EVIL Comes in Pairs. “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

A top-secret lab, known as the Ark 1 of Jeju Island where The Witch project is being conducted, is raided by ruthless mercenaries armed to the teeth with weapons and an enhanced superpowers resulting from The Witch project.  Eradicating every living person in the tundra camouflaged facility, one teenage girl emerges bloody from the carnage and wanders off into a neighboring snow-covered forest.  She’s rescued by Kyung-hee and her brother Dae-gil who inherited the land from their recently killed father.  The siblings are in a contentious situation of their own with a gangster uncle, Yong-du, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the property, especially when he took care of the previous landowner.  With her Witch powers, the girl helps her kind rescuers to fend off a Yong-du shakedown, but the problems only begin there as the Ark 1 mercenaries are tracking down the girl’s whereabouts to finish what they started and a tactical team, enhanced with Witch powers too, has also been dispatched to eliminate the girl as an unpredictable global threat.  When all forces collide, the Earth will shake in a bloodbath of superpowers. 

A direct, but not an entirely direct sequel to the 2018 high-action Korean thriller “The Witch:  Part I – The Subversion,” writer-director Park Hoon-jung (screenwriter of “I Saw the Devil”) returns with a follows up the long awaited sequel “The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” that promises to be just as excitingly unrestrained with more players in the superpower game culminating to an explosive head that plays out like a hard-hitting Guy Richie storyline of intersecting plot threads except without wisecracking Englishmen.  The sequel follows another, and a handful of others in sperate, funneling threads, like the first installment’s principal character Koo Ja-yoon with insurmountable supernatural abilities except now everyone and their brother can “Twilight”-jump and Wolverine-heal, making the field even-steven to a known extent up until the grand finale.  Park returns as producer as well as newcomer Hyun-woo Kim, producer of “I Saw the Devil” and “Snowpiercer,” with Next Entertainment World and Goldmoon Films serving as production companies.

The sequel does not specifically revolve around first film femme fatale Koo Ja-yoon and turns the focus on a new prodigal Witch who has been cooped up in a lab since birth, hence why the film is not a full-fledged direct sequel as the storyline goes into an offshoot that later intersects. The face of the new witch is played by Shin Si-ah who makes her feature film debut.  When not covered in blood, Shin’s mostly reserved performance opens to light-hearted and childlike wonder as her character is experiences everything for the first time outside the Ark 1 lab.  Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin, “Death Bell 2:  Bloody Camp”) and Dae-gill (Sung Yoo-bin, “Manhole”) take in the girl and become the warm absorption resemblance of family life or a life with romantic interests that can quickly be ripped away at any moment, sending the emotionally teetering girl into battle mode.  However, that sensation of relationships and tenderness hardly translates well on screen.  Perhaps losing some impact in literal translation, the trio’s dynamic retains a goalless fruition of connecting with other people, especially the superhuman powerless ones.  I found more complexities in the two factions seeking the same target – the girl.  Enigmatically opening with the mercenary raid on the secret Ark 1 lab and executing all in their path, we’re not immediately introduced to, and then barely given an introduction at all, is “The Cursed Lesson’s” Chae Won-bin’s mercenary boss lady and her squad of lesser-though of subordinates who all carry this overly murderous confidence with the latter being often measured inside their own group.  The other group is quite the opposite with the official tactical response team deployed by the Witch project head Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo), a returning character from “The Subversion.”  Compiled as chief agent Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) and her second-in-command, a South African named Tom (Justin John Harvey). Seo and Harvey have a better act as the exchange is degrading and goofy in a comical manner with Jo as a workaholic lone wolf leader of an elite group of special ops while Tom brown noses his commander with new tech and offers helpful suggestions to which his commander either breaks or doesn’t use the new tech and views him as more of a warmhearted nuisance. Jin Goo completes the principal cast as a high-level gangster boss that would be big time in reality but in “The Witch’s” universe equates to an insignificant goon in a fancy coat. With an entourage of loyal henchmen, Jin Goo rubs elbows with his business smarts to get in bed with a clandestine organization as well as staying alive as long as he can in order to rob property right from under his niece and nephews’ nose. Goo plays the part with sly astonishment as he creates a pompous persona mildly shocked by awesome abilities of a young girl with the strength of 100 men.

