Beware EVIL’s Lair! “Rust” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Hotel Fear is a dilapidated shell of a once thriving horror attraction with labyrinths chockful of replica grisly terrors. Isolated in a rural area outside Las Vegas, Hotel Fear becomes the meetup place for best friends Heather and Morgan who drive to the forlorn theme park to unite with a couple of male friends. However, Hotel Fear houses a notorious urban legend that includes the deranged killer, Travis McLennan, a barbaric, cannibalistic madman who abducts young women for his pleasure. When Morgan is captured and Heather barely escapes with her life, it’s up to a battered and traumatized Heather to return with the police to rescue Morgan from the merciless grips of Travis McLennan.

Can “Rust” be the next much-admired slasher franchise this side of the last ten decade? That’s what will be discussed when analyzing Joe Lujan’s written and directed “Rust,” a survival-slasher surrounding a mute-masked killer named Travis McLennan, birthed by a nefarious anecdotal urban legend of a unhinged boy who murdered his parents and wears his father’s face. Lujan, whose become something of a low-budget horror factory filmmaker with short and feature film credits including “It Followed Me,” “Atelophobia,” and their respective sequels, helms what could be the director’s bread and butter legacy that crosses “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with some aspects from a Rob Zombie filmmaking handbook. What makes “Rust” unique, or at least in the Wild Eye Releasing DVD, is the feature is comprised of two short films, “Rust” and “Rust 2,” spliced together to make a full length film that would ignite the fervor for third entry, “Rust 3” in 2020 currently in post-production, and all produced by Lujan’s production company, Carcass Films.

Typically, popular slasher will center mostly around the chased protagonists that naturally produces an ominous villain, examples would be Alice in “Friday the 13th,” Laurie Strobe in “Halloween,” Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street, but “Rust” shares the focal responsibilities between protagonist duo of Heather and Morgan and an antagonist duo of Travis McLennan and his Stockholm syndrome sex slave, Valkyrie. Not only do we wonder about the bloody-cladded rooms of Hotel Hell with Heather and Morgan, but also see some dynamics and curiosities from their stalker. “Hot Tub Party Massacre’s” Corey Taylor and “Afflict’s” Taylor Kilgore become the besties Heather and Morgan and are staple actors in Lujan’s ensemble cache he’s collaborated extensively throughout his career. As an exposed midriff Kilgore loses out on Morgan’s weak character development that’s nothing more than an elevated whimper, Corey Taylor by default lifts up to be a quasi-strong female lead, but neither actress steps into that final girl role and are extremely overshadowed by Morlon Greenwood’s towering-might that converts to being the black-hearted killer Travis McLennan. The Jamaican born, former NFL linebacker has that “See No Evil,” Kane-like violence that bears an austere ravager who would make anybody crap their pants when going into full-throttle chase mode with machete in hand. Lindsey Cruz (“Meathook Massacre 4”), Raul Limon (“The Immortal Wars”), Isaac Rhino (“Blood Runs Thick”), Meek Ruiz, Paul Tumpson, Nycolle Buss, Lordis DePiazza, Brittany Enos, and Brittany Hoza round out the cast.

So, does “Rust” make for good silver screen slashery? One would need to snake between the rough McLennan backstory that doesn’t clearly sink in, the whimsical premise of a teen meet-up and wander through an abandoned horror theme attraction, and the hollow characters to declare that “Rust” doesn’t make the cut across the throat. Finding reasons to be concerned for characters was at a great time nil because of their bland design with nothing to strive or live for in a complete and total arc-less folly of development. Perhaps the purest form of a slasher is in Travis McLennan’s brutality which warrants some positive lighting as a more machine than man killer, wearing a fleshy mask skinned from his father, as he hoards young women for his unknown kicks, but whether the funds weren’t in the budget or an artistic preference was applied, all the kills were mostly done off-screen and implied. There were a couple of knife blows to the head and the neck areas that barely had discernible quality that subjected no veering of the eyes or garnished any dread into the full brunt of the kill blow. Lujan pens an obscured rape scene that has more oomph than the killing itself. We’ve seen box store horror films with scream attractions before, such as like “Hell Fest,” and even some enticing independent ventures, such as “Talon Falls,” both of which have filled the need for urban myth, meta-horror – horror actually happening in a horror theme park – but most of these films don’t pan out as expected and “Rust” simply falls into that latter unfortunate category.

