Cannibals’ EVIL Break a Family’s Bond. “Blood for Flesh” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)



“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

Primitive cannibals sexually violate a brother and sister by a campfire ritual while feasting on entrails.  A family in the throes of hatred and forbidden incest is torn apart between death and mercy.  When these two powerful moments spur friction amongst the family, blood and betrayal runs like an unstoppable torrent.  Animalistic urges take over and neither brother, sister, or father are safe from the cannibals or each other in a landscape of barren and sociopathic madness.  Who will survive and come out on top of the internal upheaval when bloodlust is at its highest?

“Sangre Para la Carne,” or for the single-lingual, English-comprehending audiences, “Blood for Flesh,” is the 2019 ultraviolent and in your face gore-and-shock short-feature film from Mexican director Alex Hernández.  Though completed in 2019, “Blood for Flesh” gains traction into the at-home market three years later, finding distribution on multiple independent physical media distributors as well as video streaming services.  In his debut directorial, which doesn’t list the filmmaker as the screenwriter but is likely the architect of its abstract, Hernández caught the eye of another extreme auteur in “House of the Flesh Mannequins” and “Xpiation” director Domiziano Cristopharo and Italian-based TetroVideo to lift “Blood for Flesh,” fitting right into TetroVideo’s cache of erotic and extreme horror, into production and home video distribution. Shot in the arid depths of Tlaxcala, Mexico, labeled the epicenter in internationally trafficking female sex slaves to the United States, “Blood for Flesh” deluges itself with more unsavoriness, produced by Porfirio Hernández and Rodrigo Tellez Pérez.

To put it simply, “Blood for Flesh” is madness of unchecked immorality and to make something this deranged, Hernández would have needed a likeminded cast small enough to pull off callous scenes of rape, torture, and merciless death as well as aberrant scenes of incest surrounding three members of a truly messed up family. Beginning with the patriarch who is only know as the Father, played by Juan Manuel Martínez, whose subsequently becomes the violently persecuted by his own spawn after groveling at his daughter’s feet in a moment of bawling seeking forgiveness. Bound and gagged, beaten, and hung upside, the Father receives no mercy from his children and there’s no real revelation to why he’s become a subject of torture. Brother (Luis Navarro) and Sister (Erika López) fashion a complex relationship of courtship and collusion. As the Brother notes more than once in a divulging of truth the longing for his sister and his regretful reluctance in continuing the mistreatment of his father, its the Sister who seemingly has the upper hand, the hypnotic spell, over her love stricken brother and as Hernández dives into Sister’s unhinged scenes, especially where she marks her face and body with makeup, we come to realize that Sister just might not be right in the old cabeza. Now, how the cannibals – played by Christian Camara, Daniel Cruz, Enrique Diaz Duran, Aldo Palacios, and Marisela Plaza – fold into the family’s unraveling is a bit of a mystery but I’d like to think their naked savagery represents the rupture and hate between family and the cannibalism is kind of this dog-eat-dog mentality to come out on top by exploiting the other.

No matter which way you slice it, no matter how sharp the blade divides the skin, the muscle, the meat, or the bone, making sense of “Blood for Flesh” will never, ever happen as the almost an hour runtime feature, setup into chapters, is a bundle of biting brutality possibly representing a wide variety of real-world complications. The non-linear structure formulates no sensical path from beginning to end as you’re plopped right into the family’s madness from minute one and though I’m no stranger to undisguised abstract art in indie film, I can usually piece together to symbolic impressions or the weave a clear justification for most scenes in arthouse horror. With “Blood for Flesh,” I’m about as lost as a 5-year-old in a mall whose wander off from his inattentive shopaholic mother perusing the hot deal clothes racks at JCPenney’s the day after Christmas. I watch as Erika López strip away her clothes and her character’s mortality in every scene, I ponder and consider Juan Manuel Martínez’s Father’s compulsive reactions to seek forgiveness as well as to be vindictive toward his off-color and off-their-rocker offspring, and I am beguiled by Luis Navarro’s need to be inside his sister and, yet I feel nowhere near grounded to “Blood for Flesh’s” message if there is even one to be grounded to. Maybe we’re not supposed to connect with such corrosive content in what’s supposed to be just purely unabated shock content to rock the core of typicality. The cannibal scenes seem to be just an object of the director’s fascination with the ugly side of tribal horrors in a stereotyped rendition that depict them as nothing more than basal beasts that take what they want without an out of compassion and my mind continues to lean toward that high degree of barbarism to equate to a family built upon by hate, loathing, and individual interests.

