No Sam Raimi. No Bruce Campbell. Just the EVIL! “Evil Dead Trap” reviewed (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Nami, a Japanese late night show host, is seeing her ratings dipping.  Though not in danger of losing her all-female produced show, Nami decides take her team on an investigation of a mysterious snuff tape that was mailed to her specifically.  Left for her is a bread crumb trail of directions to an abandoned military base, Nami and her crew explore the campus’s rundown structure, searching for evidence, a body, a story that they can televise.  Ignoring the dangerous presence around them, they dig deeper into the dilapidating labyrinth where they horrifying discover something waiting for them laid out in a cruel plan of deadly traps with a maniac pulling at all the strings. 

Bred out of a pedigree of pinkusploitations and a nation’s crisis of identity after the Second Great War, “Evil Dead Trap” is a greatly symbolized Japanese machination tale helmed by pink film director Toshiharu Ikeda (“Sex Hunter,” “Angel Guts:  Red Porno”) and penned by an equally historical pink film screenwriter and “Angel Guts” manga series creator Takashi Ishii (“Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture,” “Angel Guts” series).  Also known under its original Japanese title, “Shiryô no wana,” as well as, and my personal favorite, “Tokyo Snuff,” in Spain, “Evil Dead Trap’s” smorgasbord of rape, torture, and gory death naturally shocked viewers upon release and continues to do so as one of J-Horror’s branched out films that segued out from the brutal and depraved pink film inspired context into the new longstanding ghost genre we’ve seen over the last few decades with “Ringu” (“The Ring”) or “Ju-on” (“The Grudge”).  The production company Joy Pack Films, behind the 1980’s obscure Japan films, such as Genji Nakamura’s “Go For Broke” and Banmel Takahashi’s “Wolf,” houses the “Evil Dead Trap” from executive producer Tadao Masumizu.

If you recognize a couple cast members, or maybe just their naked bodies, then there’s something depraved about you!  With all kidding aside, but no seriously, if Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi) or Kondo (Masahiko Abe) look familiar, then you my friend are pink film aficionados as Kobayashi has starred in “Hard Petting” and “Young Girl Story” and Abe was in these pink film hits the “Pink Curtain” trilogy and “Female College Dorm Vs Nursing School Dormitory.”  If these faces didn’t touch you in any kind of sensual way, no worries, leading lady Miyuki Ono brings the star power.  The “Black Rain’s” Ono plays Nami, a go-getter television host/personality with her sights set on ramping up her late night show’s ratings, but also sucked into the posted snuff film’s darkest allure that’s personally calling her into to a precarious story lead.   Nami could also be a homage to one of screenwriter Takashi Ishii’s manga-inspired pink films entitled “Angel Guts: Nami” and the title might not be the only aspect paid honor to with that particular Nami written with a journalistic vocation drawn into and obsessed with a serial rapist’s attacks, making a striking parallel between the two stories that are nearly a decade apart. Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsurgagi fill out Nami’s investigating team as Rei and Mako. As a whole, the characters lack personality; Rei and Kondo tickle with relationship woes that are snuffed out before fruition, Rie’s timid innocence barely peaks through, and Nami and Mako’s thicker bond compared to the rest of the team is squashed to smithereens way before being suckled into note worthy tragedy. This late night show team has been reduced to slasher fodder and, honestly, I’m okay with that as we’re only here for the deadly traps. Noboru Mitani, Shinsuke Shimada, and Yûji Honma, as the mystery man looking for his brother, complete “Evil Dead Traps” casting.

“Evil Dead Trap” boasts a melting pot of inspirations, a mishmash of genres, and spins a nation’s split identity variation crowned in aberration. Diversely colorful neon-hazy lighting complimented by a Goblin-esque synth-rock soundtrack from Tomohiko Kira (“Shadow of the Wraith”), Toshiharu Ikeda shadows early Dario Argento inside and outside the popularity of the Italian giallo genre as the “Evil Dead Trap” murder-mystery horrors resemble more of a westernized slasher with a killer concealed behind a mask stalking a fringed, neglected compound in a conspicuous outfit. While the killer dons no hockey mask or snug in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, an equally domicile, yet more calculated, antagonist taunts more brains than brawns, especially with the severity of traps that seemingly float from out of nowhere. The fun is chiefly in the imagination of how the trap designs operate in the void of physics of a slasher fodder film so wipe clean the Jigsaw and the “Saw” films from your mind completely and relax to enjoy the outlandish kill scenes. Some of the kills are imperialistically inspired by Imperial Japan, that is, to blend the wartime nation’s atrocities with how the proud country wants to distance itself from that old-fashion, war-criminal, stoically perverse superstratum layer, but that’s were “Evil Dead Trap” pulls for most of the juicy parts as well as supplementing with Argento lighting, some, believe it or not, “Evil Dead” elements of that menacing presence bulldozing through the spiritual world, and an divergent climatic finale stuck to the narrative body that’s akin to pulling off the head of a doll and replacing it with T-Rex head’s. The uniformity quells under the pressure of how to end Nami’s and her attacker’s coda with pageantry weirdness that’s typical status quo Japanese cinema. Lots of symbolism, little modest explanation.

