Evil Gets a 4K Digital Transfer! “Ichi the Killer” review!

Three hundred million yen and Yakuza boss Anjo have disappeared without a trace. Anjo’s most deadly and most sadomasochistic enforcer, Kakihara, and the rest of the Yakuza gang embark on a torture-riddle search and rescue to find their missing boss. After unrightfully torturing and mutilating a rival Yakuza leader, Kakihara learns through a trail of mayhem of a fierce killer known as Ichi and after being exposed to Ichi’s grisly handiwork first hand, a usually stagnant and emotionally detached Kakihara becomes stimulated and eager to go one-on-one with a formidable foe like Ichi, who could possibly bestow upon him gratifying pain to feel something other than emptiness. Ichi’s eviscerating destruction isn’t totally in his control as the sexually-repressed and candidly disturbed overall nice guy is being coerce through psycho-manipulation by Jijii, an old man seeking retribution against the Anjo gang. With blades projecting from his shoes and his skill at martial arts, the timid Ichi becomes the ultimate killing machine when brainwashing takes him over the edge into a hysterical fit of rage that leaves guts and blood to paint the floor and walls.

Perhaps director Takashi Miike’s finest work, the 2001 Japanese blood bath “Ichi the Killer” is a must own for any film aficionado teetering on the razor wire between crime dramas and gory action flicks that might be on the viewing docket for then night, but certainly a must-see for all film lovers at some point in time. Miike’s stone cold, chaotic style of filmmaking embraces the story’s unwavering havoc that blisters with ruthless brutality between two very different, black and white characters with one thing in common – being good a killing. Based off the manga penned by Hideo Yamamoto and from the adapted screenplay by Sakichi Sato, Miike crafts the most disturbing elements of mankind and brings them to the forefront in a simple story of revenge. On one side, there’s Kakihara, a scarred-face Yakuza enforcer with a very rich violent history to the extent that he’s become numb to his own existence in the world and then there’s Ichi, a reclusive cry-baby stemmed from being mentally fed graphic bulling stories of battery and rape in a memory built upon languishing lies. Vastly different, well-written characters opposite the spectrum and both are good at dealing death, but one aims to dish it out and the other yearns to stop his carnage, and that compelling core element is immensely fluffed by extreme violence in a way that only Miike can deliver it.

But for a film like “Ichi the Killer,” Takashi Miike had a little (hint of sarcasm) help from his gifted cast in making this project a cult success. Before this actor was Hogun in the Marvel Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Tadanobu Asano shaped up the psychotic enforcer Kakihara and the usually dark featured Asano reconfigures his appearance to put life into the character who sports blonde, wavy hair, a frothy complexion, and small hoop piercings at the corners of his lips to keep the slits from opening to expose the entire gaping jaw which is used as a defensive weapon. Opposite Asano is the Tokyo born Nao Ohmori who perfectly subjects himself to being a wimpy human shell with an explosive inner anger. The two men have only a small amount of screen time together and that requires them to build their character’s standout personalities. Complimenting their performances is an amazing support cast, including Shin’ya Tsukamoto (“Marebito”), Miss Singapore 1994 Paulyn Sun, Hiroyuki Tanaka, and Suzuki Matsuo.

“Ichi the Killer” is simply magnificent where it vulgarly touches upon various themes, mostly human flawed that also destines opposing counterparts together. Aside from the graphically realistic violence, Miike’s film hits upon other attributable tangents, among them some are just being plain gross, but these aspects are undeniably important to the story. Themes ranging from sexual suppression and female inferiority to sadomasochism and severe obsession top the charts in a heap of motifs throughout. Accessorial blood and other bodily fluids are extravagantly portrayed, spraying across the room with jettison entrails or dripping from potted plants to a cloudy puddle below during in a voyeuristic rape scene, to get the clear sense of an adult manga inspired chockablock exploitation and crime drama.

