To Do EVIL, You Must Pay EVIL a Ton of Euro. “La Petit Mort 2: Nasty Tapes” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

Step Back into La Maison de “La Petit Mort” for a Sequel that’s Hard to Stomach!  

La Maison de la Petit Mort’s doors remain open under new management, continuing to serve the dark web public interest with a wide variety of snuff services.  For the right price, a fantasy-driven in-person torture show can be arranged for your liking, and one can be an commanding observer or one can get their hands dirty in participatory play where anything goes and pleasures are on-demand.  The German snuff house expands their reach to a global level with live webcam shows that can be directed by the high price paying patron and the leather-cladded vixen staff carry out their illicit instructions exactly.  A robust menu of dark pleasures, displayed on a new showreel of select gruesome services, are available at the simple transfer of a money wire or cash in hand for the depraved to make their fantasies a reality.

In 2009, German born director Marcel Walz helmed a linear, three-act narrative of tourists laid over in the big city winding up at patronizing a dark and dingy dive bar, La Maison de la Petit Mort, only to be abducted as inventoried stock for the rich to exploit in a slew of murder perversions.  Five years later in 2014, Walz returns for a sequel, “La Petit Mort 2:  Nasty Tapes,” with reprising principal actress Annika Strauss co-writing the film alongside Walz as well as stepping back into the sadistic black platform shoes of Dominique, one of the two lovely ladies with a lecherous and violent vocation.  The direct sequel that follows a day-in-a-life of the snuff house’s employees making an advert showreel does not follow suit in the way the first film was structured.  Instead of a linear, chronological narrative, “Nasty Tapes” evolves into an anthology of different kill archetypes for the marketing video. Walz’s Matador Films serves the production oversight with Harald Schmalz (“Collar”) coproducing the anthological torture porn feature.

“La Petit Mort 2: Nasty Tapes” doesn’t seen a whole lot of return on the original cast.  The tourists were all mangled, mutilated, and murdered, the original Monique bit the dust in an escape attempt, and the first Maman rode off into the sunset rich with blood money.  Instead, and among other things, “Nasty Tapes” folds a new treatment of terror with the same old eggs and flour by reinventing itself into an anthology type, introducing a new, blonde Monique (Yvonne Wölke, “Bad End”) into the batter, and disclosing the new owner of the freaky, fetish club, a feminine man by the name Monsieur Matheo Maxime (Mika Metz, “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein”).  Annika Strauss is the only original cast member to reprise her original role of Dominique, the brunette to Monique’s blonde and who showed slight inkling of hesitation before being summoned to torture and murder.  Strauss doesn’t buck the character trend as Dominque still displays disgust on her face when slicing a man’s facial features in a Picasso style portrait.  Yet, Dominique remains loyal to the Monsieur and to the La Maison de la Petit Mort by committing the atrocities without question, unlike the regular administrative bookkeeping and housecleaning she regularly remains vocal in opposition in what’s a slither of dark humor contrast between her gruesome work compared to mundane work.  Unlike Cyanide Savior singer Manoush, who was a very convincing merciless club owner Maman, Mike Metz plays a very different, more layered proprietor portrayed as someone who sees the work as a paycheck to fund his deepest desire – to be a beautiful woman just like his wife Jade Maxime (Micaela Schäfer, “Sky Sharks”).  That’s about the gist of complexity the sequel has to offer with much of the thinly laid foundation is bricked up by a compilation of back-to-back kill scenarios that involve some extreme genre directors as special guests, such as Uwe Boll (“House of the Dead”), Dustin Mills (“Bath Salt Zombies”), Mike Mendez (“Big Ass Spider!”), and the late Ryan Nicholson (“Gutterballs”), taking part in the clandestine, underground activities in-person or on the web.  The film fills out the cast with victims and victimizers in Armin Barwich (“The Terror Stalkers”), Bea La Bea, Babriela Wirbel (“Plastic”), Nichol Neukirch, Marc Rohnstock (“Necronos”), Thomas Pill (“Moor-Monster!”), Kai Plaumann, Markus Hettich (“No Reason”) and the twins, Barbara and Patrizia Zuchowski.

When going into a German gore film, such as “La Petit Mort 2:  Nasty Tapes,” you have to go into It having an affinity for, or at least an understanding of, complete shameless representation of torture and killing of another human being for the simple and pure joy of the act.  In other words, you have to be somewhat sick in the head.  For me, personally, the sickness is rooted out of admiration for special effects and how the F/X artist(s) can create a realistic depiction of an unofficial autopsied anatomy. Filmmaker Ryan Nicholson, who passed away in 2019 of brain cancer, not only had a role in the Marcel Walz sequel, but was also the special effects artist, following in the footsteps of one of the notable German underground special effects artists, Olaf Ittenbach (“Premutos:  The Fallen Angel”) who had done the graphic gags on the first film with head turning results.  Nicholson, with a credit list that has a foot in independent productions and more mainstream, Hollywood productions, such as “Final Destination” and the remake of “Blair Witch” from 2016, doesn’t disappoint and keeps the blood, guts, and stringy sinew seamless in a gruesome pageantry of death that rivals and continues Olaf’s original stamp.  Beyond the glossy surface of a blood glaze, “Nasty Tapes” is nothing more than a kill-after-kill anthology with no concrete premise for either of the individual slaughter vignettes.  Title cards setup the kill moments with basic victim descriptors, such as married status, age, and how much their life has been paid for, but doesn’t humanize them in the least, creating zero compassion for the unsuspecting abductee fated for something far worse than death.  Instead, Walz flips the script with more background on the clients with ipre-and-post interviews of their most intimate time at La Petit Mort.  This structure can be monotonous as there’s nothing else to look forward to or to absorb empathetically as a viewer in an anthology that simply glorifies the leisure time of an undisturbed murder.  

