While embarking through Kentucky on a camping road trip, four friends make a pit stop at a Kentuckian scream park called Talon Falls, suggested to them by squirrelly and unusual gas station attendant. As they work their way through a labyrinth of gore and torture, the realization that the local attraction harnesses realistic inflictions of pain hits them squarely in the jaw as they become unwilling participants instilled into the hyper-horrific entertainment that’s recorded onto a snuff tape. In order to not be strapped to a jerry-rigged electrocution chair or be the guinea pig for a sadistic mad doctor with a niche for painful exploratory surgery, they must fight the entire company of Talon Falls’ scream park in order to not be a piece of recorded snuff.
“Talon Falls” is the 2017 torture and survival horror named after and shot on location at the real life scream park located in Melber, Kentucky and written, directed, and co-produced by indie filmmaker Joshua Shreve. Shreve’s story tip-toes around being a familiar narrative that might not seem so different from other works ranging from Nimród Antal “Vacancy” to maybe even Rob Zombie’s murder-world fun-n-games “31,” but if you take a step back and take a long, hard look at “Talon Falls'” gore scenes that don’t just secretly record the assortment of death, but exhibits the ghastly torture for the entire public eye to see. If you’ve been to a Halloween Horror theme park, you know very well the adrenaline pumps, the hearts thump, and the fear tops into a knot in your throat and “Talon Falls” simply adds that what if factor. What if it’s not fake? What if these people being dismembered and vilely tortured are ultimately put to death right before our eyes, like some Captain Spaulding backwoods horror show with a side bucket of his famous fried chicken?
In any case, the four friends, made up of two couples, don’t have one ounce of star power behind their name, but each one of them spearhead the project with enough enthusiasm and gusto that there’s no short fall of trepidation even if the level of fear stalls slightly on overkill at times. Brad Bell, Jordyn Rudolph, Sean Rudolph, and Morgan Wiggins don’t necessary have the on-screen chemistry as friends or couples, even if Sean and Jordyn Rudolph are an offscreen husband and wife, but the palpitating consternation dynamic solidly sells when all hell breaks loose inside the walls of Talon Falls. Between Jordyn Rudolph and Morgan Wiggins, either actress could be a vocal stretching scream queen, especially Wiggins who reaches ranges that could pierce eardrums.
When the spectrum-filled makeup palettes and every single destructive deconstruction prop is laid out at your finger tips, the special effects comes as second nature and to introduce a high level of design detail to the already elaborate set, inside a really monstrous horror park, then “Talon Falls” without a doubt will walk, talk, and look like a top-notch horror film. However, not all aspects are perfect with the Shreve film, produced by Kent Hammond and Todd Ferren, as the story progression with the characters becomes minimized that result in haphazard camaraderie between the friends who are more turnstile acquaintances than lustful lovers or deep-rooted long time friends. Also, characters make hot-headed or stupid-minded questionable decisions when in hot pursuit of an axe-wielding, piggy-masked killer and the scribing of the irresponsible decisions when safely stowed away when being pursued, roots out Shreve’s inexperience in a time of a building block career.
MVDVisual and Lost Empire present “Talon Falls,” the Terror Films and Flashback Pictures production, onto DVD home entertainment in a widescreen 2.35:1 that atheistically gritty in the detail. Even the darker scenes, with well established and positioned shadowing, bring substantial substance to liven up and level up this independent feature from Kentucky. The 5.1 surround sound track has stable range through and through with a caustic toned score to convey terror and a clear and prominent dialogue track that doesn’t muddle through a surplus of ambient tracks. Bonus material include a behind-the-scenes featurette that runs through a randomizer of footage markers and some bloopers. A theatrical trailer is also included. Josh Shreve can only get better from his Sophomore film as a director whose hot off his solid genre entry in “Talon Falls” with the aid of the scream park’s unlimited horror resources and though popping with toe-nail pulling moments, the extremely short runtime of 75 minutes suggests a stiffened premise with undercooked character development that diminish that high production value and bloody effects.
Set in Talbot County Georgia of 1986, six university students are assigned a write a 25-page report on a moment in history. The subject for the report was ultimately based off of local lore, a haunting story from a century old newspaper clipping that told legend of Emily Burt who was the prime suspect of being the notorious wild animal that tore through the local sheep herds. Ill-prepared and flippant for the report’s hot Georgia weathered journey into the woods, the students ride horseback through a labyrinth of trails on the Burt property and come under attack by a lurking bloodthirsty presence hellbent on separating them and tearing them to pieces. Desperation sets in when tensions flare, sides are taken, and perceptions are misled in a time of grave crisis, leaving the schooled students being taught a lesson in isolation and confusion in a classroom of ill-fated situations.
