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

EVIL’s on the Shallow End of “Deep Space” reviewed! (Scorpion Releasing / Blu-ray)

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

A government funded space craft containing a monstrous biological weapon crashes to Earth.  The organic creature is genetically coded to be a killing machine with a craving for eating it’s enemy and, now, it’s loose in the city and not responding to the scientists’ command self-destruct codes.  Tough and obstinate cop Ian McLemore and his partner, Jerry Merris, are ordered ot investigate the crash site before government agents take control of the case, even removing a pair of strange organic pods with them for further examination.  When a couple of close colleagues are shred to pieces at the hands of the creature, McLemore will stop at nothing to figure out what’s wreaking havoc in his city and blow it away.  

1988 – a weird, yet greatly satisfying transitional period of fading 80’s horror into nipping at the insanity of 90’s brazen prosthetic creature effects right before the turn of the computer generated decade.  Granted, Fred Olen Ray’s Sci-Fi horror “Deep Space,” which is ironically set on Earth, is very much an enamored 1980’s horror, but the Olen Ray film is where you can kind of see the turning of change on the horizon when the story’s ideas become too grandiose for tangibility alone, no matter how much us fans love to see practical effects over CGI.  The script, cowritten between Olen Ray and T.L. Lankford (“Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” “Fatal Passion”), is massive more expensive than anything the filmmaker’s had previously done and with a $2 million budget, “Deep Space” gets a giant explosion, high speed car scenes and wreckage, the iconic face and voice of Charles Napier, a Xenomorph-like creature, and a ultra-bloody chainsaw scene that could give “Evil Dead’s” Ash Williams a run for his money.  “Deep Space” is a production of Trans World Entertainment (no, not the same monikered company that sunk money into the bleeding financially physical media brick and mortar outlets like FYE, Camelot Music, or Suncoast) and shot in Los Angeles under producers Olen Ray, Alan Amiel (“Inner Sanctum”), and Herb Linsey (“Neon Maniacs”) with Yoram Pelman (“Commando Squad”) as executive producer.

At the center of the chaos is Ian McLemore, a hardnose and stubborn, harmlessly sarcastic detective who goes against the authoritative grain and cuts through bureaucratic tape to get the job done.  Playing McLemore is the unmistakable Charles Napier.  The “Rambo:  First Blood Part II” and “The Silence of the Lambs” actor, who is about as legendary as they come in supporting roles, lands his own lead man role with his own buxom beauty romantic leading lady in Ann Turkel {“Humanoids from the Deep”), as a new, but experienced, cop, Carla Sandbourn, on the L.A. force.  Experiencing Napier as an attractive male lead was a little more off-putting that initially thought.  The veteran actor, who began a career in the movie picture industry in his early 30s which was later than most of his counterparts, is hovering around early 50s in this role, middle of the ground with his physical appearance, and has a masculine square chin akin to Ron Pearlman with matching hair color to the “Hellboy” actor.  At an age gap of approx. 10 years between them at the time of filming, Napier and Turkel make their courtship appear easy; in fact, almost too easy as Turkel’s drops her shirt at the mere sight of McLemore dressed as a Scotsman blowing away at bagpipes for a gag effect in sleeping with him.  Both Napier and Sandbourn are charming enough to pull off a love affair without causing too much of a they’re so old stir.  “Serenity’s” Ron Glass plays the casual with the flow Partner Jerry Merris, “The Inglorious Bastards’” Bo Svenson is full of patience as the McLemore insubordination absorbing Captain Robertson, and the original Catwoman herself, from the Adam West “Batman” television series, Julie Newmar as a psychic who can clairvoyantly see the creature’s murderous mayhem.

