Smuggling EVIL Past the Revenue Men! “Night Creatures” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Scream! Factory)

The Marsh Phantoms are Coming to a Blu-ray Near You!

A savage pirate is left for dead on a remote island by his ruthless captain, a small village avoids taxation from the British King’s revenue men by smuggling French Brandy, and on the same village’s marsh land, ghostly skeletons ride into the night, placing the fear into wanderers with ghastly-glowing skulls and undead horses. At the center of it all is Dr. Bliss, the Romney Marsh village Vicker, who also heads the liquor smuggling ring in town and plays the King’s tax revenue soldiers as fools by misdirecting their attention to elsewhere and away from their illegal brandy run. Keeping up with a ruse that’s cracking at the foundation with one of Romney Marsh’s irresolute community leaders forces Dr. Bliss to think fast and stay on top of a smuggling operation at the constant brink of collapse, but a return of a familiar face stirs up conflict and the captain of the revenge men continues to push for the truth no matter the cost.

Peter Cushing is well-known for his solemn gothic horror roles in nearly a slew of countless Hammer films. An unequivocal and stoically determined vampire hunter, the intelligently disillusioned creature maker befallen by his creation, and a wizard sleuth with a nose for clues in tracking down murders are just a few of his linchpin roles for Hammer Productions that the English actor portrayed so very brilliantly in the company’s peak, and off-peak, years. Yet, one of his most pinnacle performances stem from one the lesser-known Hammer productions based off the English author Russell Thorndike’s anti-hero and swashbuckling novel “Dr. Syn” published in 1915. Known in the United Kingdom as “Captain Clegg” and “The Curse of Captain Clegg” because of legal rights issues with the Thorndike title and Disney (yes, that Disney!), U.S. audiences might recognize the Cushing film as “Night Creatures,” directed by a Hammer one-off in Peter Graham Scott (“The Headless Ghost”) and is written by Hammer vet Anthony Hinds (“The Brides of Dracula,” “The Kiss of the Vampire”) under his usual pseudonym John Elder with additional dialogue from Barbara S. Harper. John Temple-Smith produces the film under Hammer Film Productions

Though the cast, crew, and production company were bound not able to use “Dr. Syn” in the film that didn’t stop Peter Cushing in becoming Dr. Bliss, the peoples of Romney Flat’s very own Vicker who revitalized the small town and severed them from hefty taxation with a scheme of smuggling. Clearly, Cushing is in his glory, in his element of wide range, and can be seen as having a ball with playing a dualistic character in Dr. Bliss. Dr. Bliss bares no sign of being saintly stiff around the gills as any pious man might be portrayed and Cushing, at times, can be as rigid as they come in certain roles. Not Dr. Bliss though as a man playing the facade to hide behind-the-curtain his good intentions from those who want a piece of the pie for king and country. Opposite Cushing is “Never Take Candy from a Stranger’s” Patrick Allen as Captain Collier who trucks men by boat to land a surprise inspection after being tipped off about a possible smuggling ring. Allen’s cuts Collier from the clever cloth but the leader of revenge men is always one step behind his time as Pirate chaser and now as a fraud nabber. Another excellent act of thespianism in “Night Creature” is another Hammer household name in Michael Ripper (“The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb,” “The Plague of the Zombies”) after a long stint of playing unnamed sidelined roles early in Hammer’s beginnings. Ripper has an unforgettable look with gravely gruff voice and a quick timed wit that makes him a pleasure every time he steps into the scene. Just coming onto the scene is Oliver Reed on the coattails of his success with “The Curse of the Werewolf” and though his role is purely supportive, his act as the love stricken and loyal to the smuggling cause son of the naive local squire and magistrate (Derek Francis, “The Tomb of Legeia”) who isn’t in on the scheme. “Night Creatures” rounds out the cast with Yvonne Romain (“Circus of Horrors”) as about the closest thing resembling a love interest, Martin Benson (“The Omen”), and Milton Reid (“Deadlier Than the Male”) as the Mulatto pirate exploited as a shackled hound dog to sniff out French Brandy…literally.