What garnered much fascination with the 2018 film was the Korean dark, neo-noir tone intermixed with the uncanny abilities of a mystery person who can’t remember jack about their past. Park Hoon-jung essentially removes the simplified spine of “Part 1” and transplants it as the basis of “Part 2” with the similar added angles of a destroyed lab that supposedly no one survives but one person ultimately does and a pair of benevolent landowners who rescue, nurse, and essentially adopt the amnesiac girl back to 100% percent. “Part 2′” mirrored storyline is then targeted by at least three different angles represented by each bird-dogging group to add elements of change that include a contrast of comedy and austere posturing, the former being refreshingly novel to the two-film series that promises more to come after an open-ended finale. Returning to the sequel is the insane visual effects of “Twilight”-esque rapid movements and epic fight sequences with large explosions, a cold and bloody violent complexion, and high body count and while that’s all good and dandy for surface level popcorn effects, what’s agonizing is the how sped up they are as if every super occurrent was purposely depressed on fast forward by the power of three. If Park and his creative visual supervisors and gurus could have tempered down every other two moments with instead of having thrown cars, and among other things, seemingly skip multiple frames would have had more of a plausibility impact. The mélange complexity of multiple pursuers armed to the teeth and converging onto an unexpected teenage girl shacked up in a humble abode is a great classical spell of barnstorming besiegement that has the same improbability odds of survival as before betting on David versus Goliath until upended unto the aggressors, with all their guns and knives, who now need a prayer and much more against the prodigal youth with a considerably more amount of Witch power.

A fierce force of controlled power, and unforeseen surprises, the long-anticipated sequel, “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One,” has finally landed post-pandemic. Well Go USA Entertainment, who released the first installment on Blu-ray, has picked up the rights to release the sequel on the high-definition format, presented in a sleek and sharp 16:9 aspect ratio. Virtually no issues with the digital presentation, the Blu-ray’s 1080p heightens every aspect of detail, even to a fault with the wonky visual effects as mentioned earlier. The overall darker lit tone and range can sometimes give off the appearance of softer details but with solid contrasting, the outlining shapes up more so than often and there’s no compression distortion to render an ill-defined texture. The Korean-English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, also available is a Dolby Digital 7.1 Atmos and a Stereo 2.0, delivers a formidable, comprehensible, and frenzy-favorable mix of balanced action and dialogue. Depth perfectly pitches the focus properly while the range fuses together mostly during the fighting sequences until there’s a deep and punch-packed explosion mushrooming into a ball of crackling fire. No evident issues with dialogue and the English subtitles synch well with no flaws. Bonus content features a glossy and sped-cut behind-the-scenes featurette and the theatrical trailer. Physical features include the original Blu-ray snapper case with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same cliff-note touching cover art as the snapper case. The NTSC Blu-ray come region A hardcoded, is unrated, and has a runtime of 130 minutes. Time flies when you’re engrossed in “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One’s” take no prisoner thriller of transcendent turbulence.

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

The Fourth Go-Around with an EVIL Icon Is An Inferior Copy. “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” reviewed! (101 Films / BD-R)

Laine and her boyfriend Chase drive toward Jackson, Louisiana where Chase has planned a fun-filled weekend in the land of the notorious Creeper legend and where the annual HorrorHound festival lures fans from all over the world for a carnival celebration of horror. Rolling her eyes at Chase’s complete obsession with the Creeper and his love for horror, Laine indulges her boyfriend’s every geeked-out whim, including entering a contest for a chance to enter a Creeper inspired escape room held at a dilapidated manor house on the outskirts of town. The lucky winners and the producing team find themselves lured into a deadly trap orchestrated by a cult loyal to the Creeper and Laine, who has been handpicked by his disciples, learns through premonitions that the Creeper hungers for her unborn child. Trapped inside with an unstoppable winged monster hunting them down, Laine and Chase implore the others to fight back against a living legend of lore.

