The Clap is the Real Evil Here. “Quiet Days in Clichy” reviewed! (Blue Underground / 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray)

“Quiet Days in Clichy” 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Set Available Now!

Joey and Carl are two broke writers living the coquet bachelor life in a small Paris, France apartment where they have a revolving door of transient sexual encounters with various women.  Despite being writer poor and hungry for most of the time, Joey and Carl happily lead a charmed life of meaningless moments.  Doesn’t matter to them how or from who they contracted a sexual transmitted disease.  Doesn’t matter to them how they pay for their carnal escapades.  And, mostly, doesn’t matter to them the age of the women they sleep with as long as it doesn’t cause them trouble.  The woes of everyday life do not stop the roommates from enjoying night clubs, traveling abroad, and the simple, bodily pleasures of French women.

In the same preface vein as Jens Jørgen Thorsen adaptively written-and-directed “Quiet Days in Clichy,” some readers may find the following material offensive, revolting, and not up to the universal moral standard – especially more so in the politically awareness of contemporary times.  Based off the novel of the same title from American writer Henry Miller, who was seen as an intellectual surrealist enlightened by the chauvinistic viewpoints on women and sex, the Danish, 1970-released blue film, “Quiet Days in Clichy,” resembles something of a semi-biographical depiction of Miller’s own personal non-fictional experiences as a proofreader in Paris during the 1930s, but updated to more contemporary times in the 1960s with genre designation that’s more of sex comedy than bio documentary.  The novel, which was banned in the United States for many years, focuses on the frivolous joys of simple pleasures that superseded the life sustaining necessities, such as food or money for food and become something of a blend between Miller’s explicit anecdotes and some wishful fantasy.  Shot on location in the small outer rim Paris neighborhood in Clichy, “Quiet Days in Clichy,” also known in the U.S. as the “Not So Quiet Days” or “Stille dage i Clichy” in the Norse Danish tongue, is produced by comedy producers Klaus Pagh and Henrik Sandberg.

A full skin, hang loose, and complete sexist semblance is no easy task and yet the two principal Dane actors Paul Valjean and Wayne Rodda, as Joey and Carl, are not the best looking in the men gene pool. “Quiet Days in Clichy” marks Valjean and Rodda’s one and only leading roles in their shrimpy career and while their performances paint the characters as apathetic womanizers, they still render a dopey slack-jawed dialogue as if delightful halfwits, a description not terrible too far off from the roles their portraying. The story substantially surrounds around Joey more frequently in what is an uneven dynamic development of the buddy comedy system to undercut Carl nearly completely out of the picture if no half-naked women are in the scene. Perhaps because Paul Valjean, or at least Valjean made up in Joey’s balding hair line and spectacles, looks a lot like the adapted story’s novelist author, Henry Miller. Again, this film is a semi-biographical onset of one man’s intellectual philosophy on sex and nihilism. There’s even a bit of nonchalant pedophilia as Carl takes a dunce young girl, Colette (Elsebeth Reingaard) at the ripe age of 14 off the street and keeps her as a sexual pet who keeps the house tidy in nothing more than a shirt and the way Thorsen depicts the introduction and the proceedings of keeping her around feels rather normalizing and whimsical despite Carl practically shoving her pubescence right in our faces with repetitive noting the illegality of underage exploitation and trouble that comes with it as long as the law doesn’t finds out. Even when the roommates are found out and confronts sans police, Joey and Carl’s punishment is nothing more than a stern warning from Colette’s mother. A plethora of women cross the screen and round out “Quiet Days in Clichy’s” menagerie of lewd and sensual women with roles by Ulla Koppel, Susanne Krage, Avi Sagild, Lisbet Lindquist, and Anne Kehler.

