Mama’s EVIL Little Boy. “Mother” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

In the deep pocket of rural America, a son is born in a country home and over the years, the baby of the house lives a cossetted life by his mother.  Warped by her mollycoddling ways and unaffected by the death of his father, the now young man apathetically bends to his mother will whether she’s conscious of it or not.  He responds in unkind to overprotect his mother when an envious older brother derides their special son and mother bond and is murdered in cold bold.  As more years pass and his mother succumbs to her health deterioration, the son, now the last of his family, remains in solitary at the family home and the absence of his beloved mother haunts him as he processes his unnurtured and unhealthy sexuality onto the unwilling living and the unresponsive dead. 

In 2003, the NY-based indie horror filmmaker Michael P. DiPaolo gave us “Daddy,” an undead rape-revenge zombie-thriller that brought the corpse of an abusive father back from the grave to exact a fate far worse than death on his daughter and her friends who put an end to drunken state defiling of his little girl.   Three years later, DiPaolo releases to us “Mother.”  However, don’t expect this to a companion film connected to “Daddy.”  Instead, “Mother” is a whole new story with a whole new stylistic approach, including zero dialogue in a black and white frame – much like a silent movie but with more Foley and no corresponding continuous piano tunes. Ed Gein became the core inspiration for DiPaolo who retells the Plainfield, Wisconsin described Ghoul‘s horrifying deeds of exhuming corpses, creating trophies out of the remains, and even the slaying of two women, a tavern owner and a general hardware store clerk. DiPaolo self-produces the film under this Black Cat Cinema productions along with associate producer Zachary Balog and shoots the film most of the homestead around Cropseyville, New York, near Albany, and the surrounding area.

Comes no surprise that the actor who once portrayed the former Republican Vice President, Dick Chaney, for Damon Packard’s Fatal Pulse also plays the details likes of one of America’s most notorious murderers. The Buffalo, New York born John Karyus, who had a minor role in “Daddy,” reteams with DiPaolo to present a dialogue-less version of the life and death of Ed Gein by stepping into virtually his skin – that’s an Ed Gein joke in case you were paying attention. Karyus and DiPaolo don’t hold anything back in the peculiar biopic that dives deep into dismemberment madness, fascination killings, and the loss of motherly love. Half of the praise should be awarded to Nina Sobell as the son’s mother. Sobell not only plays mommy dearest but also the hardware store clerk and the tavern owner in an unrecognizable fashion. The up-in-age actress’s comfort level was high enough even for a nude scene in which Karyus has to dress her approaching older age and invalid body. Karyus might be on centerstage as the star of the show, but Sobell’s in the backstage manipulating the pullies, curtains, and supporting Karyus with different angles that give way to the avenues of an aggressor’s cloistered milieu. Other minor characters quickly come and go amongst the silence feature with costars in Jason McCrea as the bigger brother, Phil Sawyer Jr. as the best friend, Adam Zaretsky as the father, and Svetlana as the exhumed corpses brutally hacked away for her bone-afied trophies.

The distorted mind of Ed Gein must have been a surreal inverted world. I think Michael DiPaolo encapsulates a similar essence of the upside-down perspective seen through the eyes of a killer with what can be said to be his woven auteur’s arthouse tapestry. You would think no dialogue would drag the film through the monotonous much and show signs of repetitive tiresome, especially dressed in a colorless monochrome but the crafty cinematography and grisly gestures never waver interests as we’re along for the fall of man beheld as not only mother’s baby boy but also as her ardent admirer. Her presence was a tattered thin tether that kept him secure to reality and once she checked out, the abnormal fascinations that always laid dormant now flourishing with full force like an unchecked weed in an immaculate garden of prize-winning roses. The son goes from a chaperoned teetering-maligned individual to full-fledged grave robber and skin suit tailor, raping and ripping the flesh from dead bodies over the course of years, denoting just how psychologically paramount a mother’s care is for a boy in the balance of good and evil. DiPaolo more-or-less hits every note in the book in regard to Ed Gein’s past, tweaking a few historical moments for dramatization or budgetary limits, while still maintaining a professional code of conduct despite constructing the film on the cheap. DiPaolo definitely knows and understands what he’s doing and how to work the system as clearly seen between the tone and expression differences of 2003’s “Daddy” to 2006’s “Mother.”

