Life is seemingly pleasant and happy-go-lucky when two fully loaded coach buses of high school girls travel down a forestry passageway toward a lakeside hotel until sudden violence and gore turns Mitsuko’s classmates into minced meat. Overcome with shock and fear, Mitsuko escapes the terror only to find herself in another horrifying scenario. The vicious cycle continues as Mitsuko is thrusted into one chaotic, blood-splattering world after another, quickly losing her identity with each threshold crossing, and with no clue of what’s going on and how she got into this limbo of hell, Mitsuko must stay alive and unearth the truth behind the surreality of her being.
Nothing is more terrifying than being in a heart-pounding situation and not having one single clue why bodies are being sliced in half like corks popping violent out of champagne bottles, why childhood mentors break their professional oath and slaughter students with a ferocity of a mini-gun, or why being chased by a tuxedo-decked out groom with a gnarly pig head is in tow ready to drop kick anything, or anybody, standing in the way. Writer-director Sion Sono manifests that very chaos entrenched world in the 2015 action-horror “Tag” and, once again, the “Suicide Girls” director puts Japanese school girls back into the harrowed ways of gore and death over salted with an existential surrealism based off a novel by Yûsuke Yamada entitled Riaru Onigokko aka Real Game of Tag. Yamada’s story is followed more closely to that of Issei Shibata’s 2008 “The Chasing World” that involves a Government influence and parallel universes, “Tag” serves more as an abstract remake that Sono masters a soft touch of irrational poetry bathed in gore and strung with chaos rectified with a tremendously talented cast of young actresses.
Actresses such as the Vienna born Reina Triendl. Being Japanese doppelgänger to Mary Elizabeth Windstead with soft round eyes and the picturesque of youthfulness, Triendl transcends tranquility and innocence when portraying a content Mitsuko in the midst of many of her classmates boorishly bearing the typical, low-level adolescent anarchy. When Mitsuko’s thrusted into phantasmagorical mayhem, Triendl steps right there with her discombobulated character in an undried eye panicky frenzy whose character then spawns into two other fleshy vessels, a pair of recognizable names of J-Pop fandom in Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano, when Mitsuko enters another zone in her fictional world. Though different in all aspects of their appearance and in name – Misuko, Kieko, and Izumi, the three women share the same existence and fathom a unbroken entity of character that hacks her way through the brutal truth. The remaining cast, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, and Ami Tomite, sport the high school miniskirt wardrobe and garnish a bubbly-violent J-horror persona very unique to the genre.
“Tag” is a plethora of metaphors and undertones likely to be over-the-head of most audiences, but if paying close enough attention and understanding the subtle rhythmic pattern of Sono’s direction, the gore and the fantastic venues are all part of an intrinsic, underlining message of feminism and sex inequality that’s built inside a “man”-made, video game structure thirty years into the future. Sono points out, in the most graphic and absurd method, how men treat women like objects or playthings. There’s also a message regarding predestination with white pillow feathers being the metaphor for fate and being spontaneous is the key to break that predestined logic and all of this corresponds to how Misuko, the main character, needs to break the mold, to choose her path, and to remember her past in order to free all the women trapped inside a male-driven purgatory of pain, punishment, and pleasure. Supporting Sono’s ability to disclose an epic survival-fantasy horror in such a way comes from multiple production companies, one of them being NBCUniversal Entertainment, providing the cash flow that allows Sono to flesh out the gore, to acquire massive amount of extras, and to scout out and obtain various locations.
Eureka Entertainment presents a dual format, Blu-ray-DVD combo, of “Tag” for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, the disc provided was a feature-only screener and a critique on the video, audio, and bonus material will not be conducted, but in itself, “Tag” is a full throttle encephalon teaser warranting a need for no supplementary content aside from conventional curiosity into what makes Sono’s “Tag” tick. When all pistons are firing, from the visual effects of Satoshi Akabane to “The Walking Dead” familiar score, “Tag” is no child’s game with a heavily symbolic, touch-and-go and bloodied pro-feministic essence that would serve as an abrupt and acute wakeup call to all the Harvey Weinsteins in the world that women are not to be simply playthings and that their gender destiny lies solely with them despite the misconstrued male manipulation.