As a nail-pulling, nose-cutting, drill-holing, lip-stitching, dick-scissoring, gut-stabbing anthology, “La Petit Mort 2: Nasty Tapes” is a gory, good time and is even better now in high-definition with a 1080p Blu-ray release from Unearthed Films The AVC encoded BD25 looks as good as can expected for a shaky cam, hectically edited, and filthy dark German gore film presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  Details are oleaginous wet with blood and tissue that incongruently with the Roland Freitag’s gloomy yet suppressed cinematography and Kai E. Bogatzki discordance and chaotic editing technique that is supposed to elicit extreme shock but consequently results in a loss of the intended grisliness.  Unearthed Films‘ release exhibits no issues with compression, but the hues and tones appear to fuse in the near eliminate of some contours where there should be some.  The German-English DTS-HD 5.1 mix can be score heavy, especially a hard and energized Tekkno title credits from composer Klaus Pfreundner that’s distinctive German, but “Nasty Tapes” has profound focus on its core selling point – torture.  The very few scenes of intercut dialogue shots spliced into the client’s sociopathic session are well understood and do have prominence over the score, as well as the ambient milieu of screams and the integrated flesh destroying Foley, despite the cam-esque quality of the pseudo-testimonials.  The burned-in English subtitles under the German Language only are synced well without error and with consistently good pacing.  Disc extras include a behind-the-scenes making of cut out from the main camera, an alternate torture scene, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, a short advert of a naked woman strung up by her arms and being stapled with signs, and Unearthed Films trailers.  The Blu-ray physical features don’t stray to far from normal Unearthed Films releases with a standard Blu-ray snapper case with grisly cover art of a marred victim’s plucked out eye and a Jade Maxime holding a bone saw and wearing ripped fishnet stockings and black lingerie.  The pressed disc art has the rehashes the back cover image of Monsieur Maxime wearing a venetian mask.  The Blu-ray comes unrated, region A locked, and has a manageably sufficing runtime of 83 minutes to not overkill the overkilling.  Transparent in its surreptitious atrocities, “La Petit Mort II: Nasty Tapes” subsists as Marcel Walz charnel house of horrors with a new revamped anthology approach to razzmatazz special effects wetwork without any due remorse. 

Step Back into La Maison de “La Petit Mort” for a Sequel that’s Hard to Stomach!  

Break a Promise with EVIL And Pay the Little-Big Price! “Unwelcome” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

Not the Leprechauns This Time.  It’d Be Goblins that “Unwelcome” You!  

Trying desperately to become pregnant for some time, Jamie and Maya celebrate the news of learning they’re expecting but their jovial rejoice is cut short when three thugs break into their city apartment home, nearly bringing an end to their lives and the baby.  When Jamie’s great aunt Maeve wills him a rural cottage in Ireland, the married couple jump at the chance to start afresh away from the urban chaos and the trauma in hopes for a peaceful life with their child.  The friendly village residents take in Jamie and Maya unconditionally but one stipulation is highly encouraged to be met if living at great aunt Maeve’s cottage:  they must leave out a blood offering for the little people, the Redcaps, of the forest butted up against their home.   Just happy to be out of the city, Jamie and Maya shrug off what they believe to be folkloric wives tales of old Ireland and on such short notice, they hire Mr. Whelan and his children, who come with an unfavorable village reputation, to do much-needed repairs around the house.  When dealings with the Whelan clan go violently sideways, Maya invokes superstitious belief to draw the Repcaps out of hiding and implore their murderous mischievousness for dire neighborly assistance. 

Welcome to the “Unwelcome!”  Pint-sized evil continues to be mondo popular around the world, especially in the Full Moon empire that’s built a kingdom off the backs of supernatural ankle biters.  However, “Unwelcome” is not a Charles Band production that’s rushed straight through to a fast-tracked, direct-to-video release of shoddy, schlocky proportions.  Instead, this release comes from overseas, the UK specifically, with some quality production footing that lands the 2023 released film into a limited theatrical run before hitting the home entertainment market.  Behind the film is Jon Wright, director of dark humored revenge against high school bullies in the “Tormented,” who directs and co-writes “Unwelcome’s” grim fairytale-like narrative of personal growth, inner fight, and underfoot goblins gone wild with Mark Stay, reuniting with Wright for the first time since their script collaboration on the 2014 automaton invasion epic, “Robot Overlords.”  Under the once working title of “The Little People,” “Unwelcome” is a production of the Yorkshire based Tempo Productions Limited, with cofounders by Jo Bamford and Piers Tempest as executive producer and producer, and the private equity investment group, Ingenious Media, with producer Peter Touche along with Warner Bros. and Well Go USA Entertainment distributing. 

