An Experiment Backfiring with EVIL Payback. “Moonchild” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

An Inhuman government body of a dystopian future experiments with genetic splicing to create the ultimate weapon, known as Project Moonchild, against the human rebellion. That weapon, Jacob Stryker, is unaware of his newly encoded abilities when he escapes one of their holding labs to rescue his captive son from the very same apathetic regime. Stryker teams up with a group of human rebels and uncover by mistake Stryker’s hidden super solider talent of turning into an unstoppable beast – a werewolf. Hellbent on taking down his son’s brainwashing captives by any means necessary and to do it before an intestinal bomb explodes within 72 hours, Stryker convinces the rebels to assist him and now they have an ace in the pocket as they traverse in search for Stryker’s boy, encountering android and mutant bounty hunters, cannibalistic human survivors, and a surfeit of governmental soldiers hot on his tail, but when the werewolf comes out, Project Moonchild is out to seek and destroy those son-stealing son-a-of-bitches by ripping them to shreds.

Director Todd Sheets has long been considered one of the kings of SOV. The “Zombie Rampage” and “Clownado” Kansas City filmmaker writes and directs “Moonchild,” the 1994 direct-to-video, post-societal, lycanthropy actioner is Sheets’ attempt in splintering himself away from the gore. The American Prince of Gore and the Master of Splatter accomplishes the lessened bloodletting and liquid innards coming outwards werewolf feature with a dystopian rescuer that pits what remains of a separatist human society on a verge of collapse to go on a quest to cure a dividing mutation affliction and to go up against the malign immortals of killers and assassins constructed with nuts and bolts and sawblades on a super independent budget. The ambitious project comes with car chases, a large cast, and a hairy beast that fights for family! Executive producer Greg Petrak returns to Todd Sheets’ side after “Bloodthirsty Cannibal Demons” and is a production of Sheets’ very own Extreme Entertainment, a now 34-year standing product company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Feel old yet?

Playing the lab rat, the werewolf, and the integral hero, Jacob Stryker, to the story is Auggi Alvarez (“Zombie Bloodbath”) as a widowed father who will stop at nothing to save his son Caleb (Stefan Hilt) in the hands of iron-hearted inhuman leader, Lothos (Harry Rose). Alvarez, like much of the rest of the cast, fall into a monotonal expositional black hole that can make “Moonchild” a slog between the excitement. While fleeing captivity, Stryker runs into Rocky (Julie King, “Zombie Bloodbath 2”), Talon (Dave Miller, “Violent New Breed”), and Athena (Kathleen McSweeney, “Violent New Breed), a band of underground resistant fighters who are desperate enough to overthrow the authoritarian ruling class that’s comprised of henchmen with duct tape masks and are skippered by a mustache wearing an unadorned samurai kabuto helmet – catching a tad resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Lord Helmet of “Space Balls.” If you have noticed already, the cast is an entourage of Todd Sheets regulars, a small niche of actors and actress with close ties to the Master of Splatter and have reoccurring roles in most the director’s early 90s indie gems. That trend continues with Carol Barta (“Prehistoric Bimbos in Armeggedon City”) as the bounty hunter, Medusa. Looking more like your next-door neighbor grandmother, Medusa is viper-tongued assassin with an unforgettable cackle and a throaty super ability that’ll inject nightmares for nights to come. Barta’s performance is one of those cliched it’s so bad, its good acts that you have to see to believe. Cathy Metz, Kyrie King, Rebecca Rose, Jody Rovick, and Mike Hellman round out the cast.

Character names drenched with Greek mythology inspiration and a contemporary take on the werewolf canon, “Moonchild” is an interesting and unorthodox story to say at least. Todd Sheets had obviously perfected the limited capabilities of S-VHS shooting or was confident enough to build in a lengthy car chase into a project that didn’t rely on disgusting audiences with blood and guts, but rather actionable thrills and singular characters of the post-apocalypse with only a smidgen of horror. You see, the werewolf doesn’t make too many appearances on screen, only surfacing from beneath Jacob Stryker’s human skin twice in total. The wolfish transformation is shoddy but for the budget, there is an appreciation for the amazing looking effect as well as the other practical effects throughout the feature. “Moonchild’s” pacing can be concernedly plodding to make sure the exposition covers aspect of Stryker’s intentions, slowing down the film to the point sluggishness. It doesn’t help that the scripted word-for-word, automaton performances are not tonally textured with droning dialogue that can’t captivate and contributes to the fatigue at times. Though “Moonchild” is an evolving project for Sheets with conviction in his ability to produce, there are still some editing continuity blunders that downgrade the overall result. Upward closeup shots of Julie King as she looks down when supposedly holding a rifle on Auggi Alvarez show her hand mock holding a rifle as it comes into the frame and then the next cut is the actress actually holding a rifle. Another scene involving King has her smash in the head of a traitor on a concrete floor and the next shot is of her running down the hallway away from where the body should be but wasn’t. The corpse had vanished. Howlers, pun intended, like these conspicuous examples are what depreciate an already discounted movie, curbing any kind of recognition for Todd Sheets going outside his blood and guts comfort zone.