Well Go USA presents “Ichi the Killer” on Blu-ray in a newly restored 4K digital transfer of the director’s cut; a task undertaken by Emperor Motion Pictures in 2017. Presented in a widescreen 16:9 (1.85:1) aspect ratio, the film starts off with a blurb about the history of this particular digital restoration and transfer that asserts director Takashi Miike’s approval for release. Well Go USA’s rendering resembles much of the previous Tokyo Shock Blu-ray with subtle differences such as a slightly more aqua tint to the picture coloring and also much like it’s other Region A Blu-ray counterpart, a bit of noise is present in the restoration, but still the better detail of the two. The Japanese stereo 5.1 DTE-HD Master Audio surround sound has an bombastic soundtrack, but dialogue remains on the softer side where relying on the English subtitles is crucial. No issues with timing or accuracy in the subtitles. Surprisingly, the only extras included on the Well Go USA release is an audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and manga artist Hideo Yamamoto, still gallery, and the trailer that undercuts this releases’ purchasing value and might as well hunt down for the out of print Media Blasters Blu-ray, if extras are a must. Even still, “Ichi the Killer” has been resurrected in North America again and the release technically sustains growth amongst the mass of releases around the world. The lack of special features is disconcerting, especially being a restored director’s cut, but “Ichi the Killer” can stand on it’s own as a gracefully sanguinary masterpiece. Look for the Blu-ray to hit retail and online shelves March 20th!

Get Ichi the Killer today on Blu-ray!


Phil Stevens’ “Flowers 2” is on the Campaign Trail!

Phil Stevens returns! The Philadelphian filmmaking is coming back for more surreal and gory abstract horror in his next upcoming project “Flowers 2,” a direct sequel, that “explores the final days of the serial killer known as ‘THE EXILE’ through a macabre birthday party held by his past murder victims. We are shown this monster’s violent past life through the eyes of his dead.

However, Stevens needs your help because making movies you love and that you’re passion about is most certainly not free or cheap despite our best efforts. An Indiegogo page has been setup and the fans of “Flowers,” and I know there are many of you, should take the time to read thoroughly through the campaign page and think about donating to a original horror storytelling. The goal is $15,000 and Stevens is only 6% there from eleven backers. Please donate, no matter the denomination! Your contribution goes a long way and there’s swag for donations starting at $25, but you better hurry due to limited stock.

If you haven’t caught up with “Flowers” and you would like to know more, please read our positive review for “Flowers”. Also, “Lung,” another Phil Stevens directed film, received positive praise as well. We like Phil. So, we like to see him succeed in getting another chance to continue his story and to put into fruition his visionary tale of macabre.

You keep up-to-date with Phil and Flowers 2 at the official Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/flowers02themovie

Evil Surgical Nightmares…on Repeat! “Inoperable” review!

From being stuck in stand still Floridian hurricane traffic to waking up in a hospital without any recollection of how she got there, Amy Barrett finds herself in a seemingly evacuated sanitarium on the verge of being hit by a category 5 hurricane. When she finally makes contact with the limited hospital staff, Amy discovers that the staff are not in the position to help, but desire to perform unnecessary surgeries. Then, she finds herself in traffic again. Then, she wakes up in hospital…again. Amy, and other patients, find themselves trapped in a nightmare loop forged by the powers of the massive hurricane. Before the storm passes over, Amy must find a way to end the corkscrew of timelines that propel her limbo hell or else she will be trapped in the hospital forever.

To the O.R. stat! From writer-director Christopher Lawrence Chapman comes “Inoperable,” the horror equivalent to Bill Murray’s exceptional dark comedy “Groundhog Day.” As Chapman’s sophomore directorial, first in the realm of horror, the director takes “Inoperable” to rebrand the quantum paradoxical plight by introducing a medical butchers with hours upon hours, days upon days, years upon years of experience with exploratory surgery and ghastly invasion procedures. Behind the wormhole of terror script with Chapman is co-writer, the b-horror screenwriter, Jeff Miller whose extensive credits include “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” and “Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove.” In this go-around, Miller explores the space-time-continuum, or does he, with Amy reliving the same moment, experienced slightly differently, in an endless loop of grisliness.