Paul and Jennifer Hemdale snag a great deal on their dream home withstanding an ugly past considering the previous homeowner who disappeared without a trace and a woman ending up badly burned. Despite the stigma surrounding the house, the Hemdales vow to turn their first home into a marital love nest, but every instance in which one of them is ready to break in the new home underneath the sheets, the other falls flaccid, as if something is keeping them from making love. Beneath the first floor, in the darkest part of the basement, there lies a locked black room with ritualistic pagan writing sprawled inside every wall, floor, and ceiling surface and an demonic incubus, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to reinstate a master plan to take over the world. When Paul becomes a host for the incubus, the body count rises when repairmen, friends, and family come calling to their home and Jennifer must discover what’s causing her husband to act like a perverted jerk before she too falls into the incubus’s malevolent grip.
“The Black Room” mixes dark demon humor with perversions in a butt-cheeky horror comedy written and directed by Rolfe Kanelsky, whose credits in “Nightmare Man” and “Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle’s Intimate Encounters” have sure to have aided in the director’s seamlessness in blending an erotic tone with an aggressive horror element. Kanelsky’s cavalier approach to the 2016 film, “The Black Room,” hints at the Sam Raimi approach with the unexpected and the bizarre mischief of the demon and a violin heavy folk-artsy soundtrack style with jump scare after jump scare techniques, but without going full blown with “The Three Stooges” antics as Raimi is well-known to implement. Instead, Kanelsky’s far more subtle and isn’t afraid to be verbally pun awful, even during more positionally vulnerable scenes involving actresses. Whereas most horror films uses horror as an exploitative tool or an ultimate means to be hacked to pieces, “The Black Room” transforms nudity, and sex, into a running joke much like a Troma production would gravitate to, with “Tromeo and Juliet” being a prime example, and then punch the joke into hyper drive by either being overly gory or ridiculously impractical.
In all honesty, “The Black Room” is the second Cleopatra Entertainment title reviewed at Its Bloggin’ Evil, with the first being a clunky deal-with-the-Devil thriller entitled “Devil’s Domain” by director Jared Cohn, but Cleopatra’s latest entry into the demonic hierarchy enrolls more star power to provide legitimacy in the horror realm by casting horror hall of famed actress and “Insidious” series star Lin Shaye as the snarky previous house owner with a dwelling secret and as well as “Species” series and “Ghost of Mars” actress Natasha Henstridge as the lovely Jennifer Hemdale. Shaye’s dedication to any project, big or small, places the four-decade-careered actress as a beacon of hope for the indie project and Henstridge, still oozing that blonde bombshell of sexiness image, is the proverbial cherry on top. Shaye and Henstridge bare a heavy cast presence without having to bare much skin, but there’s a fair amount of nudity to behold from actresses Augie Duke (“The Badger Game”), Jill Evyn, Alex Rinehart, cheesy horror goddess and “Killjoy” actress Victoria De Mare, and a full frontal nude debut by Milena Gorum in her first credited film. When you’re done ogling over the female roster, a tall, baritone voiced Lukas Hassel illuminates as the sleazy parasitic host of an sex-crazed incubus, embracing every tall, dark, and handsome aficionado to dream of Paul Hemdale in a variety of gore-raunchy segments while maintaining a straight face about the filth that seeps from his character’s mouth. Rounding out this cast is a “Skarkansas Women’s Prison Massacre’s” Dominique Swain as the film’s third headliner on the Blu-ray cover and intro credits, one of my personal favorite supporting actors James Duval (“Cornered!”), Caleb Scott, Robert Donovan, and with genre favorite Tiffany Shepis.