A swashbuckling, smuggling caper with notes of macabre imagery and a purloin-the-show performance by Peter Cushing stows “Night Creatures” away as one my favorite Hammer productions. Laced with characteristically grand production pieces and sets, mostly shot at Hammer’s Bray Film Studios, “Night Creatures” looks luxurious and feels expensive as pirate ship interiors, magnificent church hall, and haunting shots of a scarecrow with voyeuristic eyes propped on the countryside landscape elevate not only the story but also the rich characters brimming with complexity. Scott does a fine job sustain an ambiguous Dr. Bliss who, from our own suspicions, can be immediately pinpointed with a backstory that never falls in the pit of exposition. The true story behind Dr. Bliss is practically pressed, squeezed, tugged, and pulled by tooth and nail to finally be revealed to the audience and the moment is greatly satisfying when admission to something we all know is finally out in the open. While Dr. Bliss purposefully misguides the revenge men astray from his illicit activity, “Night Creatures” is also misguiding the audience with ghastly suspense in the existence of the Marsh Phantoms, a luminescent design of full body skeletal depictions on top of midnight cloaks and onesies, pulled off by special effects supervisor Les Bowie (“Paranoiac”) and his team to add a taste of horror to a rather subterfuge storyline of rebirth and sacrifice.

Now on a part of their Collector’s Edition line, Scream! Factory releases “Night Creatures” onto Blu-ray home video with a new 2022 2K scan from the original interpositive. The result is mostly immaculate with visualize details along the skin lines that makes every bead of sweat and every follicle more apparent to the eye. The release is presented in a 1080p high-definition transfer in what’s now labeled Univisium, an aspect ratio that is 2:1 (2:00.1), reformatted from the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Less than a handful of scenes display what looks to be posterization and a degrade in the scan, causing the scene to revert back to the original transfer for a split second. For this you receive a little more width that, ironically enough, homes better in on the focal image. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix has little to speak ill of as the dialogue, with a hint of continuous static, is greatly clean and clear, ambient track is balanced in range and depth, and you can follow every clashing note in Don Banks’ dramatically orchestrated score. Special features include a new audio commentary with film historian Bruce Hallenback, a new interview with Les Bowie’s special effects technician Brian Johnson, Pulp Friction with film historian Kim Newman on his take on the clustering mess of “Dr. Syn” film rights, Peter Cushing’s Changing Directions with film historian Jonathan Rigby mostly on Peter Cushing’s admiration for the role and his invested interest in playing the main role, a making-of featurette narrated by John Carson, The Mossman Legacy of film historian John Carson showcasing the lot of antique carriages crafted by the George Mossman company in Hammer films, a still gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. The unrated, 83-minute feature also includes a cardboard slipcover with new illustrated from cover art by Mark Maddox. Don’t let a claggy title like “Night Creatures” fool you! Though not the sexiest title, “Night Creatures” will enliven with the mystery of Marsh Phantoms, the suspense of the cat & mouse smuggling game, and the pure bliss on Peter Cushing’s face as he fully immerses himself into the role of his lifetime.

The Marsh Phantoms are Coming to a Blu-ray Near You!

Become Lost with the EVIL in Your Head. “Faye” reviewed! (Reel 2 Reel Films / Digital Screener)



Author Faye L. Ryan has found success as a career writer penning personal growth and self-assurance books, but the renowned author has hit a mental wall in growing out of the process of mourning for her deceased husband, killed in a car accident in which Faye was at the wheel.  Scarred physically and mentally with painful reminders of that fateful night, Faye struggles to focus on her next new book, threatened to be dropped by her publisher if she doesn’t meet their deadline, and interacts with her husband as if he was still with her in person.  In a last ditch effort to get Faye back to writing before cutting her loose, the publisher offers up a lakeside vacation house to help focus on her work, but as Faye settles into her new, quiet writing space, she finds herself unable to escape a haunting presence tormenting her. 

