Evil Gets Snuffed and Blued. Blu-ray That is! “Effects” review!


Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.

In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!

“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.

Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.

AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?

“Effects” on Blu-ray by AGFA and MVDVisual!

Roe v. Wade? More like Dee Wallace v. Evil Cletus! “Red Christmas” review!


On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!

“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.

When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.

Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!

Get “Red Christmas” gift for the holidays!

All Evil Wants is to Make Art! “Bag Boy Lover Boy” review!


Albert’s just another lowly speck among the multifaceted masses of New York City. The lonely street hotdog vendor barely scrapes by in what could be considered a life, earning next to nothing to keep him on life support in the city that never sleeps. To impress a beautiful girl, a girl of his dreams, Albert accepts a position offered to him by an eccentric photographer and hopes to learn about creating art with a single click of a photographic camera, but Albert becomes the obsessive fixation of the photographer’s next breakthrough exhibit. Albert’s simpleton nature and the photographer’s edgy intensity pushes the aspiring artist to lure women into offbeat modeling sessions in the away photographer’s NYC flat. When he can’t retrieve the inspirational art out of his models, a frustrated Albert goes to extreme lengths to ensure his art is performed to his particular, elementary taste.

“Bag Boy Lover Boy” is the 2014 inaugural feature film debut of director Andres Torres who is one of the few directors out of countless others able to resuscitate the compellingly frightful grit of New York City long ago. I’m talking about the era of pre-Rudy Guiliani New York City in the 1980’s where graffiti splayed walls and the blue fluorescent of dilapidated charm was present on every grid blocked street. Torres, along with co-writer Toni Comas, supplements one of a kind character personalities very appropriate to inhabit the sinister ladened Big Apple. Characters who aren’t dolled up or even genuinely beautiful. Those characters who are easy on the eyes don’t have the inner soul to match, residing in them an defect of some sorts that makes “Bag Boy Lover Boy” feel all too real.

Jon Wächter, a director-actor with behaviors not too alien to that of his character, centers himself as that very bag boy, lover boy of Albert, the awkward citizen with a one track mind and living to fulfill no dreams, hopes, or goals. Wachter owns his role by giving no hints of aspiration to fortune or achievement until Albert meets the cynical Ivan, appropriately casted with New York City-based actor Theodore Bouloukos, is able to hone in on the streets’ muckiest ground level and incorporate a Ron Jeremy charm that’s shrouded sleazy, but devilishly smart. Ivan draws out of Albert a simple interest, a hope to create art through photography, but Ivan has other, more prosperous, plans for the gullible nitwit as model in his own artwork. Albert’s mind focuses solely on photography and not modeling, placing Ivan in a rather haste position to con his centerpiece with poor words of self-worth advice and filling Albert’s head with misogynistic directions when Ivan goes through his rather rough motivational spiel during shooting gigs. Albert then can’t separate reality with his newfound dream that puts “models,” played by Teena Byrd (“Ninja Versus Vampires”), Sarah O’Sullivan, and Adrienne Gori, in harms path. Kathy Biehl, Karah Serine, Tina Tanzer, Marseille Morillo, and Saoko Okano make up the rest of the cast.

What I found most interesting in Torres film is Albert’s perception of himself. After a couple of, what he thinks are successful, shoots with the women he lures and drags up to the Ivan’s flat, Albert perceives himself as this eminent rockstar, exhibited very boisterously in a fantasy scene within Albert’s dingy one room apartment. What’s really ironic about the whole story is that Ivan honestly could deliver every bit of the wealth, women, and respect he promises to Albert and with these promises, he could obtain Lexy, the girl he hopes to win over, but with such a narrow mind, unable to go beyond to foresee a positive future, Albert self-destructs into infamy with only some non-permissive nudity polaroids to show for it. Torres and Comas Shakespearean-like comedic tragedy concept is a consistent conundrum for each and every one of us, not just the slow and low like Albert, but for us who think in the short term, despite whether what we accomplish now might not be a desire or may not be our sole purpose in life. Even peering into Albert’s erratic, overly-exaggerated, if not visually stimulating, mind stories are not to different from what perhaps the rest of us experience.

Severin Films presents the EXU Media production of “Bag Boy Lover Boy” for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray home video. The region free, not rated, gorgeously illustrated Blu-ray is presented in full HD 1080p. The image quality boasts vibrant colors and really exemplifies the naturally gross visual aspects of New York City streets. Various skin tones come out nicely unfiltered and untouched, especially the pasty Wächter and the olive skin of Tina Tanzer, with only brief moments of filters to accentuate subversive content. The dual channel English stereo isn’t half bad. Even though English is not Jon Wächter’s first language, the Sweden-born actor’s dialogue is clear and coherent. The rather mixed bag soundtrack and the Barbara de Biasi score have boastful fidelity and remarkable clarity. Extras include a meaty audio commentary from director Andres Torres, Theodore Bouloukos, and editor Charlie Williams, The Student Films of Actor Jon Wächter: “Got Light” and “The Never-Starting Story,” and the film’s trailer. “Bag Boy Lover Boy” is surrealistically realistic while being slightly exploitive and courageously risky. A satirical film with the proper fortitude to challenge our judgements about life and the paths chosen while leaving an uncomfortable aftertaste of profligate opportunities. Torres also leaves with us a film that we’ll never forget.

Buy “Bag Boy Lover Boy” at Amazon!

OMG, It’s Evil! Like, “WTF!” review!