First, there’s was the back form the dead “Daddy.” Now, there’s the spoiling to sociopathic “Mother.” A match made in Hell and both available on a region free home video DVD from SRS Cinema. The “Mother” release is presented in black and white on SOV 1.33:1 aspect ratio, reconstructed in an impressive 6-7 megabytes per second due partly because there is nothing to decode from a RGB color signal. Contrasting is good as you can greatly appreciate the spectrum between light and dark patches. Sporting no dialogue, the LPCM 2.0 stereo features slightly exaggerated Foley and a dissonant vocal score, some in the Russian language nonetheless, from the Moscow born, New York residing folk instrumental artist LJova (Lev Zhurbin). There’s clarity over ambiguity to the action-destined soundbites being conveyed even if a bit over-the-top as if to compensate for the no dialogue. The 76-minute film is coupled with a DiPaolo short film “Brutal Ardor” about a woman trapped inside her small apartment and an immense amount of despair living with a sexually overbearing and jealous husband. Also included in the bonus material is a making of featurette voiced over by DiPaolo as he goes through his creative process and techniques (and is also somewhat of a comedy track), a director’s commentary, the feature trailer, Michael DiPaolo film trailers, and other SRS trailers. Perfect for a double bill with DiPaolo’s “Daddy,” “Mother” is a cynical and desolation ark of biblical proportions adapted from a horrid torrent of truth.

A boy’s best friend…is his “Mother.”  DVD at Amazon.com

Book an EVIL Getaway Rental from the “Superhost” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

Airbnb reviewer vloggers Claire and Teddy are bleeding viewership fast.  To save their monetized video channel, their financial independence, and possibly live happily ever after as man and wife, the duo was finally able to rent a highly demanded location set in isolated in the forest when it became available.  The house is more than they could ever hope for with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious accommodations, and breathtaking idyllic mountain views.  The one little hiccup about the residential stay is the quirky superhost, Rebecca, who has been more than overly friendly.  An unsuspecting guest from the past turns the tables on Claire and Teddy as Rebecca slowly unravels her true intentions in a nerve-wracking game of life and death with all the amenities.

From the director of the supernatural baby-snatching “Still/Born” and the imaginary friend from Hell in “Z” comes Brandon Christensen’s next written-and-directed demented thriller “Superhost” that takes the automated vacation rental methodology and breaks them in half.  Shot just outside Las Vegas in the rural area of Mount Charleston, Christensen provides the illusion of a far trek away from busy street society with a cabin in the woods what if’er of an overzealous hosting homeowner making weird and uncomfortable conversation with their tenants on a daily or nightly basis.  Tacked onto that idea is the new age monetizing of vlogs and racking up subscribers that overtake or make us blind to what’s really important.  The Superchill and First Look Releasing production is executive produced by the Ty and Darren Siversten and produced by Christensen, Kurtis David Harder (“Spiral,” “V/H/S/94”), and stars Sara Canning and Osric Chau.

Aforementioned, Sara Canning (“Z,” “The Banana Splits Movie”) and Osric Chau (“Supernatural”) star in the film as vlogging couple Claire and Teddy.  Whether be the actors’ performances or the blind obsession toward their monetized YouTube platform to secure financial freedom, the on-screen chemistry between the couple didn’t jive.  What doesn’t help is there’s no real romance being displayed during their time together nor was there any expositional or any form of mentioning what their life looked like before becoming internet influencers.  Being influencers makes up a sizeable portion of what the audiences (us as viewers and not their video channel followers) know about the couple sans the miscellaneous background of Teddy’s parents providing rent aid whenever needed and Teddy’s top-secret engagement plan in which he also vlogs to his viewers behind Claire’s back.  We experience a little more where Teddy comes from, but Claire is a complete mystery much in the same way as superhost Rebecca.  However, as the crazed host, the enigma surrounding the jovially expressed Rebecca, eager to help with clog toilets and whip up pancakes, adds to her strange and frightening demeanor.  I would never want Gracie Gillam (“Fright Night” ’11, “Z Nation”) to uninvitedly walk into my vacation rental in her full Rebecca form.  I would forego my deposit lickety-split and hightail away from a much-needed getaway to literally save my skin from Rebecca’s crackpot revelry. Popping into the frame a couple of times is genre veteran and overall fan favorite is Barbara Crampton (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator”) as Vera, a disgruntled property owner who tracks down Claire and Teddy for a vindictive, rock-throwing rant but becomes unsuspectedly ensnared in the Rebecca’s mare’s nest.