Working solo is tough.  Having no one to bounce off dialogue or react to their disposition can be daunting and unnatural for most actors and actresses.  Yet, the titular character in “Faye” must do very that to ensure Kd Amond’s 83-minute feature directorial about loss, grief, and the supernatural representation that braids into a broken reality will exist without suffering stagnation.  “Faye” is a 2021 female-driven horror-drama written by Amond and the film’s lone wolf star Sarah Zanotti as the two filmmakers reteam from the previous year’s dysfunctional family thriller, “Rattled.”  Shot between Nashville, Tennessee and the cabin resort of Lacombe, Louisiana, “Faye” is cut from an all-female producing team of by Amond, Zanotti, Sara DelHaya, and Nicole Marie Lim under Amond and Zanotti’s independent film production company AZ if Productions.

So, how did Sarah Zanotti perform going at the role alone with not another single body in sight?  Aside from the performance scale, initial first thoughts about an emotionally processing Faye rings clear that she is definitely alone with her thoughts without ever confronting her past head-on.  Faye, more or less, brushes the incident to the side, drowning herself in wine and loathing, until vague, intermittent memories pull her back down to reality every so often.  The role gratifies a sense of a struggling individual’s unintended and deeply personal isolation stemmed by unable to grasp with the hard to deal with issues to where’s she’s invented an imaginary friend in the form of her late husband in this pretend world of being normal, routine, and safe.  Looking from the outside in, Faye invokes pity on the saddest level as she converses with thin air as well as drinking large quantities of wine alone. There’s even the suggestion in either flashback scenes or maybe representational moments of despair that she, at one point in time, committed to, or thought of, suicide. As for the “Archaon: The Halloween Summoning” actress Zanotti? The actress, singer-songwriter, and proud cat mother (as stated on her personal website) breathlessly engrosses herself in Faye’s darkest moments with a ramble of insecurities that skate around the main issue until that issue manifests as a specter of duality, haunting “Faye” with her own scarred image that won’t allow her to leave until she combats the guilt eating her away. However, Zanotti’s a bit one tone through the entire storyline, never zig-zagging in a full range on emotive spectrum when face-to-face with the emulated specter. There are guest voices in the film whenever Faye takes or makes a phone call, including vocals from Corri English as Emory the publisher, Dean Shortland as Bobby, Brian Vance as Jacob, Kd Amond as Faye’s mom, and Zanotti as Elle.

To carry an entire feature film on your shoulders is empathetically tough for the one and only principle lead Sarah Zanotti and also the director Kd Amond as well and I wouldn’t declare “Faye” to be an overstimulating visual film albeit snazzy editing and makeup effects when sucked into supernatural self-reproach and suffering. “Faye” leans heavy into self-centered conversation in an acerbic chaptered and non-linear context that can be difficult to follow it’s pathway structure at times when the titular character is not framed in the cabin but rather sitting, speaking on a well-lit platform that fits her personal growth expatiate, like a Tony Robbins-type, connecting back to Faye’s mindset or actions in the cabin. Though much of the conversion is directed toward herself or the mental image and two-way communication of dead husband, a good chunk of the dialogue is the unwavering tough love business-speak between agent and client. Faye publisher rakes in money based off book sales and if Faye isn’t writing up drafts than a publisher does not care about your personal tragedy. That dynamic during the calls feels utterly cold with no pity or sympathy for Faye in the voice of the agent who cares solely about client image for publicity and is determined to nag a draft out of a woman who has lost her best friend in life – grief and guilt be damned. As a spook show, “Faye” whips up a few moments of fearful highlights but does little to the film’s self-proclaimed horror label when more of the acidity of internalizing the death and destruction of her life becomes more manic without the monster that’s introduced too late or comes too little often to be integrated into the story properly and stands out as negative concentrated symbolism.