Get caught in “Evil Dead Trap” now back in print and on Blu-ray courtesy of Unearthed Films, distributed by MVD Visual, as part of the extreme label’s Unearthed Classics spine #5. The Blu-ray is presented in a matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a format rarely used in the States but widely used in other countries. Reverting to the 1.66:1 from Synapse’s 1.85:1 crop, Unearthed Films showcases more of the European feel, heightening that colorful vibrancy of the Argento-like schemes. Image quality has peaked on this transfer with natural grain with the 35mm stock, but details are not granularly sharp in an innate flaw of the time’s equipment and lighting. Shinichi Wakasa’s unobscured practical effects heed to the details and don’t necessary suffer the wrath of miniscule soft picture qualities when you’re impaling someone or birthing a slimy evil twin…you’ll see. Add in Ikeda’s wide range of shooting techniques, you’d think you’re watching Hitchcock or Raimi and the focus really lands there with the differently camera movements and techniques. The Japanese language single channel PCM audio fastens against that robust, vigorous quality to make “Evil Dead Trap’s” diverse range and depth that much more audibly striking, but there’s a good amount of silver lining in there being no damage albeit discernable, but not intrusive static to the audio files, dialogue is unobstructed and prominent, and the stellar synth-rock soundtrack nostalgically takes you back to when you first watched “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead.” English subtitles are available but display with a few second delay which can be cumbersome if trying to keep up. Special features includes three commentaries that include director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake (“Gun Woman”), and James Mudge of easternKicks. Plus, a Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on the Japanese Cult Classic retrospect analysis from a Japanese film expert, Storyboards, Behind the scenes stills, promotional artwork, trailers, and a cardboard slipcover with phenomenal artwork. Highly recommend this atypical Japanese slasher, “Evil Dead Trap,” now on Blu-ray home video!

Own “Evil Dead Trap” on Blu-ray!

The EVILs of Slasherman! “Random Acts of Violence” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)

Comic book writer Todd has hit a writer’s block wall on the last issue of his one-shot, popular and extremely graphic series Slasherman based off the gruesome string of I-90 murders of the late 1980s where the killer murdered and mutilated his victims without ever being caught.  Looking for inspiration to conclude his life’s work, Todd, his girlfriend, investing publisher, and assistant head out on a road trip from Toronto to America, specially through the small town of McBain where the murders took place, but when recent mutilated bodies resemble the grisly deaths inside the colorful pages of his comics, the semi-fictional Slasherman story becomes full blown reality that places him and his friends in a maniacal killer’s path whose flipping through the pages of Todd’s murder-glorifying comic for inspiration of his own. 

Like many opinionated reviews before mine, I never imagined Jay Baruchel directing a horror movie.  The long time comedic actor with solid relationships working with other high profile comedians, such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride in some of the best notable comedies on the side of the century, has stepped into the shadows and professing his admiration for the genre we all love – horror. Baruchel cowrites and directs his first horror film, the big screen adaptation of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Random Acts of Violence” graphic novel. Fellow collaborator on the “Goon” movies, Jesse Chabot, branches out with Baruchel on the script and the two Canadian filmmakers yield an intense meta-gore picture focusing toward themes of lopsided public perspective and the glorifying of violence on other less physical mediums. Published in 2010 under Image Comics, the Gray and Palmiotti publication supplied a wealth of visceral material that unfolded faithfully in Baruchel’s Shudder distributed film as a stylish comicbook-esque narrative under the Toronto based Elevation Pictures, Wicked Big, and Manis Film production in association with Kickstart Comics and JoBro Productions. Palmiotti and Gray also serve as executive producers.