“Unwelcome” has such unusual casting in a good way.  The entire Whelan clan consists of actors plucked from successful, multi-seasonal television shows that have essentially shaped their careers from their well-known, fan-adored roles, but the unintended adverse effect in such triumph stamina is being recognized only for that performance.  In my mind, Colm Meaney will forever be embedded in my hippocampus as Engineer Chief Miles O’Brien from “Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.”  “Con Air,” “Under Siege,” and even as a British Airways pilot doomed for landing in “Die Hard 2,” Chief O’Brien, I mean Colm Meaney, is still in space tinkering with transporter buffers.  Here in “Unwelcome,” Meany is Daddy, aka Mr. Whelan, a rough around the edge contractor who beats his kids, let them get away with whatever they please, and has a real notoriety around town.  When I say kids, I mean grown adults stuck in Daddy’s hooligan wake and are played by more outstanding and familiar faces from Ireland, such as Hodor from “Game of Thrones,” Kristian Naim, Netflix’s “Derry Girls’s” Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, and the “1917” actor and upcoming principals of “Last Voyage of the Demeter,” Chris Walley, make up the trio of terribly laid construction workers who have really no business being around a hammer, a ladder, or anybody’s valuables.  That brings me to “Unwelcome’s” lead actors as the scarred couple who hires out Whelan’s band of delinquent spawns to do the handiwork repairs.  I realize Wright and Stay wrote Douglas Booth (“Pride, Prejudice, & Zombies”) to be an overly optimistic and fairly useless good guy with Jamie, but the insecurities are just ostentatiously oozing out of the husband without a clue.  Jamie’s arc also doesn’t quite flesh out by the end of the film as he’s blocked by the baby mama instincts of Maya, played by “Resident Evil:  Welcome to Raccoon City’s” Hannah John-Kamen, with an unspoken I’ll-do-it-my-damn-self attitude that sends the narrative into a knife-brandishing gob of Redcaps eager to do her bidding for an unfavorable exchange.  Maya sacrifices all for a good man with good intentions who can’t do diddlysquat to save her and, in the end, that doesn’t seem balanced for this ferocious fairytale. 

If there is one aspect, above all us, to note about “Unwelcome’s” shin kicking goblins as a takeaway is that the rambunctious and ravenous Redcaps are not computer generated, are not puppets, and are not even animatronics.  Actors and stuntmen fill those small shows with a little help of disproportionate movie magic, heeding to the ways of a lost art in miniaturizing actors, such as in “Willow” or “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and touching up with some CGI on the tangible face molds for a layered composition that’s super fun to see come to life on screen.  Unfortunately, the Redcaps make a late appearance into a yarn unspooled with mostly the pent up pile of frustrations of Jamie and Maya as an unlucky couple without a chance of peace in the world.  Trouble finds them wherever they go in what’s essentially a trade for city thugs for unfriendly country versions of the same type of ill-mannered.  “Unwelcome” plays very much into it’s title that no place feels welcoming for a couple on the verge of the already daunting premise of parenthood life and everything appears now alien as the world is being upended by concessions for your child in what has turned terrifying in what was supposed to be a warm, welcoming of a new adventure.  That’s the sensation setup for the pair who trust dip into trusting superstitions and magical beings to be their guardians.  Folklore then takes over; its has, in fact, been welcomed to save the day no matter how maligned the backstories.  Wright and cinematographer Hamish Doyne-Ditmas do, in fact, construct an ocular stage crafted out of an ethereal red and yellow fire lit sky with an overall color theory toned to contrast as a mystical storybook set in what is usually flush with greenery around an Irish village, reminiscent of late 70s-early 80’s European horror sets built to detailed scale, built with vibrant backlighting, and yet built to feel distant, apprehensively off, and strange like another world, a Redcap ecosphere.  “Unwelcome’s” ending also pulls from that unabashed time to be creatively mad in an innately mad universe with an unexpected Redcap reason that doesn’t clarify so much their hunger for blood offers, which the diet includes raw store-bought meat and the frothy flesh of felonious individuals, but better explains their twisted promises and intentions for their knife-jabbing services rendered.