Right on the coattails of a third film comes “Rust” onto DVD home video courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing that’s presented not rated and in a full frame 16:9 aspect ratio that’s varies in quality being two shorts combined into one. “Rust” first half suffers from an extremely low bitrate so much so that you can see pinpoint each frame. The coloring is faded beyond the brown on a Las Vegas desert and, at times, difficult to discern exactly what’s happening mise-en-scene, especially in the darker scenes as you can see in the screencaps. The second half fairs better with a higher bitrate, smoother frame transitions, and a cleaner, less muddle twitching inside the frame. The English language dual channel stereo sound mix also splits the difference, most notably with a shield and muffled dialogue track being drowned out by ambient and the Eric Dryer’s score, a score that’s possibly a highlight in “Rust’s” legacy. Again, audio regains some control over the levels, providing more efficient range and depth but still can’t overcome of the powerful score. Bonus features include an interview with Joe Lujan about the fabrication from beginning to end of “Rust,” the original Rust 1 and 2 shorts, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. One bonus I was vying for was the Eric Dryer score, but no such luck. “Rust” might be more of tetanus hazard than a budding slasher ripe for the viewing, but director Joe Lujan has the potential if the filmmaker can chug foward gaining experience along the way and, perhaps, recap his Travis McLennan nightmare on a bigger, badder scale with a sharper machete.

“Rust” is included with Prime Video!

 

“Rust available on DVD”

The Analogies of the EVIL that Plagues Us. “Hole” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.

Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.

“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.

Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.

Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.

Giving EVIL the Electric Chair Only Gives EVIL a Buzz! “Destroyer” reviewed! (Cheezy Movies/DVD)


The unspeakable 23 rape and murder crimes of psychopath Ivan Moser grant him a seat of honor at the electric chair. As soon as the switch is thrown, a massive prison riot ensues and what happens next becomes unexplainable, confusing, and indeterminable. One thing is clear, the prison’s Warden Kash loses his position as the trashed penitentiary is forced to shut down. Eighteen months later, a film crew acquire permits to shoot a women-in-prison exploitation film inside the prison with the help of it’s one time custodial employee, Russell, who is just as creepy as the abandoned maximum security penitentiary that housed the infamous Ivan Moser. As production grapples with townsfolk opposition, electrician’s timing miscues, and some seriously bad acting, there’s one unexpected obstacles not accounted for…a living, breathing Ivan Moser still living inside the iron cladded prison.

Horror fans from all walks of life to the age gaps of multiple generations can all agree on one thing, that the 1980’s is the gilded age of horror to which inspired and/or captivated us all. The decade was also an industrious change for political climates that saw the fall of the Berlin and saw musical artists like Michael Jackson break the conventional molds of how music was orchestrated, sung, and danced too. For movies, the change came with technical innovation in elaborate special effects, such as in John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and undogmatic view of how we perceive plots which opened the flood gates to a slew of unexplored ideas no matter how far-fetched they may seems. One plot such as this would be from the 1988 prison massacre film, “Destroyer,” directed by Robert Kirk as is one and only non-fictional feature before an extreme career solidifying shift to historical movie and television documentaries. Written by Peter Garrity (“The Forgotten One”), Rex Hauck, and Mark W. Rosenbaum, “Destroyer’s” a gritty tale of endless, black obsession fueled by insanity, revved up with inexplicable half-alive malice, and juiced with strength of an indestructible force without being overtly supernatural.

With an 80’s movie comes an 80’s cast and the popular reteaming of Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman from 1986’s holiday themed horror, “April Fool’s Day.” “Destroyer” isn’t based on a certain holiday, but converges more toward meta approach where Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman play the romantic couple, grindhouse screenwriter David Harris and stuntwoman Susan Malone, on film set of their women in prison movie – Death House Dollies. A typecast switcheroo is engaged as the physicality falls upon the female role while Rohner takes a reserved backseat as a writer and that entails Foreman to face off against Lyle Alzado as the unspoken titular character Ivan “Destroyer” Moser. Alazdo’s crazy eyes and muscular football build provides the suitable basic elements of a crazed killer; probably doesn’t hurt that Alzado was also juiced up on steroids throughout his career in the NFL and beyond his exit from sports entertainment. Alzado has been quoted in Sports Illustrated having uncontrollable anger from roid-rage and that pressurized anger seethed, one could assumed, in the eyes of Ivan Moser, forging a superhuman monster under the parental guardianship of Richard Brake lookalike, Tobias Anderson (“Harvest of Fear”). “Psycho’s” late Anthony Perkins co-stars a the director of the WIP film as an unusual placemat only to serve as a hot moniker in horror to be contextual candy for one big scene and not providing much else. Lannie Garrett, Jim Turner (“Pogrammed to Kill”), Pat Mahoney (“Strangeland”), and four Death House Dollies in a gratuitous shower fight scene co-star!