Struggling in the search for his perfect ending to Slasherman, Todd immerses himself in a cerebral fixation that envelops him more so then he would like to think.  Todd’s played by social activist and “Cabin in the Woods” actor Jesse Williams whose character is thrust into essentially making a choice, entertain his profession that earns blood money off the backbones of the I-90’s victims or subside his eagerness to finish his graphic novel and be team victim alongside his girlfriend Kathy (“The Faculty” and 2006’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’s” Jordana Brewster) researching a novel that gives the slain victims a voice over their killer.  Brewster hasn’t changed one bit in a role that resembles a mature version of her “The Faculty” Delilah Profitt character complete with glasses and a thirst for reporting.  As a couple, Williams and Brewster hit little on their unconditional love  that’s apparent in the film’s final scenes.  Aside from their opening segment in their Toronto flat, their road trip is filled with Kathy berates Todd at times or Todd never seeming interested in Kathy or her work that’s seen counteractive to his own.  Affection is thin between them and I’m wondering if that’s more of the script writing than a flaw on Williams and Brewster who are credibility solid in their roles.  Same can be said about Jay Baruchel’s Ezra, the indie publisher sponsoring Slasherman, as the writer-director plays little to a publisher’s position of pushing the sales and marketing envolope and appears more to just be a tagalong friend with moments of quietly hawking.  Without much competition surrounding him, Slasherman is the most interesting character of the bunch from prolific stuntman, Simon Northwood.  With a 1000 yard stare that’s more menacing inducing than stemmed by trauma, Northwood brings the graphic novel character to all his glory as an aspiring artist in a contemporary parallelism to Todd who both see one another as their muse.  Northwood’s Slasherman is silently frightening, even more scary when he has to psych himself up to kill, and brings the physical stature of an unstoppable slasher genre maniac.  No one is safe from the merciless Slasherman, including those rounding out the cast in Niamh Wilson (“Saw III”), Clark Backo, Eric Osborne (“Pyewacket”), Nia Roam (“Polar”), Aviva Mongillo, and Isaiah Rockcliffe.   

The hyper violence lands more with a firm hand making good on film title.  Baruchel doesn’t hold much, if anything, back when rectifying violence as the monolithic theme while hitting a few thought-provoking notes involving the public’s perspective on the infamous legacy of serial killers and the tragic, forgotten memory toward their victims.  Somewhere in the gutting-clutter is a message of meta-existentialism tearing between that thin line of a person’s cause and effect actions.  Without the I-90 killer, Todd would not been stimulated into creating the deeply grim anti-heroic antics of Slasherman and, visa-versa, Slasherman would not have returned, coming out from retirement, if it wasn’t for Todd’s life’s work and lack of series conclusion for the Slasherman character speaking to Slasherman’s sanguinary artistic side.  One aspect stiffly hard to place your finger on is Todd’s connection with the town of McBain.  Other than a brief voice over exchange with Ezra, who mentions Mcbain is Todd’s hometown area, not much more of that pivotal connective tissue seizes grounding Todd, but the graphic novelist experiences a multitude of images streaming through his far off gazes, thoughts, and dreams. A boy, the boy’s mother who we know to be one of Slasherman’s victims because of Kathy’s research book, and the collateral damage of some great magnitude of violence surrounding them carry little weight to Todd’s psyche when struggling to piece his visions and these people’s bloodshed moment together and one reasonable theory that might explain that disconnect on our part is partially racially motivated, a detail indicative of gross assumption but a detail that can easily deceive you if you’re not knowledgeable enough about the cast you’re watching. My two cents is not randomized at all on Jay Baruchel’s “Random Acts of Violence” as it’s a brazenly deep and vicious first attempt horror in his own manic words from the glossy, leafy pages of the same titular graphic novel to the tellies of terror now on home media release.