Brandon Christensen is no stranger to small productions with a small cast, but “Superhost” is a micro-production with a micro-cast and, somehow at no surprise, busts out a truly terrifying lunacy that can make you double think before clicking that confirmation button on the vacation rental reservation. “Superhost” is unsettling and invasive as if privacy is nonexistent and the ever-watchful eye is always looming. In fact, it is! With security cameras installed in basically every room, there’s 24-hour CCTV footage of every moment of Claire and Teddy, but isn’t the moment captured and being filmed constantly is what their livelihood and vocation is all about? Christensen has that paradoxical undertone packed exceedingly well beneath the veneer of voyeurism, inescapability, and troubled relationship issues that the theme becomes a backburner hit on the tail end in that what the thing that provides Claire and Teddy a reason to be free as individuals is the also the very thing that they can’t flee from and become merely a battered object of one’s mad person’s whims much like their more critical reviews can be ruinous to others. While “Superhost” can feel a bit slow for the first two acts, the story showcases a development and escalation of Grace Gillam’s Rebecca as a woman with more than one loose screw. Of course, Rebecca’s not seen for who she really is by the compulsion to film not just the rental, but also her, as gold-plated viewership material. “Superhost” admonishes a tread carefully thriller to beware and adhere the signs of mania danger and all those Rebeccas out there.

Trust me – cancel that reservation, plan on a staycation, and watch the Shudder-exclusive “Superhost” now on Blu-ray home video from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nothing terrible to note here as much of the digitally captured, RED Gemini images are about as crisp as they come with a natural presentation all around from cinematographer Clayton Moore (“It Stains the Sands Red”) with the exception of the unfiltered handheld camera and CCTV footage, which is also very authentic. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rustles together clearly and discernibly ever creak of the floorboards and every gushy stabbing sound for full impact purposes. Dialogue track is clean with pronunciation clarity and the bottom-and-bass dropping score by instrumental band Blitz//Berlin (“Psycho Gorman,” “The Void”) continue to impress with their original soundtracks. The special feature includes a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes that talks about Mount Charleston location, the annoying tiny beetle swarms, and how amazingly small the production crew was, a solid blooper reel, “Superhost” VFX featurette with green screening and matting car scenes and the ultra-graphic knife through the mouth effect, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and episodes 1 and 2 of Brandon Christensen’s television shorts, “Scaredycats.” Remember, guys, hit that like bottom and subscribe to follow Brandon Christensen’s descension of guests becoming unaccommodated by a psychotic “Superhost!”

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

Making a Horror Movie can be EVIL on the Health! “Stoker Hills” reviewed! (101 Films / Digital Screener)

Three film studies college students are eager to win their class’s short film contest with story idea Street Walkers, a genre blending horror movie that crosses “Pretty Woman” with “The Walking Dead.” On their first night of shooting, isolated on the empty streets of Stoker Hills, their actress and friend is suddenly abducted right before their camera lens and instantly give chase without a second to call the authorities, falling right into the maniac’s nightmarish world. Left behind for two detectives is the students’ tell-all camera, leaving behind the recording as the only clue into tracking down their undisclosed whereabouts and stopping the kidnapping-killer. As the detectives home in on the killer’s lair, only hours are left before a determined and desperate madman drains every single drop of their youthful blood for a deadly selfish cause.

Director Benjamin Louis and “Stoker Hills” want you to believe in their compelling and bloody slasher narrative of periled college students fighting for their lives against a formidable, resilient killer while two resolute detectives sniff out the mystery of their disappearance before it’s too late. However, in “Stoker Hills,” nothing is as it appears to be. As the first feature script penned and produced by Jonah Kuehner, the “State’s Evidence” director, Benjamin Louis, coproduces the sheeny cinematic slasher that hits upon almost every known trope in the book by incorporating a backwoods nook, a torturous rec room, and foggy night underneath a vividly complete full moon into a story that’s one part found footage and one part cop thriller. Benjamin and cinematographer John Orphan (“The Black String”) do a phenomenal job crafting away from a Los Angeles look and into an unrecognizable, any-town-America by shooting at the dead of night in L.A.’s low-lit surrounding areas of Griffith Park and the Angeles National Forrest without focusing in on or revealing well-known landmarks. “Wildling’s” Rab Butler and Timothy Christian coproduces the 2020 teen-mystery slasher.