Starring in “Inoperable” is the “Halloween’s” franchise third favorite star, behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleseance, being Danielle Harris (“Halloween 4,” “Halloween 5,” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remakes). Harris keeps and maintains the tension, supplementing an increasing annoying and frustrating tone with each and every reset, and does superbly in extended takes running through the hospital’s dark corridors. Amy’s center storied character really puts Harris to work on her ability to flex in sequentially illogical scenes that go in various tangents and come to a dead halt in the end, flipping the script that forces the modern day scream queen to relive some of those killer “Halloween” moments. Harris is accompanied by Katie Keene and Jeff Denton, both whom worked with Chapman previously on the clownsploitation slasher “ClownTown.” Keene and Denton’s characters are also caught up in the same situation as a Denton plays a beefy good looking cop named Ryan who brings in a witness, Keene’s JenArdsen, a dolled up blonde who while in his custody, to the hospital following a multi-vehicle pile up; the very exact incident Amy in which Amy was involved. The two fall for each other more and more with each and every restart and that pain coldly passes over when to bare witness to each other’s demise over and over again is disturbingly twisted. Rounding out the cast is Chris Hahn “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan”), Cher Hubsher (“The Amityville Terror”), Michelle Marin (“Bloody 27”), Philip Schene, and Crystal Cordero.

The trio of resetters formulate a wildly speculated theory that a nearby military compound, experimenting in spatial physics, was ravaged by the hurricane that oozed out their experiments that disrupted timelines, affecting this particular hospital, and the only way to escape the madness is by displacing the same energy that was put into it; so for example, since Ryan and JenArdsen arrived together, they would have to escape together. As long as Amy doesn’t die, every trapped soul is eligible for escape. Wait, what? Like aforementioned, Amy is the centerpiece to the puzzle and the whole entire situation actually revolves around Amy, intentional or not. Even though clues try to put a monkey wrench in that notion, the story always seems to revert back to Amy much like the loop she’s caught in. That in itself is the biggest hint of all that funnels to a underwhelming ending in null and voids the rest of the story.

ITN Distribution presents “Inoperable” onto DVD and VOD. The DVD is presented in a widescreen to “preserve the aspect ratio of its original exhibition” and, yes, this was done so. Nothing too particularly to note about the image quality being a modern release, but the color palette is balanced and vivid. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital track has some good range and clear dialogue that effective communicate all theories and explanations on why this is happen to Amy, Ryan, and JenArdsen. Extras are slim that include a cast and crew commentary and the theatrical trailer. The Zorya Films and Millman Productions’ “Inoperable” is open heart surgery gory and is unique in a deadfall environment that’s sublimely refreshing for the over saturated genre, but culminates flaccidly with a conventional finale too predictable for comfort.

Bite Sized Evil With a Real Bite! “Ghastlies” review!

Four sorority sisters embark on a isolated cabin vacation for an all girls’ weekend in the quiet woods. Through all the booze and the trips to the lakeside beach, Sloane, Abby, Margot, and Lulu reap the benefits of solitude and sisterhood and just when everything seems to be going delightfully swell, even when Sloane’s perverse boyfriend and his friend show up unexpectedly, trouble brews beneath their feet, under the leaf-riddled surface, when Abby unwittingly unleashes three space originated, pint-sized ghastly ghouls. As the miniature and ferocious creatures rip through unlucky victims, nobody knows how to stop, let alone escape, their woodland carnage, especially when they’re being aided and abetted by human caretakers.

In the filmmaking fashion of Brett Piper (“Queen Crab”) or Mike Lyddon (“First Man on Mars”), Brett Kelly offers his low-rent talents in construction an 80s-esque creature feature on a pygmy scale in more ways than one. The Ontario born director has helmed a vast amount of independent b-horror prior to, including such great titled credits as “The Bonesetter,” “Attack of the Jurassic Shark,” and “Raiders of the Lost Shark.” Now, released for the very first time on any format, anywhere, is “Ghastlies,” a “Gremlines” or “Critters” creature feature that aims to rain down terror when all hell breaks loose with ankle biters running around and while the low budget production or creature value doesn’t par with the more popular Joe Dante or Stephen Herek films, the heartfelt attempt in this modern day feature accomplishes the intended effect of a 1980’s horror comedy, complete with synthesized score and era correlating attired.