Fascinating is the monster that is the Creeper, a versatile humanoid with batlike wings, a serious sniffer, and a flesh-eating connoisseur with the strength of 10 men and a primitive, yet effective assorted arsenal of deadly melee weapons. The Creeper is a modern marvel and icon of contemporary antagonistic favorites this side of the early millennium having arrived on the big screen now over two decades ago back in 2001 and producing now four films between that time span, but within those 21 years, a tremendous controversy has tarnished the good name of the “Jeepers Creepers” legacy. That name is “Jeepers Creepers” creator Victor Salva who conviction as a child sex offender might not have stopped him from directing three “Jeepers Creepers” films but certainly put the rubber stamp of disapproval against any kind of box-office success with audiences steering clear of work. 2022 saw promise for the Creeper with a new, fourth entry entitled “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn,” a title resembling a phoenix being risen from the fiery ashes type of project that removed Salva not only from the director’s chair but also any kind of substantial compensation for the legal rights. Timo Vuorensola (“Iron Sky”) steps into frame as the franchise’s newest visionary to hopefully resurrect the Creeper from the depths of indirect persecution. With a story written by Sean-Michael Argo (erotic-fantasy-horror writer of “Sineaters” and “Fable: Teeth and Beasts”), “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” promises new blood and a new creative process with possible white glove treatment without the sully of sin behind the scenes. The first “Jeepers Creepers” film to be shot almost entirely in the United Kingdom with a few Louisiana locale shots, the fourth flight of the Creeper entry is a coproduction between Black Hanger Studios and Orwo Studios.

With a new “Jeepers Creepers” installment focused on adverting attention away from its creator, “Reborn” comes with an overhauled cast, including a new face toward the Creeper.  Instead of Jonathan Breck returning to resume the role in a fourth film, complications from an overseas production, English actor Jarreau Benjamin tackles the role with everything he’s got and with everything he has to work with.  Breck cobbled together large boots for the assimilation of a western horror villain with a mischievous and ruthless personality as he toys with his food before he eats it in the first three films.  Benjamin does a remarkable job attempting to emulate much of the same albeit the Creeper have a slightly different look because of Benjamin’s build and face structure.  Nonetheless, as the Creeper, the greenhorn fills in quite well tormenting conned prey that includes on screen couple Sydney Craven (“York Witches Society”) as Laine and Imran Adams as Chase.  To be honest, Craven and Adams had little emotion weight beyond a fantasy and lust dynamic and couldn’t find character and story support in what seems to be more of a close acquaintance rather than a highly involved and evolved romantic relationship.  They’re teamed with producers of a reality show, game show, some kind of vague media show of sorts, as the unfortunate lucky winners of an escape room challenge as well as a local Jackson resident, Stu, with a Duck Dynasty beard and salty arura about him, played by Peter Brooke (“Wrong Turn 5:  Bloodlines”) and I wanted to know more about Stu.  Is he good or bad?  Is he a patsy?  He’s mysterious but likeable and he’s written enigmatically up to a point but the descends into just another ordinary link in the chain. Ocean Navarro (“Infamous Six”), Matt Barkley, and Alexander Halsall round out the victims corralled by the cult of the Creeper. The Creeper worshipping group represented by a local shopkeeper (Georgia Goodman), a fire and brimstone preacher (Saverio Buono), and a horror hostess named Madam Carnage (Jodie Mcmullen) are a flake of a bigger scab that reveals nothing about their reasoning or their cause in helping every 23rd year for 23 days and the element of the cult cheapens the story because it goes unexplained. Overall, the performances are steady, if not slightly cliche at times, and the cast rounds out with Dee Wallace (“Cujo”) and Gary Graham (“Robot Jox”) with a familiar and strong opener that gets the blood going.