Henry Miller may have been something of a surrealist author, Jens Jørgen Thorsen was also something of a surrealist director that approached the adaptation with the knowledge the content would offend likely most people who find cavalier sex and arrogance to be offense.  “Quiet Days in Clichy” is certainly obscene with wanton waywardness.  Thorsen has a way of telling the lewd and crude story from the philanderer’s perspective that construes a routine day-and-a-life and everyone appears okay with what would usually be a Molotov cocktail exploding self-spiraling madness.  Instead, Thorsen paints a happy-go-lucky portrait of Joey (and Carl too) with aimless ambivalence and does so with frenzied edited scenes that trims out frames and you still get the gist of sequential events by letting your brain connect the dots.  The same cerebral interpretation also takes place during the photograph montage of Joey and Carl’s trip to the small country of Luxembourg in a flurry of images that tell a sequential ordered story of their whirlwind trip filled with seeing the sights, causing some mischief, and, of course, flirting with the local women.  Thorsen also showcases ground level Paris to the fullest with mom-and-pop storefronts, open aired dining, the widened trafficked lanes, and the night club scenes complete with featuring American Jazz saxophonist Ben Webster scoring a subdued hot number while Joey and Carl become handsy and indulge in covert public exhibition with the female patrons at a small-time cabaret club.  Miller’s adapted work is a philosophy of sexual freedom that takes precedent over personal welfare is akin to self-torpedoing with still a starry-eyed and goofy grin expression.

Stylistically, even though this Thorsen sex comedy is labeled a blue film by subgenre the film actually is voided color all around with a black and white cinematography approach by Jesper Høm that looks super slick with a well-preserved transfer in a slight low contrast on the new Blue Underground 2-disc 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray set. The brand-new restoration on a 66GB, double layer, release comes scanned in 4K 16-bit from recently discovered uncut and uncensored original fine-grain negative that absolutely is very fine indeed! The black and white picture is presented in a European widescreen standard of a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and barely shows signs of age with an anti-wear, which makes me suspect there might have been some cleanup work. There’s clearly some DNR use to smooth out the grain, but this effort also clears up the black and white picture very nicely, resulting in a solid contrast that favors the lower said a tad. The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray process mid-to-high 30s Mbps with no pacing issues to the frame rate. Both come with new rescored English 1.0 audio mixes with the 4K Ultra HD sporting a Dolby Vision HDR while the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio presents an equally clean file. Both offer quality audio designs that are free from undercutting distortions, such as a cracking, popping, hissing, etc, and are greatly robust with the Dolby Vision eking out a little fuller bodied product. One gripe I have is that Blue Underground doesn’t translate the French-speaking ancillary roles that become lost to conversation if one does not know the tongue, but the English subtitles are free from error and synch up well without any delay or being too quick. French subtitles are also included. Bonus features include new deleted scenes and new theatrical trailer on both discs. The Blu-ray also includes the Songs of Clichy – a 2002 interview with soundtrack composure Country Joe McDonald speaking about one note role of just scoring the film and coming to terms with his unaware sexism, Dirty Blooks, Dirty Movies, Barney Rosset on Henry Miller – an interview with Henry Miller’s editor and publisher that touched upon the mad, chauvinistic genius and perversions of the blacklisted author, Midnight Blue – an archival second interview with Barney Rosset, new poster and still gallery, a new Henry Miller book cover gallery of the title, and new scanned court documents when America seized the film upon entry into the country and the legal fight that ensued to obtain it back. The physical release comes with a not safe for work cardboard slipcover with imprinted frames from scenes while the blacked out 4K and Blu-ray snapper case comes with original artwork of one of the more memorable scenes. The release comes not rated with a runtime of 91 minutes. “Quiet Days in Clichy” lead to more rambunctious nights in the Paris suburb of debauchery and Blue Underground preserves the perverse with a higher quality of lower standards in a beauty of a release.

“Quiet Days in Clichy” 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo Set Available Now!

EVIL Comes in Pairs. “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

A top-secret lab, known as the Ark 1 of Jeju Island where The Witch project is being conducted, is raided by ruthless mercenaries armed to the teeth with weapons and an enhanced superpowers resulting from The Witch project.  Eradicating every living person in the tundra camouflaged facility, one teenage girl emerges bloody from the carnage and wanders off into a neighboring snow-covered forest.  She’s rescued by Kyung-hee and her brother Dae-gil who inherited the land from their recently killed father.  The siblings are in a contentious situation of their own with a gangster uncle, Yong-du, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the property, especially when he took care of the previous landowner.  With her Witch powers, the girl helps her kind rescuers to fend off a Yong-du shakedown, but the problems only begin there as the Ark 1 mercenaries are tracking down the girl’s whereabouts to finish what they started and a tactical team, enhanced with Witch powers too, has also been dispatched to eliminate the girl as an unpredictable global threat.  When all forces collide, the Earth will shake in a bloodbath of superpowers. 

