Charles Milles Manson was a notorious criminal and cult leader living a commune lifestyle in the peace and love era of the 1960’s. The Mason Family was his communal cult following that squatted in the outskirts of Californian desserts and self indulged in hallucinogens. Radicalized and dangerous, Manson exploited their unwavering loyalty to his radicalizing behavior of a hippie way of life. Filmmaker John Aes-Nihil, a collector and lionizer of all things Charles Manson, shoots a recreation of the daily activities of Mason’s cult members, filmed at infamous Manson locations that gave a taste of commune life while also providing shuddering atmospheric insights of kill spots. To Aes-Nihil, Charles Manson lived and breathed through interpretation of their, so called, home movies.
Filmed between 1974 to 1979, three years after Charles Manson was convicted of first degree murder, director John Aes-Nihil filmed his rather homage-life rendition of what he calls the “Manson Family Movies.” Not released until 1984, Aes-Nihil also brings legend to fruition of a rumor that Manson and his followers filmed much of their daily rituals and societal deviancies, giving “Manson Family Movies” more stigma to the already controversial obsession the filmmaker already made mania in such a short turnaround from Manson’s conviction finale. “Manson Family Movies” is also a silent film, a rarity for a late 70’s, early 80’s that was just in an industrial transitional point of visual special effects and larger than life performances; yet Aes-Nihil’s remains silent and crudely finesses his interpretative documentary with stage play performances and badly scrawled title cards that instill an engrossing affect of internal sliminess toward the already visceral nature.
The cast consists of many unknown faces who have come and gone even before “Manson Family Movies” was first viewed by the public. Their involvement begs the question of their pride for subject matter involving the brutal stabbing murder of a pregnant woman with the senseless and, almost, toying deaths of couple as their listed names are more than likely pseudonyms, credited as if themselves were a part of a hippie commune with names like Rick the Precious Dove as Charles Manson, Krista Meth (Crystal Meth?), Porn Michael, Miss Sheila Star, and Sister Audress just to name some of the more eye-catching credits. As aforesaid, performances are choreographed indiscriminately that much of the violence goes by the waist side, but as characters go, more than most look the part with the exception of some transvestism as some actors and actresses don multiple roles in the bottom of the money barrel feature. Other dime actors included Katie Lazarus, Knarly Dana, Mr. Jacquetta, Judy, Ms Mule, Danny, Lori, Miss Head, Ms Brad, Moka, Chucky, Rusty, King Mama, and The Cosmic Ray. Seriously…
Not much is first-rate about the “Manson Family Movies” aside from a couple of exceptions: 1) Cult Epics amazing two-disc re-release that’ll be covered later and 2) the fact that Aes-Nihil constructed home like movies using what looks like 8mm negative film complete with deterioration and defects, providing a desensitizing and demoralizing halo around the heavy material. “Manson Family Movies” won’t be many audiences cup of historical tea and many folks will probably point out that this is only an interpretation of events, but was the raid on “Pearl Harbor” accurately depicted by Jerry Bruckheimer or did James Cameron give every minute detail correct in “Titanic?” I think not. Not to compare apples to oranges to blue berries, but as base observation, Aes-Nihil did what any director would have more than likely done with an influential historical moment, a little embellished reenactment no different from the stud Hollywood filmmakers.
Cult Epics’ re-release of the “Manson Family Movies” is now presented in a region free, two-disc set complete with a slip illustrated with the same composited Charlie Manson head cover art by Brian Viveros and the same disc art by Charles Manson himself from the 2005 release. The film is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with the black bars on either side of the frame and, as previously mentioned, the image clarity is marked by scratches, flares, and dirt. Surely, for visual stimulation. Billed a silent film, the dual channel mix of the redux and remastered score is resoundingly poignant and strangely vibrant with Charlie Manson and his Manson Family recorded music as the soundtrack. Plus, there are actually less aesthetically audio tracks from Sloppy Titty Freaks, Beyond Joy and Evil, Glen Meadmore, and some sampling of the Beatles from, you guessed it, Helter Skelter. Special features include John Aes-Nihil commentary track, outtakes with director’s commentary, last interviews with Charles Manson, the original LADP crime and morgue photos, and the second disc contains Sharon Tate’s home movies without an audio track. After watching “Manson Family Movies,” John Aes-Nihil comes to suspicion as perhaps one of Charlie’s commune followers as he depicts a chilling look into the past, through a window of ghastly sovereignty over impressionable young people, and champions a real home movie approach that makes the entire package, along with a invigoratingly haunting score, a black gem.