Classified 18 for strong bloody violence and gore, “Random Acts of Violence” hits Blu-ray media shelves courtesy of Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded single disc BD25 has a runtime of 81 minutes and is presented in a slightly cropped widescreen 2.38:1 aspect ratio. A diverse hue palette of neon extricates Baruchel’s off-brand, real-time comic layout, creating a gritty, yet vibrant world all his own in a near window-blinds noir fashion. The tinkering of tints reaches almost Italian giallo levels without playing much with lighting and fog, relying heavily on the different neon vibrancy as if a colorist was right there pigmenting each scene as it played out. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound discerns very well across the board with robust dialogue that even with Williams’ slight lisp, every single word can be hung on. I didn’t think there was a ton of opportunity for depth and range as much of the action is in staged front side of the camera, but for what little there was, those areas saw solid, identifiable outputs. Bonus features include a zoom interview with a very animated Jay Baruchel providing the in depth inner works of the conception of his film while sporting a retro Montreal Expos ballcap, a showreel-esque promo entitled More Than Just A Scary Movie offers brief opinions, thoughts, and highlights on the film edited from longer, on-set interviews, and a look inside how to make an action scene. An on-your-toes, gut-wrenching slasher with a juicy slice of meta proves Jay Baruchel can wander into any genre and come out on top, but “Random Acts of Violence” has kinks to straighten out in this young director’s sophomore feature.

Mar and Scar is EVIL’s Sullied Handiwork and is Also Its Undoing! “Hanger” reviewed (Blu-ray / Unearthed Films)

Pimp Leroy likes money.  He likes money so much he stop anything and anyone from coming in between him and cold hard cash.  When Rose, his star prostitute, becomes knocked up and she carries the baby into the later terms, Leroy sees that baby as just another obstacle keeping him from dollar signs and performs a back alley abortion on Rose that results in her death and the newborn mauled by the close hanger used to pull him out.   Fast forward 18 years later, the disfigured boy Hanger, named after tool used to extract him from the womb, falls under the wing of his supposed father, one of Rose’s more admirer, only known as The John, and together they seek revenge for Rose.  In the meantime, Hanger is secured a job at the local recycling center where he is befriend by fellow outcast Russell and as The John ignites war against Leroy that spills into every prostituted infested corner of the streets and into the recycler center.

First off…Man, do I miss Ryan Nicholson.  Secondly, “Hanger” is one of the most depraved films I’ve seen in a long time.  Probably the most depraved amongst the credits of the “Gutterballs” and “Collar” writer-director who has left his mark on the sometimes bland indie horror scene with the craziest content that has become the epitomizing taste of Unearthed Films.  Nicholson cowrote the vulgar comedy-exploitation with Patrick Coble in their second feature story collaboration following their 2004 work on the Nicholson brutal rape-and-revenge directed tale “Torched.”  Rape and revenge, plus a whole lot of sleazy, scuzzy, and sordidness, doesn’t buck the Canadian filmmaker into doing something more political correct as the auteur is too well versed into capturing the base layer muck under his Plotdigger Films production banner in Vancouver, British Columbia  “Hanger” is financially produced by Nicholson and Coble and along with Wolfgang Hinz, Stephanie Jennings, and Michelle Grady.

Needing no stamp of approval, “Hanger” would not have been as unpleasantly intoxicating if it wasn’t for the cast.  Each and every character beneath “Dick Tracy”-like prosthetics come to life with their own identifiable quirks and putrid personalities with perhaps the headliner in the tamest role being played by genre icon and scream queen Debbie Rochon (“Tromeo and Juliet,” “Model Hunger”).  Troma’s most famous gal isn’t the only Troma-head to be in Nicholson’s film with a guest appearance by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman as Melvina the Tranny who has her willy kissed the stove-top burner.  I know what you’re thinking – Rochon and Kaufman is in anything is a must-see film!  I couldn’t agree more, but “Hanger” really lives and breathes on the more prosthetic-heavy performances of Nathan Dashwood, Wade Gibb, Dan Ellis, and, especially, Alastair Gamble as Phil.  Also known as Philthy, Phil is also a recycler on the look out for unemptied beer bottles for any kind of alcohol fix he can get his filthy hands on and Gamble really develops the ins-and-outs of the character’s mannerism and style and the “Gutterballs” actor does the role so well that Phil will forever be imprinted into your cerebral character catalogue for the rest of time.  I also couldn’t get enough of Wade Gibb’s Russell who gives the ethnic Chinese man a high-pitched voice and an insatiable hankering for porn and bad jokes.  Russel also has a penchant for trashed picked used tampons the administrative secretary at his job bins when she’s cycling through and after her late night self-pleasures, Russell can’t help but to blather on and on about her to his new friend Hanger, play with domicile explosiveness like TNT by “They Came From the Attic’s” Nathan Dashwood.  Candice Le (who is an uncanny Laura Prepon lookalike), Nadia Grey, Stephanie Walker, Rochelle Lynn-Jones, Susan Arum, Michelle Grady, and Dan Ellis who stars as Rose’s revenger-advocate, The John.