“Lycan” is the 2017 released survival horror thriller from co-writer and director Bev Land, making his inaugural feature film debut. Michael Mordler co-wrote the script that’s been described as “Hitchockian” and resembles a backdoor twist much to the similitude of M. Night Shayamalan films. Like Shaymalan’s earlier work, “Lycan’s” horror is extremely effective without having to bare witness an antagonistic beast and by leaving the girth of the killer’s destructive path to the imagination, our minds begin to formulate diegesis theories and build hypotheticals to the killer’s characteristics. The use of wolf-o-vision is a past time tool that flashes all it’s teeth to bring life to an unseen threat, but Land and Mordler pen a breadcrumb trail of hints that compound to a head in the midst of the chaos, unveiling the true threat in a full frontal way that’s a silver screen rarity, but nearly takes the fun out of the mystery.
Starring in “Lycan” is Bev Land’s wife, Dania Ramirez (“Quarantine”), in the lead role of the mysterious Isabella Cruz. Ramirez’s has to accomplish multiple feats with Isabella Cruz whose a bit of an awkward loner who then has to reintegrate herself into the social realm of a group of variously distinguished characters. Parker Croft portrays as pot smoking, wise-cracking, pervert named Kenny McKenzie who documents the trip with an 8mm camera, Rebekah Graf is the stuck up and prissy Blair Gordon who only accompanies the group on this trip because of Jake Lockett’s baseball jock Blake Simpson. Craig Tate, unfortunately, falls into the stereotypical ‘token black guy’ Irving Robinson while Blair’s sorority pledge, Kalia Prescott’s Chrissy Miller, opts to the gal to get laid. Aside from Ramirez, the rest of the cast of characters fall into formulaic limbo, stuck in their own devices, and never really elevate into more than just surface level characters. Two of the more eyebrow raising actors that never saw the character development light of day were that of Gail O’Grady (“Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2”) and Vanessa Angel (television’s “Weird Science”). O’Grady’s Ms. Fields warranted more background into how the ranch owner came to have Isabella Cruz enter her life and much more unopened mysteries about their dynamic.
While “Lycan” offers an up-to-snuff survival horror, the story’s bookends fall short of fully completing the story. The opening puts big man Presley Melson’s lonely farm boy stuffing lady of the night Anna, played by Alina Puscau (“Dracuala: The Dark Prince”), full of his pork roll. As the wolf-o-vision circles the lovemaking barn setting, Melson and Puscau trot out with only their skivvies to check out the outside racket and become, uh, victims of the antagonist? Not really sure because the scene starts from afar and the wolf-o-vision glides right up to Melson’s face without much of a peep from either Puscau or Melson. The ending is just as enigmatic with a brief present day scene (the story is set in Georgia 1986) of an unknown little girl picking up a razor sharp object from the leaf strewn ground and then there’s a cut to black to roll credits. Before this useless segment, the pinnacle moment of the third act springs too many leaks to plug. Combined with the stagnant and underdeveloped characters, “Lycan” is an unkempt story left wide open becoming a victim by it’s own scripted structure.
MVD Visual presents onto a region one, unrated DVD, the 1 Bullet in the Gun production, “Lycan.” Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, MVD’s DVD image is beyond spectacular with immense details in every scene, even in the production illuminated night scenes. Digital noise is completely absent and the coloring is naturally vibrant. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound has an effective ambient track with clarity and range in the wolf howls and the cracks and snaps of outdoor living. The original soundtrack by Devine Adams and score by Jason Pelsey revel in distortion free perceptible measures. An audio downside would be the dialogue track that suffers from unfortunate mic placement, leaving major story affected parts of the dialogue left muddled and indiscernible. Bonus material includes interviews with director and co-writer Bev Land, along with co-writer Michael Mordler, the cast including with Dania Ramirez, Rebekah Graf and Vanessa Angel, and Crystal Hunt (Executive Producer) and Steven C. Pitts (2nd Unit Director). A panel discussion with the Lycan producers and the original theatrical trailer round out of the extras. Land and Mordler’s “Lycan” disperses moments of original horror with snap-witty dialogue, but as a whole, the story trends toward a paint-by-the-numbers route without breaking the mold as a low tier “Hitchockian” thriller.
Life is seemingly pleasant and happy-go-lucky when two fully loaded coach buses of high school girls travel down a forestry passageway toward a lakeside hotel until sudden violence and gore turns Mitsuko’s classmates into minced meat. Overcome with shock and fear, Mitsuko escapes the terror only to find herself in another horrifying scenario. The vicious cycle continues as Mitsuko is thrusted into one chaotic, blood-splattering world after another, quickly losing her identity with each threshold crossing, and with no clue of what’s going on and how she got into this limbo of hell, Mitsuko must stay alive and unearth the truth behind the surreality of her being.
