escapee, Tracey Edwards, and with Matt Newton, Dionysio Basco, and the late Kate Williamson adding their supportive performances.

Director David Jacobson didn’t want to explore and exploit the gory side of Jeffrey Dahmer’s tucked away carnage; instead, Jacobson dives into the psyche of Dahmer, molding human emotions around the sociopath who felt inadequate, if not also frightened, of his yearnings that propelled him to do the unspeakable acts of meticulous violence.  “Dahmer” obviously isn’t a true-to-fact biopic, regaling with colorful discourse and captivating with uncomfortable actions as filler to a near Hollywoodize stitching, but Jacobson did sprinkle with truth to fill in the mental gaps with interpretations of Dahmer’s connections with others, from family to victims.  Director of photography, Chris Manley, is able to capture the intensity with contrast lighting between young Dahmer and old Dahmer.  In Dahmer’s young life, the lighting is very natural, very bright, and very normal in a showcase of Dahmer’s mental space and, if we were not already enlightened about the serial killer’s, Dahmer would be just an usual misfit or a closeted homosexual with an obscure inkling to do more malevolency.  Only during scenes of mature Dahmer is the lighting saturated with hazy primary colors of blue, green, yellow, etc. that heighten madness and mark an ominous, dangerous presence inside the gay club or Dahmer’s apartment while everywhere else is in natural lighting.  A good companion piece to “Dahmer” is “My Friend Dahmer” directed by Marc Meyers that sought to visualize High Schooler Jeffrey Dahmer as an outlier spaz who desired attention to the point of making ruckuses in public places with other practical jokers and dived more into his obsession with eviscerating the local wildlife for curiosity and disolving them with his father’s chemistry concoctions, a nice little connective tissue between the two films. Watch Meyers’ “My Friend Dahmer” and Jacobson’s “Dahmer” in said order and while the two films are veritably different in style, each depiction captures a loner at heart with a minacious defense to feel, the very least, something by overpowering-to-death the unsuspecting prey.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s tactics were gruesome, perverse, and unsavory without question, but David Jacobson attempts the impossible of detaching the human from the monster in “Dahmer” that’s now being distributed onto Blu-ray by FilmRise and MVDVisual under their Marquee Collection. The High-Def, 1080p picture is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative film. While the upscaling looks fairly well achieved that seizes to put more life into the coloring, especially with those rich colorful shots in Dahmer’s later years, a good portion of 35mm negative sheens through with hairline scratches and the occasional blip of a cigarette burn. The overall delineation renders nicely with little-to-not soft edges and there doesn’t seem to be any cropping or edge enhancing. The English language DTS 5.1 Surround sound is as equally competent with clarity throughout the vocal track. There was too much depth or range to paint a picture, gaining a win by default with the conversing being held in tightly packed rooms or in extreme closeups of conversating duos. The musical score by Christina Agamanolis, Mariana Bernoski, and Willow Williamson haunts mostly like the caressing sounds of viper’s mellifluous tongue with breathy moans, irregular percussions, and a whisking uneasiness tune that sinks its teeth into you. The soundtrack is mixed with some monotonous club beats, doo-wop, and soft and classical alternative rock that include Patsy Cline, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Freddie Cannon. Bonus materials are a little antiquated with a making of featurette from back when the film was closer being first released, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, story boards, a red band and theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary by director David Jacobson and actors Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru. “Dahmer” doesn’t need to sell us on the diabolical nature of Jeffrey Dahmer, but what the film does do is formulate a systemic idea of who Dahmer disposes to be, as a loner, as a sufferer, and as a killer, underneath the skin of an average young white male.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EVIL Does a Little Bathhouse Wet Work in “Melancholic” reviewed! (Third Window Films / Blu-ray Screener)

On nights when a humble Japanese bathhouse is supposed to be closed for business, the lights remain illuminated, gleaming off the crimson covered ceramic tiles of Mr. Azuma’s bathhouse floors as body’s soak in a pool of blood.  The proprietor, Mr. Azuma, is in severe financial debt to Yakuza boss Tanaka who turns his meager business into a nightly slaughter house to dispose of Yakuza opposition or those just on the syndicate’s bad side.  When Tokyo University graduate, Kazuhiko, applies for a job as an attendant to see a girl who regular attends the bathhouse, the reserved model employee becomes enthralled with the disposing and cleaning up of the corpses, working alongside a couple of professional hitmen, Matsumoto and Kodero, but when the job he’s so passionate about requires him to be more hands on with the assassination assignments and the endless pressure from the Yakuza bares down on his colleagues and friends, Kazuhiko’s radical plan to eradicate the woes of his newfangled position just might mean his very life. 

