Jessica is a caretaker for a wildlife sanctuary located in the Australian outback. Her day-to-day challenges consist of refilling drinking water trowels in the midst of the heat and herding wandering animals away from a treacherous sinkhole with the help of faithful sheep dog, but Jessica’s way of life, and the lives of the sanctuary animals, becomes threated by three maniacal game poachers. Behind the wheel of a menacing modified truck, the poachers toy with the young woman: slaughtering the protected inhabited animals, destroying structures in her compound, and playing psychological games to mentally and physically break her will. When enough is enough, Jessica, whose nearly lost all that she has, decides to fight back against the well-armed and aggressive hunters that take their dangerous, back-and-forth game to a whole new life and death level.
Mario Andreacchio’s exploitation gem “Fair Game” makes a grand Blu-ray debut onto Umbrella Entertainment’s Ozploitation Classics collection line. Penned by screenwriter Rob George and headlined by the Brisbane beauty Cassandra Delaney, “Fair Game” is a lavishly brutal film about one isolated woman’s plight to righteously defend what’s hers at any cost against a blitzkrieg of assaults from three nasty, but very different, personalities. What’s utterly fantastic about Andreacchio’s film is the cinematography from the late “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie. Lesnie, who worked on “Dark Age” that was also released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment, had a knack for vast landscapes and the director of photography made the already arid outback seem physically monstrous, especially during long shots of Cassandra Delaney running for her life through rocky, dusty terrain. There’s a stark contrast between his day approach and his night scenes that air a soft blue and white glow on the backdrop horizon, a familiar motif typically showcased in horror films, that immensely deepens the chase and stylizes the visual ambiance.
Cassandra Delaney stars as sanctuary overseer Jessica. The demanding role pits Delaney against the terrain elements as well as the three poachers in David Sanford, Garry Who, and Peter Ford as Sunny the trio’s relentless leader. Whereas Jessica’s as pure as they come, being an animal savior and contributor to the community with Delaney selling that to the fullest extent even when she’s pissed off and being a stoic like Sarah Connor, the antagonist are about as rotten as festering, worm-riddled apple with each actor portraying a very different type of character. David Sanford’s Ringo is an acrobatic young man with a punk rock look and attitude overlaying his athletic tone, marking him the versatile go-getter. Garry Who’s Sparks is a potbelly grease monkey and as the lone designated pit crew of his posse, Who enables the slightest probably of being the most sensible of the three thugs but still meager and mean when pushed by Ringo and Sunny. Sunny denotes himself the pit boss, an elite outback tracker with narcissistic tendencies in believing he’s invincible, and Ford’s hard nose and stern take on Sunny is pinpoint precision at it’s deadliest.
To be all fair about “Fair Game” reasonability, the big question that surfaces after viewing the film is who is the most certifiable between Jessica and Sunny’s gang of hoodlums. The answer to that riddle is ultimately Jessica. Though that might seem like a radical answer, Jessica is, by far, the craziest person with a severe death wish. Whenever Jessica retaliates against the poachers, the three inevitably response with something much worse. Here are some examples: Jessica dumps flour onto Ringo’s face and slaps a vegetarian bumper sticker on their truck that causes the ruffians to quietly invade her compound and take pictures of her while she sleeps naked, Jessica causes a small avalanche to temporarily trap them in a small cave and Sunny’s hoodlums respond by shooting her horse dead, and Jessica welds their assault rifles together in a heap of twisted metal and the poachers tie her half naked body to the hood of their truck and drive around until she passes out. The spat between them overwhelming seemed one sided, as Sunny as his hounds play with their live food before biting down hard to snap it’s neck, but made for kickass exploitation that echos genre classics such as “I Spit On Your Grave.”
Umbrella Entertainment releases 1986’s “Fair Game” onto high definition, 1080p Blu-ray with an all new transfer from a newly restored 2k master. Presented with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer looks impeccable. The palette coloring isn’t vivid, but not surprising since the film is set in the arid outback with nothing but brown on top of brown or yellow on top of brown; however skin tones and the fine details are evidently splendid in Andrew Lesnie’s mise-en-scenes. There’s expected noise through out with some minor vertical scratches, especially earlier in some day time sequences and in the longer shots, but the restored transfer bares a cleaner and fresher take on the 30 year old plus film. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a lossless transfer that reinvigorates the menacing aspects of the back-and-forth contest, an example would be the monster-like, if not personified, truck that rumbles and roars when trekking and chasing across the outback. Also enhance is the soundtrack that’s a concussed epiphany of acute and rough synthesized and blunt off key tones and melodies meshed together to form a mesmerizing score from composer Ashley Irwin. The release also contains a slew of special features including audio commentary by director Mario Andreacchio and screenwriter Rob George, an extended interview with Cassandra Delaney, a segment about “Fair Game’s” set location, A couple of local TV spots from 1985, a behind the scenes with Dean Bennett, the theatrical trailer, image gallery of still scenes and rare production and promotional materials, an animated storyboard, and five of Mario Andreachio’s short films. Whew. Talk about your full loaded package. “Fair Game” is the epitome of ozploitation with lucrative degenerate characters and a fair amount of gratuitous nudity that goes without being overly sleazy and downright violent like most collaborators in the subgenre. Packed with vicious machinery and a wicked sense of mind games, “Fair Game,” hands down, one of the best in the world of Australian cult cinema.