“Blood for Flesh” could have easily fit in the catalogue of other extreme and underground horror labels, but this experimental purge of images and sins has found a home at SRS Cinema on the company’s Nightmare Fuel banner DVD distributed by MVD Visual. The single layer, region free, and unrated DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that decompresses content around 5-6 Mbps, hovering around par for the course when considering DVD picture quality. Generally, the cinematography is bleak, like it’s content, with muted coloring or shot in the dark to avoid any colorful hues. Only when stark red filters are used, which is only one or two scenes, is when color unloads in every inch and corner of the frame. There’s some aliasing and banding in certain scenes that cause momentary distortion that make it hard to delineate exactly what you’re looking act – is it an open and bloody slit or gash or is a cheeseburger? That’s always a fun game to play. The Spanish language audio tracks come in two formats – a PCM Stereo 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 2.0. The PCM is, again, muted with a lack of robust quality the Dolby Digital has much more vigor in all the sub-tracks. Unfortunately, the pieced together soundbites lack creativity and are poorly spliced together that continuously drop off in an instant on the backend. The forced English subtitles synch okay and are captioned well. Bonus features include a filmmaker’s commentary track, interviews with the cast that come with awful Spanglish translations, and the film’s trailer. If Domiziano Cristopharo saw something unique in Alex Hernández, I have yet to see it as I’m not sold on the director’s fringe horror film that aims to just be randomize acts of violence for 59 minutes.

“Blood for Flesh” has a healthy amount of both!

The End of Days Runs on EVIL Fuel! “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival.  At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure.  After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives.  Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.

For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood:  Road of the Dead”, before the first film.  While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously.  Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so.  In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together.  The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.”   “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.

To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.

“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.

The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

Sonar Radiation is Music to the EVIL’s Ears! “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)



Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

After having a run-in with a beautiful woman, Edna, at a gas station who accidently wrecking his motorbike, Manchester antique dealer George offers to drive her car to her destination in the country, her sister’s place in Southgate, and then borrow the car to continue on toward his appointment in Windermere.  However, upon their arrival in Southgate, Edna’s husband Martin has been brutally murdered and the police immediately suspect the two urbanite out-of-towners George and Edna of coming the heinous crime.  In reality, the recently dead in a mile radius has their nervous system reactivated and directed to kill the living by a new sonar radiation technology aimed to destroy crop pests.  With the police and the dead on their heels, George and Edna seek to expose the truth to the world before its too late and the experimental new pesticide’s range is extended to cover more ground. 

Hitting the stop button here before we dive into our review of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.”  If you’ve never seen the Jorge Grau directed 1974 flesh eating zombie film then drop everything – you’re work, your kids, your winning lottery ticket worth millions – and take the next one hour and 33 minutes to enjoy the graphically gory, social commentary horror that not only cashes in on the George Romero “Night of the Living Dead” gamechanger undead horror but also rivals Romero’s film in story and in full, gorgeous color.  “The Legend of Blood Castle” director Jorge Grau helms the Spanish-Italiano co-produced script penned by Sandro Continenza (“Uncle Was a Vampire”) and Marcello Coscia (“Teenage Emmanuelle”) and was provided to Grau by “The Eroticist” and “Don’t Torture the Duckling” producer Edmundo Amati who wanted to make a Romero-esque flesh-eating zombie film of his own.  Also more widely known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is co-produced by Manuel Pérez and is a co-production between Star Films and Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche.