“Stoker Hills” begins very much in the same way as my last review of Seth Landau’s “Bryan Loves You” with a deep-in-character production by the great Tony Todd (“Candyman”) as a film studies professor. Instead of warning audiences to look away if frightened or to be ushered out of the theater when shocked beyond just stomaching the content, Todd’s professor of cinema is passionate and enthusiastic about what great filmmaking and the auteurs who wield their work upon the world. However, much like “Bryan Loves You,” Tony Todd only dabbles into the narrative with a superficial house role that opens the doors for Ryan (David Gridley, “The Unhealer”), Jake (Vince Hill-Bedford, “Sorority Slaughterhouse”), and Erica (Steffani Brass, “Ted Bundy”), three slackjaw, maybe even indolent, students eager to take “The Walking Dead” and turn it into a “Pretty Woman” romance comedy known as “Street Walkers.” The concept is no Guillermo del Toro or Martin Scorsese, but nonetheless barely sates the professor’s threadbare faith in the three’s semester-ending grade. Along the way, we’re introduced laterally to character who will eventually be integrated into the story later and at a state of prominence to the mystery, such as with fellow star student Dani Brooks (television actress Tyler Clark) and her university benefacting donor Dr. Jonathan Brooks (John Beasley, “The Purge: Anarchy”). “Stoker Hills” also isn’t entirely linear as the footage soon appears to be corrupted only to be on pause by two officers investigating the case and analyzing the video. William Lee Scott (“Identity”) and Eric Etebari (“Scream at the Devil”) play the high-blood pressure, blue collar, family-man Detective Bill Stafford and a sophisticated bachelor and quasi-Rain man Detective Adams respectively. The Scott and Etebari cop drama show entertains as less CSI and more NYPD Blue or Law & Order with a conspicuous partner correlation only to be separated by adding snippets of out of context humanity, such as why Adam’s is a loner and Stafford hates changing baby diapers. Powerful stuff. Each character is connected to “Stoker Hills'” antagonist, Charles Muyer (Jason Sweat), who’s been abducting young, healthy people off the streets and into his vacant buildings of intravenous drips of blood into a milk crate-based cylinder beaker tube. Thomas R. Martin, Joy McElveen, Maya Nucci, Michael Faulkner, and “Eraser’s” Danny Nucci round out the cast.

Director Benjamin Louis cherry picks the best traits from a triad of genres to smush together into one trope-tastic “Stoker Hills”  A lumbering mute killer bred to annihilate in his nihilism from the slasher genre, two dedicated detectives determined to catch a killer and able to snoop out clues out of nothing that’s familiar toward the cop drama genre, and a pair of brosefs, who dude each other in every other line of dialogue no matter if it’s joshing in film studies class or being chased harrowingly through the woods and having their foot snagged in the teeth of a beartrap, pulling from the pot-smoking and arrogant hijinks of two immature college aged guys usually hovering around the teen comedy category.  All the actors really get into their parts to the point of a fault in creating a bogus, simulated environment as if a knockoff matrix, coded by naive aliens who know nothing of the human race other than watching “American Pie,” “Law & Order,” and every Renaissance era slasher film, is being pulled over the eyes. The whole ordeal that has a context surrounding Charles Muyer’s bad pig heart is also grossly under kneaded and bordering nonsensical until the ending. That game changing ending spooled by meta wiring puts in perspective every last minute of the well-paced 91-minute film, and when the narrative quickly closes upon itself and fades to black into the credits, every scene previously pondered and examined, crisscrossed into a mental algorithm that breaks down character arcs and progression devices, and spits out answers like an Amazon Alexa has suddenly last all its calculated determination in a snap of a flash. Kudos to “Stoker Hills'” screenwriter Jonah Kuehner for conceiving an overtreated trope decoy story and kudos to director Benjamin Louis in pulling the wool over our eyes without flinching or showing his cards too early.

Everybody run for “Stoker Hills” and become caught up in a diabolical twist that’ll deflate the suspense out of you but also leave you pleasantly surprised. 101 Films released this film last month, March 28th, on digital platforms. Since “Stoker Hills” is solely a digital release from UK distributor, there are no audio or video specs to note or review. Aforementioned, John Orphan helms the “Stoker Hills” noir and no-nonsense veneer which is and also the minor league Jigsaw traps are very “Saw”-like, even down to peppering certain scenes with over illuminating primary color gels if by spotlight. Roc Chen, a profound composer for China over the last decade, notes a less than impactful score in what could be considered more run of the mill material, but that also could play into the whole narrative twist. There were no bonus features available with the film nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. At first glance, “Stoker Hills” treads over the same worn trodden path of slasher predecessors, but then the finale hits like a five-finger slap in the face from Will Smith and, suddenly, everybody could be, should be, and will be talking about “Stoker Hills'” gripping gambit.