An absent Séverine wants to take a holiday away from her boyfriend Tom after she awakes from a dream where she has fallen in love with a man in a top open, white car. Frustrated and desperately in love with her, Tom agrees to a pact with a bar room stranger to stage a faux kidnapping of his lovely girlfriend and Tom would her hero, swooping in to rescue her from “evildoers” and hoping to rekindle her passion for him, but the Tom’s newfound stranger friend has a more devious agenda up his nicely tailored coat and white collared shirt sleeves; one that involves kidnapping young women to star in their snuff movie productions. When the plan begins the unravel and actual intentions are exposed, Séverine’s forced into a deadly cat-and-mouse game against unsympathetic sadists who have laid the prep work foundation into getting to know their victim and know every inch of her youthful body, but Séverine won’t submit without an unflinching, vicious fight as she trudges through areas of an old villa compound, looking for to escape or kill her captors.
If you search for a combination of the classic Hitchcockian style with a smidgen of cold blooded savagery, Mathieu Seiler’s “True Love Ways” would be at the top of the search result. The 2015 German, black and white thriller surpasses being a surprising sleeper film and goes directly into a notorious favorite category helmed by the Switzerland born director who integrates a complex lead character into an unfathomable story of selfishness, unscrupulous power, and sheer determination. Despite the sepia overlay, the colorful venomous of the characters explodes brilliantly, adding vim and vigor to a story that begins with a slow burn to quickly escalating in an anxiety-riddled and captivating narrative pivoting to one harrowing moment to the next. Seiler, who also wrote the script, blends a detailed art house thriller with feminist undertones that surface the severe ugliness in man whose either selfish with his needs, sexually deviant, or insecure. There’s even a case where Séverine’s father isn’t safe from being scrutinized. Séverine’s the strongest character in the bunch by overcoming one obstacle over another while managing each male driven situation with disregard and hostile improvisation.
Steering Séverine’s reactive and survivalist rampage is Berlin native Anna Hausburg. The then 25 year old actress embodies a major milestone in maturity for her physical performance. The entire film is driven by physicality, not dialogue, and Hausburg prove her grit and sexuality seemingly effortless. Hausburg is joined by Kai Michael Müller as Séverine’s unassertive husband Tom. Together, Hausburg and Müller couldn’t be more distant from each other while David C. Bunners interjects with a sly director of snuff film operations. Bunners has a modest performance, but if you accept it, let it sink in, you’ll experience his devilishly, rugged good looks and sophisticated business intelligences just ooze out into a white collar sleaze, perfectly suitable with Bunners’ method on his character. His production crew, played by Michael Greiling, Axel Hartwig, Beat Marti, and Marcel Schneider, are equally skeezy in a choreographic manner whom each have a role to play. Rounding out the cast is Christian Samuel Weber, Anja Margoni, Alina Sophia Wiegert, and Margarita Ruhl.
Seiler’s “True Love Ways” is open to many different interpretations. One that seems to bubble up over and over again in the analytical gear works is that could the entire ordeal, Séverine’s ordeal, be all a lie. Not just a single cell lie, but a couple of angles that undercut the linear option laid before the viewers. For instance, the first lie would be that the dark, heinous snuff producers are all in Séverine’s head. Too many coincidences from the specifics from her dreams to come true in such a manner and she always has this mysterious ailment, near the beginning, that’s never explicitly explained. Second lie would be is this Séverine embraces the darkness of her captors; is she herself unstable after the ordeal that the very sever boredom of regular life? The predictability of it all from her vivid dreams have turned her to seek the man who wants to exploit her and who “freed” her from the incompetent men in her life – Tom, her father, etc. Seiler’s abstract bookends shed light upon slithered clues that reveal potential possibilities of where Séverine’s stands as a hero or anti-hero lead character.
MVDVisual and Synergetic Distribution present “True Love Ways” onto home video DVD. Like the monochrome tone, the DVD cover is elegantly simple with blood covered Anna Hausburg, looking disheveled and holding a blood stained axe, standing in front of a white background encasing the 95 minute film. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the black and white appears absolutely timeless, especially with Mathieu Seiler’s directorial style. However, slight aliasing can be detected in fast paced scenes that liquify the detailing and there’s a bit of digital noise amongst the black objects, like the Old Villa door. The German 2.1 stereo has slightly lower fidelity, but has a still absolute and manageable to understand. There wasn’t really much to test for dialogue depth or range as the film progresses physically rather than with dialogue so many woodsy chase sequences, running through the Villa house, and cars speeding down an isolated road to which all ambient nicely enough. There are no extras included on this release. What starts out as a melodrama between a withering couple turns barbaric under a perennial style of filmmaking. “True Love Ways” provides two-tone carnage with some gore, some sexuality, and a lot of inhuman nature that signifies what’s great about this German indie picture with cascading undertones.