A direct, but not an entirely direct sequel to the 2018 high-action Korean thriller “The Witch:  Part I – The Subversion,” writer-director Park Hoon-jung (screenwriter of “I Saw the Devil”) returns with a follows up the long awaited sequel “The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” that promises to be just as excitingly unrestrained with more players in the superpower game culminating to an explosive head that plays out like a hard-hitting Guy Richie storyline of intersecting plot threads except without wisecracking Englishmen.  The sequel follows another, and a handful of others in sperate, funneling threads, like the first installment’s principal character Koo Ja-yoon with insurmountable supernatural abilities except now everyone and their brother can “Twilight”-jump and Wolverine-heal, making the field even-steven to a known extent up until the grand finale.  Park returns as producer as well as newcomer Hyun-woo Kim, producer of “I Saw the Devil” and “Snowpiercer,” with Next Entertainment World and Goldmoon Films serving as production companies.

The sequel does not specifically revolve around first film femme fatale Koo Ja-yoon and turns the focus on a new prodigal Witch who has been cooped up in a lab since birth, hence why the film is not a full-fledged direct sequel as the storyline goes into an offshoot that later intersects. The face of the new witch is played by Shin Si-ah who makes her feature film debut.  When not covered in blood, Shin’s mostly reserved performance opens to light-hearted and childlike wonder as her character is experiences everything for the first time outside the Ark 1 lab.  Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin, “Death Bell 2:  Bloody Camp”) and Dae-gill (Sung Yoo-bin, “Manhole”) take in the girl and become the warm absorption resemblance of family life or a life with romantic interests that can quickly be ripped away at any moment, sending the emotionally teetering girl into battle mode.  However, that sensation of relationships and tenderness hardly translates well on screen.  Perhaps losing some impact in literal translation, the trio’s dynamic retains a goalless fruition of connecting with other people, especially the superhuman powerless ones.  I found more complexities in the two factions seeking the same target – the girl.  Enigmatically opening with the mercenary raid on the secret Ark 1 lab and executing all in their path, we’re not immediately introduced to, and then barely given an introduction at all, is “The Cursed Lesson’s” Chae Won-bin’s mercenary boss lady and her squad of lesser-though of subordinates who all carry this overly murderous confidence with the latter being often measured inside their own group.  The other group is quite the opposite with the official tactical response team deployed by the Witch project head Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo), a returning character from “The Subversion.”  Compiled as chief agent Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) and her second-in-command, a South African named Tom (Justin John Harvey). Seo and Harvey have a better act as the exchange is degrading and goofy in a comical manner with Jo as a workaholic lone wolf leader of an elite group of special ops while Tom brown noses his commander with new tech and offers helpful suggestions to which his commander either breaks or doesn’t use the new tech and views him as more of a warmhearted nuisance. Jin Goo completes the principal cast as a high-level gangster boss that would be big time in reality but in “The Witch’s” universe equates to an insignificant goon in a fancy coat. With an entourage of loyal henchmen, Jin Goo rubs elbows with his business smarts to get in bed with a clandestine organization as well as staying alive as long as he can in order to rob property right from under his niece and nephews’ nose. Goo plays the part with sly astonishment as he creates a pompous persona mildly shocked by awesome abilities of a young girl with the strength of 100 men.

What garnered much fascination with the 2018 film was the Korean dark, neo-noir tone intermixed with the uncanny abilities of a mystery person who can’t remember jack about their past. Park Hoon-jung essentially removes the simplified spine of “Part 1” and transplants it as the basis of “Part 2” with the similar added angles of a destroyed lab that supposedly no one survives but one person ultimately does and a pair of benevolent landowners who rescue, nurse, and essentially adopt the amnesiac girl back to 100% percent. “Part 2′” mirrored storyline is then targeted by at least three different angles represented by each bird-dogging group to add elements of change that include a contrast of comedy and austere posturing, the former being refreshingly novel to the two-film series that promises more to come after an open-ended finale. Returning to the sequel is the insane visual effects of “Twilight”-esque rapid movements and epic fight sequences with large explosions, a cold and bloody violent complexion, and high body count and while that’s all good and dandy for surface level popcorn effects, what’s agonizing is the how sped up they are as if every super occurrent was purposely depressed on fast forward by the power of three. If Park and his creative visual supervisors and gurus could have tempered down every other two moments with instead of having thrown cars, and among other things, seemingly skip multiple frames would have had more of a plausibility impact. The mélange complexity of multiple pursuers armed to the teeth and converging onto an unexpected teenage girl shacked up in a humble abode is a great classical spell of barnstorming besiegement that has the same improbability odds of survival as before betting on David versus Goliath until upended unto the aggressors, with all their guns and knives, who now need a prayer and much more against the prodigal youth with a considerably more amount of Witch power.