Oozing with heartbreak and melancholy, the fracturing viability in “Faye” calls forth the detrimental impact and for reinstation back in the society, one needs to fall before getting back up. Reel 2 Reel Films brings the American-made, woman-driven, atmospheric and apparitional “Faye” to the United Kingdom on digital home video come May 9th. Since a digital screener was previewed, there will be no critique of the audio or video qualities. Kd Amond was really a one woman show behind the camera by taking on not only the directing duties but also many others, including cinematography and visual/practical effects and for “Faye,” the film was mostly captured with natural lighting outside the cabin, practical lighting for cabin interiors, and key lighting of Faye on stage. There’s use of a filters during the more supernatural plights and to tell night scenes that don’t look natural, leaning toward a more style-choice purple. For any extras, there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Faye” has strong bones for a good grief and guilt ghost film in the indie realm and while it doesn’t have the star-laden power of other similar themes of its kind in “The Babadook” or “Hereditary,” “Faye” still invokes the power of hurt and the summoning of self-condemnation.

Catalepsy EVIL Blended with Japanese Folklore! “Snow Woman” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

Trekking up a mountain side are three male villagers hauling up a wooden casket.  Inside the casket is thought to be the malevolent Yuki Onna, the urban legendary beautiful snow woman spirit who roams the snowy landscape enticing men to their death.  Found seemingly dead and half naked amongst the village at the bottom of the mountain, this will mark the second trip up to the crag with her corpse that suddenly comes back to life.  Feared by the men, her casket is left abandoned and stranded atop of the icy, cold mountain yet the thing inside the casket isn’t a ghost, but rather a shunned woman, Yuki, with a thought supernatural evil power that’s actually a death-trance condition where her intense sexual climaxes render her unconscious and not breathing for long stretches of time.  Lodge owner Hyubei discovers her predicament firsthand after bedding the strange woman and the two use her condition to feign the killing of the “Snow Woman” when other persecuting-seeking male villagers coming calling for her head.

Many unusual, but still erotically stimulating, pink films have come across my desk for a professional review and for personal viewing.  Shintaro Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman” might be the goofiest, nonsensical one, and threadbare storied one yet.  Based off the Japanese folklore of Yuki-onna, various versions of Yuki-onna revolve around the freezing harm or death of children as well as succumbing those near the child to an icy grave.  For Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman,” the 2009 released adaptation follows more closely to the Ojiya region of Niigata Prefecture where a beautiful and mysterious woman sought out a man to marry for her own sensual desires only to dissipate into frozen droplets when forced into a bath.  While there’s no forced bathing in the film, the writer-director does pull inspiration of a woman immediately eager to please and marry the first man who doesn’t expel her permanently from companionship upon her climatic death-trance and is, in fact, more inexplicably inclined, aka an inkling of amorousness, to keep her around despite her unsettling disorder that locks their genitals together until she awakes from her stupor.  “Snow Woman” is produced by Takeyuki Morikakuo (writer of “Rika:  The Zombie Killer” and producer of “Legend of Siren XXX”) and is a production of the AMG vintage erotic catalogue.

“Tokyo Gore Police,” “Grotesque,” and JAV model actress Tsugumi Nagasawa stars in the folkloric titular role or Yuki. Nagasawa’s a bit all over the board, which is usually the case with all Japanese pink films, with her misjudged ghostly “Snow Woman” that loses all the pizazz when much of the mysticism is removed almost instantly when the immediate revelation of her sexual catatonic disorder renders her into a rigor mortis like state. Nagasawa doesn’t exactly sell the ethereal quality of the folklore of a presence able to float above sheets of snow without a trace left behind or burst into icicles surrounding heat. Yes, yes, I know pink films are strapped with very little cashflow, banking on the nudity and the bump-and-grind of exploiting popular and historical culture. Takishi (listed as Takashi on other platforms) Okabe opposites Nagasawa as the lonely lodger Nyubei who saves Yuki from an icy death by trying to charge her warmth and shelter. Okabe and Nagasawa fail to bring any kind of chemistry to the screen, romantically or sensually, that render themselves far short of saving this pink’s film vitality rebound on the home video market. The villagers who are seemingly more interested in destroying the Snow Woman as well as contemplating speculative conjecture on whether having intercourse with a monster is better than having intercourse with a woman who eats a lot is better. That whole section of the dialogue arc to the portrayed monster in the story, the Snow Woman, and when the virginal deft villager sees the Snow Woman for the first time, he immediately ravages her in a rape-eseque moment to prove no matter how monstrous she is he’s going to conquer by way of copulation. The other villagers round out with a cast in Takehisa Futagawa, Daisuke Tamaru, Horiken Fumio Yamamoto, Tetsu Teraoka, and Nami Uehara.