Seiji Tanaka’s self-esteem building and identity attaining crime drama, “Melancholic,” might not reside as absolute horror, but any film involving the Japanese Yakuza is an unpredictable, Machiavellian expo worthy of every second.  Originally titled in Japan as “Merankorikku” or “メランコリック,” writer-director Tanaka retains a bloody disposition of the historically violently depicted Yakuza-storied narrative, but is asymmetrical with a converging love affair, complementary conflicting the dark and light with clarity of the centric character’s unintended double life into the criminal enterprise of cleaning a bloody bathhouse.  Based off Seiji Tanaka’s short film of the same title, “Melancholic” mops up as an immersive black dramedy from Seiji Tanaka as the filmmaker’s first credited feature film produced by One Goose production in association with Uplink and JGMP.

The story concentrates most of the effort around Kazuhiko, a graduate of the prestigious Tokyo University who doesn’t have a good job and lives with his pampering parents, fitted by Yoji Minagawa as a social misfit living on the outskirts of the Japanese mantra of diligence and integrity.  Minagawa bores out Kazuhiko’s diffidence, chocking up his damp disposition to the indecisions toward his future, that forces other characters to influence his choices, such a former high school classmate in Yuri with an effervescent performance by “Tag’s” (“Riaru onigokko”) Mebuki Yoshida.  Yuri’s infectious affection for Kazuhiko and her regular attendance at the bathhouse encourages Kazuhiko to apply and become hired for a cleaning attendant position alongside a blonde, and undereducated in comparison, counterpart in Matsumoto (Yoshitomo Isozaki), but to Kazuhiko’s surprise, his overqualified ego is shattered when he discovers that the bathhouse is a Yakuza place of execution and those all around him are more experienced in that trade, detonating a plume of black comedy, work place haughtiness that Kazuhiko has to balance with his personal relationship growing with Yuri.  Most of the exchanges are straight forward and culturally inflection heavy, especially when dire moments rear their heads, but some more compassionate and delicate scenes rouse through the overt inflections with Minagawa and Yoshida at the helm of their blossoming onscreen romance, adding to the stark contrast to the opposing narrative. Stefanie Arianne, Makoto Hada, Yasuyuki Hamaya, Takanori Kamachi, Hiroko Shinkai, Masanobu Yada, Keiji Yamashita, and Yuti Okubo fill out “Melancholic’s” cast.

“Melancholic” is a rather odd title integrated into the briefly pensive struggles of Kazuhiko to an intrinsic network of assassination gunplay and backstabbing knavery, offering little profound sadness and despair and more shrewd hostility when those in charge ask for an inch but take a mile out of the personnel pool. For a Yakuza film, Tanaka’s bath and butcher story has barely a budget to entertain technical action sequences in tight spaces, but the action is kept taut and intense and despite the lack of a Yakuza presence, with only one single boss representing an entire faction, the transposing of Kazuhiko’s personal and professional stations washes away much of budgetary concerns down the drainpipe as an irresistible curiosity to see how our hero softly stumbles through a sudden confluence of the two repelling paths will play out. Most audiences will overlook the comedy for a countless reasons as “Melancholic” up plays into the satirical rigors of the Japanese sullen humor. The fact that that the subject matter is also about mercilessly murder people in a bathhouse will undoubtedly pigeonhole the film with pre-labeled genre. Tanaka slips in gallons of subdued irony ripe for the complex circumstances hazardous to all bathhouse employees and their pryingly oppressive management.

The award winning Japanese film (aggregated wins from multiple Eastern Asian film festivals) “Melancholic” arrives onto a dual format DVD/Blu-ray from UK distributor Third Window Films, a loyal provider of extreme Asian cult and horror. Since the Blu-ray was a screener, the A/V aspects won’t be reviewed in it’s entirety and the specifications weren’t provided with the screener. Ryô Takahashi’s cinematic vision brings out the beauty in simplification without being ostentatious with camera angles or relying heavily on tint boxes; yet, the blend of steady cam and handheld tilts to the one side with the jitteriness of the handheld seizing the stage. Bonus features were included on the screener, including a behind-the-scenes of a documentary-style shot look at moments before, during, and after takes, a Q and A panel with the cast and crew, and the “Melancholic” short film. Seiji Tanaka’s breakthrough bloodbath, “Melancholic,” sounds more despondent than the dismal thought of a cold shower on a freezing day, but the heated ferocity rite into adulthood keeps this Japanese dramedy warm with tension and cozy with vortex humor.v

Purchase “Melancholic” on Blu-ray / DVD!