As one of Visual Vengeance’s SOV cult-horror titles, we come to expect temperamental image and sound quality from the Wild Eye Releasing banner due to the consumer grade S-VHS equipment and the novicey of the filmmakers as, and mostly related to the former, Visual Vengeance warns of prior to the start of every feature so thus far, but the 50GB, MPEG-4 encoded, 2-disc Blu-ray set, that presents the feature in 1080p of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is the best technical-looking SOV to date for the company. Hardly any tracking issues, artefact issues, and any tape distortion of any kind and while still lacking premium quality as we all expect today, nothing is taken away from “Moonchild’s” original SD master transfer that is a director supervised. The single soundtrack audio option is an English analogue 1.0 mono mix and the dialogue as well as the score come over nicely despite a less punchy channel output. There’s a steady, feature length electrical interference from start-to-finish that is no surprise and is not terribly audio intrusive. Depth suffers mostly with the type of equipment that doesn’t filter and level out ambient noise, but the range of sound is pleasant with the added clip tracks. English subtitles are option. The bonus features include two new audio commentaries – director Todd Sheets and star Auggi Alverz and Todd Shoots and Visual Vengeance. Other bonus features include the alternate VHS cut, Wolf Moon Rising documentary, archival behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews featurette, the original VHS trailer, deleted ending, the Todd Sheets’ directed music video Burn the Church by the now defunct Kansas City-based, goth metal band Descension, short film “Sanguinary Desires,” trailer for Todd Sheets “Bonehill Road,” and other Visual Vengeance trailers.” The phyical release comes with a 2nd disc, a bonus audio CD of the movie soundtrack, reversible cover art featuring original VHS cover on the inside, new art on the clear cased Blu-ray snapper, and original art on the cardboard slipcover by The Dude Designs aka Thomas Hodge. Inside the snapper lining are four-page liner notes by Matt Desiderio, folded mini poster of the snapper front cover, and the standard VHS throwback sticker sheet. “Moonchild” on a Visual Vengeance Blu-ray comes unrated, region free, and with a runtime of 87-minutes. Todd Sheets is a maniacal moviemaking machine with “Moonchild” being released a decade after the gorehound began and there’s plenty of admirable spirit and effects in the Kansas City werewolf in dystopia tale, but one can’t shrug off the oversights and the exasperating exposition that goes way off trail the turbulent path of indie filmmaking.

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

The Dark One’s EVIL Sucks the Air Out of You! “Robot Holocaust” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Year 2033 – a robot rebellion turned the once convenient machines into man’s most deadly adversary.  The aftershock of war has left mankind almost extinct and most of the atmosphere uninhabitable with radiation.  The last standing metropolis on what is now known as New Terra has the only breathable environment monopolized by the tyrannical Dark One, a disembodied machine that uses human slave labor to fuel the air producing contraption for the entire city.  A motley band of heroes, led by an outsider from a wasteland tribe who can breathe the toxic air, embark on a perilous journey to the Dark One’s factory lair, evading deadly flesh-eating worms, wasteland mutants, and a ruthless robot subordinates under the command of the Dark One.   Their mission is to rescue a purloined scientist after developing a device that lets people breathe outside the Dark One’s grip of a controlled environment.