As mentioned, “Snow Woman” is considered a pinksploitation parody of a well-known folklore and as stated, the film’s financial support leaves much to be desired in the finish product to the point that there’s really not a story here to be told. Ostentatiously goofy without a morsel of A-for-effort lore or supernatural suspense to call a foundation, the struggle is inherently real to get through the entire film, a film that’s only approx. 1 hour long. The humor doesn’t stick and that would have flipped “Snow Woman” to a more advantageous experience coinciding with the one-on-one action that’s puts pink films on the erotica map. “Snow Woman” ultimately is a double flop on both fronts with the humor missing marks in its ultra-dry deliveries and miscued moments to the romping that’s not stimulating, titillating, or satisfying in the positioned choreography or character heterogeneity as a basic setup and cycle that inches toward only a chip of difference between the sexual scenes by adding the accompaniment of villagers with only the usual outcome results. The scenic views are actually pretty and breathtaking in see the snow-covered landscape with plenty of long and wide shots to capture Japan wilderness and while the location becomes only important in its aesthetic beauty, the b-roll footage never becomes important to the storyline as should with any Snow Woman themed media adaptation. I, personally, just wanted the characters to vamoose the lodge, or rather the overly large hut, that kept becoming the place of Yuki’s catalepsy trances because the location is the only interior location and gets old really quick.

For the first time, Shintara Sasazuka’s romantic-pink-comedy, “Snow Woman,” has a North American release from Darkside Releasing and distributed by MVD Visual. The region A coded Blu-ray release is an AVC encoded BD-R 25 presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are two versions of “Snow Woman” available for viewing: the vintage version retains the Japanese orb of censorship around the nether regions and a newly restored version that basically means the removal of the those said orbs. Both transfers are identical in a clean and free from blemishes and damage eyesores. However, banding is a real issue that creates visible clear lines across a shade washed picture. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack renders over quite well with discernable and clean dialogue, but the English subtitles are slightly out of synch and have at least one error that I saw. Special features include the original “Snow Woman” trailer, an erotic trailer reel that contains erotica and horror from select Italian productions, and a pink trailer reel that includes classic and modern pink films from PinkEiga. I guess in a world where pink films are outrageously perverse and can be downright sleazy and horrific, a necessity for balance would come in the form of goofy-romanticism and that’s what “Snow Woman” offers humbly by exemplifying passion and compassion as a cure for the mobbing disorderly and the ones with misunderstood disorders.

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

EVIL Rap-A-Tap-Taps on its Little Drum. “Caveat” reviewed! (Acorn International Media / Blu-ray)

You’ve Been Warned to Watch “Caveat” on Blu-ray from Acorn Media!

Recently discharged from the hospital after an experience with a nasty fall, Isaac suffers from severe memory loss.  In need of money, he reluctantly accepts a caretaker job from his landlord Barrett who hires him to oversee a traumatized and catatonic spell-ridden niece Olga living in a ramshackle island house.  When Isaac arrives for his five day, $200 per night stay, he’s convinced by Barret to wear a chained harness that limits his access to certain rooms of the house.  Before long, on the very first night, memories of his past begin to flood back when Olga tells him he’s been at this house before, cascading an overwhelming sense of danger over him when the thought of Olga and Barret scheming together at his expense.  As past contracts boil to the surface and the fight for survival extends into the next day, a long thought vanished player lies and waits for the perfect opportunity to resurrect. 

If offered to be the sole caretaker of an unstable teenager four five days the suicidal death of her father and the disappearance of her crazy mother, located on isolated island surrounded by a deep lake only traversable by rowboat, strapped inside a chest harness with a long chain stretching into the basement where its tethered, having brought no food or clothing, and the house is a complete rundown disaster filled with austere essentials and a filthy, menacing rabbit toy that rap-a-tats on a drum when the air is thick of a supernatural presence, would you take the job?  If the answer is yes, then Damian McCarthy’s “Caveat” is the right film for you and you also might want to see a psychotherapist, immediately.  McCarthy debut feature film directorial, as well as the writer is, a supernatural-psychological thriller of existential context about who we really are as a person.  The UK film is released as the first production by the independent filmmaking studio HyneSight Fims, produced by Justin Hyne, and credits executive producers in Tom Black and Mirella Reznic.