A fierce force of controlled power, and unforeseen surprises, the long-anticipated sequel, “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One,” has finally landed post-pandemic. Well Go USA Entertainment, who released the first installment on Blu-ray, has picked up the rights to release the sequel on the high-definition format, presented in a sleek and sharp 16:9 aspect ratio. Virtually no issues with the digital presentation, the Blu-ray’s 1080p heightens every aspect of detail, even to a fault with the wonky visual effects as mentioned earlier. The overall darker lit tone and range can sometimes give off the appearance of softer details but with solid contrasting, the outlining shapes up more so than often and there’s no compression distortion to render an ill-defined texture. The Korean-English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, also available is a Dolby Digital 7.1 Atmos and a Stereo 2.0, delivers a formidable, comprehensible, and frenzy-favorable mix of balanced action and dialogue. Depth perfectly pitches the focus properly while the range fuses together mostly during the fighting sequences until there’s a deep and punch-packed explosion mushrooming into a ball of crackling fire. No evident issues with dialogue and the English subtitles synch well with no flaws. Bonus content features a glossy and sped-cut behind-the-scenes featurette and the theatrical trailer. Physical features include the original Blu-ray snapper case with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same cliff-note touching cover art as the snapper case. The NTSC Blu-ray come region A hardcoded, is unrated, and has a runtime of 130 minutes. Time flies when you’re engrossed in “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One’s” take no prisoner thriller of transcendent turbulence.

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

Become Wrapped Up in EVIL with “The Shroud” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

Centuries before, an evil witch is brutally tortured and killed while covered in a white shroud. In present day, a nun, part of a special sect vowed to never let the unholiness of the shroud deviltries be unearthed from the forgotten rubble of a divine stupa, is raped by two men wearing masks. With the help of a hired obtainer, the nun will stop at nothing to get her hands on, even at the defiance of her brother’s advice, but the shroud’s a bewitching mistress and its power are intoxicating. Breaking her piety pact with God and her sworn duty to protect man from wickedness, the nun succumbs to the sin that drips from the shroud’s blood-soaked fabric and exploits its personification powers of evil doings by not only exacting revenge on her attackers, sending the shroud to assassinate her attackers without an ounce of mercy, but also converting her devout habit to a shameless, promiscuous one of immorality.

A made-in-Italia possession film about a killer burial garment and a nun with big guns giving out the last rites. What could go wrong? The immediate impression arises a lot of interest in this 2022 released inanimate killer object flick from writer-director Fabrizio Spurio. As Spurio’s third feature in the horror genre, “The Shroud” envelopes the 50-year-old, Rome-born director’s first ambitious single story length venture behind the more episodic anthology, “Innesti,” and the more obscure “Vanity,” that taps into the willingness participation to do anything for stardom. “The Shroud” embarks into a more religious and supernatural discourse that clashes the sin and the sinner with a blurry line of empowerment. Made with pennies, or rather made on the Italian centismos on the Euro, “The Shroud,” or “Sindome,” is a production of the Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci inspired Goreproduction company, cofounded by Spurio with Francesco Lagonigro tacked on as a fulltime collaborator in shooting low-budget, independent, free-thinking cinema of underground horror.