With Goblins, there’s always a price to pay but for the Blu-ray release of “Unwelcome,” the price is worth the admission.  The single-layered, AVC encoded, high-definition 1080p Well Go USA Entertainment release presents the film in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Slightly squeeze onto a BD25, there’s some minor irregular compression patches that degrade solid darker colors and the image loses a bit of sharpness in the background – you can see an example when the Redcaps pop up out of the keep tower appearing more like moving globules than well-defined humanoids.  Goblin facial features and skin and clothes textures have tactile appeal during closeups with the same being said with the cast in their natural color tones.  Computer-generated facial movements have seamless pertinence to the surrounding action and the motion of the Goblin actors themselves with layering of frames looking clean to create their smallness around principal characters.  The English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix maintains a stout dialogue track but deploys no depth into recordings resulting in all the dialogue tracks to be at the forefront, even when characters are in the background in the scene.  The weird spatiality with the dialogue doesn’t translate over to ambient noise as those tracks are well designed into the scheme with levels of depth that add richness to the storybook atmospherics.  English SDH are optionally available.  Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews discussing their time forming the idea and working on the project, a making the Redcaps segment with special effects supervisor Shaune Harrison (“Nightbreed,” “Attack of the Adult Babies”) discussing the step-be-step process of bringing these little devils to life, including showcasing their head and body molds, and the theatrical trailer. The physical property comes in a standard Blu-ray snapper with latch with one-sided cover art of a knife-out Goblin starring up at the new mistress of the house.  Inside, a single-leaf advert of Well Go USA films and the disc pressed art with a blue-graded Goblin looking menacing makeup the inner contents. “Unwelcome” runs at 101 minutes, is rated R for strong violence and gore, pervasive language, some drug use, and sexual material. From an ironic perspective, “Unwelcome” uses the mythological mischievous of Goblins as a gas pedal accelerator to mature a pair of genteel gulls faced with a parlous reality and to be factotum in life in general told inside in the linings of a dark and gory fairytale universe.

Not the Leprechauns This Time.  It’d Be Goblins that “Unwelcome” You!  

EVIL Will Suck on Your Menstrual Soaked Tampon. “The Hood Has Eyez” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

An Early 2000s Exploitation With Lots of Infamy!  “The Hood Has Eyez” on DVD!

Attending a school ditch party was the last thing the obedient Kimmy wanted to do but the peer pressure from her fellow Catholic schoolgirl friends convinced her to the other side of the tracks of town.  On the way, a half-naked woman runs out in front of their car and in attempt to flee the scene on foot, to protect their innocent repute status, they run into two gangsters holding them at gunpoint in an alley.  The now frightened teens are forced into an isolated park area, joined by the now fully-clothed and not injured woman they hit earlier in what has been revealed to be a ruse to rob them, but the gang leader, Psycho, has more distasteful and violent plans to squeeze more out of his prize than cash.  Psycho brutally rapes Kimmy and is left for dead by not only the gangsters but also the one other surviving girl she had considered to be her friend.  Battered and broken, Kimmy’s morality and reality snaps, sending her down an unmerciful vengeful path against those who condemned her to die.

If filmmaker Terrence Williams set out to make an exploitation film of genital mutilation, forced sodomy, and a man sucking on a bloody tampon, then mission accomplished!  The straight-to-video, SOV rape-and-revenger of monstrosities, “The Hood Has Eyez,” pulls no punches, knows no limits, and cares to give no concern for the atrocities it depicts.  A bastardized yet familiar rephrasing of an early Wes Craven classic, “The Hills Have Eyes,” Williams uses Craven’s basic setup plot to write-and-direct his own version of uncivilized lowlifes exploiting and murdering out-of-their-element travelers in the most graphic and appalling ways.  Williams takes the fear out of the hills and drops it into a remote park plopped in-between the suburbs and urban grounds, swapping out inbred hillbillies for Latino gangsters and a nuclear family for schoolgirls in short skirts and one unlucky white dude.  Collaborating producer and wife of Terrence Williams, Nicole Williams, has previously and subsequently worked together other films, such as “Curse of La Llorona” and “Horno,” under their now defunct joint company, Cinema Threat Productions in Los Angeles. 

The 2007 released “The Hood Has Eyez” reunites a good chunk of the cast from Williams’ “The River:  Legend of La Llorona,” “Revenge of La Llorona, “Llorona Gone Wild” and “Curse of La Llorona” films completed and released within a couple years previously which created a certain level of comfortability and trust amongst the cast as well as the cast and director.  With some of the intimately graphic content of “The Hood Has Eyez,” those warm and cozy congenialities play key to selling a broken bottle scene being rammed up a vaginal cavity or a nail hammered down into penis urethra.  Without that delicate easiness in the air, scenes like the aforementioned won’t work, resulting in the entire project collapsing upon itself even before wrapping up principal photography.  At the tip of the spear are Cyd Chulte and Antonia Royuela as the principled Kimmy and her antithesis, the deranged Psycho.   Chulte, who cut her teeth with roles in “Curse of La Llorona,” takes one-half the lead of a young woman broken by the barbarity and succumbs to justified vehemence for torture, dismemberment, coat hanger abortions, and eventual death but before being pushed to the edge of her life and into a state of insanity, Kimmy’s presence melds into the group of a lemming unit and takes a backseat to the other lead half behind Royuela’s unhinged ultra-violence of a gangster gone rouge from the plan.  Psycho’s posse – Joker (Carlos Javier Castillo, “Axeman”) and She Girl (Anne Stinnett, “Revenge of La Llorona”) – truly reflect their handles as Psycho’s devil and angel on his shoulder, trying to either egg him on or have him withdrawal while withdrawing is still in his favor but, of course, we wouldn’t have a debauchery and savage movie if the angel over the shoulder had prevailed and so Psycho has his perverse way with Kimmy and friends – Susan (Jesselynn Desmond, “Horno”), Rachel (Jamielyn Lippman, “The Absent”), and Jerry (Tom Curitore, “Llorona Gone Wild”). 