“Ghastlies'” lineup consists of Brett Kelly regulars such as Jessica Huether and Kendra Summerfield from “Raiders of the Lost Shark.” Huether’s and Summerfield’s performance as the nerdy, yet overall good girl Abby and the snobby, superficially rich bitch Lulu, instilling the yin and yang personas of the group, and their joined by Julie Mainville and Kim Valentine as the unforgettably clueless Margot and the sisterhood leader in Sloane. Mainville more memorable out of the four sisters as she has spot on timing and delivery with the witless and likable Margot. John Migliore, known more for slabbing on the prosthetics and makeup to be a zombie, has a minor costarring role as a dimwitted bike cop Officer Vinnie and Migliore, whose donned zombie wear in films like “Land of the Dead” and “Ninjas vs Monsters,” filled multi-faceted shoes for the Kelly film by dappling into the spaceship special effects and providing the Ghastlies puppetry. Migliore’s Officer Vinnie is paired with another similar goofy character in Peter Whittaker as Officer Frank as well as Joel Elliott “Countrycide,” Eric Deniverville, Stephanie Moran, and Kyle Martellacci who also co-star in the zany trope-ladened homage. As his first feature credit, Chris Bavota’s script creates no real dynamic between the characters who all pertain to a self-serving purpose under a guise of slapped together dialogue that’s no more substantial than a boulder in outer space.

And there in lies the rub. “Ghastlies” inability to click together to fulfill the allusion of was what-once-was is the film’s weakness. The cartoonish hand puppets, the implausible effects, and the technical inconsistencies can all be overlooked as campy charm, passed aside to enjoy “Ghastlies” for what it’s worth, but what can’t subside is the wonky connection between the cast that doesn’t favor well that’s diluted at the end by the starkly questionable and abrupt editing, resulting in a presumed unfinished film that seeks to either be an open ended invitation for a potential sequel, defined by one of the characters standing up with a makeshift mini-gun and garbed in Rambo-like gear, or a hasty cut that provides a lukewarm, satisfactory, and budget friendly finale that actually invokes more confusion than viewership appeasement. Shortly following the live-action wrap up, a short animated comedy, illustrated by the multitalented John Migliore, in the same vain as the quirky Looney Tunes but with Ghastlies.

The lovely, cuddly, and ghoulish “Ghastlies” is released onto DVD and Blu-ray combo from Camp Motion Pictures. Image quality for the Blu-ray format is by far stunning for a low-budget feature presented in 1080p encoded MPEG-4 AVC BD 25. The coloring naturally displays and even the darks had great depth without distortion or inconsistencies. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 is another story as, unlike the image quality, the presentation is inconsistent with imbalanced levels that make a few scenes difficult to comprehend. Clarity isn’t necessarily an issue with no blights on the tracks, but the technical placements could have been smoother. The electric score score by Tomb Dragomir, the composers first score ever, manages to engross and re-illuminate the decade that inspires “Ghastlies.” Bonus material includes a special effects interview with john Migliore’s helping hand into Ghastlies’ FX, Tomb Dragomir discusses his experience scoring his first feature, “Ghastlies'” music video, the trailer and Camp Motion Pictures’ trailers, and an audio commentary with director Brett Kelly. “Ghastlies” is part “Gremlins,” part Lovecraftian, and all borderline shlock-y fun, but the loose character interactions and out of kilter editing embargo the full bodied experience.

“Ghastlies” available on Blu-ray!

The Myth. The Legend. The Evil…. “Leatherface” review!

Texas 1955 – the pride of the Sawyer family was not their tattered farm, but a bloodline taste for something else – callous murder and a penchant for human flesh. Verna Sawyer sought to instill that pride into her children, especially her youngest, Jed, but when Hal Hartman, hard nose local Sheriff, learns that his daughter becomes victim of the Sawyer’s suspect nefarious carnage, he executes the law to his advantage, deeming the Sawyer house unfit for children and removes Jed from his labeled degenerate mother Verna. Ten years later, a group of teenage patients escape a mental hospital, kidnap a young nurse, and reek bloody havoc in their voyage to Mexico in an attempt to elude the very same lawman who put them away, but this time, Hartman isn’t adhering to the law, straying off his moral compass to pursue a vengeance mission against unprincipled youth that’s personally driven by Jed and the Sawyer family. Once the embattled Hartman catches up with his prey, a series of gruesome events lead to the creation and the construction of one of the most notorious killers Texas will ever see.