That very 15-or-so minute opener is “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn.” That’s it. That’s the film. It’s classic Creeper with a new, beaten down, larger box truck, starkly different from his rusted Chevy HD COE that’s like a supercharged street-legal tank but with the same BEATINGU double entendre license plate and malevolent-ripping energy that would make anyone’s heart race with fear as he tailgates and blares the horn at high speed. Yet, the opener quickly rescinds into an unsolved mystery-like episode and from that point on, Vuorensola and Argo work diligently to rapidly dismiss the first three films by meta means with one of the principals stating the Creeper stories gave way to three films, hence why the fourth film is subtitled “Reborn” and acts more like a reboot than a sequel. Perhaps that is why the plot adds a stronger motivation for the Creeper who is hellbent on extracting a prenatal child from Laine. “Reborn” invokes a return to the premonition theme that go hand-and-hand with the Creeper’s return as Laine has visions of her the centerpiece of attention, covered in blood, and a baby carriage containing, supposedly, the target, but the story is so far up the abstract tail with the visions and conjectural dialogue, we never receive a straight answer as to why the Creeper is after the peanut-sized pregnancy. With any of the four films, the Creeper dispatches prey in various neat ways with a primordial arsenal of medieval killing tools and the scenes of slaughter don’t disappoint. There’s actually a gory moment of a scalp flip and a brain snack that’s well executed. What kills “Reborn” with a stake through the heart is the rotoscoping at climatic end. Clunky, chunky, and disproportionate, the actors appear to be standing and moving around in a 2D environment with unintended rigid actions that dispel realism after a wonderful show of makeup and practical effects in the first two acts.

You don’t have to wait another 23 years to see the Creeper as “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” lands on UK digital platforms on October 10th and on UK DVD and Blu-ray October 24th courtesy of UK distributor 101 Films. The just-before-Halloween release will contain a 15 certification and is available preorder at the https://101-films-store.com/. Unfortunately, I’m unable to dive into neither of the DVD or Blu-ray spec details or give a full critique of the audio/video aspects as a BD-R was provided for feature screening purposes only. The screener also didn’t have any bonus features and included only an English subtitle option. The film runs clocks in at 88 minutes and is shot with an Arri Alexa camera. “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” might have dropped the surface level controversial dead weight but can’t fully shake the stigma and in an opportunity to reboot or rebrand the franchise, the effort is squandered by production snafus and shoddy presentation that’ll put the Creeper asleep for another 23 years until the next film.

The End of Days Runs on EVIL Fuel! “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival.  At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure.  After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives.  Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.

For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood:  Road of the Dead”, before the first film.  While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously.  Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so.  In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together.  The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.”   “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.

To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.

“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.

The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

Nature is Healing. The EVILs of Industry are Destructive. “The Great Movement” reviewed! (Sovreign Films / Digital Screener)



A group of out of work Huanuni miners march into the capital of La Paz to protest forced labor shortages.  Young miners Gallo, Gato, and Elder roam around La Paz to rummage up piecemeal work to live.  When they find work as commodity runners at an outside market, the job is labor intensive, pays very little, and they must sleep outside with other runners and vendors with essentially everything they own on their back.  The job takes a toll on Elder who is suffering a strange illness that cases fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue that hurts his pockets when he can’t run product in a timely manner.  Elder comes under the wing of a mysterious earthy, old woman who thinks Elder is her godson and she enlists the holistic medicine of a clairvoyant herbalist, living off the mountainous land just outside the city, to extract the unnatural elements that plague him.