The last time I saw the sultry lead Italian actress and extreme indie horror luminary, Chiara Pavoni, was in the avant garde “Xpiation” helmed by one of, if not the dominant, underground horror filmmaker, Domiziano Cristopharo.  In her motherly-voyeuristic role, Pavoni radiated with dark, sphinxlike desire in her well-dressed, pin-up sex-symbol performance of longing and control.  Pavoni doesn’t stray far from that archetype with her latest role in Spurio’s “The Shroud” as she plays a woman of virtue, a nun to be more exact, who has quickly turned lubricious and vindictive after her being raped.  Pavoni is certainly bodacious on screen as she adorns tight-fitting outfits that barely contain her snugly-packed large chest, exposing a Mariana Trench deep cleavage in a Spirit Halloween sexy nun getup for much of her role’s sordid side.  As a thespian performer, Pavoni has the subtle moves of a temptress who knows what she wants but dialogue deliveries are something left to be desired as the “Demonium” actress goes through the motions of plain speak as does much of the other cast, including the Goreproduction producer costar Francesco Lagonigro. Lagonigro plays her object obtainer who, by the seducing forces of the shroud, turns into her sex-slave or gothic lackey as visions of death please feed him the sensation of guilty pleasures. Lagonigro’s version of a factotum is about as cheesy as they come with a glaring lowered brow and white and black face paint to embellish something that looks nowhere near sinisterism. If we’re supposed to take Lagonigro’s maniacal manservant role seriously than Spurio, and Lagonigro for that matter, misses the mark badly in a poorly sized up rendition of a Renfield like stooge. “The Shroud” rounds out the cast with many miniscule, nearly nonspeaking roles with Paolo Di Gialluca (“7 Sins”), Andrea Pucci, Allesandro Massari, Giuseppe Andreozzi, Sara Lagonigro, Monica Rondino, and Andrea Pacilli and Samuele Lagonigro who composed the score for the film under the moniker, Sam and Andy.

As you can see, “The Shroud” is a family production for the Lagonigros who won’t hesitate to pitch in to make Francesco’s lewd and crude extreme horror on a bar tab’s worth. Conceptually, “The Shroud’s” an appealing idea of religious hypocrisy and the natural human desire to be immoral. Rules are meant to be broken as Spurio seizes control the very one thing a woman should have control over – her body. By introducing rape by two masked men, Spurio rips away that control and for a nun who whole schtick is to abide by God by maintaining purity in keeping her holy temple intact, she must seethe with humiliation in front of her Lord and inevitable turn away from him because there is nothing left unadulterated to give. She has sinned, whether intentional or not, and so the tainted nun must keep on sinning in various ways: lust, revenge, and murder. Despite being on a budget, Spurio’s ability to liven up a plain white tablecloth is what making movies is all about as the shroud lives and breathes on screen, moving in an agile manner, and becomes a physical presence that can gore a man through. Sleight of hand scene reversals bestows the shroud with a life of its own, creating a slithering dolman of death that looks great in the humble presentation. That kind of DIY special effects translates the same across the slender 76-minute with practical gore gags that rest above mediocracy, and I can say that with a straight face. “The Shroud” will have very few claims to cult fame with a slew of sloppiness that takes the zero-dollar expenditure and makes it appear even cheaper than pocket change. There’s even a scene where the director is clearly reflected into the frame, not even an attempt to hide or review for need to reshoot.

“The Shroud” is warm and cozy when it’s not trying to kill you! SRS Cinema, a leading purveying of underground cinema, releases Fabrizio Spurio’s “The Shroud” on DVD as part of the company’s extreme and unrated nightmare fuel label. Distributed through MVD Visual, the region free DVD5 is presented in an unmatted widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a commercial grade quality of a standard definition camcorder that maxes out on the higher side of output of a 720p resolution and so the final result looks fairly okay for DVD. For much of the natural lighting, the high contrast works extremely well, creating deep shadows that make the film feel richer than its actual value, but the details and textures are often soft and bleary, washing out any kind of tactile material. Luminescence of green and blue gels as well as double overlays are used to symbolize nightmares and shroud vision are more headache inducing than a stylish solution when mingled with an industrial engine rumble or high-pitched and stretched vocal score with some piano keys tossed in to mix it up. The Italian language dual-channel stereo is a lossy, unbridled catchall. As much as the audio is purely soundtrack, there is still an insurmountable of sounds being captured by the camcorder mic that softens the desired prominent audiles, such as dialogue which becomes trapped in a cavernous state of echos and various levels of pitch inconsistences. The subtitles on the SRS DVD appear to be translated by a person with English as not their primary language as a tone of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and absolutely zero capitalization tarnish an already low-rent feature. If you can work your way through the strangely designed menu options to the bonus features, you’ll find included raw take bloopers, photo gallery, music videos starring Chiara Povani and Francesco Lagonigro, and SRS trailers. The physical package is perhaps the best part of “The Shroud” with a true-to-form beautifully dark illustration of the most memorable character faces to exhibit in the film, crafted and designed by Avery Guerro. “The Shroud” is an estimable underground piece of the extreme horror art pie but slacks in unnecessary places and becomes an exemplar of a shoddy and careless production that ultimately hurts the overall value of its genus.