Nothing is more terrifying than being in a heart-pounding situation and not having one single clue why bodies are being sliced in half like corks popping violent out of champagne bottles, why childhood mentors break their professional oath and slaughter students with a ferocity of a mini-gun, or why being chased by a tuxedo-decked out groom with a gnarly pig head is in tow ready to drop kick anything, or anybody, standing in the way. Writer-director Sion Sono manifests that very chaos entrenched world in the 2015 action-horror “Tag” and, once again, the “Suicide Girls” director puts Japanese school girls back into the harrowed ways of gore and death over salted with an existential surrealism based off a novel by Yûsuke Yamada entitled Riaru Onigokko aka Real Game of Tag. Yamada’s story is followed more closely to that of Issei Shibata’s 2008 “The Chasing World” that involves a Government influence and parallel universes, “Tag” serves more as an abstract remake that Sono masters a soft touch of irrational poetry bathed in gore and strung with chaos rectified with a tremendously talented cast of young actresses.
Actresses such as the Vienna born Reina Triendl. Being Japanese doppelgänger to Mary Elizabeth Windstead with soft round eyes and the picturesque of youthfulness, Triendl transcends tranquility and innocence when portraying a content Mitsuko in the midst of many of her classmates boorishly bearing the typical, low-level adolescent anarchy. When Mitsuko’s thrusted into phantasmagorical mayhem, Triendl steps right there with her discombobulated character in an undried eye panicky frenzy whose character then spawns into two other fleshy vessels, a pair of recognizable names of J-Pop fandom in Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano, when Mitsuko enters another zone in her fictional world. Though different in all aspects of their appearance and in name – Misuko, Kieko, and Izumi, the three women share the same existence and fathom a unbroken entity of character that hacks her way through the brutal truth. The remaining cast, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, and Ami Tomite, sport the high school miniskirt wardrobe and garnish a bubbly-violent J-horror persona very unique to the genre.
“Tag” is a plethora of metaphors and undertones likely to be over-the-head of most audiences, but if paying close enough attention and understanding the subtle rhythmic pattern of Sono’s direction, the gore and the fantastic venues are all part of an intrinsic, underlining message of feminism and sex inequality that’s built inside a “man”-made, video game structure thirty years into the future. Sono points out, in the most graphic and absurd method, how men treat women like objects or playthings. There’s also a message regarding predestination with white pillow feathers being the metaphor for fate and being spontaneous is the key to break that predestined logic and all of this corresponds to how Misuko, the main character, needs to break the mold, to choose her path, and to remember her past in order to free all the women trapped inside a male-driven purgatory of pain, punishment, and pleasure. Supporting Sono’s ability to disclose an epic survival-fantasy horror in such a way comes from multiple production companies, one of them being NBCUniversal Entertainment, providing the cash flow that allows Sono to flesh out the gore, to acquire massive amount of extras, and to scout out and obtain various locations.
Eureka Entertainment presents a dual format, Blu-ray-DVD combo, of “Tag” for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, the disc provided was a feature-only screener and a critique on the video, audio, and bonus material will not be conducted, but in itself, “Tag” is a full throttle encephalon teaser warranting a need for no supplementary content aside from conventional curiosity into what makes Sono’s “Tag” tick. When all pistons are firing, from the visual effects of Satoshi Akabane to “The Walking Dead” familiar score, “Tag” is no child’s game with a heavily symbolic, touch-and-go and bloodied pro-feministic essence that would serve as an abrupt and acute wakeup call to all the Harvey Weinsteins in the world that women are not to be simply playthings and that their gender destiny lies solely with them despite the misconstrued male manipulation.
Jerry is your average, everyday Californian man. He’s tall, handsome, and can hold down a good government job as a United States postman, but Jerry has another side to him. A dark side that’s hidden beneath a façade of apparent normalcy. His random acts of senseless violence and murder have Jerry a great advantage over the rest of society, especially the police, as he commits homicidal tendencies right under their noses without an inkling of a motive and stretching out his urges to kill days, weeks, and months a part under the guise of the notorious Zodiac Killer.
Based on the factual and claimed murders of Northern California’s infamous serial, director Tom Hanson helmed the thriller “The Zodiac Killer” and released his finished project in spring of 1971 when the serial killer was still very active. In a little history tidbit, Hanson had the idea to premiere “The Zodiac Killer” at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco in attempt to lure the Zodiac Killer to the screening by way of having patrons writing “what-ifs” as the real Zodiac Killer and then analyzing the handwriting to the letters the real killer submitted to the police and news outlets. Of course, the stunt didn’t work, but did bring about awareness of the prospect that everyday people – neighbors, gym teacher, mailman – could be a deranged, blood thirsty wolf underneath sheep’s clothing. In their first and only writing credits, Manny Cardoza and Ray Cantrell penned the script.