Hot off the presses of Italian action-crime dramas, Ray Lovelock (“Emergency Squad,” “Almost Human”) finds himself playing an antique merchant holding up shop in the metropolitan area of Manchester, England and as George Meaning, the relatively undisclosed personal experience as an antique merchant, Lovelock gets into character not on the business end but when the shopkeeper goes on holiday in the country, riding his motorcycle Windermere where he has arranged a meeting with some very important people that never flesh out in the end. Speaking of flesh, don’t expect the leading lady Cristina Galbó (“The House that Screamed”) to provide any as the panicky Edna Simmonds on her way to her sisters (Jeannine Mestre, “Count Dracula”) for an intervention toward her sister’s severe heroin use. Much of the only flesh to be hand in “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is that is which ripped from the bodies and stuffed into rotten, undead mouths. In itself, the entire scenario between Edna and her druggie sister is a compelling enough story to warrant attention in accumulating a sense of sisterly betrayal and a sacrificial compassion to do the right thing despite the consequences. However, that pathway, no matter how distressingly prominent it may seem, does not carry over into the main plot points of an experimental pesticide treatment involving sonar inadvertently raising the dead to be superhuman zombies. Between an Italiano (Lovelock) and a Spainard (Galbó), who not throw in an American while we’re at it with Massachusetts born Arthur Kennedy (“The Antichrist”) to be the aging local inspector keen on pinning every murder on youthful urbanites with their hippie ways and satanists beliefs. “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” fills out the cast with José Lifante (“Night of the Walking Dead”), Vincente Vega (“Historias para no dormir“), and “Flesh+Blood’s” Fernando Hilbeck as the foremost feared zombie.

What makes Jorge Grau’s take on the living dead canon so impressive is not only the social commentary story that seeks to deconstruct ecological progression as an ironic destructive poison to the Earth and its inhabitants and the striking moments in gore effects from the team of Juan Antonio Balandin, Luciano Byrd, and Giannetto De Rossi (of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi”) that have remained timeless in holding up and rivaling against many of today’s gruesome effects, but also the terror-inducing sound design that combines Giuliano Sorgini’s funky-spook with Antonio Cárdenas zombie-vision resonances of heavy breathing and resonating heart thuds that cues the lurking of an undead lurker.  The effect is potent and full of imminent danger when included into Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere’s (“Death Will Have Your Eyes”) perfectly framed shots of the Romero-esque zombie lumbering toward their prey in an unstoppable hunger to kill and eat and, sometimes, convert to their infant-legion inside-and-out of the zombie perspective.  Along the lines of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’s” environmental theme is the juxtaposition of big city and countryside in regards to their pollution levels in the opening credit scene where George rides out of Manchester through the degradation of the masses who are popping pills, wearing face masks (like in today’s COVID climate), numb to shock (in the scene where a naked protestor runs in front of stalled traffic for peace and the motorists are blank to the moment), passing by death and polluted nuclear smoke stacks.  Once the lead George reaches the countryside, he removes the scarf covering his nose and mouth and breathes in fresh air with a smirk on his face.  From then on, the story moves forward with a cautionary tale of ill-fated modern progression, such as urbanism, seeping into a natural landscape and causing death and destruction, leaving an poignant aftertaste in the inevitably of man’s ignorance will kill us all.  Grau’s film is a good candidate to be a promotional movie for the dramatic effects of climate change in today’s campaign for ecological change to reduce our carbon footprint.

Synapse brings “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” home onto a Blu-ray home video, restored in 4K from the original camera 35mm negative that includes the authentic and intact opening and closing credit sequences. The region free, AVC encoded release is presented in 1080p high definition of a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture is the gold standard of presentation with a vivid and stable color palette, controlled DNR without any posterization, and greatly detailed without an inkling of lossy image quality. Two audio mix come with the release – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound remix and the distinctive to the Synapse release the original English theatrical mono mix. Though nice and nostalgic in the original English mono mix, the clarity and robustness of the channels on the DTS-HD track is by far superior with its reformulated by Synapse lossless quality and fidelity, especially in that aforementioned sound design by Antonio Cárdenas. The English dub on Ray Lovelock can be off-putting at times but the track is still beyond the best of the two available audio options. English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include two audio commentaries by author and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson, and Bruce Holescheck, a feature length (89 min) documentary Jorge Grau – Catolonia’s Cult Film King that explores the lift and films of director Jorge Grau, The Scene of the Crime is special effects and makeup artist Gionnetto de Rossi discussion on the film, another de Rossi feature of the SFX artist at a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films in the UK (43 minutes), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a sleek black snapper case that wouldn’t be complete with a Synapse catalogue booklet. If you’re a diehard zombie genre fiend, Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” must be at the top of your personal video collection. If it isn’t, kick yourself in the shin really hard and then check out Synapse’s gorgeous release of the Spanish-Italiano production that’s worth every second of your life viewing.

Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

EVIL Lights Up When Peeling Skin! “Human Lanterns” reviewed! (88 Films / Blu-ray)



Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

Two respected and wealthy Kung-Fu masters have a long rivalry, trying to one-up each other at any cost even if that means stooping into their personal life to gain the most public admiration.  With the annual lantern festive approaches, to have the best and brightest lantern would sustain at least a year of gloating over the other master.  When a lantern maker with a retaliation mindset against one of the more boastful masters is hired to make his festival entry, the lantern maker exacts horrifying revenge by fueling their feud behind the scenes. Kidnapping beautiful women who are dear to each master and exploiting their soft delicacies for his crazed creations, the maniac lantern maker turns the village upside down, forcing the local constable into an impossible investigate into the village’s most popular residents when none of the evidence points to the other.

“Ren pi den long,” aka “Human Skin Lanterns,” aka “Human Lanterns” is a grisly Kung-Fu murder-mystery that’ll make your skin crawl right off from your body. The stylishly colored and ethereally varnished 1982 Hong Kong film is written-and-directed by Taiwanese director Chung Sun (“Lady Exterminator) that blended the likes of a giallo mystery into the well-choreographed martial arts mania with the profound Kung-Fu screenwriter, Kuang Ni (“The One-Armed Swordsman,” “The Flying Guillotine”), co-writing the script alongside Sun. While not as ostentatiously gory or as cinematically profane as the 80’s released Category III certified films that rocked Hong Kong audiences, and the censor board, with shocking, gruesome imaginary and content, “Human Lanterns” does sit teetering on the edge with mostly a tame Kung-Fu feature that quickly turns into the blistering carnage of a basket case, or in this a lantern maker, who uses hiding as a double entendre. “Human Lanterns” is a Shaw Brothers Studio production executively produced by the oldest of two brothers, Rumme Shaw, and, then new to the Shaw Brothers’ board of directors, producer Mona Fong.

“Human Lanterns” starred two the renowned names in martial arts films from the 1970s and well into the 1980s with “Fist of Fury” and “The Swordsman and the Enchantress’s” Tony Liu as the impeccably arrogant Lung Shu-Ai with a self-image to protect more than the women in his life and “Bloody Monkey Master” and “Return of the Bastard Swordsman” Kuan Tai Chen sporting a sweet mustache as Lung’s longtime rival, Tan Fu. Shu-Ai and Chen have really spot on, well-versed, fight sequences together braided into their play off each other’s character’s haughty personas. While behind the curtain of overweening and defiance between the two masters, Chao Chun-Fang unceremoniously sneaks into the fold by happenstance as Lung offers him money for the best lantern this side of the lantern festival. Lung and Chao Chun-Fang, played with a demented, idiosyncratic duality from Leih Lo (“The Five Fingers of Death,” “Black Magic”), another master in the art of fighting in his own style, have an inimical past…well, at least thought so by Chun-Fang. In a sword dual over a woman, Lung defeats Chun-Fang and purposefully scars him above the left eye, causing him the inability to look up, and while the lantern maker has stewed for many years, training all the while to be the best fighter, his tormentor Lung Shu-Ai has nearly all forgotten about the incident and found trivial enough to ask Chung-Fang to make him a lantern and offer him out for drinks for being old buddies of yore. However, this yard pulls the wool over the eyes of self-centered, the upper class, and the unruffled nonchalant as Chung-Fang takes advantage of the Kung-Fu masters naivety and uses the rival as a screen to cover up his kidnapping deeds of the women in their lives, played by Ni Tien (“Corpse Mania”), Linda Chu (“Return of the Dead”), and Hsis-Chun Lin. “Human Lanterns” rounds out the character list with a hired assassin in Meng Lo (“Ebola Syndrome”) and a competent but out of his league village constable in Chien Sun (“The Vampire Raiders”).