Every so often, diving into a dramatic piece of filmic art, with hints of nightmarish surrealism to satisfy the horror element (or, in this case, the EVIL), is worth cracking into and peering into dependent the writher’s personal taste and the influencing environment surrounding.  In this instance, Kiro Russo’s “The Great Movement” spoke to the interests of this reviewer for not only the urban growth is death, nature is life social commentary but also my intimate connection to Bolivia because of my second-generation wife whose mother was born and raised in the South American country before migrating to the U.S.  “The Great Movement,” aka “El Gran Movimiento,” is the first native Bolivian film I’ve ever seen and that, too, sparked a curiosity in the Bolivian film industry that was virtually thought of as nonexistent.  Russo writes-and-directs the film produced by an international conglomerate of production companies with Altamar Films (“Killing the Dead”), Bord Cadre Films (“The Untamed”) and the La Paz based Socavón Cine as well as Sovereign Films who also distributes the film.

“The Great Movement” is a continuation of Elder Mamani’s story in this follow-up film from Russo’s 2016 “Dark Skull” where Elder’s moves in with his grandmother after his father’s death.  Living in a mining town, Elder pickups a miner job which leads to unearthed secrets about his father.  Julio César Ticona reprises his role as Elder, marching from the mines to the capital in protest for work only to be stricken by an illness insinuated from his dirty work at the mines.  Only a little of the previous “Dark Skull” story works itself way into the next chapter revolving around Elder’s suffering from various forms of urban reaping toxicity and also a clairvoyant old man living off the adjacent wilderness.  Max Bautista Uchasara, in his performance debut or at least as stated on IMDB, plays…well…Max, the well-loved, if not hard-loved, and dirty-cladded mystic that sees visions of La Paz in ruins.  Elder and Max cross paths because of Elder’s unexplainable sickness, without hardly a word spoken between them, to eradicate his illness and heal the young man’s failing body.  The connection between them is an old urbanite woman Mama Pancha (Francisa Arce de Aro) who thinks Elder is her godson but Elder, taking advantage of her kindness and generosity, doesn’t know this random person and, in the grand scheme of mysticism, Mama Pancha, which translates loosely to Mother Earth, is a symbolic representation of a forgiving planet lending a hand to an ore reaping miner by introducing a natural healer.  “The Great Movement” rounds out with a cast in Gustavo Milán Ticona, Israel Hurtado, Armando Ochoa, and Richard Aguilera. 

Through Russo’s use of cityscape and natural soundscape compositions, the sound design injects a creeping presence, enveloping the characters either insidiously or soothingly in their respective surroundings. The overwhelming arsenal of concrete jungle noise pollution becomes the harsh soundtrack that contributes to Elder’s environmentally unfriendly downfall. Every car horn, every construction machinery, every hustle and bustle of foot traffic is a spike through the head as Russo wants to make sure you can feel the audible image. In contrast, Max experiences virtually little noise, aside from streams, wind, and the rustle of greenery, in his detachment from clustered society when roaming the mountainous wilderness. Max’s elder ways grant him inexplicable aptitude that allows him to essentially speak to nature, live amongst the trees, and use the land for beneficial properties without waste and destruction. This encourages Pancha Mama, aka Mother Earth impression, to ask Max to heal her godson, aka an Earth child. This is Kiro Russo’s linchpin theme for “The Great Movement” that showcases a distinct dissonance between urbanization and nature. Being a nationality outsider going into Bolivia, that distinction is immensely obvious seeing firsthand the lack of organization, resources, and care for the city I travelled to that has been turned into a comprehensively polluted, dry dust-riddled, population on top of a population where one has trouble simply inhaling a breath of fresh air and struggling with the annoyance of a bloody nose. Now, I’m not singling out or epitomizing this one area of Bolivia I journeyed to as the worst of the worst, much of the same can be said about New York City sans the dust, but once you escape the city limits and step into Bolivia’s lush jungle, the air is noticeably cleaner with an almost healing effect on the body – no more bloody nose! My experiences greatly make visible and nail in Russo’s message as we accompany Elder through his deterioration, hearing about inhaling dust as a miner, drinking nothing but strong alcohol, and being worked literally to death with backbreaking labor. Modern medicine can’t locate or explain his symptoms, diagnosing Elder with psychological manifestation of physical problems. Russo’s “The Great Movement” is powerful and invokes soul-searching about reconnecting and healing with Mother Nature.