The 1980s is a goldmine for post-apocalyptic cinema that has virtually no ambit.  Whether a big Hollywood studio or a rinky-dink production, inhospitable badlands filled with cutthroat survivors and malformed beings unfortunate enough to be left alive to battle it out to the death over the Earth’s last remaining precious resources was (and to an extent, still is) a salivating story prospect with vast barren landscapes, dangers around every corner, an untamed primal violence, and a BDSM-like wardrobe that hits the suppressed kink nerve in all of us.  Tim Kincaid’s “Robot Holocaust” is right smack dab in the middle of the subgenre and plays tune to every crowd-pleasing characteristic.  The 1987 post-apocalypse actioner is written-and-directed by Kincaid who cut his teeth on gay adult films in the late 1970’s and has maintained a healthy dose of homosexual erotic and adult films throughout his career until 2017 under his pseudonym of Joe Gaga.  After complete stag only cheapies “Cellblock #9” and “…in the Name of Leather,” Kincaid received a hankering to dip his directorial toes into sci-fi and horror, beginning with the sexual assaulting alien flick “Breeders” in 1986.  “Robot Holocaust” became the filmmaker’s subsequent feature one year later, shot mostly in the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard buildings as well as the undeveloped then Roosevelt Island in New York City.  Presented by Wizard Video (“I Spit on Your Grave”), Tycan Entertaiment and Taryn Productions are the companies behind the film. Taryn Productions is a subsidiary created by Charles Band (“Puppet Master’) and named after his daughter Taryn. Cynthia De Paula produces the film, who she almost exclusively produces every Kincaid sci-fi horror fixation, and the film likely supported by Charles Band in an executive producer role.

“Robot Holocaust” follows the narrative of a ragtag bunch of good-guy survivors journeying to rescue a friend and take down a tyrannical overlord.  While not one role stands as a principal lead, the band of heroes is led by Neo, played by Norris Culf.  Starring in his first lead role following a couple of smalltime gigs in supporting roles in another Taryn Production, “Necropolis,” and in Tim Kincaid’s “Breeders,” Culf receives his big break as a wasteland conqueror able to breathe outside in the radioactive atmosphere.   As a leader, Culf isn’t as charismatic as Keanu Reeves’ Neo nor is he fierce enough to be intimidating; instead, Culf is quite reserved, unpowerful, and lacks coordination to pull off choreographed fight sequences with a believable plausibility.  Nyla, on the hand, is played Jennifer Delora of “Frankenhooker” and “Fright House.”  Delora, an martial arts blackbelt, brought the proper attitude to her fiercely feministic leader of the She Zone women tribe by adding the mean to Nyla’s demeanor.  The other woman of the group is Deeja, Jorn the Scientist’s daughter who terribly reliant on her father, sparking major contrast between her delicacy in daddy issues and Nyla’s hardnosed, man-hating feminism.  Nadine Hartstein and Michael Downend reconnect from their minor roles in “Necropolis” to be the daughter and father team at the core of suicide mission. More ceremonious than being an emotional wreck of being separated during the middle of a robot run world, Harstein and Downend bring little flair as they themselves often are more automaton than the automatons. Joel Von Ornsteiner (“Zombie Death House,” “Slash Dance”) had the most flair as Klyton, a pickpocketing free-thinking droid that looks like a cross between Star Wars’ C3PO and MAC from “Mac and Me.” Ornsteiner never let up or broke the eccentric droid’s light-hearted Robin to Neo’s Batman antics complete with rigid, robotic movements and a ray gun that never seems to work. One of the more painfully pressed roles is Valaria, the Dark One’s flamboyantly dressed second in command. Think “Forbidden Zone”-esque. Angelika Jager performance in cahoots with the Dark One is about as dry as toast and at odds with her own vestigial accent. Jager’s the congenial visual to her counterpart Torque’s effectual exoskeletal mechanical cover who could pass for a T-800 with the teeth replaced by dangling like Lobster antennae. Rick Gianasi, who went on to be Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, plays the underestimated and underrated villain, leading the way for other sidelines roles with a cast that rounds out with George Grey, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, and Nicholas Reiner.