While the story’s nuts and bolts of “The Black Room” consists of demons, possession, and world domination, lots of sex, sex talk, and sexual situations litter every scene. Yes, the demon is an incubus and by very definition of the term, a demon who makes sexual advances on women while they sleep, whole-heartedly defines the amusing premise. Maybe with Kanelsky’s background in softcore erotica, sex comes second hand and writing all the associations with the act is easier for the filmmaker who installs both main characters, Paul and Jennifer, with an insatiable sex drive from beginning to the end. Even with side characters untarnished by the incubus’s powers, such as the perverted water heater repairman, become a slave to the story’s grossly sexual tension. Now, I’m not complaining, but the continuous play on sex is odd without the slither of a moral growth. After all is said and done and the characters walk away from a deadly supernatural cluster-you-know-what, neither Paul and Jennifer progress, knowing nothing more from when they first started, and plateau to a level right from the start when first purchasing the dreadful dream home.
Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present “The Black Room” on a region free Blu-ray with 1080p on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Coloring is everything and the range of hues in “The Black Room” vividly crisp off the screen and the filter lighting smoothly goes unnoticed when sudden changes from natural to red flare up. For most of the 91 minute runtime, a clean image plays out a levelness throughout, but film grain presents itself in last moments of said titular room and the digital effects are gaussian soft that it’s penalizing. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has a compressed audio that’s not up the spec when considering Cleopatra is a major record label. The dialogue is clean and prevalent, but sorely soft at times with ranges between ambient, soundtrack, and dialogue fluxing more on the lower volume totem poll rather than being beefy and in charge. Audio is passable, being free from damage and distortion, but a little more range would do this demon dance some justice. Bonus material includes commentary with director Rolfe Kanelsky, star Natasha Henstridge, supporting actor Augie Duke, and producer Esther Goodstein, a slew of extra and extended scenes, a severely anemic behind-the-scenes short, a brief blooper reel, slide show, storyboards, and the film’s trailer. When considering between the two demonically-charged Cleopatra Entertainment productions “Devil’s Domain” and “The Black Door,” there’s no contest as the latter is technically a much better film and a lot of fun to watch and sure to be every gore and sex-hound’s wet dream with titillating special effects, especially with an invisible entity seducing a sleeping Alex Reinhart with a major titty-twister, and a dark sense of humor of unholy pleasure.
The fiance of an orphaned villa owner named Frank dies in within their last loving embrace. Struck with immense grief, Frank digs up his fiance’s freshly packed corpse, injects her with embalming fluid, discards her major organs, installs glass eyes into her eye sockets, and processes her to be with him forever as a taxidermal doll laying in the bed next to him. Presumably behind Frank’s fiance’s untimely death is Iris, the family housekeeper who has an unhealthy obsession with Frank and his wealth, and when Frank instability goes beyond the means of all reason, an ill-tempered and mentally paralleled Iris swoops in to be Frank’s comfort, voice of guidance, and abetting culprit to Frank’s crimes as he can’t seem to stop killing young women in order to either replace or protect his adored doll and when a nosey mortician snoops around his residence, turmoil between Frank and Iris boil over in a heap of violence turned into a showdown of ill-fated and gruesome death.
“Beyond the Darkness” is by far beyond sick. Director Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), one of Italy’s legendary video nasty filmmakers, reaches far into the darkest crevices of the criminally insane and exhibits every aspect of cold and brutal murder when the small window of opportunity and hope goes horribly wrong. The 1979 film shot in the Bressanone area of Italy exudes breathtaking countryside hills; so serene and peaceful that when Frank’s mind breaks and he crosses into an irreversible dark state, his frigid and murderous emotions make him a monolith that shadows the expansively green landscape. Tack on an equally demented housekeeper with a penchant for diabolical motives and the juxtaposition is no where near being level, creating this idyllic nightmare of taxidermy slaughter, a rancid deterioration of the mind, body, and soul, and a perversive obsession of inhuman replacement.