The way I see it, Terrence William’s trashy exploitation nod “The Hood Has Eyez” has three distinct parts, much like the three-act structure of any narrative archetype.  Terrence Williams defines these acts tremendously clear in an almost too simple of a way that it feels rudimentary, maybe even old fashioned.  The setup is simple:  overweening teens doing what they’re not supposed to be doing become caught up in an unfavorable part of town with a maladjusted gang.  The confrontation squares the two factions to a literal position of facing each other while the teens coward in fright and disadvantage as they forcibly bend to the will of the gun-toting gang calling all the shots.  The resolution pivots the story 180 degrees, like any good rape-revenge thriller should, after misdeeds thin out whose left for dead and who’s intractable impulses are fully left satisfied and goes right into execution mode without passing go, without collecting $200, and without pause of a trauma processing moment as Terrence Williams wastes no time digging deep into the sludge of psychiatric stability with a hasty move right to rectifying an eye-for-an-eye balance.  Up until a point, “The Hood Has Eyez” carries a lot of dire weight within the confrontational girth that can be hard to stomach.  There’s a few casually lighthearted and fun witty moments peppered beforehand, such as a jokes at the expense of airhead Susan and her player boyfriend, but then after the grave assault that leaves Kimmy left to suffer all the post-traumatic syndrome results, things really go dark, and I’m’ talking black comedy dark.  Kimmy goes into full Rocky Balboa training mode, doing pushups and enthusiastically practicing staff spinning in the light of the falling sun.  Terrence Williams actually gives Kimmy a rousing montage before ripping the dick off a two-bit thug.  Where am I getting to with all this?  Well, I’m not sure how Terrence Williams wanted audiences to digest his brutal film that goes through touchpoints of opposing genres.  Usually, if comedy and gore are present in one narrative, slapstick typically is the go-to conduit – think “Evil Dead II” or “Dead Alive.”  For “The Hood Has Eyez,” the gore effects are hearty, the characters are vicious and victimizable, and Williams maintains an intact beginning-to-end narrative, but confounds with a few choice character actions that sully the overall presentation.

The Cinema Threat Production has now been integrated into SRS Cinema’s Extreme and Unrated Label – Nightmare Fuel – and unquestionably is underground extreme horror at its foulest.  Released with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 of the 420p standard definition, camcorder tape footage and in a new director’s alternative cut, “The Hood Has Eyez” has relatively decent image clarity with a very subdued amount of lossy compression results, especially for progressive scan 480 pixels.  Details are soft as expected with the commercial equipment and lower resolution but though a slightly faded color scale, the coloring range renders intense enough for higher marks and can play a trick on the eyes by falsely delineating the objects to create a space based off the hue edging alone.  The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track props up the quality even more with Terrence Williams using a boom mic attachment instead of the built-in mic to gather meticulously the intended dialogue and skirmish kerfuffle.  As a result, dialogue is really sharp here, especially during Psycho’s off-the-rail verbal abuse, rants, and one-liners.  The post-production Foley stands apart from the inhouse sound with prefabricated sound bytes but that’s the way of micro-independent filmmaking.  The alternate cut includes a newly shot opening scene that was originally intended for the original script that was added back in to actualize the Williams’ vision after a cast sudden dropout departure.  Bonus features include a commentary with Terrence and Nicole, a raw, secondary cam behind the scenes footage in making certain scenes, a blooper reel, image slide show, two original cut trailers, a new trailer, and a Women in Horror vignette featuring Nicole Williams discussing the importance of women in horror and her contribution to the genre.  The release is presented in a traditional DVD snapper with a beautifully illustrated cover art based off the shoddy composited “The Hood Has Eyez’s” one sheet.  In the past few years, SRS has upped their game with cover arts and continue to impress with their new branding campaign that makes these films feel no longer cheap at first glance.  Inside, the DVD press art is the same as the cover with much of the RGB removed to a single layer red. There is no insert inside the case.  Terrence Williams set out to capture the inelegant essences of nitty-gritty exploitation and hits the nail on the head, literally, with this passion project of perversity. 

An Early 2000s Exploitation With Lots of Infamy!  “The Hood Has Eyez” on DVD!

A Family of EVIL Walks, Talks, and Comes in a Putrid Shade of Blue! “Super Z” reviewed! (Synergetic / DVD)

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery! Has it on DVD!

A genetically produced, made-to-order zombie foursome are grown in a private laboratory and continue to be experimented on by a greedy CEO and his team of mad scientists from conception to create a group of governable, intelligent, and unstoppable do-bidders.  The latest batch of untested cultivating serum provides the four with the ability to think and talk, the only severe drawback side-effect is the  foulmouthed and uncivilized behavior makes them spitefully aggressive.  Able to speak for the first time, the zombies are actually a family of four and are able to use their undead abilities to escape with their undead lives to plot a revenge on all of humankind for all the cruelty brought down upon the zombie gene.  Feasting on a nearby couple to stave their hunger and infecting the couple’s white-boy rapper son to join the family as one of their own, a male heir of sorts amongst two older sister siblings, the now nuclear zombie family forages for human flesh while turning a rundown cabin in the woods into a place they can call home and plan their worldwide retribution, but as mother and father work on their relationship issues, a son finding love to become a man, and two sisters with an uncontrollable bloodlust, the impatient CEO hires mercenaries to hunt them down as retrievable property.