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

The EVIL Anti-Abortion Film You Never Knew You Wanted. “Evil Dead Trap 2” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

Aki is a self-solitude movie theater projectionist who avoids talking to men and to pretty much everyone in general.  Her high school friend, Emi, is the complete opposite, a socialite of sorts, with a previous celebrity career as a singer and a high profile television news reporter.  While Emi thrusts her unusual interests upon encouraging her married boyfriend, who is more than game, to sleep with Aki, the projectionist has a secret of her own in being the culprit of a string of grisly murders involving young women with their ovaries ripped from the inside out.  When these murders occur, Aki is in a feverish, yet reserved state of mind that borders being sexually and dangerous uninhibited and totally blackout deranged.  She discovers mementos of the night before in her home and questions her actions, especially as the kill count grows and Aki’s mind wanders between reality and the supernatural as a mysteriously eerie boy keeps popping up everywhere, even at the crime scenes.  Emi’s dangerous game and her smug prodding of Aki sends her friend down a rabbit hole of a disturbing past. 

If you’ve seen “Evil Dead Trap” then essentially forget everything you knew about the first film as the sequel is not a direct follow-up and concerns a different tale of prenatal byproduct revolving around a common moniker that connects both films.  That name of evil that binds would be Hideki with the sequel titled “Evil Dead Trap 2:  Hideki,” bestowed the subtitle to ensure proper acknowledge.  Another aspect that’s different is the person in the director’s chair as “Akira’s” screenwriter Izô Hashimoto helms the 1992 sequel from a script cowritten between Hashimoto and the then early in career Chiaki Konaka who would go on to pen teleplays for a number of Ultraman series and get his hands colorfully deep within various anime project, such as the Digimon series.  With such anime talent behind one of the more brutally savage renditions to sow the seeds early in the J-horror supernatural genre that incited the widely popular “Ringu” and “Ju-on” franchises less than a decade later, “Evil Dead Trap 2” pelts a supernatural and homicidal esoteric storyline riddles with themes of abortion, guilt, and deriding judgement.  Naokatsu Itô and Mitsuo Fujita produce the Japan Home Video production, the company behind metal-horror “Tetsuo” and the Yakuza-zombie film “Junk.” 

“Evil Dead Trap 2” washes the slate clean with a new cast enveloped into a ghastly chaos the abhorrent an the unnatural.  The story takes on a bold female lead in Shoko Nakajima at the beginning of her career and the fresh faced actress doesn’t also have the typical physique of leading lady.  Nakajima is not only a fascinating and curious choice to be the centerpiece principal but her performance is rock solid with an unsettling, mild-manner manic approach of a night stalker of women opposite her appearance.  Now, whether Hashimoto intended juxtaposition is completely unknown to me, but I find the affect potent nonetheless in unification with Nakajima’s near-subdued and muted act.  On the flipside, there’s “Last Frankenstein’s” Rie Kondoh as Aki’s good friend Emi.  Emi’s a hotshot in her mind fabricated from the television reporter’s brief stint with fame and is cavalier in nature when it comes to her friends and flings.  The contrast between the two is often playfully contentious that never settles on firm ground about how these two become to be friends to begin with, but when their friendship comes to a head in a heated and bizarre one-on-one skirmish with a boxcutter and film sheers, all bets are off and all our conclusions about the two friends are thrown to the wind.  What sets them off is a man, Kurahashi to be exact, a role filled in by Shirô Sano (“Infection”) playing a boyish-behaving philanderer between the two women.  The character of Kurashashi, much the same as Aki and Emi, have his own offshoot piece of the narrative pie with an unsound wife who waits for son to return home – the only problem is, Kurashashi’s wife never had a child.  This is where the 3 characters arcs begin to meld together in a disorder of surrealism between reality and nightmare and those entangled in that web are, for lack of a better phrase, entering a consuming darkness from which they can’t escape, and Hideki is in the middle of it all.  Performances are perfectly unhinged and coy, a variety of personas that make “Evil Dead Trap 2” engaging enough until the end, with a cast list that fills out with Sei Hiraizumi (“Orgasm: Mariko”), Kazue Tasunogae (“Ring 0:  Birthday”), and Shôta Enomoto as the ominous, tangible presence of Hideki.