A baby faced Kieran Canter stars as the orphaned villa owner Frank Wyler who can’t handle one more tragic death of a loved one and Canter provides the blank stare, the outer shell of a spent and lost lover, despite his attractive attributes just like his the inner bones of his villa manor and speaking of juxtapositions, “The Other Hell’s” Franca Stoppi over achieves Iris’s internal and external ugliness. Iris, a seeming fixture of a puritanical matriarch in her dress and stature worn magnificently by Stoppi, uses manipulation and supernatural forces to gain power right under Frank’s already malfunctioning mentality. In the light, Frank and Iris are polar opposites, but they break bread together in the dark, feasting off each other’s malice. “The Beyond’s” Cinzia Monreale dons a dual performance as the corpse of Frank’s fiance and of her living sister. Monreale’s amazing performance in being such a still carcass struck a recall chord in me thinking of Olwen Kelly’s eerie portrayal of a slab table stiff in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe.”
Speaking of autopsies, when Frank begins his taxidermal procedures, surgically slicing down Cinzia Monreale’s freshly demised midsection, the attention to detail rapes the spine with chilling ferocity and though dated within the confines of the practical special effects from nearly forty-years ago, D’Amato’s controversial and unquenchable need for violence doesn’t hold back the gore, the guts, and the glory of chopping a British slag into pieces with a butcher’s knife and tossing her overweight remains into a cast iron tub-cauldron of skin-eating acidity only to have her partial face float up to the surface in a display of how far these vile characters are willing to entertain their pure evil. “Beyond the Darkness” lives up the title with the barbaric nature of the characters who clamp down their teeth and rip out the flesh of their, burn alive joggers in an industrial grade furnace, and store corpses like valuable baseball cards of your favorite major league players. Yes, “Beyond the Darkness’s” gold is worth it’s cinematic weight in gore.
Severin’s 2-disc Blu-ray and CD Soundtrack release of Joe D’Amato’s “Beyond the Darkness” is presented in HD 1080p 1.67:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is strong, unmolested, and rich with a vibrant color palette that gets ickier with every organ removed, every body part dismembered, and every shocking event unraveled. A dubbed English DTS-HD master and an Italian Dolby Digital dual channel mix are quite good, spanning out a brazen fidelity of leveled ranges and the Goblin soundtrack enriches every scene with gothic notes of progressive rock. Check out the CD Soundtrack “Buio Omega” (“Beyond the Darkness”): The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to get an isolated experience of one of horror’s most fascinating scoring groups known worldwide. Bonus material is aplenty with a retrospect interview on the late Joe D’Amato entitled “The Horro Experience,” an interview with Actress Franca Stoppi entitled “The Omega Woman,” an interview with Cinzia Monreale entitled “Sick Love,” a live performance of “Buio Omega by Goblin, a visit to set locations, and the theatrical trailer. Severin completes a snazzy package and includes an plethora of auxiliary material for this ultra-violent video nasty that’s delivers the uncut and uncensored blood and nudity in a twisted 94 minutes of “Beyond the Darkness.”
The trailer for this year’s Jigsaw (Saw 8) has arrived online! The San Diego Comic Con red band trailer promises to bring back the grisly games, the blood, and the terror. You can’t have Halloween without the Jigsaw Killer as the two of synonymous and expect Jigsaw, who was sorely missed over these passed few years, to ramp up his games this October 27th!
One of the highest grossing Horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level.
Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort (“Bitten”), Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers (“Undead” and “Daybreakers”)
Written by: Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger
Produced by: Oren Koules, Mark Burg, Greg Hoffman
A Lionsgate release, Twisted Pictures presents, a Burg/Koules/Hoffman production.
An unidentified man, wearing medical scrubs and gloves, wanders through town, encountering hellishly gruesome scenes of death. He wanders barefoot through a ghastly journey that might figuratively expresses his back story of how he came to witness such visions and be relatively undisturbed by the horror they represent. The filthy, gory, and ill-fated moments might also be hallucinations brought upon by a traumatic occurrence that wrenches him out of reality and into grisly purgatory. Either way, the nameless man is a lost soul with no ambition, no emotion, and no direction to guide him through an inner conflict of blood-soaked entombment.