Who better to create an absurd, over-the-top zombie comedy than the people of France, the national birthplace of the absurdism philosophy.  That is what the gonzo-gory “Super Z” reflects, a heightened realization of life and intelligence after many years of being a docile dead becomes the basis for French writer-directors Julien de Volte and Arnaud Tabarly in their first feature length film.  Grossly saturated with explicit pejoratives, zany antics, and is hairbrained on a level I never would have thought could be achieved, “Super Z,” short for Super Zombie, is based off the filmmakers’ 17-minute 2014 short film “The Foodies” and now in 2022, the film unlocks yet again a very seldomly explored narrative that walks the same flip-the-script lines on taking the George Romero-style zombie perspective, such as with 2007’s “Aaah! Zombies!!” or 2013’s “Warm Bodies,” and laces it with an unrestrainable absurdist style.  To be honest, “Super Z” will repel the majority of audiences who can’t embrace its border crossing childishness and cartoon consorting pursuance.   Following the success of the short film, Tabarly and Volte’s Orléans, France based La Ruche Productions is the production company’s first feature film outside the regular shorts and documentaries accomplished by the company and is produced Laura Townsend.

The story engrosses us into the ebb and flows of family dynamics, but not just any kind of family dynamics as it’s made up of genetically modified zombies.  Yet, Arnaud Tarably and Julien de Volte don’t divide the extremities of the living and dead too far apart.  Family dinners are still held together around the table, the purpose of existence within the fragile relationship construct comes into question quite about between father and mother, and even a teenage boy coming into manhood when washed over with an overpowering smitten sensation at first sight of a farm girl are all the things the zombie family experience making a life away from human interaction with the only human interacting being the one where the zombies have the upper hand as well as the severed torsos, the castrated genital organs, or the decapitated heads as a full table spread with dad’s special gravy (aka blood) as the secret sauce.  While their performances won’t win any kind of awards, at all, I do believe “High Lane’s” Johan Libéreau as the father Gertre and “Savage State’s” Julien Courbey as the mother Stephana cater to the bloody nub of gnarly passion between two also covered in filth and body fluid zombies lovingly trying to protect their unique family at a normalized primal cost and formulate a monumental revenge against humans.  One question that rises out of Gertre and Stephana’s relationship is is Stephana supposed to be a man actor playing a woman character assigned gender by genetic disposition or a zombified gay man in transition?  It’s never clear but it also doesn’t really matter as it adds to Stephana idiosyncratic comedy as she removes a female corpses breast to sew to her own chest but also pees blood standing up!  It becomes just a curiosity that arises but the crux of the character is nailed down by Courbey who shows a sensitive and savage side being a cabin-wife to three children and providing for Gertre’s quest to queen her zombie world domination.  Gertre and Stephana’s children are played by returning “The Foodies” actors Fabien Ara as the baby boy Yvon and Florence Bebic-Veruin as sister Georgette with the addition of Audrey Giacomini being adopted into the ferociously multifaceted family cast as the second sister Marcelline.  Ara and Bebic-Veruin reprise their colorfully blue necrotic-skinned and blood-red splattered characters as squabbling siblings as the babied Yvon is coddled to the point of seeking love in a local farmer’s verbally abused but carefree and nearly toothless daughter Augustine, another reprised performance by Marion Mezadorian who was also a farm gal in “The Foodies.”  “Super Z” fills out the cast with lots of zombie fodder but also includes Jean-François arises, (“Time Demon”), Ludovic Schoendoerffer (“Crime Scenes”), Jacques Boudet (“Dracula and Son”), Laurent Bouhnik, and Jo Prestia of “Irreversible” as the mercenary’s very much alive cousin and the zombie family’s bodiless uncle!  Wait, and you’ll see what I mean.

“Super Z” will not sate everyone’s thirst of comedy nor will be gripping horror, but the French absurdist film will quench with gore galore with a setup that’s real light on its feet, swiftly making haste through a narrative that if you blink or didn’t hear a certain part of the dialogue, or read the subtitles if you don’t understand French, than you’re left holding the bag trying to play catchup on what the hell is going on.  Not your fault by any means as “Super Z” goes at a super breakneck speed that aggressively aggregates zombie intelligence, a laboratory escape, a zombie-turned-son, and a quiet, secluded abode to make camp all within the first 15 minutes or so.  From there, we ease into the zombie family country life, getting to understand their troubles, their ambitions, and their family squabbles more-and-more while father and his daughters hunt down bypassing humans with a machete and make a smorgasbord of homecooked organs, blood, and flesh out of them that is fit for an undead king while the wife cooks the food and showers the biologically unrelated brat with pet names and adorable little hairdos to much of his disgust.  Zany can’t describe “Super Z’s” overzealous rubbish yet within that zany overzealous rubbish, a thin stream of guilty pleasures can result in keeping attentions from pressing the off button and burning the disc to a crisp.  “Super Z” is not a too terrible horror-comedy as long as understanding the premised background helps focus on the filmmakers’ key conveyances within an absurdist designed paradigm that just happens to have lots of blood and guts. 