I love a good origin story. There’s something to be said about understanding the commencement of character, to be in the shoes of a long running icon, and to be able to sympathize with their story no matter how atrocious. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2017 “Leatherface” does just that with the film’s own origin enlightenment on how the chainsaw wielding, human skin mask wearing psychopath came to fruition inside a home of unspeakable brutality and influenced externally by a unforgiving society. From a script penned by Seth M. Sherwood, “Leatherface,” serving as a direct prequel to Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” briefly touches upon the preteen years to setup the catalytic road trip from hell, birthing a monster in a time of adolescence and if part of a legacy spanning over forty decades inspired by Ed Gein, the real life human skin wearing and notorious serial killer, then you damn well know “Leatherface” has to be genetically predisposed to be ultra-violent drenched in blood splatter. The French filmmaking duo, who’ve helmed 2007’s “Inside” and had directed the “Xylophone” segment in “The ABCs of Death 2,” nail the dark and gritty tone that not only breathes a gassy and exhaust fumed life into a massive flesh-ripping chainsaw, but also inflicts heartlessness across the story board into a heartfelt homage to the characters and to the story fathered by Kim Henkel and the late Tobe Hooper, both of whom were attached as executive producers.

Over the years, many actors have held the mammoth power-drive cutting tool in their hand that’s ready to chip away at flesh such as Andrew Bryniarski (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 2003 remake), Bill Johnson (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”) and, most famously, Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface. However, I’m not going to divulge who the pubescent Leatherface is in the story because the film plays out as a who out of the group of degenerate teens is the son of Verna Sawyer, even though you can easily obtain the information in a simple click and search on Google. Instead, Sam Strike, James Bloor, and Sam Coleman portray the three escapees who are accompanied by an equally insane sociopath in Jessica Madsen and an eagerly novice kidnapped nurse by Vanessa Grasse. Amongst a sea of English actors are a pair of vets to shepherd the young cast and be the embattled bookends to the dawn of an icon. Lili Taylor (“The Haunting”) and Stephen Dorff (“Blade”) face off as Leatherface’s mother, Verna Sawyer, who butts horns with a longstanding sheriff, Hal Hartman, with a steadfast vendetta against the Sawyer family. Christopher Adamson (“Razor Blade Smile”), Nathan Cooper (“Day of the Dead: Bloodline”), and Finn Jones (“Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines”) co-star.

Usually with a pair of directors, two different styles spawn to an end result. With Bustillo and Maury, styles merge into a seamless effort of elegant wonders. Each shot emerges a purpose to the story whether it’s painting an image of the Sawyer’s death house to pulling a one-eighty with characters, the filmmakers ability to combine each element into a single story, that has such a close knit cult following, and still manage to cinematically pull off the atmosphere, the grit, and the gory carnage of a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film is impressive. Cinematographer Antoine Sainer, whose worked previously with the directing duo on the “The ABCs of Death 2’s” segment “X,” has the ever so poised eye that’s able to well-round and solidify Leatherface’s terror tenor, particular exampled in a foot chase scene through a moonlit forest, smoke bellowing out of a growling chainsaw, and a tattered young girl bawling, screaming, and fleeing for her life from a deranged masked killer whose huffing, snarling, and growling during the pursuit.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment presents the Millennium Films produced “Leatherface” onto Blu-ray + Ultra-violet combo disc, a MPEG-4 AVC encoded disc with a 1080p resolution and presented in a widescreen, 2.38:1, aspect ratio that displays the Bulgaria landscape in a yellowish-brown, Texas-like backdrop. Details are noticeably fine that exquisitely reveal the death and destruction of the Sawyers and those who unfortunately surround the family. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track evenly distributes and consistently a range of engrossing fidelity, ambient, and dialogue layers. Bonus material includes a play feature with an alternate ending that’s less superior in contrast to the final product, deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes making of that includes brief interviews with directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, actors Sam Strike, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, and others, and goes behind the scenes in creating the tone and style of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” while implementing their own vision. “Leatherface” forces the unsavory and unpleasant down the throats of TCM fans, jamming an attempt to exposition a futile chance to a destined maniac of cannibalistic proportions and manages to mix up the Tobe Hooper’s weathered franchise with a barbaric bruiser of a tale.

“Leatherface” on Blu-ray! Buy it here, today!