As mentioned earlier, “Robot Holocaust’s” acting isn’t good.  It borders old-timey melodramatic in a proclamation sense.  There are no in-depth discussions, debates, conversing naturally, or any aspect of the dialogue having a normalcy about it as everything is vigorously proclaimed or is awkward narrated for exposition.  The other half of the problems is in direct result of Kincaid’s poorly written script that can’t capture ordinary conversation, much like those of his pornographic films, I would think. Nor could Kincaid write himself out of the erratic flippancy of some principal characters who woujld go from bad to good then from good to bad in a blink of an eye.  While the communication is about a dull as a butter knife, the costuming is where “Robot Holocaust” balances the scales with 80’s ridiculously appropriate garb of what the ruined future would sport.  A metrosexual mixture of v-neck pelt shirts of mystery animal origin and early WWF professional wrestler spandex turn the men into “Conan the Barbarian” types, to which a few other influencing aspects are pulled from the Schwarzenegger epic fantasy.  The women are equally suited but with more finesse in the way of warrior princess as well as a goddess. With a title like “Robot Holocaust,” the android designs better be spectacular and in all for its time period, Ed Fench’s designs and Valarie McNeill’s fabrications are a mixed bag of good and bad. Klyton derives too heavily from “Star Wars'” inspiration without wowing into something of the tiny production’s own while Torque radiates power and fear with a complete head-to-toe body suit of an acolyte with attitude. Both designs don’t compartmentalize by operating individual body parts, such as moving mouths or even hands for that matter, which would have nailed the robots down for a film called “Robot Holocaust.”

Ronin Flix, under the re-distribution of Scorpion Releasing and MGM, release “Robot Holocaust” on a 1080p high-definition AVC encoded Blu-ray. The hard coded region A North American release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative. Natural grain, a palatable and diverse color palette, and swelling textures, such as fine details in the skin, scuffed up droids, and a grimy industrial complex provides a zestier interest that parallels the languishing storyline. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably clean, much like the transfer, with a coextending presence of robust range, depth, and quality. The proclaiming dialogue is crystal clear, hanging on every syllable and syntax, with no issues with hissing, popping, or other flaws. Jager’s accented monologues and conversations are kitsch guilty pleasures to hear her laissez faire style and delivery. Special features include a new interview with Nyla actress Jennifer Delora touching upon little-by-little her experience with cast, crew, and overall project. There’s also the official trailer included. The physical release comes in a regular blue snapper case with one-sided grindhouse artwork of a looming Torque, an explicitly worn skull, and Angelika Jager’s Valaria with her eyes closed and slight smirk. The unrated film runs a brisk 79 minutes. The “Robot Holocaust” is only 11 years away according to the film’s timeline, but director Tim Kincaid’s future can’t help but feel like a vintage hunk of junk by the stale performances and skimpy Tarzan-like duds and getting through the brief runtime proved unfortunately challenging.

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Biding Time Can Be Dystopianlly EVIL and Claustrophobic. “Tin Can” reviewed! (Dread / Blu-ray)

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

A viral fungus pandemic has plagued the world.  Fret, a parasitologist, has worked toward a cure to stop the spread of a virus that grows Clavaria-like basidiocarps from inside out the body that’ll eventually enclose the victim to death in an organic cocoon.  Before Fret can develop and distribute the recently discovered global cure for the virus, she awakes in a confined metal container constructed to suspend life duration for those who contracted the illness.  Confused and disoriented, Fret learns she’s not alone as others awake around her and able to talk with through the containers, including your infected husband John.  Unaffected by the virus and believed to be encapsulated in error, Fret works desperately on an escape from her well-intended prison in order to save humanity before it’s too late.   

By now, most of us can relate to a pandemic-driven storyline because, well, you know, COVID.  The 2020 sci-fi body horror “Tin Can” is no exception despite having been filmed prior to all the pandemic induced deaths and lockdowns.  Perhaps premise creator and director Seth A. Smith had a little foresight into coming events that inspired the Canadian project co-written with Darcy Spidle.  “Tin Can” is the fourth pen-to-paper collaboration between Smith and Spidle who previously completed two feature films (“Lowlife,” 2010 / “The Crescent,” 2017) and one short (“The Brym,” 2016) along with “The Willows,” the duo’s fourth feature film and revolving once again around preternatural events, that is currently in pre-production. For “Tin Can,” Smith and Spidle entangle a science fictional, dystopian, Hell in a handbasket world with selfish motives that outweigh saving the world. Seth A. Smith’s Nova Scotia based production company, Cut/Off/Tail Pictures, develops the story produced by company producer Nancy Ulrich and financially backed by the executive producing team of Michael Baker, Marc Savoie, Tim Lidster, and Rob Cotterill (“Possessor”).