The fact that “Deep Space” doesn’t take place at all in space is innately tongue in cheek to begin with, but that brand of flippancy courses through the film’s veins despite the blood splattering and semi-serious veneer, weaving between an action-horror and a horror-comedy during the entire 90-minutes.  Some of the comedy is intention, such as McLemore’s husky wit and sarcasm, but there’s also the extremely foggy campy side to this gem.  Some of these elements include the creature being hinted as a genetically mutated cockroach or the left field use of Julie Newmar’s psychic abilities that are randomly injected the storyline for the sole purpose of forewarning McLemore over the telephone rather being an intrinsic piece to stopping the creature.  The creature carnage would undoubtedly be investigated and exterminated without the psychic’s help, making her character farcical in futility.  “Deep Space” also pulls a little inspiration from “Alien,” maybe even the sequel, “Aliens,” with a toothy, long-headed, and eyeless black organism that resembles much like a Xenomorph or the Xenomorph queen and there’s also a near shot-for-shot sequence of a security guard whistling to and trying to persuade a cat to come to him while the monster rises from behind and strikes a fatal blow.  The scene is very reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton’s death in “Alien.”  Being campy has it’s highlights but never can fully overshadow scenes that erect suspense or are saturated with gore which “Deep Space” has both with a combination of editing and piercingly sharp sound design and a rip-roaring, blood-splattering chainsaw kill that’s leaves that good metallic taste in your mouth.

There’s no escaping the blood-hungry tentacles of the “Deep Space” monster coming at you in a brand new 2018 high-definition master Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing, leased from MGM, and distributed by Ronin Flix and MVD Visual. The hard-locked region A Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is rated R. Fred Olen Ray knew how to develop an eerie, twirling fog and wind atmosphere and this master crisps up that iconic trope image. Textural details and natural-appearing skin colors are delineated nicely throughout as you can make out every little blemish and hair on a shirtless Charles Napier as well as really getting into the slimy orifices of the creature and having a sense of its viscosity with a decisive sheen. Black areas are inky and dense with the right amount of grain in the overall picture and no obvious signs of image posterization, retaining the natural shadowing, along with no cropping or border enhancements. The English language DTS-HD master audio stereo finds common quality ground with a tidy dialogue track that does Napier’s resonating and recognizable jest justice. However, there is some hissing early on into the film, especially in the lab scenes in the contentious dialogue between the military general and the lead scientist. Omar Tal’s sound design proves vital to the story that relies on the screeching, the scuttling, the whooshing of tentacles, and the booming roars of the creatures, coinciding appropriately with Alan Oldfield and Robert O. Ragland’s rather run of the mill serrated and discordant electronic score. What “Deep Space” Blu-ray lacks is robust extras with only an audio commentary with director Fred Olen Ray and a scene selection index. “Deep Space” ages about as well as you expect over the last 35 years, but this Fred Olen Ray creature feature relic becomes rightfully preserved for being quintessential B-movie verve that no longer seems to exist in today’s age and also the fact that Charles Napier wears a kilt.

***Stills do not represent or were captured from the Blu-ray release

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

Hear That? That’s EVIL Bamboolzing You! “Ultrasound” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)



Driving home from a wedding reception, Glenn’s car suffers a flat tire in the pouring rain.  He finds refuge in the home of married couple, Art and Cyndi, with an extended offer to him to wait out the rain and spend the night, spending the night in bed with Cyndi at the pleading request of Art.    The next morning, Glenn wakes up and Art and Cyndi are gone.  Months later, Art shows up at Glenn’s apartment and shows him a videotape of a pregnant Cyndi.  Unable to make sense how of his role within Art and Cyndi’s lives, Glenn agrees to meet with Cyndi to discuss future plans and wind up a romantic relationship, but when they suddenly wake up in a hospital and kept separated, they believe they lost the baby as well as the use of Glenn’s legs due to an assumed accident.  What unfolds for the couple from then on is bizarre reality that doesn’t make much sense with only a few familiar chords being struck in their mind and every step of their life is being controlled by manipulators with various agendas. 

A gyrating wool over the eyes suspense thriller is set to release this Friday, March 11th. That film is “Ultrasound,” the first feature film helmed by Rob Schroeder, the producer of “Sun Choke” and “Beyond the Gates,” both films starring Barbara Crampton.  Unfortunately, “Ultrasound” doesn’t star the iconic scream queen but the Conor Stechschulte script, based off the Stechschute’s erotic psychological graphic novel series, “Generous Bosom,” produces the high intense frequencies from off the illustrated pages and into the subjected characters and audiences with disorienting loops of truths and falsities.  The U.S. production is a product of the Los Angeles based Lodger Films, cofounded by Schroeder and Georg Kallert, and with co-producers Brock Bodell and Spencer Jazewski.