Ryan Nicholson passed away come two years ago come October due to brain cancer. From that condemned mind came some of the most vividly depraved characters, gratuitous gravities, and sweet, lip-smacking gore that just rolls into the place. “Hanger” is no exception; in fact, “Hanger” is probably Nicholson’s magnum opus considering all of the aforementioned descriptors. Obviously, pleasantries is not in Nicholson’s vocabulary with a storyboard progression rock hard on revenge, sex, and a recycling center full of a variety of perversions. Nicholson had a knack for obtaining real locations without having to build sets, one of his more cost-efficiency attributes to appreciate, and the recycling center where Russel, Hanger, and Phil worked was an actual true business, but the way Nicholson shoots the scenes, and with the other exteriors, is masterful in only allowing the audience to see what he wants you to see. Background details are tenebrously obscured as he highlights the basic necessities to convey what to focus on in relation to the characters. These characters are terribly invasive to the point where you can almost smell how they look and the need for a shower after some of their atrocities is well justified as this fetish theme of unsolicited bodily insertions goes over and beyond the borders of comfort. I still can’t get Alastair Gamble’s Phil out of my head. Rubber dicks, fart jokes, racist obscenities, trannies, voyeurism, masturbations, mutilation -“Hanger” has a lot of sin to be unapologetic for as it reeks lowlife war to the max. If desiring a little extra something-something, the Unearthed Films release comes complete with a second version of the film, XXX-rated cut, that’s not available on previous North American releases, such as with Vicious Circle unrated release. Where “Hanger” stumbles is with the narrative that divides like a cell into two rather different narratives after the initial coat hanger botched abortion. Though The John talks a good game and amps Hanger up for vengeance, the ex-military prostitute connoisseur goes for Leroy alone while Hanger and Russell burgeon their unusual friendship with trash-picking tampon diving and just hanging out. With the narrative more so focused on the latter, don’t expect “Hanger” to be round-the-clock carnage from start to finish.

Continuing their distribution of all Nicholson’s Plotdigger Films, Inc. catalogue, Unearthed Films 2-disc collector’s edition Blu-ray of “Hanger” is a must own and a must see for any fans of Unearthed Films’ gory longstanding pedigree and of Ryan Nicholson.  A warning about ghosting and compression artefacts precedes the film that is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, informing views of the unstable picture quality due to the nature of the recording equipment, but for the most part, the worst ghosting and compression issues are in the first scenes of the motel with Debbie Rochon and Lloyd Kaufman.  The controlled contrasting, comprised of limited lighting, a reduction in color, and perfect shadow placement, adds another flavor to “Hanger’s” squalid and vulgar character exteriors by accenting scenes with a post-apocalypse or slum living discomfort.  Details can get a very graphic, explicit, and fleshy as prosthetic organs ride that ambiguous seesaw and the prosthetics overall are extremely unique and memorable under the creative eye of Life to Death FX artist Michelle Grady.  The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix has ample fidelity despite the self-manipulation of voices and appropriations of cultural accents.  Dialogue is clean and prominently lucid.  Personally, the soundtrack is not particularly my favorite of a compilation of heavy rock and hardcore bands, such as Bison, Nomeansno, Spread Eagle, and Grass City and The Invasives, but do fit right into Nicholson’s scheme and personality.  The 2-disc set comes jampacked with over 16-hours of extras including a commentary with director Ryan Nicholson, Behind the Stoma:  The Making and Taking of Hanger with cast and crew interviews, a video diary-esque of Lloyd Kaufman’s single-day shoot entitled Enough Dope to Hang Yourself With:  On the Set with Lloyd Kaufman, a blooper reel, deleted and additional scenes, photo galley, Debbie “Rose” Rochon’s simulated sex tape “Black on White Bred” with pimp Ronald Patrick “Leroy” Thompson, the Colostomy Bag Edition aka the XXX-rated version of the film, trailer, and a second disc that’s nothing but outtakes.  The scene in the Colostomy Bag Edition, I believe, is just a minor penetrating cut-in scene more than likely not related to any of the actresses in the cast.  The Unearthed Films release is not rated and clocks in at 90 minutes (regular edition) and 91 minutes (Colostomy Bag Edition). The characters alone are worth “Hanger’s” price of admission but Unearthed Films delivers a sweet, comprehensive 2-disc collector’s set for this gore-soaked and grotesque little film.