A person would have to be out of their right mind to agree to every single warning flag about this situational premise.  In fact, Isaac, a character recovering from head trauma that resulted in short term memory loss, would seem to be the ideal candidate.  Irish actor Jonathan French plays the scruffy-looking Isaac and with little backstory to go upon first meet, we’re stuck with French’s face splayed stuck lost and confused for most of the duration that’s a simultaneous ride for the audience who jump right into first talks of caretaking agreement without living, experience, and visualizing much of anything else before then but in the first instance meeting the man with a radical beard, Isaac is obviously not a long-shore fisherman and is also seems to be mindfully altogether and rational, if not very acute, about with what’s happening around him.   French doesn’t play a brain damaged invalid; instead, Isaac goes reluctantly with the flow as a rather poorly written gawk who thinks giving into another man’s intention of being strapped into a S&M vest is okay and left to rightfully care for a more true-to-form mental case on any level. The further the introduction is into Isaac’s odd assignment, the more we wonder why the hell isn’t he about facing and running across that barrier lake like Christ himself. That other man is Moe Barrett (Ben Caplan, “Band of Brothers“) who also strolls onto the scene in the beginnings of conversing with Isaac as if old pals and though Caplan is very good at Barrett’s normal and persuasive spiels without a hint of abhorrent creepiness behavior, Isaac’s so gullible to a fault that it kills that need for deliverance from protagonists to try their best to avoid an unfavorable situation when they see one. Leila Sykes fills out the main trio as Olga, the on-and-off catatonic teenage niece of Barrett. Again, something’s missing from the character development much in the same way as Isaac. Olga’s just living, if you can call it that, out of her absent parents’ house. Each one of these characters feels abstract, much like the narrative’s story and structure, to offer only incremental oddities one grain at a time to be not too invested in whatever else that might distract from “Caveat’s” mystery.

“Caveat,” by the way, is a warning and is the catch that makes Barrett’s deal of $200 per day for five days to watch over his nice seem too good to be true and, honestly, the rabbit hole Isaac doesn’t heed and scuttles down into as being the loose end saw tied up by a transgressor’s flimsy, kooky plan would have been enough to suffice. McCarthy adds another element to the already rough patch of this malicious thriller with an unnecessary, but highly effective, supernatural elements involving a menacing in appearance, drum-rapping, toy rabbit (or is it a hare?) that acts like a bizarro-Toys’R’Us PKE meter and a smiling dead body that has its grand jump moment near the end of the film. These devices are uncomfortably odd, undoubtedly scary, and sorely used too little despite the drumming rabbit’s home release front cover spread. There’s also this perfect circle motif present throughout the story – a front door port hole, a hole cut in dry wall that becomes an important barrier see-through, and Olga’s crazy mother draws white circles on black paper, plus other examples – which, to me, indicates the proverb what comes around, goes around with who commits evil, receives it in the end and visa-versa. McCarthy’s suspense building moments within the gloomy rundown house can leave one peak through the slithered opening between a pair of hands over the eyes. However, McCarthy leans more into the Isaac’s dire dilemma and keystone past which I think comes back to easily. The entire time he wanders the premises, nothing strikes him with familiarity, nothing invokes a recollection, and yet, as soon as it’s mentioned he’s been the house before – circa 1 year ago – a rush of linear memory comes crashing back into flashback frames and everything up to this point is explained during a Mexican standoff with Olga. “Caveat’s” second act dredges slowly along, disinterring up backstory to quickly wrap up Isaac into a neat little package.