Don’t be Afraid of an Unstoppable EVIL Killer on Your Fishing Trip. Do be Afraid of the Very Pregnant Wife You Left to Go on that Fishing Trip! “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

Dastan is about to be a new father, but he is over his head with debt and can no longer withstand the verbal abuse of his headstrong, ready-to-pop wife, Zhanna.  When an opportunity opens up go fishing with his best friends Murat and Arman, he whisks away before she can sink her nagging teeth into him again and tries to enjoy the relaxation of catching fish by floating down the river.  That’s until he and his friends stumble upon an execution by a crime boss and his goons.  Frantically trying to escape, they run into a strange man with a burnt face living out in the wilderness.  The three friends and the gangsters are targeted by the maniacal, murderous stranger with an apparent unkillable survival instinct and supernatural abilities. 

Who would have thought one of the best action-comedy horrors would have come out of Kazakhstan and come to think of it, this 2021 Yernar Nurgaliyev film “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is probably the only Kazakhstan film come across this desk.  Natively titled “Zhanym, ty ne poverish,” Nurgaliyev’s genre blending zany is bursting with dark comedy, gore, and a framework that tests the sturdiness of friendships as well as the clear-cut recognition for the things you have in life because the world isn’t always greener on the other side.  In fact, the world is actually dusty and partway arid in an isolated Kazakhstan landscape that resides with antisocial individuals – mob transgressions, deranged psychopaths, and even those who just want to get away from their wives.  The regular comedy helming Nurgaliyev cowrites the script with first time screenwriters Zhandos Aibassov and Daniyar Soltanbayev under Art Dealers productions in association with the international action company, Nomad Stunts, that delivers the film’s amazing fight choreography.

An ensemble cast of character actors construct a living, breathing dark comedy worth the time and effort. Plenty of unsuspecting twists and turns keep the preposterous party going beginning with an opening of a very black and white passive aggressive quarrel involving principal character Daston (Daniar Alshinov, “A Dark, Dark Man”) who, from this male reviewer’s perspective, takes a relentless verbal whip in emasculation. Alshinov expresses so clearly the biting-tongue frustration in a hilarious montage of on rage’s edge with wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) dishing out the third degree on all his husbandry failures. Avoiding his wife’s warpath behavior, aggravated by being on the verge of giving birth at any time, Daston’s quickly sneaks in his desires and hightails it on a last getaway before he becomes a father or dies of incessant verbal abuse, whichever comes first. Community school officer Murat (Yerlan Primbetov) and sex-toy dealer Arman (Azamat Marklenov) finally are able to steal away Daston in a little time for themselves. The acting trio leading up to the fishing spot are naturally conversive that gives into their characters longstanding friendship with quippy jabs at each other and overselling their less-than-satisfactory positions in life, but not until the friends stumble haplessly while floating down the river into being witnesses of a murder by low-end horse gangsters and run into a stoic one-eyed, burnt face bald man intent on spilling blood for vengeance because the gang killed his dog does Daston and his friends need to go to Hell and back to realize how special their friendship means to each other. “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is a bro movie (and I mean the characters say bro a lot) with an orchestrated series of unfortunate, yet very funny, gruesome events to resolidify a tattered friendship and to reexamine life. The film costars Almat Sakatov, Rustem Zhanyamanov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Bekaris Akhetov, Kadirgali Kobentay, and Gauhar Sagingalieva.

Nurgaliyev develops a physical comedy based around a plan gone awry collision course between four groups destined to intertwine in battle royal.  “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” lands the slapstick one, two, three combination of action, comedy, and notes of horror well outside infantility and outdated material in a smartly laid path of events unfolding to a brawling showdown of those left standing.  I believe the imbalance between physicality and the humorless, if not slightly bothersome, subtitled dialogue stems from the lost in translation.  Subtitles can only convey a literal account of the Kazakhstani reflection and regionalism mayhem often blown to unrecognizable smithereens during a crude translation, but being a foreign film with grossly simplified subtitles shouldn’t be a cause for total write off as there’s much to enjoy from the funneling, concentrated, ever-twisting storyline to the outrageous action stuffed tightly in cramped houses to the perfectly spectacular blend of practical and CGI violence and gore fabricated nearly seamlessly by special effects duo Juliya Levitskaya and Elde Shibanov. Heads role, jaws detached, and plenty of eviscerating shotgun blasts crest above as the cherry on top of the Dastan and his friends’ misadventure through Kazakhstan countryside in a story that’s as ruthless as “Deliverance” and as magnetically dark and eccentric as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