The look of “Human Lanterns” is often dreamy. No, I don’t mean dreamy as in gazing into the strong blue eyes of your tall and dark fantasy man. The dreamy I’m speaking of is produced by cinematographer An-Sung Tsao’s luminescence that radiates of background and the characters through the wide range of primary hues. Tsao’s colorful and vibrant eye doesn’t clash with the vintage era piece consisting of impressively detailed sets, a costume design plucked straight from the 19th, and hair, makeup, and props (which I’ve read some of the blades were authentic) to bring up the caboose of selling the completed package of delivering a spot-on period film. When Leih Loh dons the skull mask, an undecorated and unembellished human skull, with wild, untamed hair sprouted from every side of the eyeless mask, Loh transforms into a part-man, part-beast jumping, summersaulting, leaping, and seemingly flying through the air like a manically laughing ghost. The visual cuts petrifyingly more than described and if you add an extensive amount of Kung-Fu to the trait list, “Human Lanterns” has a unique and unforgettable villain brilliantly crafted from the deepest, darkest recesses of our twisted nightmares. “Human Lanterns” has a wicked and dark side that balances the more arrogantly campiness of Lung and Tan’s hectoring rivalry. When Lieh Loh is not skinning in his workshop or Lung and Tan are not bullying each other into submission, there’s plenty of action with the heart stopping, physics-defying martial arts that just works into the story as naturally as the horror and the comedy. With shades of giallo and fists of fury, “Human Lanterns” is Hong Kong’s very own distinctive and downright deranged brand of good storytelling.

88 Films lights the way with a new high-definition Blu-ray of the Shaw Brothers’ “Human Lanterns” from the original 35mm negative presented in Shawscope, an anamorphic lensed 2.35:1 aspect ratio that more than often displays the squeeze of the picture into the frame. One could hardly tell the upscale to 1080p because of the very reason I explained in the previous paragraph of the airy An-Sung Tsao façade that softly glows like bright light behind a fog. Nonetheless, the image quality is still stunning and vivid, a real gem of conservation and handling on this Blu-ray release. The Mandarin dubbed DTS-HD 1.0 master audio is synched well enough to the action for a passing grade. The foley effects, such as the swipes and hits, are often too repeated for comfort, but adds to “Human Lantern’s” campy charm. The newly translated English subtitles are synchronous with the picture and are accurate but, in rare instances, come and go too quickly to keep up with the original language. The release comes not rated with a run time of 99 minutes and is region locked at A and B. Why not go full region free is beyond me? Licensing? Anyway, special features include an audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network, “A Shaw Story” interview with then rising Hong Kong star Susan Shaw who talks about the competitive and easy blacklisting Hong Kong and Tawain cinema market, “The Beauty and the Beasts” interview with in story brothel mistress played by Linda Chu often harping upon not wanting to do nudity despite directors begging her, “Lau Wing – The Ambiguous Hero” interview with Tony Liu that comes with its own precaution title card warning of bad audio (and it is really bad and kind of ear piercing) as the lead man really regales his time on set and in the industry between Golden Harvest Productions and Shaw Brothers Studios, and rounding out the main special features is the original trailer. The package special features is a lantern of a different color with a limited edition cardboard slipcase with new artwork from R.P. “Kung-Fu Bob” O’Brien, a 24-page booklet essay entitled “Splicing Genres with Human Lanterns” by Barry Forshaw accompanied by full colored stills, posters, and artwork by O’Brien, a double-sided fold out poster, and reversible Blu-ray cover art that can be flipped from the same, yet still awesome, O’Brien slipcover art to the original release art. The new 88 Films’ Blu-ray set conjures a renaissance satisfaction like none other for a highly recommended, genre-ambiguous, vindictive affray.

Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

Book an EVIL Getaway Rental from the “Superhost” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

Airbnb reviewer vloggers Claire and Teddy are bleeding viewership fast.  To save their monetized video channel, their financial independence, and possibly live happily ever after as man and wife, the duo was finally able to rent a highly demanded location set in isolated in the forest when it became available.  The house is more than they could ever hope for with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious accommodations, and breathtaking idyllic mountain views.  The one little hiccup about the residential stay is the quirky superhost, Rebecca, who has been more than overly friendly.  An unsuspecting guest from the past turns the tables on Claire and Teddy as Rebecca slowly unravels her true intentions in a nerve-wracking game of life and death with all the amenities.

From the director of the supernatural baby-snatching “Still/Born” and the imaginary friend from Hell in “Z” comes Brandon Christensen’s next written-and-directed demented thriller “Superhost” that takes the automated vacation rental methodology and breaks them in half.  Shot just outside Las Vegas in the rural area of Mount Charleston, Christensen provides the illusion of a far trek away from busy street society with a cabin in the woods what if’er of an overzealous hosting homeowner making weird and uncomfortable conversation with their tenants on a daily or nightly basis.  Tacked onto that idea is the new age monetizing of vlogs and racking up subscribers that overtake or make us blind to what’s really important.  The Superchill and First Look Releasing production is executive produced by the Ty and Darren Siversten and produced by Christensen, Kurtis David Harder (“Spiral,” “V/H/S/94”), and stars Sara Canning and Osric Chau.