Briming with darkness and wrenching with fear, “Caveat” is this strange and unusual angle of reading the signs more carefully, but also stirs in anamnesis to help reign in who we really are and to distance ourselves from the person we were previously. Acorn Media International and Shudder deliver “Caveat” onto a PAL encoded, region B Blu-ray home video in full high definition,1080p resolution, presented in a cinemascope anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. McCarthy and cinematographer Kieran Fitzgerald reel in the wider resolution for tighter shots, keeping the quality contained and detailed within the house’s decrepit interiors and the characters’ textural contrasting between skin and clothing. McCarthy opts out of gel use for night sequences, casting a real stark darkness over everything with only thin outline to express action. Audio is lively enough for the ow level action on “Caveat’s” English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix.  “Caveat” relies heavily on the combination of dead silence and the building instrumentation that resonates reverberations in a soundtrack composed Richard G. Mitchell who knows a thing or two about elevating intensity through his diverse career.  Sound design plays into perfectly the silence as timed precise ambient noise, such as creaking wood under footsteps or the mechanical movements of the bunny, add to “Caveat’s” chilling charm.  The film is UK certified 15 for strong horror, violence injury detail, and domestic abuse with a runtime of 88 minutes.  The Blu-ray is accompanied with two audio commentaries in the special features – a director’s commentary and a producer’s commentary – as well as a split screen between the crude storyboards and the scenes they represent.  There are no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Frankly, and I hate to say this, but the direction “Caveat” went was a bit of a letdown as the hope to extend upon Olga’s mother, a possible practitioner of black magic, but that’s not to say Damian McCarthy’s first feature crashed and burned in the utmost of failures.  “Caveat” is still very much a well-made, you’ve-been-warned, harrowing scare tale that raises every single small hair on the back of your neck.

You’ve Been Warned to Watch “Caveat” on Blu-ray from Acorn Media!

Herding EVIL Emotions to Your Doom! “Shepherd” reviewed! (Darkland Distribution / Digital Screener)

“Shepherd” on Blu-ray from Darkland Distribution!

The death of his young, adulterous, and pregnant wife pushes Eric Black into wanting nothing else but space from the rest of the world.  He ships off with his dog Baxter to an isolated lighthouse island, answering a classified job ad to be a shepherd of a flock over 600 sheep.  His arrival to the island’s dilapidated living house is beyond below expectations but serves the purpose of avoiding everything that reminds him of his lost wife and previous life.  When loneliness creeps around the entire stretch of the fog-covered island and intense nightmares sweep over him nightly, being trapped at his new home away home stirs madness into his everyday cup of life that also could be possibly the malevolent dealings of a supernatural presence residing on the island with him. 

Mourning is already a powerful post-shock emotion that can swallow a person whole without warning.  Couple the intense bereavement with a bristly line of behind-the-scenes loathing creates a perfect maelstrom that bears a force more soul crushing and more untouchably violent on the mind.  This is the psychological assaulting premise for Russell Owen’s new film entitled “Shepherd.”  The Welsh-born writer-director conjoins daunting atmospherics with slow burn deterioration and a Hell of one’s own making that questions conscious and subconscious morals.  Owens stretch through grim realities continue well after his first two films, a 2013 post-apocalyptic thriller in “Welcome to the Majority” and a 2020 survival of zombified inmates with “Inmate Zero,” the latter initiating the island motif for Owen’s latest film.  “Shepherd” is 103 minutes of bone-chilling folk horror from Golden Crab Film Production (GC Films) and Kindred Film under fellow producers Aslam Parvez and Karim Prince Tshibangu reconnecting with Owen from “Inmate Zero.”

“A Discovery of Witches’” Tom Hughes embarks nearly solo on this frigid and fog-encrusted journey through self-segregating terror as Eric Black in order to break off Black from a world that won’t leave him be nor let him forget.   Hughes amasses a broody-flavored anguish, quietly stewing, fretting, and absorbing with great sedated composure the bombardment of strange occurrences during his stay on sheep island.  From his time with witches and vampires, the Cheshire-born, mid-30’s actor might be the lead of “Shepherd,” but it’s actually Kim Dickie (“Prometheus,” “The Green Knight”) who steals the show with her forebodingly salty fisher.  Haggard in appearance with a white, ghostly eye, Dickie’s frightsome performance and unsettling calm tone of voice could instill shivering fear into anyone who charter’s her boat heading toward a forsaken island.  The interactions between Hughes and Dickie are scarce with Dickie overshadowed by Hughes often wandering the island screen time like an avatar lost on in the fog of a Silent Hill horror game, waiting for something to pop out of the shadows and collecting clues to progress his story along.  Rounding out the cast is Greta Scacchi as Eric’s widow-bitter and devout mother and Gaia Weiss in a flashback and dream role of Eric’s deceased wife.