“Tin Can” might evoke a sense that one main character will be the focus point for the entire storyline, such as with “Buried” that stays put on the singular person trapped in this very tight, very claustrophobic-inducing soda can. Yet, that is not such the case with “Tin Can” that does circle around a centerpiece character in Fret (Anna Hopkins, “V/H/S/94”) but the cure-all scientist waking up in a life-extending canister while on the edge of saving mankind isn’t alone. Surrounding Fret are strangers, colleagues, and even her husband, some of whom, such as her husband, are suffering the protruding fungal fairy fingers of the virus. Anna Hopkins fields a hefty, difficult role after an initially a humble beginning as a scientist that more so-or-less feels the pangs of a low rent indie, but as Hopkins’ Fret transcends time by waking up weeks (or maybe months…years?) later, her environment becomes frantically imprisoning. The tight confines of the titular object with medical tubes dangling from the ceiling, a Tracheostomy tube down the throat, a malfunction video screen, and mysterious bars that light up one-by-one set a stronger stage for the actress to be put up against and Hopkins nails the mindset of a woman vehement and determined with escape to not only save her own life but the life of billions across the planet. In the cans beside Fret, providing Hopkins with more serve-and-volley fuel, is her husband John (Simon Mutabazi) inflicted by disease but becomes more than just a victim, Wayne (Michael Ironside, “Starship Troopers”) who I couldn’t really grasp as a component in the story as he’s like a project financier in the tin can project to save his own skin from being reskinned by fungus, Darcy (Amy Trefry) as a colleague-friend of John and Fret, Whistler (Tim Dunn, “The ABCs of Death”) who is the most interesting and weird doomsayer of the bunch, and a fist banging mute (Sara Campbell) also inflicted. For much the back-and-forth in the cannister talk, the dynamic is more of a talking head roundtable of initial discussions of popping open a small air vent so they sce outside their enclosed cell and eventually lead to more depth and deception that narrows the story with the what, when, why, and how.

“Tin Can” aspires to be a chaptered three-act conundrum. I don’t mean that in a negative perspective. What Smith brings into existence is a polished independent film of Cronenberg-esque and has ensuing weirdness act-after-act only paralleled by the double-crossing exoneration or a retaliating impugn of keeping one alive after being severely scorned. The first act plays out like the world of today, a devastating pandemic that has ravaged the human population. The second act unsheathes the mystery of waking up inside the tin can device with people she knows and is eager to discharge herself from a capsule that’s supposed to sustain her life. Then, the third act rolls in, the third and final chapter, and time has officially been corrupted as we know it with a futuristic beings suited in various colored alloys. Alloys are definitely a theme beginning with title “Tin Can.” Fret discovers a cure for the diseases by commingling it with an alloy and each containment artificer is suited in a different metal and are credited as Copper, Gold, Silver, etc. What Smith could be suggesting is the element that could cure us could also incapacitate or, even worse, transfigure our existence with a lifesaving, yet life altering, solution to the extreme. Cinematographer Kevin Fraser industrializes the look of “Tin Can’s” existential view and is a glorious rusty bucket of a cheerless life. If Smith wanted to convey a life of nihility and automaton, Fraser nailed down the oxidation state. “Tin Can’s” a cold hard look at the cost of saving the world that, in the end, might not be worth saving.

A part of the Dread Central at home release line, “Tin Can” arrives onto a high-definition Blu-ray distributed by Epic Pictures and MVD Visual. The region free Blu-ray is presented in a throwback 3:2 with letterboxing and has a color reduction implemented to give it that demoded depiction. Image looks amazing without an inkling of any kind of compression issues especially with many of the scenes shot in darker and bleaker circumstances. Fraser delivers some awe-inspiring, creative angles that produce a how-did-they-do-that response to get a 360-degree single take of Anna Hopkins in the cannister or the rotation of a limp body on a large wheel door. The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio mix has solid sound design as more than half of the picture is off the principals talking through their metallic cylinder containers that created a muffled depth and low range flickering in the backorder, the mechanized hum mixed with scraping metal, does wonders to sell the dystopian effect that borders steampunk. No inherent or noticeable flaws in the final product. English subtitles are available. Special features include a commentary with Seith A. Smith, The Last Bell Doe Toll – the making of “Tin Can'” exhibits the construction and creation of the displaced subsequent future, how to achieve a few of those crazy Kevin Fraser shots, and provide cast and crew interview insights, and the bonus content rounds out with two music videos – The Last Bell Does Toll and ZAUM – The Enlightenment (Part I). “Tin Can” runs at 104 minutes and is not rated. “Tin Can” is ingenious on a level many will not fully understand and, frankly, I barely can tether my impression and have it make sense, but there’s a unique ore core to this science fictional, ill-fated fantasy that can be so odd at times you can’t help but not look away.