Unearthed Films’ 2-disc collector’s edition of “Lung I” and “Lung II” continues with the distribution company’s legacy of delivering the best underground cinema to the forefront of home entertainment. Phil Stevens, director of positive-reviewed “Flowers,” writes, stars, and directs both feature films about the wandering man in a foggy, distorted haze, but “Lung II” is not a sequel to “Lung I.” Instead, “Lung I” is the softcore version of events whereas “Lung II” is a hardcore redux – think along the lines of “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II” – that’s much more detached from rationality and by collaborating with “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock’s” Marcus Koch seizing upon the special effects, you can damn well count on “Lung II,” and certainly “Lung I” as well, being bare-faced dark, violent, and twisted. In more a sequential reality, “Lung” is part of the Phil Stevens’ proposed trilogy entitled the Violence of Dawn with “Flowers” leading the horrific charge. This review will focus more on “Lung II.”
Stevens stars as the unnamed lead, waking up lost under a creek bridge, dressed in medical scrubs, and haunted by unspeakable, bloody post-violence mayhem while continuously battling his evil doppelgänger self. Is this just a strange nightmare or a telltale sign of this man’s troubled past? Then, again, Stevens’ impassive take feels more like wandering through one hell of a dream, an endless journey into one’s post-traumatic warped mind rather than spelunking into one of a murderous soul’s, even if one of the moments of trauma could be his wife – or girlfriend – cheating on him and he catches her in the act with ill-fated consequences. Characters also related to the medical profession, such as a psychologist (David Copping) and quick flashes of a nurse (Angela Jane), are a part of this visceral vision quest. Finally, we come to The Exile character. The Exile might sound familiar if you’ve read my review on “Flowers” as he’s the only character, portrayed once again by Bryan W. Lohr Sr., that connects the two films. The Exile continues to mystify us about his presence, an extremely large and intimating brute with a deathly blank stare and a “don’t fuck with me” attitude.
Unlike “Flowers,” Stevens went the devoid of color route, constructing a black and white feature that, like “Flowers, goes without as much as a sentence of dialogue. Actions, expressions, and every sense of the word “art” tell the story. Non-linear editing and brutally realistic scenes of savagery in the confines of special effects exercise and sparks your brain’s neurons to try spitfire pieces together to cement a coherent narrative. Stevens is almost able to re-tap into and revitalize the silent film genre with “Flowers” and “Lung”, and with the help of a vehement brooding score by Mark Kueffner, I believe this type of experimental horror story telling can fascinate just about anyone without a weak stomach.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual’s 2-disc DVD collector’s set a beautifully monochrome piece of art with roached infested severed heads, a halfway decomposed homeless man, and a pile of refrigerated sexual organs meshed together like something out of Brian Yuzna’s “Society,” but more gnarly. Im interested to see how Paradis, aka Paradis III, comes to conclude the trilogy and see how Unearthed FIlms releases Phil Stevens’ visionary tales. The Borderline Cinema and Extreme Horror Cinema “Lung” is comprised of two discs that entail “Lung I” Feature Film, “Lung II” Feature Film, Directors Commentary, Editors Commentary, Isolated Sound FX Track, Making of Lung 2 (which is very informative and fun to watch underground cinema come to the fold), Mark Kueffner: Lung Composer Featurette, Martin Trafford: Artwork Featurette, “Cats” Short Film, “Descent” Short Film, and Unearthed Trailers. “Lung” will not tickle everybody’s taste; surely sick and part of a niche network of darkly persuaded and humored people will most likely get it, but there’s still very much to appreciate here from director Phil Stevens and his eye for detail and disturbia. This gore and shock is worth a look and worth a chance.