If the zombie subgenre was becoming too stale as week old bread, then “Super Z” keeps the rotting bags of walking meat fresh with a managing ménage of the uncouth undead. Synergetic distribution goes international with domestic releases with “Super Z” on DVD. The Smart-Ass Zombies are presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a picture quality that renders clean just like many modern-day digital models. The Synergetic DVD has consistent Mbps decoding reliability on the DVD5, decoding at a rate of 8.9 Mbps with hardly a blip on compression. In regard to the coloring, the zombie family’s forest background pops with lush greenery that becomes invariably evident in other mise-en-scene aspects as a higher contrast delineation defines the boundaries super well, materializing emerging imagery with deep shadows and a vibrantly eclectic color palette resembling near comic book visuals that luckily absorb Cyril Féron’s cut-and-paste visual effects into the crass configuration. The French Stereo 2.0 offers free from nuisance tracks but definitely output in a two-dimensional standard that, since there’s more range than one might expect, softens the punch of this madcap zombie mayhem to a par mix that works well enough. The zombified autotune adds a layer of obstruction over the dialogue track but if reading the burned in English subtitles, then there’s nothing lost in that respect. The entire mix is an overall healthy dose of ambient bustle, sprightly dialogue, and lots of buffoonery snaking in between. The Synergetic DVD doesn’t support bonus material with only the feature and a chapter selection on the main menu but there is an after credits stinger of a cow and a severed head that attempts one last quick chuckle out of the viewer. Supporting all region codes, the DVD has a runtime of 80 minutes and is seemingly unrated, there is no stated rating on the back cover. Speaking of which, Synergetic DVD covers skirt the cost with slapdash compositions an eighth grader learning AutoCAD could have completed for a solid C+. The mustard yellow with black, nearly indistinct, vignettes don’t provide any kind of appetizing stimulation and, oppositely, can snuff out any sort of enthusiasm toward checking this French absurdist piece out, but don’t let the lackadaisical cover art dishearten a peak into what could be a considerably wild and gory experience. Just be warned that “Super Z” isn’t for everyone and everyone isn’t for “Super Z” living on a different, bizarro plane of existence.

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery! Has it on DVD!

EVIL Wants You to Be Mindless! “Night Feeder” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / Blu-ray)

“Night Feeder” Is a Brainless Trip Through the New Wave Eighties! 

A woman is found dead on the city streets.  The cause of death is the same as two others before with similar wounds; their brains are sucked out completely through a slit in the eye socket.  As the neighborhood community cowers in fear, Jean Michaelson, a female magazine journalist and who also just moved to the residential city district, takes it upon herself to uncover the truth before her new home becomes an unlivable nightmare.  At the center of suspicion is Bryan Soulfield, a musician a part of the band Disease, previously involved in the death investigation of three women groupies who overdosed on a drug called DZS that shares the same phonetic name Soulfield’s band.  Inspector Alonzo Bernardo spearheads the investigation with an ever-watchful eye on his best suspect, Bryan Soulfield, and an even keener interest in Jean Michaelson as they both feel the grip of public pressure and come intimately closer to each other and to the unsuspecting and shocking truth as the bodies become more frequent around Jean’s apartment.

Obscure, one-and-done horror can often be worth the viewing calories and 1988’s “Night Feeder” is definitely the epitome of those hidden gem genre films from America’s exploration into the video format and stemming into another branch of liberal arts.  “Night Feeder” was the result of an assemblage of a painter and a pair of novelists who, out of the blue, decided they wanted to make a movie.  A gouache and oil painter of portraits, often nude, Jim Whiteaker tries his talented brush stroking hand at directing a full length shot-on-video feature with mystery writers Linnea Due and the late Shelley Singer crafting a murder whodunit in a grisly brain slurping fashion that conveys heavily on the theme of misjudging a book by its disfigured and notorious cover and end with a killer you never see coming – because it’s sucking out your brain through your eye socket!  “Night Feeder” is also emblematic amongst other spoiler-inducing concepts that we’ll dive into later in the review.  Shot in the dark corners of the San Francisco Bay area at the liberal arts focused Dutch Boy Studios, “Night Feeder” is glam horror ripe for attention, produced by James and Jo Ann Gillerman under the production banner of Gillerman-Whiteaker-Gillerman.