101 Films brings what is called an “insane, violent, and hilarious” fun from Kazakhstan (and we couldn’t agree more) to a UK Blu-ray home video. The region B, high definition, 1080p Blu-ray features a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio of the short 74-minute film, certified UK 15 for strong gory injury detail, violence, threat, and language. Image quality is quite good of rendering mostly the grassy desert-like Kazakhstan landscape and the framing prompts greatly what to expect through either Azamat Dulatov’s harness cam strapped to the actors for closeup reactions or perfectly timed pan when needed to express off-center comedy. What’s really sensational about the film is the localized soundtrack. Nurgaliyev doesn’t buy, beg, borrow, or steal popular westernized tracks to broaden his film’s release and, instead, the soundtrack has a plethoric range of native music from lounge pop to hip hop. The Kazakhstani PCM stereo has more than enough ample timbre and offers a suitable range and depth despite being a dual channel. There are no dub tracks (in case you were wondering) and the English subtitles are forced (for those of few who don’t like to read during the film). Though bonus features would have been nice to root into and explore more of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the country’s film industry, the only bonus material on this 101 Films’ release is the theatrical trailer. As far as fiasco films go, “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” ranks high this side of the 21st century as a humorous, violent, and perspective redirecting genre-bending film that needs be in everyone with a black sense of taste’s library.

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

EVIL Trolls the Waters, Angling for a Kill. “Bood Hook” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)

Troma’s 2-disc “Blood Hook” Available on Amazon!

Muskie Madness.  That’s the moniker for the locals’ fishing contest set as the background for a group of city slicker friends looking to unwind and do a little fishing themselves.  17 years earlier, Peter van Clease witnesses his grandfather suddenly fall into the lake and disappears without a trace.  Present day, Peter returns to his grandfather’s cabin with his friends but is still haunted by the memory from his childhood.  When locals and tourists engage in the contest for who can catch the biggest Muskie, a maniacal fisher casts his giant fishhook lure into the flesh of unexpected contestants on the lake and on the shore, dragging them violently into water and never to be heard from again.  The disappearances send Peter into not only an investigation of those currently missing but also into the cold case of grandfather’s demise whose fate was eerily similar. 

On the calm, glossy surface, “Blood Hook” resembles the quintessential severed tongue-and-cheek comedy and horror of Troma’s outrageously independent repertoire.  Tossed around as a crude idea about opulent society diluting the quality and the quietness of quaint lake resorts during their extravagant vacations outside city life, “Blood Hook,” once under the working title of “Muskie Madness,” is the first, if not the only that I can recall, American fisher-slasher from the unique imagination and vision stemmed from director Jim Mallon (producer, writer, and director of the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” series and movie) and producer David Herbert’s childhoods growing up in the summers of small town Wayward, Wisconsin.  Larry Edgerton and John Galligan were brought in to spruce up the script as the official screenwriters, adding bits of dry humor to an already unorthodox slasher in this catch-and-released in 1986 B-movie produced by Golden Charges and Spider Lake Films Ltd.

Like a Kleenex, the young cast falls into the fresh for one-use category of being mainly known for their role in “Blood Hook” and I hate to use that analogy because there are some really campy, genre-perfection talented acts here for a relatively large cast of a small, independent production about a killer fisherman.    Granted, a handful of the talent were able to snag up minor roles in bigger films, such as with Mark Jacobs (“Goodfellas) in the principal lead of Peter van Clease.  Jacobs, who is a dead ringer for David Schwimmer appearances and mannerisms, castrates van Clease’s manhood with extreme meekness more so than the character’s wishy-washy stance on his university music studies, romantic connections, and confronting homicidal maniacs when his abducted woman is in danger of becoming grinded up minnow chow.  What is more vexing about van Clease is the fact he essentially woes 2/3 of the principal ladies without even casting a line.  Beyond the frustrating namby-pamby, all other characters are depicted, in every sense of the term, more in accordance with those who portray them.    There is a side relationship building between van Clease’s friend Finner (Christopher Whiting), an enthusiastic fisherman who is new to the group of city friends, and Bev D. (Sandy Meuwissen), a single local with a toddler, that the audience can get invested in and takes an interesting turn when Bev D. plays the fishing rod at both ends, dipping her toes in another man’s lake with fellow local, and crazed military nut, Evelyn Duerst (Bill Lowrie).  Evelyn’s father, and yes Evelyn is a grown man with a beard, is played by Paul as the van Clease estate caretaker and a real stern pit for local purity.  A fan favorite will be the salty-looking bait shack owner Leroy Leudke complimenting his lovable persona, thick Minnesotan accent, and overall mysterious allure (with a lure) from Don Winters.  The cast rounds out with Lisa Jane Todd (“Playback”), Sara Hauser, Patrick Danz, Dale Dunham, Paul Heckman, Bonnie Lee, Don Cosgrove, Dana Remker, and Donald Franke.