An insomniac nightmare that’s haunting in Russo’s solemn vision and full of delirium, “The Great Movement” is an arduous detox from the overdevelopment’s intoxicating prospect. Sovreign Films will release Kiro Russo’s 85-minute disenchanting and revival tale in UK cinemas on April 15th, 2022. With the limitations of a digital screener, I am unable to entirely comment on the audio and video quality, but the film is shot in the faint speckle of super 16mm and is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio to get the full spectrum of the cinematographer Pablo Paniagua shot Bolivia from the market busy streets to the monolithic stone and mountain structures on delineated outskirts of the capital. Paniagua employs the vibrancy of daylight and the scarcity of night light for tenebrous effect already poorly rendered by the 16mm grain. Miguel Llanques’s score is often overshadowed by the conspicuous soundscape, but the impromptu synth-flash mob dream sequence broke up the feverish trajectory at midpoint with catchy beat and dance seemingly out of nowhere. There are no bonus scenes during or after the credits. “The Great Movement” is just as raw with the foreboding circumstances in the rest the world civilization as it is with Bolivia in Kiro Russo’s film that shepherds the overlooked denizens in need for growth back to a natural world of healing.

EVIL Ditches Satan, Picks Up a Camcorder. “Midnight 2: Sex, Death, and Videotape” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

The sole survivor of the murderous, devil-worshipping cult family, Abraham Barnes, continues to kill under a new outward show as amateur videophile recording everything and everyone to gain their trust.   Instead of harboring his mother’s dark intentions of eternal life, Abraham simply thirsts for killing, documenting his premeditated methods using a camcorder.  When his latest victim goes missing, her friend initiates an investigation with a police detective, but Abraham is always recording, always one step ahead of them both, always on the hunt.  With the trap set and the play button pressed, the blood-lusting survivor of the maniacal, serial killing Barnes family preserves a lineage legacy of death. 

Screenshot from AGFA

Ten years after releasing his moderately successful All-American shocker, “Midnight,” John Russo returns with the Barnes family.  Well, at least one of them in the 1993 release of “Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape.”  Also known as simply just “Midnight 2,” the secondary title references the widely popular 1989 Steven Soderbergh film of sexual testimonial video-tales in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” starring James Spader and Andie MacDowell.  The sequel gives way to a new motive and theme that’s very different from the satanic panic aspect of the original.  “Midnight 2” enters the mind of a serial murderer with every calculated and cold thought and whim that crosses the killer’s mind laid out in detail to paint a compulsive picture. Behind the scenes, conjuring up resources to make the sequel exist as it stands today, is “Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja’s” J.R. Bookwalter, the head-honcho in production and distribution of his own created company banner, Tempe Entertainment. Bookwalter, who also wears the director of photography and editor hat on this film amongst others, produces the Russo sequel that was shot on location in Bookwalter’s home city of Akron, Ohio.