On the early morning streets of New York City, a drunken Artie and Joe delinquently roam the stillness of the Bronx after hours. After joyfully mugging an old man for a measly eight dollars and his wristwatch, their night leads them heading to the subway platform for more so called fun. A riotous Artie and Joe hop inside a railcar full of passengers that consists of two army privates on leave, a young couple on a date, an elderly Jewish couple, a young family with their 4-year-old daughter, an in recovery alcoholic, a passed out homeless man, a bigoted African-American and his wife, and a nervous gay. The passengers’ delineated diversity doesn’t thwart the two thugs’ harassment that holds the riders, in fear and in obstruction, from leaving the railcar and as personal limits are pushed to the edge, moral courage is effectively choked down by the helpless riders until one of them can’t take the bombardment of the perpetual daunting intimidation.
“The Incident’s” in your face, tell it as it is, hostage style dramatic thriller from 1967 barrels down an endless track of relevance and suspense inside the idealistic perception of New York City’s culture in the mid-20th century. Director Larry Peerce (“One Potato, Two Potato”) helms a masterpiece of a film that not only defied cinematic character standards but also defied the NYC transit authority who denied Peerce, along with cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld (“Young Frankenstein”) to shoot in and on the NYC subway system. Taking a relatively guerrilla filmmaking approach to achieve railcar and platform exteriors, Peerce also managed to construct a true to size, if not larger, railcar to get the drama unfolding between the harmless transit riders and their two terrorizers. “The Incident” was the first feature film penned by teleplay screenwriter Nicholas E. Baehr whom also wrote the television movie version of the story entitled “Ride with Terror” a few years prior, but Larry Peerce clawed, scraped, and held together a cast and a crew that nearly dismantled due to funding and production issues until ultimately being saved by 20th Century Fox.
“The Incident” has such an ensemble cast that it’s difficult to even know where to begin. Two introductory feature film performances from Martin Sheen (“Apocalypse Now”) and Tony Musante (“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage”) as the errant ruffians is unequivocally good at being bad. Musante, especially, leaves a lasting impression as Joe Ferrone who oozes with slimy browbeating tactics by plucking that one sensitive nerve in each of the riders. As equally as good in comparison is in the injured Army private from Oklahoma, played humbly and genuinely by the baby-faced Beau Bridges (“Max Payne”), with a gosh-golly grin and a peacemaker wit about him that makes the private a prime target. Sheen, Musante, and Bridges are only the caboose when considering the train of highly trained styled actors that also include Thelma Ritter (“Rear Window”), Donna Mills (“Play Misty for Me”), Brock Peters (“Soylent Green”), Jack Gilford (“Cocoon”), Ruby Dee (“Jungle Fever”), Diana Van der Vlis (“X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes”), Mike Kellin (“Sleepaway Camp”), Jan Sterling (“Women’s Prison”), Gary Merrill (“The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die”), and Victor Arnold (“Wolfen”). Ed McMahon makes his feature film debut as well! As an ensemble unit, the interactions evoke immense tensions and passion inside that railcar and from our very own couches.
Everything about Larry Peerce’s “The Incident” capitalizes on being nearly flawless. From the construction of the last act railcar set to the flash of urban realism, “The Incident” is high level on the suspense thriller hierarchy, but the characters and their personal baggage egregiously forced to the surface is utterly captivating and refreshingly cathartic to simultaneously showcase adult bullying engage enragement while also bubbling and bursting through thin layered passive aggressive convictions and attitudes. Joe Ferrone is symbolically a catalyst for the majority of riders, exposing internal loathsome, sham friendships, and tough guy personas, that naturally shreds down their ghastly facades and revealing their true, if not unpleasant, selves. Equally as compelling is the one scene with racial profiling and prosecution by the law enforcement that is heavily journaled in the today’s media and Peerce clearly believes in this injustice and adds the brief, yet powerful, moment at the tail end of the film that involves Brock Peters’ character.