Comparing the original to the sequel is like comparing worn infested apples to bloody rotten oranges.  The melding of the characters in the third act succumbs to an arthouse avalanche of symbolism, upon symbolism, upon symbolism.  The audience is expected to piece together the chunks of sinew and connect the dots of sibylline secrets of a past contrition. There are strong themes of abortion that persist up into every other few scenes and mostly allude to Aki as the one who gave up a child that has somehow manifested into living, breathing, perceptible and tangible man-child. Aki’s haunted under her fragile, if not delusional, state and while making sense of the manifestations, that hasn’t quite come clear, yet the mental noise leads her to murder when provoked and has her staggering out into the middle of the night to be willingly ravaged by strange men. A logical response to Aki’s action is that internally grieved recluse has snapped, coming unhinged outside the guise of regret as she kills exclusively around a maternity ward that has since closed and is under heavy construction. However, you can’t disregard the supernatural element so easily as Aki visits a miko, a Japanese shaman of sorts, who is senses Aki’s connection to the other side. Multivocal like primordial Hell, Hashimoto works in beautifully shot scenes with brilliant urban lighting that collocates looming, in-your-face figure over the head of the antisocial Aki and shepherds the characters’ darkest secrets to summit before the entity rips them a part in a bloody showcase of madness.

Unearthed Films continues to reverse coagulation and let the blood flow once again with another obscure Japanese gory horror, “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki,” onto a new Blu-ray home video coming in at number nine on the spine for company’s Unearthed Classics banner. The release’s image is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and retains much of the luminescent coloring of heavy neon-lighting and intended gel filters to play down the story moment’s stitch in questioned reality. Skin textures appear really defined and that also translates into much of the other details as well. No bulky discolorations, splotchiness, or banding stand to say that there were no real compressions with this release albeit having virtually no special features to go along with the single layered feature. The release comes with two audio options, a lossy Japanese LPCM mono and a far more robust LPCM stereo. Both tracks outline a clean and clear passage with no real threats to the audio with only minor white noise in the background. Optional English subtitles provide an error-free experience and pace well with the film. Aforementioned, a lack of bonus features is reduced to only a photo gallery of scene stills and Unearthed trailers, “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki” included. “Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki” challenges each and every one of us to think outside its basket case box and dredge up reason from an addled, abortion-deviled, and serial murdering narrative.

“Evil Dead Trap 2:  Hideki” on Blu-ray Home Video from Unearthed Films!

When the EVIL Novice Becomes the EVIL Master. “Assault! 13th hour!) reviewed! (Impulse Pictures / DVD)

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!

A gas station attendant is beguiled by the culpable bad boy antics of a serial rapist in a red jacket. As the attendant becomes more enthralled by the sociopath’s life-altering school of assault and apprenticeship, he attempts a solo flight to turn his women victims into loving his deplorable acts of sexual misconducts. His emulation of sprouting a decadent rape fantasy fails as the connective alternative sexual experience between the powerful and the powerless only induces complete fear. Curious to how the connoisseur of forced copulation gets away with women paying him for ravishment again, the novice learner of lechery aims to seek as much knowledge as possible without hesitation and without question but a homosexual gang hunts down his master in the crimson jacket for an unspecified act that warrants retribution. Caught in the middle, the gas station attendant must fight for his life if he wants to continue the legacy of violation.

Better known as “Rape! 13th Hour,” Yasuharu Hasebe’s “Assault! 13th Hour” is a perhaps a more marketable film for many western distributors with the world rape kicking off as an exclamational in the title. One of Japan’s well-known exploitation and pinku filmmakers, having directed a slew of films with a combination of action, crime, and sexual dysphoria and kink with the Stray Cat Rock film series (“Sex Hunter,” “Delinquent Girl Boss”) as well as “Rape!,” “Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train,” and “Raping!” Yeah, I would say Hasebe had a deviant fantasy for the subject. Released in 1977, “Assault! 13th Hour” comes from the same mind of “Hausu” screenwriter Chiho Katsura and Toshiro Masuda’s “The Perfect Game,” a Criterion release film, screenwriter Yoshio Shirasaka. Now, the 73-minute narrative rapt in the idea of women throwing themselves, as well as their yen, at the attacker in a twisted reaction to forceful violation with a greenhorn being trained-to-inherit the practice is by no means as surreally horrifying as “Hausu” or as complicatedly thrilling as the gambling-gone-awry “The Perfect Game.” Still, an underlying, nagging feeling of the patriarchal power that is deeply engrained into Japanese culture can be digested with this pinku-production under the company eye of Nikkatsu Corporation, releasing the film under its pinku eiga subsidiary, the Nikkatsu Roman Porn banner, with Ryoji Ito (“Cruel High School Girls: Sex Lynch”) producing.