A purebred American slasher of eccentric electrifying devices, “Destroyer” chooses punitive measures against the concept of capital punishment, sending the cryptic message that the dead will haunt you and those that you touch forever in some warped guilt trip nexus. The message is only further hammered in by the embossed haunting atmosphere of Robert Kirk’s opening sequence of a priest walking down the hazy cellblocks toward Moser’s cell, sitting with twitchy Moser while he madly raves and rambles about the game show that plays on a television set in front of his cell, and going through the steps of a chaired electrocution echoes a utilitarian dystopia that fathers in the cold, ungenial tone of the prison and Moser’s psychotically feral thirst to kill. Ivan Moser’s vitality is infectious, a hail-mary shot you’ll be rooting toward the finale, as the serial killer undertakes undertaker duties with extreme perversity while chocking up his body count with unsystematic eliminations, such as with a conveniently placed jackhammer in the prison basement. The jackhammer’s scene is “Destroyer’s” bread and butter, the showpiece of the whole film, but Moser only snag a couple of some real good on screen kills. All the rest are off screen or channeled through another device, such as an electric chair, and that softens and stiffens Moser’s, if not also Alzado’s, ultimate larger-than-life presence. Still, “Destroyer” rocks Lyle Alzado’s short-lived indelible monster making movie talent and confines the space to a breathless solitary confinement death house ready to devour more victims.

“Destroyer” shocks onto DVD home video release distributed from Cheezy Movies, MVDVisual, and Trionic Entertainment, LLC. If you’re not willing to shell out big bucks for “Destroyer” on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, check out Cheezy Movies’ economy region free DVD presented in an academy ratio, full frame 4:3. A beginning title card mentions that Cheezy Movies attempts to find the best transfer available when searching out titles and I believe that was done here with this release, but unlike Scream Factory, funds were not poured into an expensive upscale as moments of banding start right at the title credits. The transfer instances of dirt and cigarette burns are immaterial enough to not falter viewing, but there’s a bit of hefty color posterization in the basement scene that nearly blends the entire white scheme together and causing difficulties defining individual objects. The English language single channel mono mix maintains a lossy connatural sell topping out at the it’s as good as it gets ceiling with an economy release, but the dialogue is surprising clear, soundtrack sounds good, and the ambience, though needing a fine tuning, shapes out depth and range nice enough. With this release, no special features are available. Much like “Destroyer’s” tagline, Robert Kirk’s feature won’t shock you, but will give a great buzz with a nightmare coiling around your brain performance from Lyle Alzado and a super 80’s execution-from-the-grave slasher that’s just a guilty pleasure to behold.

Buy “Destroyer” on DVD! Or Watch on PRIME VIDEO!

EVIL Knows No Off-Limits! “Restricted Area” reviewed! (ITN Distribution/DVD)


Four blue-collar friends are being laid off from their steel mill jobs; family generations are engrained with the blood and sweet of the mill, but the somber moment is humbling and harsh when responsibilities come to collect. They decided to throw one last hurrah, a boozy camping trip into the rocky wilderness, before life hits them hard. The calm and tranquil getaway turns deadly when acolytes of Unionology, a cult secluded to the restricted areas, sets sights on trespassing campers with the four friends right in the middle of the hunt. After teaming up with another hiker and the disappearance of one of the friends, a fight for survival ensues against armed masked men and an unhinged cult leader along the mountainside where it’s not only man versus nature, it’s also man versus man.

The great outdoors continues to be synonymous with a hot spot for murder, mayhem, and overall doom and gloom in Christopher M. Don’s debut backwoods cult thriller of survival entitled “Restricted Area.” Dons pens as his second script behind the savagery, snowy slopes of his ski-sploitation horror, “Minutes to Midnight,” where masked men with a cryptic agenda hunt down patrons of a ski lodge set upon a mountain. Don must have an fondness for producing screenplays where masked killers stalk in wilderness elements as “Minutes to Midnight” plot is essentially the same as “Restricted Area” without the sound-damping snow. Produced by Gear Up Productions, which I assume is Christopher Don’s company, climbs very little up to being a modest budget feature and retains around camping along the super low financial terrain based off the already exaggerated beliefs of Scientology that, if at all, lightly treads to more escalating and thrilling heights.