Eureka Entertainment proudly presents the 20th Century Fox raw and intense New York based thriller, “The Incident,” onto a dual formatted, Blu-ray and DVD, home video as part as Eureka Classic sub-label, marking the first time on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was provided for coverage so a review of the video and audio will not be covered, but from the spec information provided, the transfer is a 1080p high definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. There are optional English subtitles available. What can be said about Gerald Hirschfeld cinematography is this, it’s a complete mastery of the trade with a penchant for black and white and seamless edited camera cuts. Bonus features listed are a brand new and exclusive audio commentary by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, a post-screen Q&A session with director Larry Peerce from the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival, the original trailer, and a collector’s booklet feature new writing by film writer Sam Deighan and critic Barry Forshaw. “The Incident” is searingly powerful and a societal wake up call of we’re all in this together or we’re all a part of the problem.\
Euronymous, an Oslo teenager hellbent on launching true Norwegian Black Metal, shapes his band Mayhem with edgy publicity stunts that invokes the calling of Satan and being an anarchist against the moral norm to make his brand renowned around the underground music world in the late 1980s. As his fame flourishes with creating ungodly music, owning and running a music store, and helming his own record label, Euronymous continues his crusade agasint the establishment, but the lines blur when his messages of hellfire become unforeseen reality. Suicide, arson, violence, and coldblooded murder push Euronymous to the limits of his own soapbox inactions, leaving him open for the possibility of being overthrown by his own acolyte metalheads.
To prepare myself for Jonas Åkerlund’s biographical thriller, “Lords of Chaos,” I immersed myself into Jason Lei Howden’s 2015 black metal horror film “Deathgasm” as precursor preparation into the intense and unforgiving metal macabre genre. Whereas “Deathgasm” is a balls to the weed whacker splatter film of the pissed off demonia kind, “Lords of Chaos” is a polar horror feature with factual roots. Åkerlund’s, who directed Mads Mikkelson in Netflix’s “Polar” and has an extensive history in directing music videos for various artists, draws inspiration for the 2018 film from his own experience in a Swedish Black Metal band, Bathroy, from the late 80’s. The Grammy award winning music video director creates beauty out of the horrific true life event, unidealized nearly entirely without much speculation that faithfully puts to picture a misanthropic tragedy in a bone-chilling manner.
From “Signs” to “Scream 4,” Rory Culkin has remained on the actors-to-watch radar and is most certainly, our favorite Culkin to watch on the screen. In “Lords of Chaos,” Rory plays and narrates the story as Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, the guitarist and creator of Norwegian Black Metal band, Mayhem. As if written stars, Euronymous surrendered to Rory Culkin’s performance and Rory Culkin became Euronymous. The eerie synonymous blurred identities that catapults Culkin to be admired amongst his peers and his worked beloved. Opposite Culkin is Emory Cohen as Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes, former Mayhem bandmate and convicted murdered of Euronymous. Cohen is bitterly intense with a historical figure whose committed arson and homicide and the New York City born actor uncomplicated approach to a complicated character had a natural phenomena about that would spook your soul from your body. Culkin and Cohen fed off each other’s energy to an explosive dynamic too good to be stagecraft. Another highlight from “Lords of Chaos,” though rather story line brief, is Val Kilmer’s son, Jack Kilmer, as Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead. Kilmer tackles a depressed introvert and, in one opinion, nails the mental deficiency metalhead who was ordained to take his own life with great savagary showmanship. The film also costars Sky Ferreira (“Green Inferno”), Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre (“Johnny Gruesome”), Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman (“Leatherface”), and Lucian Charles Collier.