If you’re expecting or anticipating seeing John Amplas (“Martin,” “Day of the Dead”) return to the Abraham role 10 years later, be prepared to be severely let down as Amplas does not return for “Midnight 2.” Instead, profound schlock horror screenwriter and composer, Matthew Jason Walsh, brings a whole new peculiarity to Abraham Barnes and I’m not just talking about his face or mannerisms. Walsh, who penned such David DeCoteau C-list gems as “Witchouse,” “Young Blood, Fresh Meat,” and “The Killer Eye,” goes face-to-face with the camera in a hybrid performance as lead actor and lead narrator of his own exposition into his own executions. Being a sociopath is never fleeting from Walsh who can sink into the sardonicism of the Abraham character naturally as one of the two only traits to carryover from the original film with the other being a killer. Aside from a boat load of archival footage and a verbal recap of nearly the entire first film, the whole Devil-worshipping aspect of the Barness family is dropped in favor of a more undisclosed truth in the hidden agenda of a person who thrives off the hunt and the kill. Abraham goes through verbatim his daily, stalking routine in a publicized manner of videorecording everything and everyone to capture as much detail as possible as well as capture their last moments. Russo does throw in escape clause caveat for Abraham in that if he meets the right girl, the love for her will be strong enough to break him away from killing and possibly start a family and while Russo plays into that tangent a little with Jane (“Killer Nerd’s” Lori Scarlett), nothing much more materializes significantly as a romantic conflict that circles back to that subtheme. Russo ultimately gives in to a more cat-and-mouse game with Jane’s worried friend Rebecca (“Chickboxer’s” Jo Norcia) and the detective who rather slip into Rebecca’s pants than actually solve the case in a stiffer than roadkill performance by Chuck Pierce Jr. (“The Legend of Boggy Creek”).

Screencap from AGFA

I wonder how much ‘Midnight 2″ is actually from the mind of John Russo or if it’s more of the J.R. Bookwalter show in calling the shots from the producer’s director’s chair as the film feels very much like Bookwalter’s usual fare, a SOV, DIY, home brew production of local Ohioan talent. “Midnight 2” also goes from the backwoods suburbia of Pittsburgh to the concrete structures of Akron, leaving behind any remnants of Abraham’s satanic past in the ground along with his dead siblings, but the sequel very dutifully leans into us with a heavy archival footage recap with Walsh narrating the entire damn thing. I kid you not, the recap is approx. a third of the runtime and so essentially, “Midnight 2” is a two for one straight-to-video special. Granted, the archival footage remains in its untouched up state so don’t expect the Severin grade video quality. In one way “Midnight 2” is discerned to be more of a Russo film is the very hesitancy of graphic, blood-shedding violence. Bookwalter’s a bit of gorehound in making some gruesome grisliness out of the singles from a Podunk stripper’s Kmart thong. There’s none of that imaginative ingenuity here with a surprising severe lack of that adored shot-on-video nastiness common of its era, especially from the likes of John Russo in filing a rated 13 release according to the DVD back cover, enervating “Midnight 2” as a inferior sequel that tries on a new pair of shoes but ends up limping with a lame gait.

Screencap from AGFA

Russo might always be remembered for his contribution to the start of the “Living Dead” franchise. The cult legendary filmmaker surely found modest success with his first directorial run with “Midnight.” Yet, “Midnight 2” will have a tough time keeping out of the celebrated shadows of Russo’s credits, but the indie, underground horror label SRS Cinema pulls back the shrouding curtain with a newly released, MVD Visual distributed DVD featuring two cuts of the film. Fitted with a retro look and ghastly illustrated cover art, a superb upgrade from the VHS cover, the region free DVD is presented shot-on-video in a 4:3 aspect ratio on both cuts. Essentially, both cuts are the same with reworked scenes and narration with the except of the 90-minute rough cut having extended archival footage of the first film. The main version runs slimmer at 72-minutes. The lossy image quality abides within both versions with a flat color palette that, at times, had a singularity about its choice of unflattering hue, compression macroblocks consistently flare up, and dimly discernable innate tracking lines with video recording destabilize the image. The anemic English Language single channel mono mix is a bottom of the barrel budget sound design and that was to be expected. Dialogue does come over clear enough but lacks vigor and crispness as there is just too much electrical interference shushing in the background. Depth’s a bit awkward too with the actors conversing in the background but have foreground decibel levels. Aside from the two cuts of the feature, the only other bonus content is the theatrical trailer and other SRS home video trailers. “Midnight 2” works as a standalone in a different shot-on-video horror light but is crammed with unnecessary recapping on a story built around the destined, convoluted conjecture of a homicidal narcissist and his videotape addiction.

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!