Unable to escape her past, Rachel’s unforgettable terrors stem from being the center of a grisly mass murder that involved the death of all her close friends whom were all vacationing at a secluded cabin in the woods. Years later, Rachel, still haunted by the frozen and bloodied faces of her dead friends, reluctantly decides upon attending a spring break getaway with a group of new, still very much alive, school friends; a spring break trip that’s not on a tropical beach, but in a remote cabin. She desperately hopes to face her past and her relentless fear from a killer who was never caught. Through the typical vices that are involved in high schooler hijinks, Rachel tries to cope with not only her fears, but with also her degenerate boyfriend who gawks at any passing woman that makes two second eye contact with him and her superficial stoner friends who relish in their immature partying. As night falls, one-by-one her friends start to die brutally, just like before, and their lifeless bodies vanish, returning Rachel to relive a world of horror that pits her once again against the same maniac as before.

After a brilliant and bloody marketing campaign that involved posters of gore-splattered, half-naked bodies and a slew of “Clue”-esque, whodunit, story characters, “WTF!” has been the Peter Herro directed slasher constantly blipping on my upcoming release radar. “WTF!” is Herro’s breakout feature film debut that lives to tell death in the most formulaic slasher way that’s intentionally campy, persistently raunchy, and keeps you guessing until the end. Despite having character archetypes that genetically makeup the cast in the conventional slasher genre – a stoner, a socialite hottie, a muscular jerk, etc – there is not one single character with redeemable values in the bunch, except for Rachel who constantly shells out her conservative hesitations, and even when faced with their cat-and-mouse induced mortality, Herro, and fellow co-writers Adam Buchalter and Christopher Lawrence Centanni, design an unfortunate bunch of grade-A assholes who could do the world a favor and die a horrible death.

Do you recall my review from last year for the 2015 thriller “The Horror” directed by Jerry J. White III? If you do, you may remember co-star Callie Ott! Ott is back on the scene, starring as Rachel, the traumatized young lady trying to get back on that horse to face her fears, and this leading lady has come a long way to become a scream queen in Herro’s “WTF!” Ott’s joined by two other female co-stars, “Awaken the Shadowman’s” Andrea Hunt and “Hatchet II’s” Sarah Agor, as a pair of girlfriends hellbent to one up each other. When compared to the male characters, Hunt and Agor own their shamelessness and are likable despite their ruthless snobbish attitudes. For the bros, Benjamin Norris, Adam Foster, and Johnny James Fiore are respectively the childish stoner, the ambiguously gay prep, the feverishly perverted jock and, together, they perfectly pitch a tri-force of juvenile incompetence with endless depravities on a continuous repeat cycle. They portray the type of characters you hope, or you pray to God, that they go first and go painfully. Painfully slow, if possible. Nicholas James Reilly rounds out the group of friends as Rachel’s brother, Toby, who tags along to make sure Rachel doesn’t have a mental moment during what should be a fun and relaxed spring break. Oh, and Perez Hilton makes a brief cameo appearance as a pool party host, flavoring his scenes with an exaggerated comedy that’s very similar to his real life and persona.

“WTF!” is a clichéd junket. The over-the-top, stereotypical characters develop like defrosting slabs of beef that are massaged with well-seasoned genre-staple hallmarks, soon to be ready to be filleted into murdered medallions for our viewing pleasure after we’ve suffered the exhaustion over the characters brutal unfiltered banter. Think Perez Hilton and then double the personality. While the characters marinate in moronity, Herro and his crew are able to pull off a back-and-forth of Rachel’s pre- and postmortem experience with interrogation scenes that sweat Rachel to clue in the clueless detectives with the meat of the story. There’s also a competing story involving Rachel at a family wake that’ll become less perplexing when explained in the finale. I found myself not able to grasp entirely who the killer might be until about half the bodies pile up, making “WTF!” an effective slasher with ORLY? capping it off. However, I do grouse with the fact that “WTF!” was suppose to bring that killer mayhem, a tour de force bloodbath, that ultimate gore-soaked slasher as presumably promised in those awesome marketing posters; instead, blood didn’t flow, it merely dripped off into silhouette shadows and the fleeting off-screen moments.

Slathered heavily with many obvious “what the fucks” in the dialogue, Peter Herro does give a fuck with “WTF!” as he lathers his film into an ode to the slasher genre. The Cthulhu Crush Production will be released nationwide on VOD courtesy of Midnight Releasing come August 1st and will be available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Xbox, Vimeo, Steam, Vudu and Google Play. I was provided with a screener disc so I’m unable to comment on video and audio quality and there were no extras included on the disc aside from a static menu. “WTF!” is a must-see. A definite homage to the butchery of trashy teens with a small gratuitous nudity cherry on top. Make sure to catch it August 1st with your video on demand provider.

Jigsaw (aka Saw 8) trailer is here!


The trailer for this year’s Jigsaw (Saw 8) has arrived online! The San Diego Comic Con red band trailer promises to bring back the grisly games, the blood, and the terror. You can’t have Halloween without the Jigsaw Killer as the two of synonymous and expect Jigsaw, who was sorely missed over these passed few years, to ramp up his games this October 27th!

SYNOPSIS

One of the highest grossing Horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level.

Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort (“Bitten”), Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black

Directed by: The Spierig Brothers (“Undead” and “Daybreakers”)
Written by: Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger
Produced by: Oren Koules, Mark Burg, Greg Hoffman

A Lionsgate release, Twisted Pictures presents, a Burg/Koules/Hoffman production.