The Evils of a Transgendered Occultist! “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” review


On a dark and stormy night after a school football game, a teacher and three students take shelter at a cottage adjacent to a cemetery. If the cottage wasn’t creepy enough, the sole occupant owner surpassed the bar. She calls herself Miss Leslie, a middle aged woman with an ill-fated story of her friend and mother’s fiery demise from long past and a quirky penchant for making life-size female dolls that set inside an illuminating shrine. Though they feel uneasy about the creepy surroundings, the visitors stay and get cozy, especially with each other, but Miss Leslie has ulterior, deranged motives. Her dolls are not just lifelike, they once were vibrant lives of women Miss Leslie sorely wanted to inhabit their feminine confines of youth and beauty from over the years, but now they are an undecomposable shells, encase in Miss Leslie’s special doll making brew to timelessly capture their lovely physiques. They are also beautiful, yet painful reminders of her failed attempts to transfer her essence into their adolescent bodies.

Every so often you come across a film with a gigantically absurd hard shell cover with the gooey insides of eye-rolling cheesiness and you just have to ask yourself, how in the world did something like this ever come to fruition!? Yet, somehow, someway, these productions of an oddball variety always have an intense allure about them and end up being just one of the coolest rarities to grace the glazed-over irises. Joseph Prieto’s “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” is the epitome of this very phenomena. “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” is an exploitation, nearly softcore porn, horror with a deranged killers with severe mental issues that range from communication with dead to, what can be now construed as antiquated, complications of gender identity. One of the last directed films from Prieto, who also helmed “Shanty Tramp” and “Savages from Hell,” also penned the screenplay alongside longtime collaborator and producer Ralph Remy Jr. The script reads like an insatiable bedside thriller novel, an object of complete obsession through the entirety and well long after being completed; “Miss Leslie’s Dolls’” has a rich gothic lining, a strong sexual appetite, and a timely LGTB subject that involves debate on mental illness or inherited gender orientation.

Not many actors performed in drag. Sure, there was Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in “Some Like It Hot” and there was even Anthony Perkins from “Psycho,” who some might go as far as saying that “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” might draw inspiration from with the whole mother fixation, but only a small faction of fans, especially in the genre, might know Salvador Ugarte. The Cuban born Ugarte has great poise as a woman imprisoned in a man’s body. Miss Leslie just isn’t a deranged killer in drag; the character has deep rooted issues stemming out of not only being a woman embodied incorrectly, but also seeded by an engulfing obsession with capturing beauty to obtain it for herself, an addition from a result of a permanent scarring left behind by Miss Leslie’s homicidal rampage in the character’s history. Ugarte has the mannerisms and the gait down so unerringly that’s the performance is downright creepy, but there was one aspect of womanhood that Ugarte’s masculinity couldn’t mask: his voice. The actor is horrendously dubbed, adding charm to the bizarre concept. Ugarte’s joined by “Little Laura and Big John’s” Terri Juston, Marchelle Bichette (“The Gruesome Twosome”), Kitty Lewis, and Charles Pitts of “Supervixens.”

Contrary to the above, “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” has some drawback. Though the characters might be entertaining and interesting, especially with the Bourbon obsessed and hot for teacher Roy and his terrible gangster accent or the fact that Ms. Alma Frost is a smoking hot, twenty-something year old prude teacher to her pupils who are practically the same age as her, they’re washed over with an aloof mentality, consequently looking past or just blatantly oblivious to Miss Leslie’s obvious male features, her inauspicious ramblings, and the fact she has a shrine of creepy and realistic dolls of women that fill the room with the smell like rot and death. Perhaps too busy running through the cemetery at night in skimpy bedroom garments. Yes, this does happen. On top of that, Miss Leslie harness of occult powers goes relatively unexplored, yet very much utilized as an important portion of the film near the last act. Despite being passively mentioned and rather undercut from more than most of the film, Miss Leslie’s occult mischief is plucked right from left field to further the enigmatic aurora of Prieto’s mystical exploitation.

Network proudly presents “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” on an UK 1080p Hi-Definition, region free Blu-ray home video, remastered from the original film elements once thought to be have been forever lost. The newly scanned transfer came from a surviving print and presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The restoration included detailed grain management, the automated and manual removal of dirt and damage, and the correction of major color instability, warp, and density fluctuations. (In full disclosure, Network sent me a DVD-R screener and that is what the following critique is based off of) Though in some frames there flares up some instability, from my perspective, the first act and half really came out well with the vivid, yet natural, coloring. However, once inside Miss Leslie’s basement, woozy blotchy moments of Leslie fiddling around makes the particular scene a bit off putting. The stereo mono track is fair for the 1973 film that has it’s share of distortions and editing pop faux pas, but the dialogue is fiercely prominent, despite the inherent awfully laid dub track, and equally well balanced with ambient tracks. There were no bonus material on the release. Transvestitism horror is quite a rare experience that always has a lasting impression, cerebrally popping visuals of grim visions commingling with the blood, the viscera, and the other supplementary violence. “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” deserved this Blu-ray release and Network did right by Prieto’s obscure grindhouse feature that will sear into your skull.