If not paying attention, “Lords of Chaos” will slip under the radar since most audiences are conditioned to subsidize shiny cinema productions that make you feel all warm and cozy inside and spark wander and induce marvel and amazement. Åkerlund’s film will not send those sorts of puppy dog tingles down your spine. Many biopic films about ill-fated tragedy don’t do well with the general population; “Auto Focus” comes to mind with Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. Critics eat up the inherent black dramas like Cookie Crunch and “Lords of Chaos” exudes madness and misery through deep seeded vigor for fame and principle. Åkerlund deserves nothing but our admirable applause for delivering an unadulterated visualization of literal mayhem from soup to nuts.
Umbrella Entertainment releases onto DVD home video “Lords of Chaos,” a co-production from Gunpowder & Sky, 20th Century Fox, Vice Films, and Insurgent Media. Presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Umbrella Entertainment’s picture quality is exemplary in it’s natural, yet supernatural-like surrealistic manner in a clean digital presentation. Pär M. Ekberg’s depiction is hard-edge elegant and haunting with recreations of and the intertwinement of actual photos of Euronymous, Varg, and Dead. If you’ve seen “Polar,” you know Åkerlund and Ekberg brush stroke a fine line between reality and graphic novel much the same as “Lords of Chaos'” allegory. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix has high level attributes with clean and perceptible dialogue, a vast range of ambient noise, and a killer black metal soundtrack worth banging your head to. No bonus features accompany this title. “Lords of Chaos” is a heavy story that needed to be told and feels very much like a part of Åkerlund, an extension of himself through his past brought forward to illuminate the blackness in us all derived from the power of metal with a psycho-psychology that’s industrial-built.
Among the outskirts of Berlin lies a vacant and dilapidated Heilstätten hospital once used by the World War II Nazis to conducted “mercy deaths” for tuberculosis patients. Over the years, the hospital has remained dormant in its subsequent closure after the war and infamous labeled cursed and haunted during daytime tours, becoming the sole connection between instances of madness and murder through the decades. When a pair of YouTube pranksters and social media influencer gamble against each other on spending 24 hours inside the hospital for viral stardom to gain more followers, they’ll put the hospital’s paranormal notoriety to the test with the help of Heilstätten tour guide Theo as their access onto the grounds. With all the cameras set up and the stage set for an all-nighter spook show, their viral glory campaign becomes a malevolent presence’s bloodbath welcoming.
“Heilstätten,” also known as “Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten” under the North American market, is the gruesomely supernatural found footage horror film from “Potato Salad” director Michael David Pate. Pate, who also co-wrote the script with Ecki Ziedrich, helms his own perspective on the sanatorium (English term for Heilstätten) horror that offers more than just a phantom in hospital wings. Deranged and soulless Nazis performed immoral experiments on not just the Jewish people, but also sought to eradicate the sick for their feverish impurities, such as those afflicted with tuberculosis. “Heilstätten” pits history against the present in a egregious tone of respecting the past and diminishing the importance young social media influencers without a peck of smarts or appreciation.
The 2018 film stars “Tape_13’s” Sonja Gerhardt as Marnie, a social media star who records and implores people to face their worst faces, catching up with the group of YouTubers before they dig themselves deeper into their own graves. Gerhardt’s hard sell of her character doesn’t quite shape the sincerity in stopping the carnage before it happens as Marnie is the proverbial monkey wrench in the overnight blood bath. Marnie is drawn to Theo, an ex-lover that hasn’t quite severed her interests in him, played by Tim Oliver Schultz. As the tour guide breaking all the rules, Theo’s compulsion to help wavers on the idea of being just as renowned on the internet as those he’s helping, but there is more to meet the eye with Theo than the surface level material. The more complex characters revolve around the pranksters, Charly and Finn, played by Emilio Sakraya and Timmi Trinks, who become wedged by social media influencer Betty, Nilam Farooq. Charly’s strive for world wide web fandom drives him blind to the circumstances around him, especially when Finn and Betty become romantically involved, and despite Finn’s willingness to be part of the prank, his conscious breaks beyond Charly’s gimmicky barrier where lives actually do matter over stardom when people end up missing or dead at the hands of an ominous force. “Heilstätten” cast rounds out with Farina Flebbe, Maxine Kazis, Lisa Marie-Koroll, and Davis Schulz.