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

The Elfmans’ EVIL Doomsday Droll! “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)



“Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks”, oh my, now on Bluray home video!

A struggling Los Angeles actor finds himself in an intergalactic dilemma when a interdimensional portal opens from his asshole and spits out the obelisk, a large, pointed top icon that holds the key to ruling the universe.  Evil space clowns and extraterrestrial beings rocket toward Earth to be the first to intercept the obelisk and remotely manipulate people to their way to try and snag the long-ago inseminated artefact.  In order to save the world, maybe even the universe, from the catastrophic misuse of the obelisk, the actor calls up on his transgendered brother – excuse me – his sister, a professor with expertise in interdimensional relics, and a pair of beautiful Swedish scientist assistants all the while avoiding biker space clowns, ditzy blonde sex bots, the Chinese mafia, and a secret U.S. government agency from getting their greedy hands on world-dominating or word-destroying ass statue. 

Having sat through and contemplated Richard Elfman’s bizarrely fascinating “Alien, Clowns, and Geeks,” I found myself washed over with deep regret. Regret is not in the one-sit watching of a 90-minute sci-fi comedy about a monolithic sphincter stone being a weapon for universal domination by space clowns and incorporated green men from outer space or the key for green, sustainable energy worth lucrative wealth for possible one out-of-work C-lister. The regret stems from not having watched beforehand Richard Elfman’s first experience with total creative control in his kaleidoscopic chaos a surreal fantasy “Forbidden Zone” from 1980 that has placed the filmmaker on the map as a cult director and the musical film itself retains breath and life through theatrical stage plays across the nation. Nearly 40 years later, the harebrained and mad genius mind of Richard Elfman churns a return to his unadulterated cinematic artform with no producers or studios to infringe upon his certifiable craft. Elfman writes and directs the Unfound Content (Bernie Stern, “What Josiah Saw”) and UnLtd Productions produced Elfmaniac Media production.

Who better to be your leading man of action versus the opposing forces of interplanetary evil than your own flesh and blood?  Richard Elfman casts his son, Bodhi, to take the lead as struggle actor Eddy Pine, crestfallen by his recent television series cancellation that derailed his promised financial success and famed lifestyle.  Bodhi Elfman plays to the tune of comic-action star fairly well, delivering perfectly timed high-pitched screams when prompted while still conveying a suave persona as a smooth-talking ladies’ man that bags one-half of the Swedish scientist twins, Helga Svenson (Rebecca Forsythe, “Replace”), to be the perfect combination of brains, beauty, and junkyard Kung-Fu.  Helga, and her sister Inga (Angeline-Rose Troy) are assistants to the great and all-power, well…not all power, (German?) Professor von Scheisenberg in a likeable, rememberable performance from “3rd Rock form the Sun” sitcom actor French Stewart.  In this favorable group of eclectics, world-saving heros, my personal favorite is Jumbo, the politically incorrect, yet well-represented, LBGTQ sister of Eddy Pine played the large frame build of Steve Agee (“Suicide Squad”) who, like a good chunk of Eflman’s cast for the film, takes on a dual role as a God-fearing goon dressed in a giant chicken suit for his boss Fritz the two-timing German clown (Nic Novicki, “The Sinners.”) The circus-esque troupe continues to careen toward Earth in a prototypical rocket ship full of clowns, literally, in what can be seen as an offshoot homage to “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”. The rocket is captained by “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise actor Martin Klebba, but the boss in the big shoes, clown shoes that is, is worn by the late Vern Troyer (“Pinocchio’s Revenge”) in his last role, a role royal bestowed upon him as Emperor Beezel-Chugg. Granted, much of the emperor is played through Nick Novicki’s Fritz as Beezel-Chugg sends his conscious down to Earth to beat out the aliens from obtaining the obelisk. “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” has a monster supporting cast for an indie film that rounds out the list with Richard Elfman’s wife Anatasia Elfman in various roles, George Wendt (“King of the Ants”), Malcolm Foster Smith (“Parasomnia”), Marco Antonio Parra, Victor Chi, Andre Ing, Erwin Stone, and Raul Colon.