“Shepherd” immerses itself fully into the ideal concept of personal Hell with a wraparound mystery that batters and bruises the psyche of the protagonist, shielding away the hard-to-face truth, until a realization moment unfolds all the paranormal pastiche we’ve seen before in films such as Andrew Wiest’s “The Forlorned” and even Robert Egger’s “The Lighthouse,” both which involve lighthouses, lighthouse keepers, and a mixed-nuts’ tin of supernatural-madness. Trying to separate’s “Shepherd’s” niche from a very specific type of supernatural mystery subgenre surrounding a beacon of warning, or hope in some cases, is difficult to accomplish because each film, though stylistic diverse and eerily alluring in their own rite, regurgitate the same core context hinged on being unhinged. Now, what I’m not saying is that a remote, weather-beaten, and creepy lighthouse doesn’t make for a good setting – it sure as hell does – and cinematographer Richard Stoddard’s visual redecoration of the popular holiday tourist refuge, Isle of Mull, into a seemingly desolate, yet still a behemoth, island of nothing but monolithic rock faces and green grass as far as the eye can see. Stoddard’s use of in-flight drone cameras enables the visionary to capture breath-taking wide shots that dwarf Eric Black on his walkabouts in search for various odds and ends, providing an additional sense of overwhelming loneliness that pressurize the character to a breaking point. Space becomes an emblem of cursed irony for Eric between his need for separation from his disconnected place in the world to the vast space of Earth that inundates him into a bone-shivering panic. Space is also utilized by Russel Owen who’s able to manipulate through decent computer imagery the illusion of a large ship liner eerily resting a valley of fog or even taking a note out of Hitchcock’s shooting technique handbook of POV distortion, faltering Eric’s mind by disorienting him with swaying depths that play into the character’s fear of heights in another nod to the Hitchcockian coffer.

About every few years, a tense lighthouse lip-biter washes ashore. Released this past February of 2022, filmmaker Russel Owen’s psychological pilgrimage of coming to terms with consequential terror is his shot at the equivocal contretemps of one unlucky soul stuck on an eroded plinth of stone and shore. Darkland Distribution releases “Shepherd,” the second indie horror from Parkland Distribution’s dark subsidiary motion picture line, onto a UK Blu-ray with certified 15 rating and digital download, available off such platforms as Itunes, Amazon Prime, GooglePlay, Sky Store, Vubiquity (Virgin), BT, BFI Player, Rakuten TV and more. Since this review is based on a digital screener, I am unable to comment on the specifics of the Blu-ray A/V quality. The inhospitable-saturated soundtrack by Callum Donaldson is an unnerving mixture of low industrial rumblings and high anxiety string dissonance sure to keep the blood curdling with every resounding note and slice deep when the shocking time is right. I mentioned Stoddard’s eye for profound looming landscapes, capturing the natural beauty of the island, that are kept in continuity with the weathered fiber of the house and lighthouse interiors to match despite being shot inside a constructed studio set; however, a deep blue tint is added in post at random intervals of interior shots that pop out of place like a dislocated thumb, taking away from the realism and stepping more into the cerebral caged surrealism from which Owen ebbs and flows. “Shepherd” herds all the right tropes into a pen of madness. With a ferocity of natural imprisonment and the threat of evil dense within every molecule of the island, this awake nightmare fuels the ominous fire, but can’t quite reach its gut punch ending that curtails off toward ambivalence without cherishing a satisfying single resolution.

“Shepherd” on Blu-ray from Darkland Distribution!