For an investigative horror-thriller in the crevices of a phasing new wave and post-punk era, the low-budget production has a remarkably versed cast of unknown, likely hyper regional, actors.  Kate Alexander (“Kamillions”) cut her teeth as principal character, journalist Jean Michaelson, and instills a healthy dose of raw emotion into an unlikely B-flick, tamping her performance firmly into the role caught in a love triangle between punk musician and prime brain-sucking suspect number one, Brian Soulfield  (Caleb Dreneaux) and by-the-book police inspector, Alonzo Bernardo (Jonathan Zeichner) confounded by killer’s strange methods.  Not to forget to mention the ominous presence that possible lurks around every corner that drives shivers up Michaelson’s tattered spine, making her vulnerable and blind to what’s really in front of her, romantically and threateningly.  We’re briefly introduced to support characters, aka soon to be victims, and then eventually snowball into the quickly dispatched before having a chance to steal or swallow the protagonist predicament for their own, but these support characters are engaging enough to be either drug pushing scoundrels, intolerant jerks, or spaced-out mothers so you can tell from the beginning their level of likeableness before their fatal end, but at least they’re not benign, vanilla cogs in the machine. The cast fills out with Lissa Zippardino, Jac Trask, Ginger Seeberg, Roger J. Blair, Robert Duncanson, Robert Hogan, and the Bay-born cultural critic Cintra Wilson and a special soundtrack performance by the new wave rock band, The Nuns as the fictitious band, Disease. On top of that, Dutch Boy artists fill the gaps in minor roles like waiters, party guests, and concerns citizens as a public gathering.

Despite playing out like a police procedural investigation that narrows down suspects until the killer is unearthed and either arrested or gunned down in a harrowing, desperate moment, we all know ahead of time “Night Feeder” is cladded with more than just plainclothes of cops and robbers.  The big tell is the brain being liquified and sucked out from the eye cavity like a Slurpee minus the brain freeze because, well, there’s no brain!  “Night Feeder” sounds like a mindless Z-grade film and while the narrative involves mindlessness in a way, the 80’s creature feature is anything but a ponderous film with an immense underground punk presence, eccentric personalities, and a standoffish and reticent romance brewing in the background sandwiching the strange deaths of unconnected murders piling up around the heroine’s noir-esque, urban jungle neighborhood and perplexing the lone law authority on the case.  Whiteaker and his writing team thoroughly include the residents and residents’ concerns which makes “Night Feeder” bigger than it really is as it is often with lower-budget creature features will neglect to include the angry, scared mobs into the conversation.  The narrative intends to spark public fear and uses it to drive Jean into a rabbit hole of truth that has now become more personal than professional since her space has been affected by an invading killer.  Her best friend ending up dead in the tub of her apartment during a neighborhood party and with her ex-husband found slumped out of the driver’s seat of his car shepherds violently out her old life into a new, scary territory of relationships.  A director having an artistic background and working with creative storytelling minds lends to a more than average physical special effects and becomes a Jonathan Horton (“Enemy Mine”) showcase of skill that removes “Night Feeder” from the average pool of shoddy effects films and into a higher class of eye-catching, detailed creepiness that is unique and can’t be unseen with an autopsy that’s all too realistically educational and with its climatically exposed humanoid creature and it’s protruding cerebral sucking device.

Strong effects, strong story, and a strong female character serve the “Night Feeder” as a secret menu item in the SRS Cinema catalogue!  The Cursed to Crave Forbidden Flesh tag lined film is presented on a single disc, AVC encoded, 1080p high definition Blu-ray with a letterboxed full frame aspect ratio of 1:33:1.  One of the better looking 80’s film on a budget, “Night Feeder” is tremendously insignificant SOV interference, which makes me believe Whiteaker and director of photography, Paul Kalbach, had their hands on non-commercial grade video camcorder and after doing some research, the camera used was a BetaCam SP that increased the horizontal likes to over 340, likely from to Whiteaker and Gillermans’ artistic music videos and seemingly at the advantage of Kalbach’s Artichoke Productions in the Bay area that gained him a reputation as a visual artist and “Night Feeder” very much plays into being a vision of New Wave horror with a glowing aura, vibrant warm, almost neon-like lighting hues, and, of course, the two semi-music videos of The Nuns making their way in front of the camera.  Virtually no technical issues with the image albeit a flat coloring, a blip here and there with a brief blip screech, and softer details with the glow haze outline that provides the movie a prolonged dreamy coating or an inescapable nightmarish ethereal within the context of the scene.  The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo carries a lo-fi but sustainable level that celebrates the dialogue and divvies the other tracks to accommodate the little depth it can muster with the BetaCam recording. English subtitles are not available on this release.  Special bonus features include a commentary by director Jim Whiteaker who provides the genesis of the film and gives background on the characters and actors, a movie still slide show, and SRS trailers that include “Day of the Reaper,” “Garden Tool Massacre,” “The Son of the Devil,” “Hellbox,” “Truth or Dare?” Physical features are housed in a traditional Blu-ray snapper case with new composition artwork with the original embossed title and a still one of the more gory-ladened victims, but the reversed side carries the one of the original key arts that embodies the true essence of “Night Feeder” in illustration of a monstrous hand in the foreground of skyscrapers, reaching up and over a sensuously positioned lifeless woman who resembles the lead actress. The disc art is printed with the same illustrated image. The region free Blu-ray has a runtime of 95 minutes and is region free but is listed as a 2020 film in the same design grouping where usually the date listed is in the production release date, which in this case would be 1988. Tidied up and polished, SRS Cinema Blu-ray of “Night Feeder” is a quarried gem by a group of diverse artists bringing their leathery inlaid and new wave touch of artistic licenses to develop a subgenre standout in the 80’s creature feature category.

“Night Feeder” Is a Brainless Trip Through the New Wave Eighties!