Now, whether “Assault! 13th Hour” is a sequel to either Hasebe’s “Rape!” or “Assault!” is not clear from this reviewer’s eyes – I have yet to see either one of those particular previously films – but there lies one commonality between all of them, Akira Takahashi. A lifer in the pinku eiga industry, Takahashi has collaborated with Hasebe on a number of films that run the gamut of exploitation. For his role of Crimson, a serial rapist and delinquent who sports a red bomber jacket, the principal predator is more mysterious in not only his actions but his backstory involving the homosexual gang boss and his two equally sapphic goons and this is where I suspect “Assault! 13th Hour” might be a follow up film as Crimson’s historical transgressions don’t come to light. Hence, the gang’s manhunt never fleshes out to a warranted chase down and the unsuspected sexual tension that produces from it between Crimson and the gang boss. Takahashi brings a confident and suave creep to the lead but doesn’t necessarily have the charisma to make Crimson stand out on his own as a memorable character. Crimson’s accomplice, and the story’s perspective primary, played by Yûdai Ishiyama (“Izo”), fits snuggly into the part of curious in his character who takes uninitiated baby steps into wanting to be a part of this cabal of beastly baroque bedfellows that can persuade Stockholm syndrome upon their victims before they zip up their pants. Ishiyama’s role provides more depth as a low-end gas station attendant with a pent-up perversion and who’s better to exploit and nurture his willingness more than his equivocal new best friend, Crimson. The story’s unpublicized character list provides the story with a nebulous pall to make a statement that this can happen to anyone and can even happen to this cast list of Yuri Yamashina, Tamaki Katsura, Naomi Oka, and Rei Okamoto.

I’m still wrapping my head around the plot’s sudden drop into mid-story without a callback to Crimson’s sordid history that weaves between his seemingly magical persuasion of perversion and his tumultuous involvement with the homosexual gang who want more than just to beat him to pulp. The chance stance Hasebe has to fashion into a comprehensible story, based off the script’s limiting section of a whole, is turned into a wildly suitable and often alternate universe viewed milieu where corruption and immorality goes without proper attention or justice. There are no detectives tracking down the rapists’ rampage or even the display of just a single police vehicle at the aftermath of the crimes. Judgements are contained within the confines of the criminal underworld from a twisted perspective of vigilante justice and, you know, it works! The one-sided standpoint immerses the viewer into a filthy, degrading, and perversely fantastical sea of immorality where lawlessness is the law, but as far as pink films are concerned, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tame entry that doesn’t shockingly exploit the senses. Likely, that reserved jolt from the jarring material stems from decades of repetitive similar films of the same genre and/or nature and we, those fans drowning in fascination of the pink film category, might feel a little numb to its debauchery though the ending’s infringing necrophilia onto nearly every possible orifice on the victim’s body can be an eye-opener, or an eye-closer depending on your level of comfort and intrigue. Assault! 13th Hour” explores a trade far less trodden in its unusual master and pupil dynamic and subjugates any ambiguities over the blurry line between heterosexuality and homosexually with a slightly biased preconceived notion that heterosexual assault leads to viable passion whereas the counter only offers brutality and bloodshed.

Arriving onto DVD from Impulse Pictures, the XXX and erotica sublabel of Synapse Films, is the Nikkatsu Roman released “Assault! 13th Hour!” The anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation renders a respectable transfer of the 35mm film despite the noticeable age and wear of the warm, inferior negative stock that often appears dark and detailed indiscernible, unlike the stylish use of high contrast. The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 dual channel casts a better-than-expected dialogue track and general ambient score albeit the overplayed audio bytes for cars revs and screeching tires. The constant low whir never goes above a whisper, leaving alone the dialogue to remain clear and free of obstructions and that also goes for the absence of pops and hissing. The newly translated and removable English subtitles pace well, display without typos, and are synchronously consistent. The 1977 Japanese erotica and roughie is a feature only release for Impulse Pictures with no bonus material included. The tight and taut, rough and dirty, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tinderbox of ferocity as well as a tender box of far out fantasies that makes this dichotomy of sexuality and violence an interesting slice of Japanese erotic cinema.

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!