“Ultrasound’s” narrative is a latticework of character arcs divided into two stories that only merge when Glenn and Cyndi are involved in an unusual (some could say almost magical) scheme connived by hypnotist The Amazing Art, played with sure hand nervousness by Bob Stephenson (“Lady Bird”) whose very good at the soft touch of persuasion with his innocent demeanor.  Stephenson works tirelessly his Jedi mind tricks on Glenn, “My Friend Dahmer’s” Vincent Kartheiser, and Cyndi, “Phoenix Forgotten’s” Chelsea Lopez. Kartheiser and Lopez relish in their own deceptions as two strangers being joined by unintended, radical means to fulfill not one but two devious plans. Between political scandal coverups and government sanctioned alternative military tactics, Chris Gartin (“Tremors II: Aftershocks”) and Tunde Adebimpe (“She Dies Tomorrow”) couldn’t be any more different in character engrained into their repelling tangential tales sourced from the same spoiled spring but both actors root deep into the same antithesis garden as a pair of well-informed and completely in control power hungry and idealistic men in idol roles, driving Schroeder’s message right into the heart of public figure facade versus public figure character and both Gartin and Adebimpe nurture that perspective all too well. Then, you throw in a monkey wrench named Breeda Wool (“Mr. Mercedes“) into the well-oiled machine of exploitation to be the controlled outlier only to have the veil lifted for truth. Wool, probably not intendedly punned toward “Ultrasound’s” theme of pulling the wool over one’s eyes or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, casts rightful doubt as Shannon, an innocent associate being kept in the dark, much like Cyndi and Glenn. While the cast is great in roles, none of them stand out in a singular performance and are all a cog in Schroeder’s contrivance. “Ultrasound’s” cast fills in with Megan Fox lookalike Rainey Qualley (“Shut In”), Porter Duong, and Mark Burnham who dons the fleshy mask of Leatherface in this year’s Netflix original and legacy sequel “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Tapping from the same virtual reality vein of Christopher Nolan and David Cronenberg, the idiosyncrasies of perception are no longer our own as audio, visual, and thoughts become the duped fool in “Ultrasound’s” underhanded exploitation.  The concept, high in twist and turns working backwards to unfold what befuddles the hapless into a life believed depressingly real, parallelly touches upon the real-life issue of sleight of hand corruption and scandal.  Because this person is an upstanding politician with a beautiful family or this other person has an advanced medical degree and is respected in the science community, we are supposed to take them at their word when in actuality, they’re pulling the metaphorical rug from under our sensorial feet to the extreme point where everything they have said and done that has crumbled down to a lie has a flummoxing and deafening aftershock effect that almost can’t be believed.  The two-tale narrative connects with Art and his mismanaging of one plan that tosses his subjects into the hands of another group for what’s to become of Glenn and Cyndi and that transfer, much like the disintegrating hypnosis effect at times, is not tight enough and becomes lost in translation inside Schroeder’s illusive imagery and harsh editing to keep in story in line until a point.  “Ultrasound” plagues with hot, intense colors under a low-key lighting, like a deep blue or an intense red, to often relay reality outside the confines of normality.  Even though the word “Ultrasound” revolves around the manipulative use of ultrasonic frequencies, I do find the irony in Stechschulte’s story that at the center of much of the tumultuous misperception, there’s a baby often represented as there or not there depending on how we should perceive the characters and it’s like the filmmakers wanted to plug in, perhaps, the nuisances with scanning technology or dip their toes into body horror with body image.

“Ultrasound” is a great low-level, high-tech Sci-fi brainteaser ready to mess with your mind being released this Friday, March 11th, in theaters and on demand from Magnet Releasing, a subsidiary label of Magnolia Pictures that offers innovative tales of horror and science fiction from new, creative filmmaking talent.  Since a digital screener was provided, we will not delve into any audio or video evaluations, but Mathew Rudenberg, whose worked in the past with Schroeder as DP on “Sun Choke,” has come a long way since his image work on the 2008 alien-driven-zombie film “Evilution” with keeping the frame tight during medium and closeup shots to never expose to much at one time, leaving a little to imagination when the time comes to open up the room, so to speak.  Zak Engel’s analogue and digital synth-score with tangible instrumental highlights from Piano and violin and Bob Borito’s dial and knob sound design swishing static and low-frequency humming sends this soundtrack into a futuristic guise on contemporary grounds that insidiously works into the grand scheme low-tech yet terrifying Sci-Fi. The 103-minute film does not include any bonus scenes during or after the credits. I keep throwing around key descriptors like low-tech for “Ultrasound” and by no means do mean that as a criticism as I speak about the simplest of tech, the original mechanism, of our body and our sensory nodes that receives data input, processes it, and transmits signals to our outputting areas and “Ultrasound” looks at disrupting the supply of data and, just like in today’s pandemic and war climate, a break in the chain can cause unforeseen turmoil that upends lives when cranked up.