With being an indie feature on a microbudget, Don implements his cast to being his actors as well, including himself as Cody, the nearly silent onscreen brother to his real life brother, Robert Don, as the film’s lead, Tyler. Tyler’s a rough and tough steel mill worker with his biceps bulging from his sleeveless, black puffer jacket and hunting knife strapped to his waist side, but as far as depth goes, Tyler lacks significant worth from little backstory and no character arc. Whatever Tyler does isn’t exactly bursting with energy by Robert Don’s deadpan manner. Who recoils from inexpressiveness is West Murphy playing Axel, the goofy and boastful friend whose really blowhard, and though Murphy sprinkles flavoring upon and around most of the monotonically adrift slop, Axel’s one-trick pony can’t even offer much else to the story, not even a glorious death that would be redeeming for such droll stereotypes. “Restricted Area” houses random entries and exits of characters that can make viewers anxious, concerned, and down right frustrated with the arbitrary fates of Harold (“Big Bad Bugs’” Phillip Andrew Botello) who disappears with only a little sliver of where he might be in the closing scene and the blank white masked cultist with a machete who leaves more intrigue of a boss level villain than is actually divulged in the story. Paige Lindsay Betts, Ross Britz (“Ozark Sharks”), Emily Gardt (“Satan’s Seven”), Nicholas Cole (“Stripped”), Randy Wayne, Gus Moore, Wilmer Hernandez, and schlock horror internet pundits and, Shawn C. Phillips and Danny Filaccio fill out the cast list.

“Restricted Area” already has a zillion things going against the meek and humble feature albeit the aforesaid above from the mishandling of characters, but the bearings, picked from the litter of many categories, never comes into focal clarity and shimmy their way to eek by toward a rather enigmatic end. Out of the 112 minute runtime, Christopher Don’s screenplay couldn’t consists of more than 60 to 70 pages of dialogue and scenes with the remaining footage for the feature being supplemented with overkilled filler scenes of Tyler and his band of survivalists wandering around an idyllic traipse, dysfunctional and unnecessary segue edits repeat nearly themselves and just extend into filler scenes themselves, and the bombardment of landscapes – lots and lots of landscapes. There was even one faux pas of a wooded mountainside that was shamelessly shot straight from a magazine advertisement with the advertised site text very visible in the scene. There’s also a scene with a real rattlesnake that, by chance, wandered into production and Don decided misplace this miracle amongst inside another wandering group montage. To continue on the script, the convoluted nature of the cult wanted to kill a young boy becomes lost as this boy comes and goes as he pleases, pleading without any dire sense of urgency for Tyler to save his life. Yet, this dubious boy never seems to be frightened, frantic, or even in cahoots when considering the cult’s dastardly plan to end his time on this Earth.

ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment’s call to the wild is a survivalist nightmare in Christopher Don’s “Restricted Area,” pitching a tent into the DVD market with a home video release. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a single layer, region one disc. Perhaps one of the worst presentations I’ve seen lately with the low bit rate, big compression artifact issues that denounces detail clarity right from the get-go, settling into a fuzzy and blotchy 112 minute, from start-to-finish, runtime. The color palette doesn’t pop either inside the parameters of a faded natural scheme that bares no attempt to use any shade of tint to offer more than just the bare minimum to survive. The English language Dolby Digital stereo dual channel mix plays the same rugged tune with lossy quality in dialogue, ambience, and Michael Levinson’s synthy soundtrack, which is perhaps one of the film’s few highlights in lieu of his debut. Still, a harsh feedback echo on the dialogue dampens the authenticity of the ordeal and poor mic placement dilutes the fidelity even more. Optional English SDH is available. Bonus features includes an audio commentary, trailer, and a quaint blooper and outtake reel. “Restricted Area” doesn’t have the authority required to be a gouging survival horror as all sides of the cinematic terrain are too rough for an visual and audio trek and the script lays to waste with drone dispositions and careless considerations that needs to be post noted and restricted from itself.

“Restricted Area” on DVD

Evocation of EVIL in “The Girl In the Crawlspace” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


Jill escapes from the grip of a kidnapping-serial killer who kept her confined in a crawlspace under the house. Her courage brings lethal justice to the captor when the local marshal shoots and kills him upon confrontation. Jill struggles to reintegrate back into her local community in the aftermath, sleeping unconfined in the outdoors and withdrawing herself for social interaction, including from her weekly role playing game with friends. When Kristen moves back into her hometown from college, she aims to set up her therapy practice to assist families impacted by the serial killer as well as Jill by special request from the marshal, but Kristen’s rocky relationship with her substance abusive, off-Hollywood screenwriting husband on the mend drags out Jill’s much needed treatment. With Jill and Kristen preoccupied, they’re oblivious to the concealed threat that plots the next terrorizing exploit of kidnapping and tormenting young, beautiful women.