Mad Doctors, Evil Bloodsuckers, and Vengeance in “Lust of the Vampire Girls” review!


After painstakingly trying to argue to her boyfriend that he never hangs out with her drug abusive friends, the woman withdraws to her friends’ exclusive sanctum without telling him. Before he realizes what’s really at stake, the boyfriend learns that her friends are potential Devil worshippers that aim to practice human sacrifices, but little does he know that his girlfriend is beyond the dangers of a Devil cultist as she had unwittingly placed herself in the experimental hands of a mad Nazi doctor named Gunter and his serum produced harem of female vampires and loyal male acolytes. As the boyfriend attempts to infiltrate the cult incognito, he’s overwhelmed by the flesh-piercing, bikini-wearing beauties, but the eldest vampire, whose bored after years of being with Gunter and wants to find true love, spares the man’s life and instantly imprints herself onto him. She shows him that his girlfriend is no longer mortal and promises to be with him forever, but before he can commit, he first must destroy Gunter and his work before the evil scientist distributes a new serum that’ll be able to transform women and men into the upgraded superior race of blood-thirsty vampires.

There have been moments where horror enthusiastic filmmakers have embarked creatively on re-creating cult favorites or re-inventing that of the European, over-sexualized female vampire, Victor Matellano’s remake of Jose Ramon Larraz’s for instance, and most have come out on top with inspirationally faithful stories or portray the particular type of promiscuous vampire. Writer-director Matt Johnson takes a wooden stake stab at the complexities of the homage with “Lust of the Vampire Girls,” his feature film debut, and with a budget that’s resting on a minimalistic mishmash pot of a self and crowd-funded platter, the director runs with his sparsely written script with a vast amount of bodies able to fill a plethora of roles. Instead of mystical, fantastical, or ancient damned souls feeding on the hapless male sex, the “LofVG” story surrounds a Nazi madman injecting his serum into women over the years (No, that’s not an euphemism) which is Johnson’s modern day spin to the genre.

Nameless characters, aside from Gunter, shape the lineup of vampires and humans, starting with Victor Medina as the boyfriend. Medina’s performance further darkens the character whose an utter jerk lacking chivalry and a moral compass, but the actor is able to fulfill the boyfriend’s character arc as he tracks down, and express a figment of empathy toward, his estranged pretty girlfriend played by “Friend Request’s” Amy Savannah. The two battle against each other with petty ventures of, sometimes typically, relationship woes and Medina and Savannah reflect that rather well until coming entangled with Dave Nilson’s Gunter. Certainly fitting the part and wielding a passable German accent, Nilson comes off as power, arrogant, and invincible. In short, perhaps the most convincing performance in the entire film. Leading Gunter’s harem den of vampire girls is a the doctor’s oldest, yet ageless, subject, donned to the lovely Ashley Eliza Parker, whose eagerness falls just beyond the fumes of desperation. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Christiensen, Cherish Dawn, Mary Etuk, Jami Kelly, Flo Median, and Bri Northem.

“Lust of the Vampire Girls” might be billed as a homage to the 1960’s and 1978’s European exploitation, but as the film seeps into a quasi-level surrealistic state garnished with sexy female lasses in undergarments, very much reminiscent of the genre claimed to respect, the allure finitely founders and tilts more toward below a meager attempt that results in wince-worthy acting and female vampires perpetually hissing through their teeth. In the sequence of events, the beginning offers a small non-linear storyline that’s sorely misplaced starting with the pretty girl being lost only to be found by a vampire loyalist, then the boyfriend, surrounded by variously masked cladded acolytes, becomes a sleeper agent in Gunter’s psychosexual church of horrors, but then the couple are having an embattled conversation at a coffee house, and then, before we know it, we’re back at the church again – with, again, the perpetual hissing, underwear garnished, vampires in silky, see-thru robes. Overly sexualized female vampires are a very Eurotrash and the hazy environment is very reminisce of the LSD era, which Matt Johnson pulls off both fairly well, but the greats, like Jean Rollin or Jesus Franco, made them more captivating than just being mindless, eye-candy monsters with a very bad lisps.

Wild Eye Releasing and MVDVisual release Matt Johnson’s “Lust of the Vampire Girls” onto DVD home video. Image quality varies in a numerous shades of tint, but for the majority, there’s a soft glow to the entire stock and macroblocking during night scenes. The stereo track has an unbalance wit about it that’s unsavory in it’s lossy quality during the genre uncharacteristically progressive metal soundtrack and offers a cacophony during scenes of anger and scuffle. Bonus material includes “LotVG” trailer and storyboards. On the surface, Matt Johnson skimmed the exploitation genre the filmmaker was shooting for and whether intentional or not, the quality waivers from script to performance and then there are aspects that just don’t make since (like vampires wearing gas mask..?), but it’s an atmospheric A-to-Z low-budget horror film and nothing more.