The Most EVIL Being in the Galaxy Doesn’t Stand A Chance Against Little Mimi. “Psycho Goreman” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Brother and Sister, Luke and Mimi, discover a gem that unimprisons a dark alien warlord destined to destroy worlds.  The gem and the being are one, connected by the ancient forces powering the talisman, and whoever wields it can control the evil one.  Fortunately for now, the gem is in young Mimi’s possession.  The bossy and sassy preteen sees the alien, dubbed Psycho Goreman, as a new friend and toy, gallivanting around town catering to every Mimi whims.  Lightyears away on a distant planet, a council comprised with the forces of good, who banished Psycho Goreman to eternal banishment and imprisonment, learn of their once terrorizing tormentor having escaped his confines.  Leader of the council, an elysian warrior named Pandora, vows to track down their adversary and put an end to his existence, bringing a destructive showdown of good versus evil in Mimi and Luke’s small-town. 

The anomalous mind of filmmaker Steven Kostanski is vacillatingly distinctive and churning adulation for the late 1980’s to early 1990’s high camp, metal-infused horror films that heavily inspired him.  His latest written and directed Sci-Fi horror-comedy, “Psycho Goreman,” fits perfectly into Kostanski’s brand of stupidity, nonsensical, animation-saturated, bizarro reality horror that has made us, or at least me, fall heads over heels for his previous credits, such as “Manborg” and the “W is for Wish” segment of “The ABCs of Death 2.”  Kostanski is also a special effects guru having worked delivering gruesome terror and insane imagination skills to the big and small screen, but makeup FX artist takes a backseat to his employer, the Ontario-based MastersFX managed by Todd Masters, and they grab the reins by providing a slew of mixed bag practical and visual effects and animation styles that is a time warp back to the tangibly ridiculous and forged every follicle freakshow horror and science fiction celluloid from 30 some odd years ago.  “Psycho Gorman,” or “PG” for short, is a production of the pseudonym Crazy Ball Productions, as in the Crazy Ball game Mimi and Luke play, and Raven Banner, presented as an exclusive acquisition by RLJ Entertainment and Shudder.

To make something as ridiculous as PG to work, you need a colorful, wildcard cast to pull off every microfiber of manic personalities you can muster and sticking out with the wildest personality is not the titular character who is neither the brightest highlight nor the leader of the pack.  That spot was filled far before PG makes an unearthing introduction by the film’s smallest, youngest, and most delightfully sarcastic and ostentation lead in newcomer Nita-Josee Hanna as Mimi, who’s roughhouse and snarky sassiness goes unparalleled even up against the Arch Duke of Nightmares.  The dynamic plays on that whimsical idea of little girls with big personalities can be the center of attention.  In this case, Mimi requires the world, no, the universe to revolve around her ultra-spoiled nurturing.  Her possession of the gem gives her unlimited power with her possession of PG, played by undoubtedly hot and bothered by the latex suit, but otherwise good sport, Matthew Ninaber (“Transference”).  Hanna and Ninaber are an absolute joy to watch together with their contrasting comedic deliveries:  Hanna’s aggressive flamboyance compared to Ninaber’s subtle and solemn stewing.  Then there’s Mimi’s brother Luke, played by Owen Myre, who will have a role in the upcoming “Terrifier” sequel and one of the film’s running jokes is PG can never remember Luke’s name.  That lack of standout presence for Myre’s character is quite literal and not because Myre’s performance is forgettable and a complete wash (in fact, Myre is fantastic is the meek, submissive older brother), but between Mimi and PG, those overwhelming characters totally consume much of the attention.  Adam Brooks (“Manborg,” “Father’s Day”) and Alexis Kara Hancey fill in as Mimi and Luke’s lackadaisical father and frustrated mother while Kristen MacCulloch (“Motherly) suits up as the PG’s holier-than-thou arch nemesis, Pandora, in Templar species form while Roxine Latoya Plummer blends in with the rest of the population with Pandora’s human form.  “Pscyho Goreman” rounds out with Alex Chung, Scout Flint, Robert Homer, Conor Sweeney, Matthew Kennedy, Asuka Kurosawaw, and Scott Flint.