From under the grubby wooden floorboards to the strategic folding table of a role playing game, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is the Midwest direct-to-video suspense thriller that tackles post-traumatic stress and marital strife while submersed in a looming trail left by a notorious mass murderer, written and helmed by first time director John Oak Dalton. Dalton, who has penned several low-budget grindhouse titles over the last decade and half, including titles such as “Among Us,” “Sex Machine,” and “Jurassic Prey,” returns once again to the genre with the repercussions of Podunk psychopath upon small town America, filmed in Indiana and release in 2018 hitting the ground running with film festival circuits. Indie filmmaker Henrique Couto, schlock horror director of “Scarewaves” and “Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches,” signs on as producer, stepping back from his usual productional duties, and letting an occasional collaborator Dalton to completely engulf himself as the omnipotent auteur. Midwest Film Ventures serves as the production company, shot in Farmland, Indiana.

Erin R. Ryan has continuously sustained a low level hover on the indie horror radar after taking her in Dustin Mill’s “Bath Salt Zombies,” based on the Miami incident based on a naked man eating someone’s face induced by being high on bath salts, and the gooey-gory body horror, “Skinless,” that’s also a Mills production. Ryan expands her portfolio outside physical horror with Jill, a traumatized recluse derived from her abduction and torture, as a subdued component that’s contrary to previous roles, but Ryan capitalizes the opportunity of a scared kitten, recoiling from public gatherings, and slowly and silently emerging back into society while recalling chilling moments as the story progresses. However, there’s difficult pinpointing the head lead as the protagonist roles are shared between Ryan and depicted married couple, a pair of more Henrique Couto casted actors, in Joni Durian and John Bradley Hambrick as Kristen and her husband, John. Between the three, chemistry clicks better than cooking meth in a chemist’s unsanctioned laboratory and offer ample contention without the attending killer’s presence hanging over the whole town’s head. Rounding out the remaining cast is Chelsi Kern (“Scarecrow Count”), Joe Kidd (“Ouija Room”), Jeff Kirkendall (“Sharkenstein”), Clifford Lowe (“Scarecrow County”), and re-introducing Tom Cherry as the good old boy town officer, Marshal Woody.

With a title like “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” I would be remiss if I didn’t say there were some expectations of bodily torture, psychological terror, and teeth-clinching tension when sitting down to watch. The hype was high considering the post-after-post amount of positivity for “The Girl in the Crawlspace” on my Twitter feed. The catchy name and optimistic comments provided real temptation, but Dalton steers in another direction, the what follows in the state of everlasting shock and the reliving of moments seared into your psyche. The direction wasn’t as expected, but that’s necessary a bad thing. “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is exposition heavy with considerable amount of movie referencing peppered with some current event topics, such as the brief mentioning of killing of migrant children, throughout and continuously wanders off point, strolling more into Kristen and John’s crumbling marriage. Jill, the supposed centerpiece of the story, feels more like an afterthought, despite being the “girl” in “The Girl in the Crawlspace.” The cantankerous marriage supposedly jeopardizes those personally involved in Jill’s well-being as John exploits Jill’s idiosyncratic experiences from being a captive by turning them into inspirational junk food for his fading screenwriting career, but the catalyst incident doesn’t stick, becoming more of a weak opening for a more pronounced return of Jill’s haunting past.

From ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” lands onto a not rated DVD home video release. The single layer DVD is presented in a full frame widescreen of an 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In a framing sense, Henrique Couto’s cinematography distinctly places small town in a spectrum view that highlights the soybean fields and farms, the rustic brick infrastructures, and the simplicities of a relaxed, old-fashioned town, using some drone shots to expose the green belt greenery. For an indie feature, the agreeable bitrate has a frank, clear image despite some consistent overexposure that softens details, especially on faces in the outside scenes. The Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 mix has also agreeable dual channel output. Some of the dialogue scenes suffer through an echo, but for the majority, the lines have clarity and unobstructed by ambient layers or the soundtrack. The depth discloses some distant ambiguities, such as in a train shot that’s not rendered in the background as it should, but the amount of range is palatable. English SHD subtitles are available. The only bonus features available on the release are the theatrical trailer and an commentary with producer Henrique Couto and director John Oak Dalton regarding their history together and going through the shot techniques as well as touching upon the actors. The road to recovery is paved in nightmares, psychological terror, and Midwest psychopaths in “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” but pitches away from the principal concern that turns second fiddle to one struggling screenwriter’s difficult assimilation into rural life while simultaneously rethreading a floundering livelihood and a tattered marriage.

Own “The Girl in the Crawlspace” on DVD