After receiving a distressing call warranting a trip to Mexico, alcoholic and drug dealer Warran Novak attempts to sell half cooked crystal meth to junkies that ends in two fatalities and two armed drug pushers in hot pursuit of Warren after he steals their cash for the road trip to the border. Before entering Mexico after a tireless drive and unaware of where to exactly go next once crossed the border, the fallen military soldier rents a motel room in the rundown town of Bedford Flats, a once thriving community lush with value and tourism derived from it’s once popular hunting tradition of bison and other wildlife. Now that the wildlife has dried up, Bedford Flats has landed in a stage of an ugly depression and to keep on the tradition of hunting, the foundation of which Bedford Flats has been built, the towns people gather to conduct a merciless hunting expedition of drifters and unsavory folk. Warren and his two pursuers, plus a homeless Mexican and the town drunk, are forced to participate in the hunt as prey with only their able bodies to carry themselves across the salt flats and seek shelter in the rocky landscape just beyond, but Warren decides to fight back against the towns’ most capable hunters in a twisted game of cat-and-mouse.
Western horror has always been a fascinating subgenre with a bleak and barren landscape denizened with colorful, hellbent characters committing one of three sole acts: taking, surviving, or dying. Selective Collective and Waterstone Entertainment’s “Happy Hunting” steps ever so lightly beyond the border into the realm of modern western horror involving a deranged game of hunting and killing humans for sport backdropped mostly in Bombay Beach, California and written and directed by first time feature film filmmakers Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson, who is one of the sons of Hollywood superstar, and who knows all about western dystopias, Mel Gibson (“Mad Max”). Louie Gibson might have learned a thing or two from his “Apocalypto” directing old man by delivering the brash ferocity and the stoned-heart, icy personas into the story and into the shot twisting an already vulnerable situation into sheer, bite-the-bullet terror.
Martin Dingle Wall delivers every shaky alcoholic tremor as drifter Warren Novak. Wall’s soft eyes, but rugged appeal justifies the 46-year-old actor as an unlikely, likable hero even though Warren will do just about anything for money and for the drink. Wall is able to tap into Warren’s subtle high intelligence and exploit it for the screen against a variety of aberrant game hunters by actors including “Devil Girls'” C.J. Baker, Michael Tipps, Kenneth Billings, and Liesel Handson of “Planet of the Vampire Women.” Dietsch and Gibson pick out one hunter to be the most versatile bad guy in Ken Lally. Lally, whose voice has captured legendary video game characters such as Mortal Kombat’s Smoke, Goro, and Shinnok, brings that malevolent tone to the silver screen as Bedford Flats all around nice guy, Steve Patterson. Of course, “all around nice guy” is an oxymoron in “Happy Hunting” because there are no such thing as nice guys in Bedford Flats, not even the crooked Sheriff Burnside (“Sasquatch Hunters'” Gary Sturm) who acts as the maestro for Bedford Flat’s great annual hunt.
What’s interesting about the film is that there is no love interest which is a rarity; instead, Warren is motivated by a mysterious phone call regarding a possible Mexican love child in the need of help. The mysterious plea over the phone line provides Warren with a purpose in this purposeless life, but that purpose is amplified by the very abrupt detour by a deranged town seeking to rid, what they consider to be, lowlife scum. Another side to Warren’s plight is that the whole sadistic game, the entire inhuman hunt, could be a figment of his withdrawal. Being a drifter and a person who doesn’t amount to much, Warren self worth goes in and out of various stages of withdrawal throughout the duration, before and during life stakes, with dropped dialogue and visible hints about symptoms of going cold turkey. Lets not forget to mention that the directors make an elucidation of Warren’s withdrawals with visions of a dead man, one in which Warren kills prior to his trek to the border, conversing with him, providing him undue advice during the predicament. Then, there’s the very end scene which shoots the likelihood of Warren’s version realism and sanity right out the window and begs the question if everything Warren went through, every struggle, and every death experienced was all inside his head.
“Happy Hunting” has been released on DVD courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment. The region 4 DVD is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that’s utterly gorgeous and stupefyingly frightening in the long and wide shots of Bombay Beach’s desert wasteland. Heavy in dusty yellow and rich in lifeless landscape, the color palette is understandably one-sided, but the merit is in the detail of every dry land crack and every minuscule dust bite being disseminated about with every action. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has balance, range, and fidelity. Dialogue’s clear and prominent, even with Martin Dingle Wall’s slightly raspy and sluggish deliveries. A blight on the DVD is the bonus material and that goes without saying because a single extra doesn’t grace the package, constructing an anemic, film-only DVD presentation of Joe Diestsch and Louie Gibson’s first feature run. However, “Happy Hunting” re-illuminates Western horror stark with a dire need for survival during trying times and Joe Diestch and Louie Gibson have fashioned a subtle analogy of what life would be like in a supposed Trump America where the U.S.-Mexico border wall would be infact 10 feet high, “deplorable” people are axed from today’s American society, and the small rural, once thriving, communities are stuck in the past with outdated viewpoints and assumptions of how maintain existence in a world changing around them. In the end, “Happy Hunting” goes beyond Western horror into being an insightful dystopia of exploitive western survival horror.
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.