The trick about “Heilstätten’s” allure is the moments that the ghost film isn’t afraid of the blood and flesh bits founded upon a nicely laid foundation with the Nazis’ extermination activities and all the notorious lore surrounding a hospital. The hospital itself, Heilstätten, wasn’t created out of thin air just for the story sake. Pate and Ziedrick used the withering Beelitz Heilstätten as their base, utilizing actual historical facts, such as Adolf Hilter was treated at the hospital during World War I, to even further demonize the setting, but in reality, Beelitz Heilstätten rehabilitated the war wounded rather than mercy death the Tuberculosis-stricken. Yes, the hospital was Nazi occupied, but so did the Russians after the war. “Heilstätten” has rich backstory that basically breeds itself into a horror film. However, one aspect about what discourages “Heilstättens” effectiveness is the use of soundtrack for a found footage horror film. No found footage horror film should ever have a soundtrack that doesn’t add to the realism and renders the film more closely to William Malone’s “House on Haunted Hill” in more than one similarity.
Well Go USA Entertainment admits proudly Michael David Pate’s 20th Century Fox International produced “Heilstätten” onto a dual format, DVD and 1080p Blu-ray, release. The Region 1 and A, not rated film is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, that’s relatively free of problems. The second act shadows find definition hard to make out under the quick, stark edits, but the “Predator” heat vision is nice touch to liven things up when the darkness is as black as night. The German language DTS-HD Master Audio lives up to the supernatural maelstrom that cause the covers to be pulled up to your eyeballs with range and depth to personify the gloomy corridors and multi-level death snares. The hard-lined English subtitles are well synced and accurate and the release also offers up an English dub track. The DVD comes with an English language Dolby Digital track too. Bonus features a slim with a just a trailer to it’s name. “Heilstätten” is one effectively spooky, atmospherically creepy, and dreadfully engrossing good time with a full-bodied backstory topped with Blut und Eingeweide.
Kurt Cobain. Robert Johnson. Amy Winehouse. Jim Morrison. Jimi Hendrix. All these recording superstars have one tragic thing in common: their fame engrossed lives ending horribly, sometimes violently, at the young age of 27 at the height of their careers. Their deaths are a part of an elite group called the 27 Club that incorporates effervescent celebrities from all walks of fame. When another popular rock star ends up mysterious deceased a night after his concert, the same concert that student journalist Jason attended, the eager academic finds himself at the right place, at the right time while researching and documenting the notoriety of the 27 Club. While hallowing out the club’s infamy, Lily, a wild and struggling musician, enters his life on a connective collision course toward his research that evidently surrounds itself around an ancient Latin-based text. The book is binding to those seeking rock star status in exchange for their souls and with a steep decline in her musical career, Lily provokes satanic rituals with exploiting help from the love struck Jason, but the only thing Lily didn’t count on was her unexpected love for him back.
The actual 27 Club lore continues to be an interesting notion. A curiously notorious concept that flew under the radar for this reviewer up until happening upon and diving into the Patrick Fogarty’s written and directed soul-bargaining tale regarding the idea’s parameters as the film’s foundation. Fogarty, the staple music video director for bands such as Black Veil Brides and The Burning of Rome, tests his hand at satanic, soul-swallowing horror, simply titled “The 27 Club,” for Cleopatra Records cinematic sub-division, Cleopatra Entertainment, and is co-written a mythos script alongside “Clownsploitation’s” Joe Flanders and Michael Lynn. Even if nothing more than a freak coincidence, Fogarty processes an innovative take on the 27 Club that has spanned over century and, perhaps, provides a little education and knowledge to those outside the music industry.
Many iconic rock stars rise from the grave to spit philosophical truths and knowledge, constructed as miniature prologues of a chaptered story, intertwined with a relatively unknown cast beginning with headlining leading lady Maddisyn Carter as the toiled Lilly seeking refuge in any drug or sexual partner her beautiful disaster can ensnare in a world of deaf tone destruction. Her character is intended to be refracted by the introduction of the 27 Club research journalist, Jason (“Mutants'” Derrick Denicola), who just happens to be around when another musician kicks the proverbial bucket, but Carter maunders through the relationship with Jason and unable to materialize compassion, losing any slither of internal conflict Lilly may possess. Todd Rundgren, Cleopatra recording artist and a member of the progressive rock band, Utopia, headlines polar opposite of Carter on the cover of the home media release only and not as a chief player in this possession plot. The role downsizes his long legacy in the music biz and though a small role and acting isn’t Rundgren’s first love, the rocker tops as being one of the film’s better moments as a record store wise-guy patron doing the right thing and a creepy video-chatty music professor. “The 27 Club” tortures the cast of remaining souls with Adam Celantano, Kali Cook (“Victor Crowley”), Zack Kozlow (“Devil’s Domain”), Mr. Chromeskull himself Nick Principe (“Laid to Rest” and “Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2”), Jason Lasater (“Death Tunnel”), Zach Paul Brown, Emily Dalquist, Eugene Henderson, wrestling superstar John Hinnigan, Gogo Lomo-David, Tasha Tacosa (“Halloween Pussy Trap Kill Kill”), and, my personal favorite, Killjoy’s Victoria de Mare!
Novel backstory might be one thing, but a comprehensively sound one is another and while “The 21 Club” begins like a John Carpenter cask of embolism-depth imagination and beguiling, if not apocalyptic hinting, descent into oblivion, Fogarty’s film collapses when Lilly and Jason seek out a couple of drug dealers to understand the book’s portentous contents. Conveniency and rushed theatrics push a scene-to-scene overhaul that forgets to breathe and come up for air, losing that dramatic, dire consequence associated with a thriller. No consequences steep the pot to forge a luxury of sympathy or any type of relation toward the characters. Jason and Lilly’s dynamic was hot and cold at best and why Lilly kept Jason around after learning of his possession of the book is a complete mystery. The exposition isn’t conveyed properly in this instance and their coupling wipes on a thin wave toward the finale. There’s also the common motif of a sex tape – Jason records his and Lilly’s sexual encounter after a night of clubbing and Lilly’s record producer explicitly states if there’s a sex tape out there that might risk damaging her career – and then that information goes dark, nothing but crickets to line an explanation to why her sex tape would be important to the story. If a stipulation of her fame agreement with the reaper was to not lie or become involved scandalously entangled, the sex tape would be the perfect real world-relating catalyst that fully encompasses the fame-to-fallen storyline.
Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual release a sweet, multi-format package perfect for home entertainment of Patrick Fogarty’s “The 27 Club.” The all region DVD/Blu-ray combo set also includes the compact disc soundtrack to the movie that features music from Todd Rundgren featuring NIN’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, plus Die Klute, Bestial Mouths, The Anix, Jurgen Engler and more. The full HD, 1080p Blu-ray, which was viewed, is presented in a 1.78:1, widescreen, aspect ratio. The 97 minute digitally shot film has a wonderful color palate that often shutters from natural tones to one or two-toned primary color filters with also a desaturated approach to the 27 Club’s most recognizable members conducting a foggy room soliloquy. Banding issues have noticeable effects in various stages of darker scenes, especially surrounding a humanoid figure. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has insignificant bite through the multi channel conduit that denotes continuous issues with Cleopatra Entertainment’s home video releases. With a recording penchant for talent in the music industry, the expectation is high in delivering bombastic results flowing from one through five and presenting a singular comprehensive result, but the range and depth lack beside the powerhouse release and instead, find more solace in the third format of a traditional CD soundtrack content with great musical contents. Bonus features include two interviews with the film’s stars, Maddisyn Carter and Darrick Denicola, slideshow, trailers, and of course, a CD soundtrack all underneath a slipcovered jewel casing. “The 27 Club” spins a concoction of malediction around historical tragedy that’s more heinous hoopla and than harrowing horror and while the release bursts with razor sharp teeth and high pixelating resolution, channelling all the material rudimentary didn’t stay glued together in the end, hurting the character progressional arch and thinning out the hair-raising filament.