A Must Own 2-Disc Collector’s Edition of Ryan Nicholson’s “Hanger” Available at Amazon

The Devil’s Tongue is a Powerful, Influencing EVIL. “The Dark and The Wicked” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)



Siblings Louise and Michael Straker return home to their farmland house when their terminally ill father becomes bedridden.  A long time alone and isolated before her children arrived, Virginia provided suitable care for their father up until the voices started.  Lurking in between the shadows around the rural home, a menacing presence wedges itself into an already splintered family spirit as the harbinger of death coming for their father’s soul.  The influence of voices and grim visions tatter Louise and Michael resolve, testing their unconditional love for family and moral obligations, but evil can be very persuasive the closer their father comes to his end. 

The battle grounds of losing oneself during the verge of loss has commonly been a recurrent topic amongst indie films.  For filmmaker Bryan Bertino, the concept feels deeply personal.  “The Strangers” and “Monster” writer-director’s latest discomforting horror film, “The Dark and the Wicked,” uses Devil speak in mass, detrimental volumes as an allegoric device for the internal deconstruction of family, capitalizing for his tale the use of his family’s rural Texas farm house written as a threatening locale of isolation and the tenebrous unknown.  “The Dark and the Wicked’s” paganistic undertones heavily perceive a dissipating family structure’s disconnect from not only God but from the community who has been all but absent from coming to the fictional Straker family aid.  The 2020 released film is produced by Bertino’s production company, Unbroken Pictures, alongside Shotgun Shack Pictures (“Hurt”), Traveling Picture Show Company (“The Blackcoat’s Daughter’), and in association with Inwood Road Films.

To play characters accustomed to the rural lands of the Texas outskirts, “The Dark and the Wicked” required a range submerged with leisurely movements, a Lonestar draw, and to, of course, look good in plaid and Wrangler jeans.  The cast that emerged was nothing short of spectacularly precise in fabricating the lives of remote lives rural Texans, opening with a Texas-born Julie Oliver-Touchstone (“Bounded by Evil”) sewing dresses in the barn, tending the farm’s goats, and chopping produced in her white nightgown as who will be the catalytic mother, Virginia Straker, that passes not only the 24-hour hospice care to her children but also all the beneath the light misery that drives her terrified.  The girth of the story revolves around, Louise, “The Umbrella Academy’s” Marin Ireland, and Michael, Michael Abbot Jr. from the upcoming “Hell House,” as sister and brother who return back home upon the news of their bedridden father (Michael Zagst).  At this point in the story, where we meet Louise and Michael for the first time, a shrouded background puts a delectable side dish of mystery into making them initially interesting, but over the course of the 96 minute runtime, the enigma dissolves around why Louise no longer works from the Postal Service and what’s stringently being shied away from the thick layered division between the siblings from being close to one another.  The impending standoffish goes unspoken, never comes to a head between them as like the unfolding of “The Strangers” where Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman unravel and expose their marital struggles with the invisible wall between them before, and even in the midst of, being terrorized.  There’s something there that isn’t being part of the exposition or coming back around when the Devil comes really calling for their father’s doomed soul.  Instead, Ireland and Abbot simply assimilate well enough into their falling into farm life dynamics as the sister who must shoulder the responsibility of hospice care and the brother overseeing what could be considered man’s work of handling the duties of raising livestock.   We also get some messed up supporting second fiddlers to execute Satan’s handywork with performances Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki (“Conjurer”), Mindy Raymond (“Bigfoot Wars”), and “The Walking Dead’s” Xander Berkeley channeling his best Julian Beck’s Kane performance as a sinister Priest making a house call.

Bryan Bertino has a stillness about his films. Their creepily quiet, stirred in a somber stew of macabre, and utterly deranged in a nihilist coating. What appeals to me about “The Dark and the Wicked,” as well as “The Strangers,” is Bertino’s gift to deliver powerful fatalist realism. His stories couple earthly family drama with otherworldly malevolence stemmed from the deeper affects of prolonged relationship breakdowns that literally assigns a demonizing blame on the supernatural for people’s own crumbling failings. Another aspect is the godless presence wholeheartedly felt throughout from the Straker’s loud and proud proclamation of atheism to the lack of religious artifacts. Michael nearly tosses the priest out of his keester just for making checking and noting his mother’s recent unbeknownst connection to God to which Michael took great offense. This leads into the Straker’s lack of community connection as they seemingly are adverse or are agonized by those who wish to help and those who rather seem them burn under the guise of the malice presence. Goats are thematically prevalent to the story, especially when the shadowy Wicked hides amongst the herd, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Goats are often associated with Pagan beliefs, such as with the deity Baphomet, and the evils marked upon them by cultures all around the world and by having the Straker farm be a goat farm is more than just coincidence. “The Dark and the Wicked” brings chaos and confusion much like any circumstances where one or both parents die and all the burdens, all the consequences, and all the pure emotional baggage that comes with death is passed to the children whether the Devil is involved or not. When broken down rudimentary that decline of hope and overwhelming grief can cause a great amount of destruction for any family and even extend to friends with suicide being heavily portrayed in the film. Bertino masterfully touches upon every collateral damage output leaving no one spared from death’s, the Devil’s, hopeless hold on them.