If “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” sounds to you like an unfurling Warner Bros. ACME production full of dropping anvils and pseudo-tunnels, you’re not alone. Elfman’s romping comedy is chockful of clowns, cigars, and sex tropes, mostly elements pulled from the director’s hyperactive brain and basking recreations that fit his outlandish selfhood. The film very much fits the man behind the camera as an off-color, atypical, crude humored, red-headed fireball zipping-and-zagging in a multitude of directions. Yet, despite the frantic antics and the crazy characters, “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” retains its composure as a three-act tale of redemption where one man can be the hero of his own destiny depending on the path he chooses in his seemingly despondent life where he’s lost his career, his mother’s a slutty crackwhore, and a large stone has expelled itself from his anus, creating a rift between a difficult decisive choice of short term wealth or long term doom. Pulling much of his science fiction inspiration from the 1957 “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” Elfman manages a vast, epic showdown of invading alien threats against an unsuspecting human contingent with very few locations, zipped to to-and-fro with comical orchestration, that usually fashions a feeble story structure of sitcom-syndrome weariness, but not with these colorful characters with their unconventional and unmethodical praxis that defy all logic and sensibility. Off the bat, “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” has menial building blocks but, if you stick with it, the film does grow on you, stimulates the endorphins of your inner child, as a live-action recollection of a Saturday morning cartoon but for adults.

Enter the maniacal mind of Richard Elfman with the MVD Visual Blu-ray release of “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks.”  Presented in a widescreen, 16×9 aspect ratio, the digitally recorded video has no telling compression issues onto the AVC encoded pressing.  Most of the superimposed cartoony special effects are simply just that due to stylistic choices or budgetary constraints and, either way, add they greatly add to Elfman’s carnivalesque approach to clowning around.  The English 5.1 surround sound discerns no apparent issues other than a slight tuning leveling issue when someone screams as pitch level goes muted a bit.  Other than that, dialogue is clean and clear.  The music genius of Danny Elfman (“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice”) and newcomer Ego Plum, who brings with him a melody of cartoonish influences and unconventional inspirations, create a unique sound that attests to “Alien, Clowns, and Geek’s” upbeat and caricature antics.  Optional English subtitles are available.  Special features include behind-the-scenes interviews that give the cast and crew their 5 minutes recollecting works with castmates, Richard and Danny Elfman, and their total overall experience, a quick and fast-paced interview from Richard Elfman who quickly disgorges his ideas and desires, along with his heartful opinion, about the film, the music video for Ego Plum’s “Mambo Diabolico,” which you can see at the end credits, and the original theatrical trailer.  “Mambo Diabolico” is definitely a good description for Richard Elfman’s far side sci-fi comedy that’s too Ed Wood for even Ed Wood himself.

“Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks”, oh my, now on Bluray home video!

EVIL Moves in When Sister Goes Missing! “Sister Tempest” reviewed (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)



“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com

Private school art teacher Anne Hutchinson faces an alien tribunal on the set of circumstances surrounding the sudden disappearance of her younger sister.  Anecdotally going through the chapters of her life, beginning with her parents perishing when the sisters were young into growing up in a confrontation household between the sisters’ warring personalities to Anne’s desperate search for her younger sister after an ugly fight one night.  Still reeling from the abrupt disappearance, a new student joins her class that ensues a sudden fascination from Anne.  When the student shows up one night at Anne’s house, unloading woes of being kicked out of school due to lack of funds, Anne offers sympathy and suggests staying in her sister’s room that’s now been vacant for some time, but Anne’s new roommate hides a secret as she must feed on raw meat to combat of a body-covering boil sprouting illness.  Little does the art teacher know that there’s a connection between her sister’s disappearance and her former blood-thirsty pupil that will shock her very core.

What happens when a promise to another person can’t be kept because that person’s will and commitment is so strong it’s becomes a severe fault?  From an not from this world alien perspective, the contradictory and irrational nature of humankind has a profoundly illogical pattern to it that bears hardly any understanding to an unlike mind.  There’s fragility to interpersonal relationships and to the people devoted to those relationships that force unforeseen, sometimes fatal, consequences when expected coherency and harmony turns into irrational chaos from seemingly arbitrary means.  This is how Joe Badon’s genre-bending “Sister Tempest” expresses that conundrum of curious conscious with a surrealistic sci-fi-horror-drama that teeters on the edge of deadpan.  The 2020 released “Sister Tempest” is the second written-and-directed feature film from Badon, following his 2017 experimental horror “The God Inside My Ear,” which falls upon similar “Sister Tempest” lines of emotionally distress-induced bale.  Filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana, “Sister Tempest” is a produced by Badon, editor/sound designer Joseph Estrade, Dustin Rosemark (“Inferno”) and cinematographer Daniel Waghorne with visual effects artist Clint Carney (screener of “Dry Blood”) and Miles Hendler serving as executive producers.