Own “Lust of the Vampire Girls!”

A Lone Woman Takes On Three Evil Poachers in “Fair Game” review!


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.

Subliminal Evils Slithered Inside Your Head! “The Holly Kane Experiment” review!


The questionable techniques of radical psychologist Holly Kane have been effective in redirecting and controlling unconscious thoughts through sensory deprivation. Facing potential legal trouble even after a successful Hospital procedure, Holly Kane turns to the offer from Marvin Greensdale, a wealthy and well-known psychologist seeking to employ Holly for clinical trials that would lead toward legitimizing her practice. In conjunction, Holly begins a romantic relationship with an admiring Dennis MacIntyre as her life and her life’s work have seemingly taken a turn for best, but as soon as she starts the clinical trials, Holly begins experience hallucinations and hearing whispering voices and she fears that her despondent and bleak family history of mental illness might be catching up with her or is it something else that’s covertly sinister?

Between Brighton and London is steered a conspiracy-riddled thriller entitled “The Holly Kane Experiment from a father-son filmmaking duo, writer Mick Sands and director Tom Sands. The filmmakers behind “Backtrack,” aka “Nazi Vengeance,” go deeper into the mysteriousness of subconscious cauterized by a fleshy cloak and dagger aspect layered thick, chillingly dense, and richly dark. Tom Sands invades the personal space of the senses by introducing sensory disrupting attributes in the same vein as Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” but Sands then diverts away from a snowballing psychedelic thriller to an undermining exploitation on a clandestine level.

Kirsty Averton stars as the titular character, the obsessed and isolated psychologist looking for answers inside the depths of her own mind. Averton performs well as the highly stern and fiercely focused Holly Kane and the English actress has a body to match. That’s remark is important to the story because with her beauty, the story would take an entirely different angle with her Holly’s employer, and lust admirer, Marvin Greensdale, played faultlessly by long time actor Nicky Henson (“Psychomania”) who flourishes an distinguished socialite whose more charming than aging youth. Also in the mix of the love triangle, James Rose makes his feature film debut as Dennis MacIntyre, a man trying to forget his past when he meets the beautiful Holly Kane. If there was an ever an odd wheel or a black sheep in the cast, Rose fit the bill with his scruffy appearance, homeless attire, and the insecurity in his voice and in his acting. The Scottish native has a personal interest in this film as he is, according to IMDB, a graduate of cognitive hypnotherapy and psychology, which begs the question, did Rose provide professional consultation? Holly Kane’s exclusive drug dealer, a chemist graduate named Jeannie, falls on the shoulders of Lindsey Campbell who mirrors as Kane’s opposite. Jeannie’s free spirit attitude and candid drug use sets up the fitting actress to nearly be free of constraint and to act under a hallucinogenic state until she encounters trouble with Greensdale’s operative goon Carl Grower in a riveting information extraction scene. With a chiseled jowl and a gaunt look, Matthew Neal certainly has a memorable role that he intensifies with a heart piercing look through a thousand yard stare and snare so devilish that Carl Grower instantly becomes a character favorite, but the character lacks significant screen time and is limited to basically the third act.

“The Holly Kane Experiment” subliminally pushes out the true intention of the plot and turns massively psychosexual. Once true intentions are made light, a thick film of filth just washes over and that’s subtle, yet poignantly subversive. However, Mick Sands’ scribing of the dynamic between Kane and Greensdale’s licentious activity through the power of suggestion form complexities turned improbabilities. Basically, the story was unchallenged by the writing with characters falling for obvious scrupulous activity. Also, the undercooked character developed plays a bit part in denoting the true power of individuals and the wane in others. Like aforementioned, Holly Kane is obsessive, fierce, and maybe even a little paranoid, but the character is easily blindsided by the very first instance of opportunity for her technique, even if blotted by questionable motives.

Today, “The Holly Kane Experiment” premieres in the UK on digital platforms. The Substantial Films production is a drug-fueled, psychosexual thriller poised to spotlight brainwashing and be an anti-establishment picture, but doesn’t quite pass the finishing mark with a jerky storyline that disrupts and undermines the time and spatial impurities, leaving a discombobulated aftertaste. The finale is also disconcerting with an abrupt and dissatisfying ending to forthright explain where characters land and I’m talking about all the characters fates. Overall, “The Holly Kane Experiment” is worth the time despite the issues with jarring the mind and violating the body, bending both to do bidding against one’s will, and that alone is impressively fearful. You can learn more about “The Holly Kane Experiment” at the film’s official website – www.thehollykaneexperiment.com.

Evil Doesn’t Care About Your Love! “True Love Ways” review!


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.

Don’t miss out on “True Love Ways!” Available at Amazon.com