Filled with frightening imagery, plenty of toe-curling suspense, and a loud silence of utter despondency, “The Dark and the Wicked” is a must own for any horror fan and, luckily for you, Acorn Media International just released the Bryan Bertino film on Blu-ray in the UK in alliance with horror’s favorite streaming service, Shudder. Listed as region 2, but more accurately a region B in Blu-ray format, the PAL encoded release is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. If there was one word to describe the comprehensive picture that word would be dark. Bertino maintains an eclipsing cinematography through hard lighting, matted lifeless colors, and a reduction tint to give it that extra gloomy blackness. Cinematographer Tristan Nyby’s first collaboration with Bertino is also the first debut into the genre field and Nyby comes out on top with an ability to show just enough, whether through shallow focus or obscured wide shots to always keep the depth and range of the unknown factor alive and frightening. In regards to the Blu-ray quality, “The Dark and the Wicked” has little to offer in details not because of the lack there of but because much of the film is shot in the dark, a fine midnight black with little-to-no wish or noise, and dim lighting . Facial details do appear slightly soft as you can’t make out the blemishes or even skin pores, but the intentional flat coloring steers much of that away from the senses. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound is a boost of jumpscare ambient effects. The range and depth finely pitch the position of well-timed scares, especially when the strung together bottles, glasses, and cans rattle in a discordance. Dialogue has lossy muster that makes discerning characters’, especially Michael or his mother, Virginia’s, Southern draw. English subtitles are optional. Special features include only a Fantasia Q&A with actors Merin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr that dive into their characters quite a bit and into Bertino’s morose mindset. Bleak and genuinely personal on a whole other level, “The Dark and the Wicked” is quintessential truth when talking about the Bryan Bertino Americana horror film and, believe you me, expect more devilish descriptors that’ll shock you.

EVIL Has Layers. Colorful, Beautiful, Red Dripping Layers. “No Reason” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Digital Screener)

On the verge of moving from her quaint apartment, Jennifer begins her morning caring for her son, Nico.  Throughout the morning, her complex neighbors come knocking at her doorstep with unusual behaviors, even so with the mailman who apathetically leaves her bathroom a mess after requesting an urgent need to use the toilet.  After leaving Nico with an elderly woman in an adjacent unit to do some light shopping, Jennifer comes home her son and neighbor not answering the door and figures they went out for a while.  As time passes and her anxiety builds, Jennifer decides to soak in a relaxing bath but when she falls asleep, she awakes amongst a pile of dismembered bodies, subjected to ultra-violent video recordings of the neighbors who she saw earlier, and a masked maestro of anguish to help Jennifer regain life purity through pain.  Through the layers of suffering, the ugliness Jennifer has to endure to survive and find her son might be an awakening she will forever regret. 

From the violence saturated mind of German auteur Olaf Ittenbach comes a battle of conscious, a gore waterlogged vision, in his 2010 blood-shedding shocker, “No Reason.”  Now, I may be over a decade late to the party on this title, but Unearthed Films has brought a newly remastered, fully uncut Blu-ray to physical and virtual retail shelves, reviving the “Legion of the Dead” and “The Burning Moon” filmmaker’s title from the North American grave as the Intergroove Media DVD has been out of print for a long time, and kicking my ass into high gear with diving into the surreal expressionism, splayed into every nook and cranny, of deviated behaviors and splintered thoughts.  “No Reason” is a production of Ittenbach’s IMAS Filmproduktion studios and co-produced by German SOV splatter film connoisseurs, Michael Nezik and Ingo Trendelbernd.