Aforementioned, Sara Canning (“Z,” “The Banana Splits Movie”) and Osric Chau (“Supernatural”) star in the film as vlogging couple Claire and Teddy.  Whether be the actors’ performances or the blind obsession toward their monetized YouTube platform to secure financial freedom, the on-screen chemistry between the couple didn’t jive.  What doesn’t help is there’s no real romance being displayed during their time together nor was there any expositional or any form of mentioning what their life looked like before becoming internet influencers.  Being influencers makes up a sizeable portion of what the audiences (us as viewers and not their video channel followers) know about the couple sans the miscellaneous background of Teddy’s parents providing rent aid whenever needed and Teddy’s top-secret engagement plan in which he also vlogs to his viewers behind Claire’s back.  We experience a little more where Teddy comes from, but Claire is a complete mystery much in the same way as superhost Rebecca.  However, as the crazed host, the enigma surrounding the jovially expressed Rebecca, eager to help with clog toilets and whip up pancakes, adds to her strange and frightening demeanor.  I would never want Gracie Gillam (“Fright Night” ’11, “Z Nation”) to uninvitedly walk into my vacation rental in her full Rebecca form.  I would forego my deposit lickety-split and hightail away from a much-needed getaway to literally save my skin from Rebecca’s crackpot revelry. Popping into the frame a couple of times is genre veteran and overall fan favorite is Barbara Crampton (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator”) as Vera, a disgruntled property owner who tracks down Claire and Teddy for a vindictive, rock-throwing rant but becomes unsuspectedly ensnared in the Rebecca’s mare’s nest.

Brandon Christensen is no stranger to small productions with a small cast, but “Superhost” is a micro-production with a micro-cast and, somehow at no surprise, busts out a truly terrifying lunacy that can make you double think before clicking that confirmation button on the vacation rental reservation. “Superhost” is unsettling and invasive as if privacy is nonexistent and the ever-watchful eye is always looming. In fact, it is! With security cameras installed in basically every room, there’s 24-hour CCTV footage of every moment of Claire and Teddy, but isn’t the moment captured and being filmed constantly is what their livelihood and vocation is all about? Christensen has that paradoxical undertone packed exceedingly well beneath the veneer of voyeurism, inescapability, and troubled relationship issues that the theme becomes a backburner hit on the tail end in that what the thing that provides Claire and Teddy a reason to be free as individuals is the also the very thing that they can’t flee from and become merely a battered object of one’s mad person’s whims much like their more critical reviews can be ruinous to others. While “Superhost” can feel a bit slow for the first two acts, the story showcases a development and escalation of Grace Gillam’s Rebecca as a woman with more than one loose screw. Of course, Rebecca’s not seen for who she really is by the compulsion to film not just the rental, but also her, as gold-plated viewership material. “Superhost” admonishes a tread carefully thriller to beware and adhere the signs of mania danger and all those Rebeccas out there.

Trust me – cancel that reservation, plan on a staycation, and watch the Shudder-exclusive “Superhost” now on Blu-ray home video from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nothing terrible to note here as much of the digitally captured, RED Gemini images are about as crisp as they come with a natural presentation all around from cinematographer Clayton Moore (“It Stains the Sands Red”) with the exception of the unfiltered handheld camera and CCTV footage, which is also very authentic. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rustles together clearly and discernibly ever creak of the floorboards and every gushy stabbing sound for full impact purposes. Dialogue track is clean with pronunciation clarity and the bottom-and-bass dropping score by instrumental band Blitz//Berlin (“Psycho Gorman,” “The Void”) continue to impress with their original soundtracks. The special feature includes a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes that talks about Mount Charleston location, the annoying tiny beetle swarms, and how amazingly small the production crew was, a solid blooper reel, “Superhost” VFX featurette with green screening and matting car scenes and the ultra-graphic knife through the mouth effect, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and episodes 1 and 2 of Brandon Christensen’s television shorts, “Scaredycats.” Remember, guys, hit that like bottom and subscribe to follow Brandon Christensen’s descension of guests becoming unaccommodated by a psychotic “Superhost!”

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon