EVIL Goes Metal! “Project Metalbeast” reviewed! (Invincible Entertainment and MVDVisual / DVD)


A top secret CIA operation, known as Operation Lycanthropus, leads two agents to a Hungarian castle where they must retrieve a sample of werewolf blood in order to create the prototypical ultimate super soldier. With his partner’s throat ripped out during the initial werewolf attack, agent Butler manages to retrieve a sample after plugging the werewolf with metal bullets, but upon returning to the secret operation headquarters in the States, his supervisor, Agent Miller, and a team of scientists pursue a more subdued approach in synthesizing an advantageous killing machine. The unhinged and impatient Butler injects himself with the remaining blood sample, transforming him into a blood thirsty werewolf. After attacking and killing a scientist, Agent Miller neutralizes the beast and places him in cryogenic suspension, hidden away in the secured basement, for future sinister endeavors. Twenty years later, a new secret operation headquarters building is erected after the first burns down, clearing the way for a new team of scientist developing game changing medical technology for burn and cancer victims by creating artificial skin out of metal, but when the project is suddenly taken charge by Agent Miller, the bewildered and upset scientists are impelled to work on human cadaver trials, placing Agent Butler’s inanimate body on the operating table for a metal skin transplant. When he suddenly awakes, the base of unsuspecting scientists and military personnel come under attack by a formidable and blood hungry beast now armored plated with a metal exterior and virtually no way in stopping it’s vicious wrath.

Talk about an archetypical blend of classic and tech horror, “Project Metalbeast” exemplifies the age-old theme of scientific research being usurped for control and power and the end result is fatally catastrophic. Also known as “Proect Metalbeast: DNA Overload” and just plain ole “Metalbeast,” the film was written and directed by Alessandro De Gaetano (“Bloodbath in Psycho Town”) who spun a 1995 unorthodox werewolf feature that presaged playing God in more ways than one and added a fresh and new elemental armament to an iconic, and already super, beast on the prowl. Tom Irvin, Brad Hardin, David Barrett and Wesley Wofford, who makeup (no pun intended) the special effects team of Magical Media Industries, have credits that include the “Carnosaur” killer dinosaurs and a couple of the “Halloween” franchise sequels and have applied their combined tapestry of creative talents to bring a practical, larger-than-life metalbeast to the screen that’s not only monolithic in size, but also fearsomely primal with a glint of “Terminator” characteristics in its glowing red eyes. “Project Metalbeast” was one of the last semi-cult releases of Prism Entertainment Corporation, a company that chugged out some great B-horror films mainly in the 70s and 80s with titles such as “Eaten Alive” and “Body Melt,” and one of only a few films from the associated production company, Blue Ridge Entertainment.

Before taking Jason Voorhees to space to metalize the already the indestructible carnage incarnate, Kane Hodder did a test run stepping inside the augmented paws of a gnarled werewolf. Instead of space, Hodder grounds his performance by barely able to walk on two hind legs in the fabricated prosthetic suit, but the veteran stuntman and character actor is the dynamo practical effects horror version compared to today’s CGI-guru, Andy Sirkis, thriving tangibly polar opposite on the character effect sake, but Hodder captures the metalbeast’s utmost power gait and stance despite the extremely limited range of motion. Another symbol success in his own right is Barry Bostwick as Agent Miller. Bostwick is best known for his hero role in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but to me, he’ll always be the aloof mayor in Spin City opposite Michael J. Fox so it was challenging to accept Bostwick as a conniving cutthroat intelligence agent. Yet, the longtime actor has perfected the knack of being haughty in not only his performance, but in all his mannerisms, making Agent Miller a completely loathsome character undeterred by the sensitives of others. Opposite Agent Miller is the more rational and sensitive head scientist, Dr. Anna de Carlo, played by Kim Delaney who appeared in “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” that was released the same year. Delaney didn’t excel as the strong heroine one might expect her character to be thrust into a situation that calls for her to protect not only her life, but all the lives outside the base if the creature escapes and the scientist is more-or-less part of a splinter group derived from a team effort against the metalbeast. Costars include Musetta Vander (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”), Dean Scofield, Tim Duquette, Lance Slaughter, William G. Clark, and John Marzilli as the unhinged Agent Butler.

“Metalbeast” sounds like a metal title, but Gaetano works the orchestrated talents of Conrad Pope into the soundtrack and “Project Metalbeast,” at the time, was Pope’s scored feature as a composer, the classically trained musician has been the orchestrator on a variety of films, such as the films of “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” and “Harry Potter.” Yet, Pope’s score is akin to Harry Manfredini, a character of the story, that maneuvers coincidingly with the metalbeast while simultaneously triumphantly denotes specific scenes of dread, victory, and intense suspense with the latter being reminiscent of Mandfredini’s “Friday the 13th” brashly intrinsic cello and violin composition when Jason Voorhees would startle victims on the screen and chase them down a moonlit forest path. While Pope’s score is invigorating, the story leans more toward less so with a tediously uninspired quality regarding the film’s semblance of a comprehensive secret operations base that has corridors stunk of a standard hospital setting and story structure that fortunes little against the beast’s point of view in which Gaetano merely removes a few frames and adds a distortion effect to the picture that peers out of the eyes of a drunkard’s discombobulated staggering as well as leaving some plot holes with the bit characters, such as the other military police who simply just vanish though the character pool has been whittled down near the climax. Plus, Bostwick’s Agent Miller doesn’t age in the 20-year gap in the story, leaving any tidbits of truth versus a metallic werewolf as dust in the wind. Even with the faults, “Project Metalbeast” without a doubt is a product of it’s decade with a touch of lycanthropy campiness illuminating a sardonically augmented military killing machine.

Resurrected from the video graveyard and for the first time on a home video release in the States, or at least officially, Alessandro De Gaetano’s “Project Metalbeast” lands onto DVD from independent entertainment distributor, Invincible Entertainment, and partnered with MVDVisual. Presented in a full frame, 1.33:1, the transfer looks like either a VHS rip or a scan from an unofficial DVD release with heavily lossy details amongst a washed hue overlay. There’s some transfer imperfection, such as slight scratches, but is less intrusive than the soft image. The English language mono audio is bombastic, but there’s no strength behind the explosions, beast growls, and such to emphasis the impactful scenes. Dialogue remains in the forefront behind the ambience and, even, Conrad Pope’s powerful, but non-subversive score. Depth and range are acceptable as the camera and sound relation viably work hand-in-hand. The Invincible Entertainment release is nearly bare bones without an significant transfer upgrade, no bonus features, and barely a static menu. “Project Metalbeast” lives and breathes as a poster boy of a 1990’s revamped creature feature genre that transforms a classic monster into a man’s weaponized wet dream, but the film stutters as a reserved case of conservative metal monster mayhem.

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Sit Back and Enjoy EVIL’s Ride on the “American Rickshaw” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray Screener)


Scott Edwards, a struggling college student, works as a rickshaw runner on the vivacious streets of Miami. When a beautiful woman offers more than just the rickshaw fare for his service, Scott reluctantly accompanies her on a private boat secured at the local harbor for a night of sensual loving, but Scott finds himself in the middle of a voyeuristic scheme by being videotaped behind a two-way mirror and before fully copulating, Scott roughs up the secret cinematographer and the woman escapes. After realizing he forgot the tape, Scott returns to the boat to discover the man dead and all the evidence points to him, framing him for the murder. On the run and being hunted down by Miami PD and the actual killer, Scott embarks on a mission to clear his name, with the help from the woman on the boat, a stripper named Victoria, and a Chinese witch named Madame Luna, during a pivotal time of Chinese mythology that pits good versus evil entrenched sordidly around a renowned televangelist.

Perhaps one of the most offbeat action-fantasy-horror movies to come out of the U.S. in the late 1980’s, the “American Rickshaw” cinematic experience can be a mesmerizing 97 minutes of claptrap theology and clandestine villainy bedim by a witch’s obscured telepathy powers of fire, snakes, and unveiling evil with a human to pig physical transformation. Also known as “American Tiger” in the States and “American riscio” in Italy, the film has the sensation of a blend of various filmmaking abstracts and for very good reason, it is. Notable Italian filmmaker, Sergio Martino (“Torso” and “Slave of the Cannibal God”), helms the cultivation of a big-ticket American production with the ethereal supernatural essence invoked by the Europeans that results into being one of complex whirlwind of a story from a script penned by Martino, Roberto Leoni (“Sex Diary”), Maria Perrone Capano (Beyond Kilimanjaro, Across the River of Blood”), and Sauro Scavolini (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key”). Dania Film, Medusa Distribuzione, and National Cinematografica serve as the Italian production companies responsible for the “Rickshaw’s” wild ride through Miami heat.

With a premise already on a high bonkers plane, “American Rickshaw’s” curiosity extends to the casting of an American Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, the perfect 10 recording Mitch Gaylord, is cast as the male lead, Scott Edwards. The physically fit Olympic hero with little-to-no experience or exposure in acting to his name became the story’s prime suspect on the run from not only the law, but a merciless goon embodied by “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark’s” Daniel Greene. Greene already had an established relationship with Sergio Martino, having worked previously with the director on “Hands of Steel” and “The Opponent,” marking “American Rickshaw” as his first collaborated effort in being the story’s villain, Francis, who is seemingly more of the antagonist foe for Scott Edwards than his sect master, Reverend Mortom, a masquerading televangelist seeking to exploit an ancient Chinese relic for nefarious purposes and it’s “Halloween’s” Donald Pleasance to be the face of what would be established as quintessential evil. Pleasance seemingly goes along with the story even when has to snort like a pig during the character’s climatic ending, but is enveloped in a rather mundane, behind-the-scenes puppet master preaching a good biblical hellfire and brimstone game only to be castrated as a backseat bad guy with little to no vice exploration other than swindling the Chinese witch while dolled up in a kimono. The cast rounds out with Victoria Prouty, Darin De Paul, Roger Pretto and Regina Rodriguez and Michi Kobi as the young and old Madam Luna.

I’m one who never likes to research movies before watching them; I believe knowing the film in and out before viewing will more than likely become ruinous toward the quality of perception and cement a foundation of fixed judgement before the opening title credits roll. I don’t even like reading the film’s synopsis for the fear of spoiling too much on too little so I sat down with “American Rickshaw” knowing virtually nothing about the Marino anomaly and coming out relatively pleased, strangely piqued, and from start-to-finished bewildered. Off the bat, “American Rickshaw” could be grossly compared to be the East Coast variation of or, perhaps, the Italian answer to “Big Trouble in Little China” that channels less Chinese mysticism for more mysterious thriller. There are some noticeable similarities between the two films, such as for the obvious uncanny powers of Madam Luna, and then the not so obvious, but maybe more of a referential nod to John Carpenter’s film with the main character sporting a graphic tank top of a tiger that’s familiar with Jack Burton’s graphic yin-yang tank top, the young and old versions of Madam Luna resemble the young and old versions of Lo-Pan, and the scene where a prominent character gets runover by a big, red semi-truck. You know, the kind of rig Jack Burton mows down Lo-Pan with? “American Rickshaw” pales in comparison or, perhaps, shouldn’t be compared at all as Martino’s spellbinds his work by riddling it with cross cuts that attempts to discern solely by optics that swiss cheeses your mind as it tries to fill in the gaps of where the hell did that snake come from? Why did the key burn through his hand? Why is the stripper key to Scott’s Journey? What’s the reason behind Scott’s year of the tiger birth date significance toward his impelled Chinese zodiac destiny? There lies so many questions, but very few are answered; Yet, “American Rickshaw” is the wonderland tour Martino fabricates as some dysfunctional vision quest mapped with spontaneous witchery, horoscope horrors, and a devil pig in human clothing.

As the second half of the inaugural releases of Cauldron Films, “American Rickshaw” receives a limited edition Blu-ray release with a 2k restoration scan from the original camera negative. Since the review is based off a Blu-ray screener and not a physical copy, only 1500 copies being release, the A/V aspects of the package will not be critiqued, but this unrated 80’s hybrid action-fantasy-horror will receive the works, including a limited edition high quality slipcase with new artwork by Mattias Frisk, a reverse covering featuring the Italian artwork, and a booklet inside with writings by grindhouse comics writer and Tough to Kill co-author, David Zuzelo. The picture will be presented in a widescreen, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, with an English language LPCM dual channel audio track with optional English SDH subtitles. Bonus material aplenty with an one-on-one interviews with director Sergio Martino and production designer Massimo Antonello lamenting about the film while as providing a stark difference between Italian and American filmmaking in the late 1980s, a then and now look at filming locations, The Production Booth Podcast, including commentary from Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger discussing the zaniness of “American Rickshaw,” and an image gallery. Distinct beyond anything else you’ll ever see and indelible with solid practical effects, “American Rickshaw” deserves the upgraded, horror-marketed update set apart from the poorly sultry, softcore porn “American Tiger” U.S. release that stiffens the story’s true self on retail shelves.

EVIL’s Infectious Paranoia and Fear Spreads Rampant in “She Dies Tomorrow” reviewed! (Neon / Digital Screener)


A despondent Amy is convinced she will die tomorrow. Wanting nothing more than to be useful in her death, she wishes for her skin to be sewn into a leather jacket, much like hardwood floors are elegantly fabricated from cut down trees. When her friend Jane checks in on her once alcoholic friend to ensure that Amy hasn’t fallen off the sober wagon, she brushes off Amy’s death talk as nonsensical, ruminating verbiage, but Amy’s intense convictions of imminent death spread like a contagion, serving up paranoia, fear, and hopelessness to every ear reached. Like wild fire, the prospect of death begins to infect a chain of people directly and indirectly connected to the source, Amy, and there’s no stopping the terror that looms knowing that’ll their fate is sealed in an ill-fated predestination that is seemingly coming tomorrow.

What if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? What sensations could possibly overwhelm your rationality? Are there differences in how we react between apparent death and actual death? These are all questions posed without much elucidation in Amy Seimetz’s 2020 sophomore full-feature film directorial, “She Dies Tomorrow,” coming eight years behind the writer-director’s 2012 debut road trip thriller, “Sun Don’t Shine.” Seinmetz, who has battled Xenomorph’s in Oliver Stone’s “Alien: Covenant,” tried to escaped animal masked killers in “You’re Next,” and burdened the supernatural forces of a Native American burial ground in the remake of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” has wriggled her way in front of the camera with indie and big budget thrillers in the last decade, but has also found a small, but significant, auteur niche behind the camera as well, exploring the human dynamic in an avant garde veneer that involves the very core of what affects us all – death – in what Seinmetz describes it’s spread as an “ideological contagion” and how processing our determined for us death date can morbidly spill into what little life is left. “She Dies Tomorrow” is majorly self-funded project by Seinmetz, whose quoted that “Pet Sematary” paid for the film in full, and it gave the filmmaker nearly total autonomy in stylizing her vision of a dry, dark comedy with science fiction and horror elements that bridge the reality and fantasy gulf. Also, Rustic Film’s Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson also serve as producer. Moorhead and Benson, two filmmakers who I admire quite a lot, have proven to invest and create new and fresh otherworldly features, such as “The Endless” and “After Midnight.”

Returning to collaborate with Seinmetz is the director’s lead star from “Sun Don’t Shine,” Kate Lyn Sheil, portraying “She Dies Tomorrow’s” first despaired, Amy. The New Jersey born actress has built a career working with Seinmetz, co-starring alongside her in such as “You’re Next” and in television with “The Girlfriend Experience,” the latter being co-created by Seimetz, but Sheil has also established a wealthy career on her outside the Seinmetz bubble, landing a reoccurring role on the Kevin Spacey turmoiled Nextflix series, “House of Cards” and staying steadily busy with filmic roles over the last five years that has been continues even into the new decade. As Amy, Sheil decompresses Amy’s gloom upon the world in a manner of a stumbling, lost soul trying to find ways of being useful after death. Amy’s alcoholic issues are relatively on the backbunner, adding past strife to her character, but not really the centric focus of Amy’s communicable mellow anxiety. Each of the infected express their contract in a multitude of different ways. “Poltergeist” remake’s Jane Adams engrosses Jane’s fear around how she’ll die that then spreads to her on-screen brother, Chris Messina (“Birds of Prey”) and his snarky wife, Katie Aselton (“Black Rock”) who process as a natural parental fear and duty to comfort and control what they conceive as the inevitable. As the spate of infections increase, the fear lineage evokes honesty, regrets, sympathy, acceptance, and wonder from the support cast that includes Josh Lucas (“Session 9), Michelle Rodriguez (“Resident Evil”), Adam Wingard (director of “The Guest” and “You’re Next”), Jennifer Kim, Tunde Adebimpe, Olivia Taylor Dudley (“Dude Bro Party Massacre III”), Kentucker Audley (“V/H/S”), and Madison Calderon.

“She Dies Tomorrow” cultivates responses to the spreading of the ideological contagion rather than express just exactly how these people will die. Are they so sure they’ll die tomorrow to the point of inflicting self-harm? The story never really takes it that far to exhibit where the individuals, riddled with anxiety, their mortal status will land, whether it’s gratuitous gruesome or just nature taking course. Seinmetz makes light their becoming stricken with dying. While I mean in a more dry humor context, I also literally mean the filmmaker makes light, like the luminescence emitting from a rainbow firefly, glow upon characters’ faces inside Jay Keitel’s cinematography when death strikes their senses like an epiphany. The grim future washes away everything in their past, a key point of obsession honed in by the filmmaker that platforms the short span till death overshadows much, if not all, of our past achievements in life. The obsession is so strong and overwhelming that you, yourself, will start thinking about your own demise, whether it’ll be tomorrow or another 50 years from now, to which then sympathy for each of these characters will begin to set in and remain until the credits roll. “She Dies Tomorrow” seethes as a colorfully cosmic thanatophobia amplified by the current pandemic climate and common death anxiety, furthering Amy Seinmetz’s growth as a gifted filmmaker.

Neon presents the distribution of Amy Seinmetz’s “She Dies Tomorrow,” coming to drive-in theaters on July 31st and landing on video on demand the following week, August 7th. Since this was a digital screener of an upcoming move, there are no home video specifications to review, but Jay Keitel’s scenes are softly lit, down to Earth, and turn ethereal during the flashing of lights. The score by the composing duo, Mondo Boys, reteams Seinmetz with the soft, haunting melodies that can invoke a classical sadness and presage inside princely compositions that included interweaving Mozart’s Requiem into the mix. There were no bonus features included with this screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “She Dies Tomorrow” is a well-crafted, well-timed harrowing allegory on the psychological properties of coping in the face of death.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcMFjCPkP3M]

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Nothing Will Stop EVIL From Being EVIL! “Chaos” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment & Code Red / Blu-ray)


Visiting home on break from UCLA, Angelica visits her close friend, Emily, at her parents’ secluded country home. With nothing else better to do in the small rural town just outside Los Angeles, the two teenage girls set off early to attend a local rave deep within the woods at the reluctance of Emily’s overprotective parents and to kickstart what could be a drink and dance fueled night, they aim to push the limits and find a drug pusher to score ecstasy as the first priority to make a dull party fun. They run into Swan who promises the best ecstasy as he leads them to his cabin away from the rave. What Angelica and Emily find is themselves caught in the middle of a ploy by a sadistic gang lead by the ruthless Chaos, whose wanted in 4 states for his barbaric and merciless methods and looking for something fun to play with and torture. The cat-and-mouse game with the girls makes an interesting turn when the gang arrives at Emily’s parents’ house when their van breaks down and the parents suspect them in Emily’s sudden disappearance, veering the night into unreserved chaos.

“Chaos” is the intended true love song remake to Wes Craven’s 1972 sadistically vile “The Last House on the Left” that’s co-produced by Marc Sheffler, who play Junior Stillo in Craven’s film, and, at one time, Krug himself, David Hess, was attached to the project. “Chaos’s” conception is the brain child of Steven Jay Bernheim and David DeFalco, with the DeFalco wielding the hammer of writer and director, and the pair have collaborated a few years earlier on another DeFalco directorial, a comedy horror entitled “The Backlot Murders.” In the eyes of the filmmakers, the amply charged exploitative “Chaos” shares more in common with the original “The Last House on the Left,” despite having no official connection other than the ties with Marc Sheffler, and that the more commercialized remake of the same original title, released four years after “Chaos” in 2009 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), lost that raw camerawork and visceral storytelling that depicted the abhorrent human malevolency that’s capable from within us all. “Chaos” is essentially a self-funded project from Steven Jay Bernheim’s Bernheim Productions.

Though Sage Stallone, the late son of the iconic action movie star, Sylvester Stallone, receives front cover bill due to, in perhaps, his name alone, but the film is called “Chaos” which centers the story around the “Heat” and “Laid to Rest” actor, Kevin Gage. In some kind of cosmic circumstances in regards to recent events, before the Kelly Preston settled into married life with John Travolta, she was once wedded to Gage, marking “Chaos” as a timely film from 2005 and a just so happened upon my lap occurrence for this review. Yet, Gage, a seemingly giant of a man with a resemblance build toward WWE/WWF’s legendary Bill Goldberg, utilizes his intimidation appearance, transferring all the good and gentleness that’s described of him from fellow costars into a pure embodiment of evil whose misogynistic, bigoted, a killer, and just a downright bad guy giving way a testament to the character’s adverse moniker. Gage brings to the table a formidable tone, viperous wit, and a clean cut brutality in the most sordid and unforgettable ways that makes him stick out as portraying one of the most inhumane villains in the last 15 years of the cinematic universe. Chaos’s infamy is by ingenious design from the Marc Sheffler and David DeFalco collaborations who, along with the actors’ faux backstories, meticulously craft each of the gang’s personalities. Sage Stallone’s Swan seems like a similar parallel version of Sage in reality as a chain-smoking, reserved individual sans the perverse context. “The Love Witch’s” Stephen Wozniak is a complimenting character that offerings a different personality with Frankie and Frankie’s feels like a two-bit slime ball with long, greasy hair, an unkempt beard, and a scrawny figure but can produced an evil that’s step or two back from Chaos; Frankie is a character you’ll love and you’ll love to hate, making Wozniak’s performance singular and one of the best in the film. Then, there’s Daisy, the only female of the group though more butch than delicate, and Kelly K.C. Quann (“Baberellas”) adds a dose of Southern inhospitality to Daisy’s brutish beauty. “Chaos” rounds out with a bunch of victims; hell, everyone’s a victim, but the cast includes Deborah Lacey, Scott Richards, Maya Barovich, Chantal Degroat, Ken Medlock, and Jeb Barrows.

“Chaos” absolutely equates toward the unflinching callous themes from “The Last House on the Left” of violence amongst various degrees of people, youthful ingenuousness, and systematic racism with the latter being extremely relevant and on point, years earlier, of the current social climate in America. Yet, with any remake, “Chaos” yearns to stand on its own by instituting an unmeasurable sense of graphic violence that will churn stomachs, advert eyes, and belly-up the throes of disgust. For a good portion of “Chaos,” the exploitation narrative is fairly run-of-the-mill, damn near walks the same line as Craven’s story, with a sadistic gang kidnapping two young women for their own amusement only to then wander unknowingly into the arms of retributive parents, but two scenes sticky out and go beyond the course of customary exploitation fodder and into necrophilia, mutilation of body parts, and a perverse way to kill another human being with such tactless intentions that the act makes the other gang members splay questions, doubt, and fear amongst their faces. The film opens up with a written warning, not so much on the intense scenes themselves, but resembling more of a public service announcement for parents that what you’re about to see does and will happen to the youth of land, but these shocking scenes are just that, for shock value, and that a small percentage of people partake in such grisly matters. “Chaos” is violence upon violence, leaving no room for conscious absolving resolutions in the unofficial capacity of a remake that pungently separates itself with extreme violence and that’s saying something considering Craven’s visceral first course.

As the bestow flagship release of Dark Force Entertainment, “Chaos” arrives onto a deluxe special edition Blu-ray in association with Code Red and distributed by MVDVisual. Transferred through to a 1080p, high definition scan, from the original 35mm negative, complete with extensive color correction, and presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. “Chaos” doesn’t look very chaotic anymore in regards to the image quality; instead, the before stardom cinematography by Brandon Trost (“Lords of Salem” and “Halloween” remake) creates the voyeuristic position of the audience is now visually distinct with stable color markers that are more in tune with the premise’s raw approach. The English language dual channel stereo mix renders softer than desired, especially in the first act as Angelica and Emily converse through the woods. The teenagers dialogue are nearly mumbling on their rave trek with depth issues perplexing their relation to camera. Range seems to be well faceted: rustling leaves through the woods, the clank-clunks of a rustic van, the ground skirmishes. All seem to exude exact decimals of their intended value. Even the firing of firearms has a pleasantry about it. The special features include brand new interviews with co-producer Marc Sheffler, who goes in-depth pre-production and production while also touching upon his other interests before concluding with director David DeFalco and a man in a banana suit making an appearance and offering up dick jokes, and actor Stephen Wozniak with a fountain of information about his time on production, his fellow cast, and about the filmmakers as he is being interviewed in front of a locomotive museum. I love the absurd, obscurity of it all. The bonus material rounds out with commentary from the director and producer as well as the original theatrical trailer. The lewd and radical “Chaos” has engrossing roots of violence that burgeon into realm of rarity or, if not, into sadomishsim extended by the filmmaker’s deepest darkest desire, but what’s transpires on screen is difficult to look away from which begs the question, is it morbid curiosity or is there something far more sinister within us all?

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EVIL’s Greatest Trick Was Convincing The World Giallo Was Dead. “Abrakadabra” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray Screener)


In Milan 1951, a prestigious magician, Dante the Great, is tragically killed when a deadly trick goes wrong. Fast forward 30 years later, the magician’s son, Lorenzo Manzini, has trouble finding his own success following his father’s footsteps as a struggling magician. The night before his grand debut, a woman has been gruesomely murdered on the very stage his father had died. As a compulsive gambler and an excessive drinker in over his head in debt, Manzini goes on with the show, but the events following his performance inspire a grisly, sadistic murderer to uses magic tricks to kill and point all evidence toward him. Hounded by a mysterious, chain-smoking detective, a frantic Manzini must split his efforts toward his own investigation into the murders, but as the bodies start to pile up and the evidence grows even more against him, there may not be anything left in Manzini’s bag of tricks to prove his innocence.

In the old traditions of an Italian murder-mystery, “Abrakadabra” is the 2018 released giallo inspired film from the Argentinian filmmaking brothers, Luciano and Nicolas Onetti, along with Carlos Goitia serving as the third wheel scriber on the script. The trio have worked previously on one other project from 2017, another horror of course, with the haunted ruins premised, “What the Waters Left Behind.” With the Onetti’s being brothers, their collaboration runs deeper, sharing an affinity for the genre that has inspired the duo to collaborate on another giallo thriller, “Francesca” in 2015 and “Deep Sleep,” where Nicolas served as producer to Luciano’s writing and directing duties. “Abrakadabra,” as well as “Francesca,” are not only far cries from the haunting and terrifying reminiscence of the ruins in “What the Waters Left Behind,” but also varies in direction, cinematography, and production design that more in lines with giallo hallmarks, such as extreme closeups, awkward camera angles, and posh interiors. “Abrakadabra” is a production of the Nicholas Onetti and Michael Kraetzer New Zealand founded company, Black Mandala, and another Nicholas production company on a more localized level with Guante Negro (Black Glove) Films co-founded with brother, Luciano.

Despite being dubbed in a fine-tuned homage of an Italian overlay track, the actors involved are hail from South America, as where the film is shot. The story centers around Lorenzo Manzini, played by German Baudino (“2/11: Day of the Dead”), and Baudino shepherds Manzini toward the brink of desperation, spinning out of control from the malevolent forces that seem to be binding his hands to gruesome murders. Baudino captures the marks of the giallo fervor in his animated performance, especially when running through a memorial park with arms flailing and a streak of fear across his face, but since it’s a murder mystery swarming around Manzini, the magician’s encounters with other rich characters comes key to unravelling Manzini’s dubious circumstances. His lovely assistant Antonella (Eugenia Rigon), the lurking chain-smoking detective (Gustavo Dalessanro), and a hospice-housed convicted murderer (Abel Giannoni) become cryptic pawns that turns “Abrakadabra’s” into a deadly game of chess soused deep into the thralls of a calculated whodunit. The remaining cast, including Clara Kovacic (“Jazmin”), Ivi Brickell, Raul Gederlini (“Francesca”), Pablo Vilela, Alejandro Troman, and Luz Champane, are perhaps the weakest link in the chain to hold “Abrakadabra” back from being a well-rounded giallo. There presence seemingly come into the fold without much creditability to their substance toward the story are, some of them, are easily dispatched with the same loosy-goosiness that firmly dilute their characters.

You have to give the Onetti brothers tremendous credit. Their attention to detail techniques, production design, and overall wardrobe schemes accomplished a toppling feat in taking the natural aesthetics, textures, and sounds of an Argentinian setting shot film and transformed all the blatant aspects to resemble an Italian giallo filmed in Italy from the 70’s or 80’s. Yet, does the veneer alone make “Abrakadabra” a good giallo film or just an immaculate carbon copy? The Onetti’s certainly know enough to exact a perfect replica as seen in “Francesca,” which was my first experience with the Onetti brothers, but “Abrakadabra” is a step backwards form “Francesca” from a story standpoint with some mishmash editing and character underdevelopment around the midsection of the second act that immobilizes the story from going forward properly, leaving the lead character Manzini in a circular rut rather than a tailspin to the climax. The prologue of Dante the Great’s accident and the twist ending that harks back to a opening Harry Houdini quote, “What the eyes see and the ears here…the mind believes,” solidifies as the best riveting acts of the Onettis’ film that becomes equalized negatively by a drab dynamic interior. In any case and though an Argentinian production “Abrakadabra” is an invigorating slice of Italian cinema with razor-sharp characteristics and a well shrouded and gloved killer.

Open sesame on the inaugural, limited edition Blu-ray, release of “Abrakadabra” from the new genre distributor on the block, Cauldron Films, who plans to release a full slate of cult films from 70s and 80s in the coming months. Limited to only 1000 copies, the Blu-ray release will include inserts of promotional artwork, a limited edition high quality slipcase with original poster art, and a CD soundtrack with music by Luciano Onetti. However, I won’t be able to review in full the finished package or the audio and video qualities as this review is based off a disc screener, but I can tell you reaffirm that DP Carlos Goitia’s scenes are amazing well established, lit, and a glimpse into the past. The Luciano Onetti score can be invasive at times, but a pure product of the electro-synth rock that goes hand-in-hand with the giallo cinematography. Audio options include an Italian 5.1 surround sound, and an Italian and English 2.0 stereo that come with optional English and Spanish subtitles. Accompanying the unrated 70 minute film is the theatrical trailer and raw behind-the-scenes footage without subtitles. As Cauldron Film’s maiden release, “Abrakadabra” is anything but hocus-pocus with a bloody homage to Italian giallo films complete with a vital synthesizing soundtrack and a shocking twist finale.

“Abrakadabra” Available on Prime Video!