Blood Hook” trawls through the familiarity of the 80’s slasher genre with an obscured hunter, a high body count, and a copiously campy campsite of carnage, but this peculiar fillet is sliced from a different kind of fish. While casted under darkness, the killer flings a cast of nylon fishing line with a large, sharp-hooked Suick lure distinguish itself as a unique weapon of choice that fills the icy blood cooler. There’s comedy in that diabolical device, largely so when making too much noise on the water that can scare fish away from patient fishers as Mallon hyperbolizes the idea of outsiders raising a ruckus amongst the sanctity of the local waters while paralleling a message about the aftereffect horrors of war; however, where we should be laughing at the idea of a fisher hooking a 150lb prize human, we’re only barely smirking at the irony as much of the dark comedy doesn’t precisely translate well from paper to screen. “Blood Hook” is about as big as the hook going into the gut as it’s no ordinary jonboat film as Mallon’s film looks serious, feels serious, and acts like a contender up against the iconic slasher-mega yachts of the time with a disconcerting sound design by Thomas Naunas of deafening cicada tymbal clicks all too familiar during summer days coupled with an eerie gelled and moody cinematography from Marsha Kahn that sets the slasher narrative as such. Both Naunas and Kahn exhibit perfect harmony in a disharmonious narrative context as a pair of feature film greenhorns looking for a launching point in their careers.

Muskie Madness turns into a Muskie Massacre. “Blood Hook” is the cinematic catch that almost got away, but Troma reels this trophy cult film back aboard onto a new 2-disc Blu-ray release distributed by MVD Visual. Presented in 16:9, “Blood Hook” holds up even to today’s standards against scrappy independent productions with a slight soft, yet noticeably clean presentation from the Super 16mm stock blown up to 35mm.  Some frames appear cropped and stretched on faces in extreme closeups, losing a bit of textural definition that leans more into a softer picture, but the contrasting is balanced which is unusual for a Troma film, the coloring is richer around the lush outdoor vistas without breaking stride of other color appropriate opportunities, like the vibrant red blood, and no evidence of any damage transferred over from the negative.  No formal mention of audio specifics on the back cover, but I suspect the track to be DTS-HD Master Audio Mono that’s clear but has issues with projecting low-talk dialogue.  Thomas Naunas’s soundtrack introduces a repetitive looming synth score kept well in check around more less-than-major problematic dialogue scenes.  Naunas’s sound design as a whole is paramount to “Blook Hook’s” envisioned success with an incessant cicada clicking combined, on the regular, with discord tones to jar the audio senses in relationship to an imminent threat.  First disc contains the feature plus scene selection menu.  The second disc is all special features clunkily arranged around the rehashing of Vinegar Syndrome produced interviews from their 2018 Blu-ray release with director Jim Mallon, actress Lisa Jane Todd, special effect artist Jim Suthers, and an audio interview with cinematographer/editor Marsha Kahm.  Along with the theatrical trailer, there’s also the usual Troma promos that accompany their re-release such as for Troma Now, Radiation March against pollution, and the Return of Gizzard Face 2 to promote Troma NOW’s streaming service.  The 2020 Metal + Hitchcock “Blood Stab” short, starring Lloyd Kaufman, finds its way onto the release too. “Blood Hook” is a tackle box of slasher tropes and anti-war and PTSD undertones though slightly dragged down by its weighted comedy; however, a killer sound design and a topnotch killer makes “Blood Hook” a perfect poster film for Troma heads.

Troma’s 2-disc “Blood Hook” Available on Amazon!