“Psycho Goreman” necessarily fills a pivotal void.  Most genre films aim to pass along a message, sometimes important to the filmmakers, to convey a lesson, an idea, a political or social protest, or to spark awareness on an issue, but with Steven Kostanski, watching his work is like taking a vacation with an immense clearing of any and all undercurrents and obvious messages for pure, unadulterated, frequently mindless entertainment that just looks cool.  Underneath the composited animation and practical effect layers is an anything goes, no strings attached, brutally-caked, dopamine drip that causes glossy-eyes and a warm wash over of all the senses.  Side effects I can definitely live with and be refreshed by when needing a break from reality.  The amount of space medieval practical effects alone makes “Psycho Goreman” feel like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and while that Gary Goddard 1987 science-fiction fantasy starring Dolph Lundgren, perhaps, heavily inspires Kostanski’s intergalactic battle-royale on Earth, the story mirrors much to the tune of “Suburban Commando” with Hulk Hogan.  Hear me out.  Rogue-vigilante, played by Hogan, crashes into Earth where he winds up with the unsuspecting Wilcox family who melts the big, bad commando’s heart and simultaneously fix, mostly unwittingly, what’s broken with the family while alien bounty hunters track him down.  “Psycho Goreman” is the same storyline with less gore; hell, “PG” is even kid dialogue friendly.  If you know “Suburban Commando,” you know, and now you can’t unsee it! 

As part of Acorn Media International’s RLJ Entertainment and Shudder exclusive line, “Psycho Goreman” is destined for darkness onto Blu-ray home video with over 2 hours of special feature content.  The UK region 2, PAL encoded, BD50 is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a runtime of 96 minutes.  Nothing noteworthy to terribly point out from the digital picture shot on an ARRI Alexa Mini with Angenieux Optimo Lens that produces a spherical image you’ll optically notice that seemingly has a rounded surface to bring wide framed objects closer together.  Kostanski utilizes a blend of stop-motion and green screen with seamless results and even though slightly on the caricature side of alien landscape and creature production, everything befits “Psycho Goreman’s” extensive universe.  The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 has excellent acoustical output in a vast array of vocal timbres and epic ambiance on and off of Earth.  Dialogue is clean and prominent on both the actors and voice actors with the latter sometimes, unfortunately, masked by the voice manipulator.  The Blu-ray release packs a punch with over 2 hours of special features including a director’s commentary, interviews with cast and crew including Steven Kostanski, Nina-Josee Hanna, Owne Myre, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancy and Matthew Ninabar, different fight chirography records from location and in practice at a martial arts studio, behind the scenes featurettes with character backstories, a trading card gallery, concept art, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and the animation creation.  “Psycho Goreman” is rated 15 for strong bloody violence, gore, and injury detail.  Sit back, relax, and let Steven Kostanski speak to your childhood senses with his adult antihero, “Psycho Goreman.” 

Own “Psycho Goreman” on UK Blu-ray (Region 2)

EVIL is All in Your Head! “Implanted” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

Year 2023.  After a devastated global pandemic, health companies engineered an experimental personal diagnostic nanochip called LEXX that is surgically implanted into the a human’s spine.  For Sarah, a woman down on her luck living homelessly after being let go from her job and struggling to cope with her mother’s early stages of dementia, quick cash is essential for survival and this experimental program, that uses advanced AI technology, tempts a desperate Sarah into participating in human trial runs.  Initial implementation serves Sarah with quick vitals and healthy lifestyle recommendations articulated by an artificial voice in her mind, but when the AI has other plans for Sarah, such ordering the assassinations of the health startup’s top leadership and destroying all evidence of the program, Sarah has to either obey every lethal command or fight against the insidious tech that has complete control over her pain sensors as well as her mother’s life.

COVID-19 has been the baseline culprit for millions of deaths worldwide.  The impact of the pandemic has inspired filmmakers to a creative outlet of churning out stories surrounding a lifechanging and devasting virus.  Some are ridiculous, off-color, cash grabbers – “Corona Zombies” comes to mind – but there are a few out there that challenge the gratuitous advantage-taking by folding in more substance into the story.  Fabien Dufils attempts to go above and beyond the here and now with a post-pandemic, self-containing thriller entitled “Implanted” and is the first written and directed non-made for television feature length independent film for the once music video director set in the urban jungle of New York City.  “Implanted” spins A.I. tech horror with the whooshing fast track of the health care system to eagerly push experimental drugs, in this case a clinical artificial intelligent grafting, upon the desperate, often marginalized, public.  There’s also an allegorical smidgen of mental illness thrown in there as well.  Dufils co-writes the script with fellow Belgium screenwriter David Bourgie under Dufils’ Mad Street Pictures production company.