Like Alice traversing a macabre-cladded hell on Earth wonderland is Irene Holzfurtner as the confused lost soul Jennifer  More or less fully naked and bloodied half the story, crossing through portals of layered perdition in order to find her son and saving grace, Holzfurtner has insurmountable perplexity hung across her character’s face in the midst of being plopped into bedlam, taking the character on a journey pain, torment, and enlightenment bare ass naked and covered in blood in a metaphorical rebirth.  Overseeing Jennifer’s trial and tribulations into being brought back reborn as it were is a sadist donning a crude Cthulhu mask and strapped tightly into a medieval BDSM attire who speaks in riddles and verse to sermonize his cathartic guidance.  Markus Hettich towers a monolithic man of pain and pleather, calmly exercising his shrouded authority a healthy amount of sadism, masochism, and sadomasochism in order to undress the falsehood of Jennifer’s split spirit.  Hettich pins an ideal Devil-like antagonist, rupturing through the connective tissues of the psyche with a lingering omnipresence that delivers shivers down the spine.  Mathias Engel, Alexander Gamnitzer, Andreas Pape, Annika Strauss, Ralph Willmann, and Hildegard Kocian make up the supporting cast who are most cooperative being exploited by the violence and nudity that accompany their ill-fated roles of humiliation, torture, and inevitable gruesome death.

Ittenbach obviously brings the gore but the controversial director, who has sparked backlash for glorifying violence, brings a beaming arthouse allure to his “No Reason’s” gargantuan bloodletting.  Layered with multi-colored conjectures point to the unhinged state of a mind, Jennifer endures unspeakable anguish in layers encoded with red, green, and blue, each specifically engineered by the masked man to trigger a response when testing Jennifer’s will; a will to what end is something you’ll need to watch the film to understand.  What I can tell you is that each color stage bares a horrific theme – red is simply the spilling of innocent blood, green is feminine dominance symbolized by BDS&M (a running motif throughout) where uninhibited women urinate on men (explicitly shown), castrate by oral sex, and divulge themselves with lots of male body disfiguration through whips, chains, and other large dominatrix toys, and blue is filled with mutants who are just as ugly on the inside as they are on the out.  Completing each stage costs Jennifer bodily harm as a reparation for staying on the path of enlightenment, the white layer.  With a little money behind the project, Ittenbach’s able to accomplish some fantastically brutal scenes with fleshy prosthetics and I, personally found the intro credits to be insanely power in it’s composition despite the simplicity of it.  Where “No Reason” buckles is the crux of Ittenbach’s artistry with the parable that borders nonsensical guff.  I’m not going to lie, “No Reason” is difficult to follow from the pre-opening credit epilogue home movie montage of Jennifer and her parents frolicking on the grass, praising Jennifer’s smarts at such a young age, to the post-opening credit opening of a naked and bloody Jennifer holding a detective hostage, to the surreal cerebral journey through a timeless purgatory horror house Jennifer finds herself trapped, the segues, if any, often feel omitted and we’re left to assume the rest. 

The brisk 76 minute runtime perfectly balances the right amount of abstract story and gore and, now, “No Reason” has a better reason for your attention with Unearthed Films’ new scan of an uncut Blu-ray release! The May release is presented in a high definition, 1080p, widescreen 1.76:1 aspect ratio. I can’t comment too much on the audio and visuals as a digital screener was only provided, which means there were no extras accompanied with the screener as well. “No Reason” is the first collaboration between Ittenbach and director of photography, Axel Rubbel. The pair went on to work on Ittenbach’s “Savage Love” two years later, but Rubbel has more of an imprint with Ittenbach’s candy-coated eye-popper gorefest with a kaleidoscope of blushes a tinged aberrant from the normal blacks, reds, and browns that blotted onto gore and shock films. The release will include two German language audio track options, a 5.1 surround sound and a stereo 2.0. Both should include English subtitles and, if the Blu-ray is anything like the digital screener, the subtitles are synched well with the dialogue and, from what I can tell, are grammatically error free. My abnormal brain can choke down the free-for-all soul-damaging ultra-violence and gore charcuterie board and Olaf Ittenbach’s “No Reason” fits that bill with a wide berth of exhibited atrocities while also coming up for air by attaching a misdirection substance behind the graphically lurid details of skin ripping from the muscular tissue and flesh lacerated to shreds by a cat-o-nine tails to ease us into the tumultuous mind of a psycho’s path.

“No Reason” available on Uncut Blu-ray!