After a series of prefacing introductory and non-linear story scenes, Anne Hutchinson, a debut feature role for New Orleans based actress Kali Russell, sits in negative space wearing an orange jumpsuit and being introduced to her alien tribunal council.  Dazed and confused, but not totally in shock and frightened about being in the presence of otherworldly extraterrestrials, Anne recounts events surrounding the disappearance of her sister, played by Holly Bonney (“Bird’s Eye).  As sisters, a defined line between the older responsible and the younger immature is contentiously formed between Anne and Karen as they deviate from earlier promises after their parents’ untimely death to take care of each other.  Through Anne’s retelling of her life, her mother, though hard and disciplined, had a conditioning care that burdened the eldest child with a sense of duty and care at a young age and this really is no different from most firstborns who shoulders already a ton of responsibility regardless in taking on even more when the parents are no longer around.  You love them to death is great idiom that rings true in Badon’s subversive-cinema standards tale when the sisters can’t see eye-to-eye on matters and there’s a loss of connection, accountability, and gratitude that the audience can relate to.  For much of the picture, Holly Bonney takes a backseat to Kali Russell’s spiraling disconnect that affects her relationship with love interest Jeffrey the Janitor (Alex Stage, “Eat Brains Love”) and new life-entangling pupil Ginger (Linnea Gregg).  The latter Greg played character has a little more layers to peel back that involves directly with Anne.  Ginger’s is venom in disguise as vampire of sorts who requires raw meat and to keep her human appearance intact.  There’s a representational duality in Ginger, reflecting both a monstrous quality and a sweet innocence that ties into Anne personally and into the search for the sister.  “Sister Tempest” rounds out the cast with Clint Carney (“Dry Blood”), Lucas Boffin (“Return to Sender”), Andre LaSalle (“The God Inside My Ear”), Cami Roebuck (“Children of Sin”), and Sarah Rochis.

“Sister Tempest” has a foundational design we’ve all likely seen before with breaking points, dualities, and downhill-racing mystery unfathomable to the naked eye, but the Josh Badon story inexplicitly feels different from the others.  Perhaps because of Badon’s unconventional storytelling style that throws the normal perceptions for a loop, literally and figuratively, with a 50’s-ish callback to science fiction films or its glamour of 70’s-ish British horror in color and macabre or an unsane mixture of both. I’m not going to sugar coat “Sister Tempest” as an easy to follow, low-hanging fruit film that simple, straight-forward, and is everybody’s cup of tea. That would be a waste of peddle spiel. There’s a zaniness quality that can’t be ignored that surrounds the principal Anne character as if she’s experiencing an ersatz world normally. Some would say that Anne’s caught in a maelstrom, or tempest, of unclear thought and her ordeal is catalytically charged by the work and the love that is poured into her sister’s wellbeing only to be thrown back into her face. Badon has a flair for the unusual, an eye for the odd, and can extravasate an uneasy air from a capsule of seemingly randomized happenstance and beyond the already preternatural events to aggregating the wayward tension.

“Sister Tempest” is the very definition of independent movies with a take it or leave it spellbinding archetype that’s unlike anything ever seen before. You can bear witness to Joe Badon’s mesmeric madness and melancholy with a brand-new Blu-ray from Darkside Releasing. Presented in two aspect ratio formats, a 2.39:1 and 1.33:1, the screen really runs the side-to-side gamut. Image quality shows zero sign of issues from the high-definition digital video, shot on a 4K black magic pocket cinema camera. The blacks are deep and rich as well as the coloring through Daniel Waghorne’s versatile cinematography involving gel lighting, color reduction, and spotlighting. The English language 5.1 surround sound shows no sign of slowing down this A/V wonder with clean and lively multi-audio tracks that come through every channel definitively. Bonus material includes an audio commentary with the director, produces, and actors, a blooper reel, a deleted scene, and trailers for Darkside releasing surreal and giallo films. “Sister Tempest” Lynchian style is not going to please the masses, but it’s certainly the wildest ride in the theme park of contemporary indie cinema.

“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com