Making her lead performance debut, mentally wrestling an invasive cybernetic nanochip, is Michelle Girolami who also serves as associate producer.  We all have that little voice inside our heads, telling us what do and think to an inevitably end of accordance with that ever so delicate whisper of persuasion and that’s how Girolami has seemingly approached this role with that little suggestive presence cranked up to the level of full-fledged chaos on two-legs.   Girolami ultimately is a reverse mech with all the cold puppeteering directed shots directed by programmed software and so much of the actress’s performance is solo, feigning responses to a bodiless voice and reacting to pain generated from within whenever she doesn’t comply to the relentless LEXX.  Unable to bounce dialogue and reactions off of others can be a tough sell for most actors, but Girolami really slathers it on thick the vein-popping strain of integrated torture.  Opposite Sarah is Carl (Ivo Velon, “Salt”), another hapless experiment participant forced into assassination servitude, but Carl’s purpose isn’t exactly crystal clear.  His LEXX unit shepherds him down a collision path with Sarah, but the two separate LEXX units have no shared intentions and while that’s wonderfully niche to provide individual A.I. with their own personal liberties and schemes, Carl just wanders the city, sometimes murdering the program’s top leadership or doing something polar opposite of Sarah with no substantial collusion about their subversive attacks.  The what could have been interesting cat-and-mouse game tapers off and the story leads into more of characters trying to regain back their autonomy and this is where Dufils’ narrative shines using LEXX as a symbol for mental disorders and how those impoverished or distressed are struggling to cope can lose themselves and give in to the internalized madness slipping outward.  Parallelly, Sarah’s mother (Susan O’Doherty) suffers from dementia that reinforces the theme.  Martin Ewens, Shirley Huang, Sunny Koll, John Long, and David Dotterer wrap up the cast list.

“Implanted’s” sci-fi concept can be described as if Amazon’s Alexa, with all the internet connections and text-to-speech bells and whistles, suddenly became murderously woke inside your cerebral cortex.  “Implanted” relays humanity’s lopsided dependency on advanced technology that continues to make us even more less connected to each other and the possibility of a machine takeover just that more feasible.  However, much like when a software program crashes, a malfunctioning script error ravages the narrative for not being tight enough, leaving unaccompanied loose ends as devices that fail to progress the story along stemmed by sudden drop off character development and unknown, speculation at best, motivations.  There’s also no discernable backstory to the why LEXX’s A.I. has snafued.  At least with “Terminator,” Kyle Reese provides exposition about Skynet’s sudden upheaval and domination over the human race whereas “Implanted” dives into none of that rich framework and tossing it aside for the sake of just tormenting Sarah into being a killer pawn, moving her across the NYC chessboard with the intent of taking down the king, queen, and knights of LEXX’s program.  To what ends?  Explanation on the specified targeting isn’t made entirely clear as programmers to CEOs are solely liquidated for just being involved.  

“Implanted” is a warzone for headspace and there can be only one victor in this psychological, sci-fi thriller released now, digitally, from Gravitas Ventures.   The unrated, 93 minute film also showcases the various hats of director Fabien Dufils with one being cinematographer.  Dufils captures obscure, slightly neglected, areas of New York City that’s becomes refreshing to consume because even though the Big Apple is well known for glass and steel skyscrapers, the undergrowth locations ground “Implanted” as relatable without the monolithic structures and hustle and bustle tropes.  In juxtaposition to the down-to-Earth background, the decision to sprinkle in visual effect blood splatter taints “Implanted’s” realism.  Though not gory by any means, digitally added blood can’t be cleansed from the physical veneer and being an indie feature, I would have though a run to corner store for a bit of red food coloring would have been a cost saving measure.  “Implanted” adds another layer to the man versus machine subgenre with tinges of mental illness and too reliant on tech themes but undoubtedly leaves gaps in the narrative coding, racking strenuous mental effort without the egregious assistance of an A.I. nanochip.