With a minuscule budget and a performance driven script, “The Zodiac Killer” could only speculate on the person behind the deaths and though in today’s filmmaking standards, some points in the dialogue and the action are awfully outdated in it’s rigidity and over exposition, but when getting down to brass tax and looking deep at the root’s message, the effective troubling performance by lead actor Hal Reed, as Jerry the Zodiac, transfixes viewers as the tall, handsome, and baritone-voiced actor bore an eerie on-off switch between pure good and polluted evil. Before knowing Reed’s true self, not every character was black and white as Hanson attempts to a lineup suspects, especially with a truck driver named Grover (Bob Jones) whom had a knack for pretending to be a wealthy businessman on his nights off in hopes to score naive bar tail. Whether flawed by design or by the obsolete nature of filmmaking, the curve ball attempt to throw the viewer for a loop doesn’t stick and for every second, Hal Reed is the titular maniac even if not proclaimed at first sight. Ray Lynch and “Invasion of the Bee Girls'” Tom Pittman round out the cast as the two police officers not hot on the Zodiac’s trail.
For early 1970’s, “The Zodiac Killer” is graphic, verbally and in imagery with an example being Jerry enthusiastically jumping up and down on a car hood while an elderly woman is pinned between the hood and the engine or Grover calling every single female character a “broad” or a “bitch” in the film; “The Zodiac Killer” certainly strikes a chauvinistic chord from a male’s point of view with not only Grover’s attitude toward women, but also portraying women as shrewd, powerless, and as sex objects. Culturally, this attitude toward women might have been accurate for the time period as well as many of the portrayed Zodiac attacks though numerous of the attacks were only claimed by the Zodiac and not actually confirmed. In any case, Hanson’s rendered theories are well thought out and entertaining in spite of their tragic background.
The American Film Genre Archive, Something Weird Video, and MVDVisual present “The Zodiac Killer” on a 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray set exhibited in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, keeping the black bars on the right and left of the screen to preserve the format. The new digital transfer was scanned from the only existing 35mm theatrical print through to 4K resolution on a Lasergraphic film scanner and the image has a real clean look to it despite some minor print damage with horizontal scratches and burn flares. The print also suffers from a color degradation, voiding the coloring and replacing it was a washed look. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track has a mighty bite that’s surprisingly clean and clear despite the obvious low fidelity. Special features include an interview with director Tom Hason and actor Manny Nedwick, a commentary track with Tom Hanson, Manny Nedwick and the AFGA crew, and a tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive. Also, the release has a sleek illustration with reversible cover and an inner booklet complete with the film’s tidbits, transfer information, and distribution company credentials. Plus, a bonus movie “Another Son of Sam” (1977) that’s been scanned in 2k from the original 35mm theatrical print. The Zodiac might have ceased a wrath of carnage and made a brazen exodus from California before being caught before his or her identity became known, but the killer’s notorious legacy lives on with this stellar release of Tom Hanson’s “The Zodiac Killer” and serves as a chilling reminder that vicious killers walk among us.
Before being butchered in the woods of a small town, a frightened young woman, Lexie, sends her estranged Uncle Dominic a letter desperately asking for his help. Plagued by his own dark past and a penchant for being hot tempered, Dominic drags his wild, coked up daughter Kendall to his quaint home town which he had long ago abandoned. Most town folk don’t want Dominic snooping around, investigating a town that faces a sinister murder spree under the unmotivated supervision of a perversive and power hungry eye of the local sheriff. Dominic’s anger rages on, fueled by sheer vengeance, as he searches answers for the cause of his niece’s untimely and gruesome death in which three strips of her flesh were torn from her bloodstained thigh, but the closer he gets to the unbearable truth, those closest to him are swallowed by the town’s harboring unimaginable secret and that’s when Dominic’s true violent calling becomes unleashed upon the unsuspecting locals.
Self-described as a “modern, Midwesternized spin on the Giallo,” Jakob Bilinski’s “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” is the writer-director’s comprehensive ode to the multifaceted cult genre. Set on location in Evansville, Indiana, Bilinski unapologetically implores an outrageous white trash horror story that can drop just as many F-bombs and be just as sadistically crude as any Rob Zombie production, but on an indie budget. A budget with unlimited constraints when pinpointing a genre identity as “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” has the word play of a Giallo-like inspired title, even accompanied with masked antagonist armed with a switchblade in a complex plot, but also sharply pivots and dabbles heavily in subgenres such as the revenge thriller, the occult, and torture porn that engages a plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist up until the very end.
Bill Gobin stars as Dominic and Gobin’s appearance and actions channel very similarly that of Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey from F/X’s hit cop drama “The Shield,” but with an important piece of Dominic missing to fully sell the performance. Dominic’s tender melancholy moments of his lost Lexie are to bring out the human side in a cold and stern tough guy, but Gobin lacks that rightful emotion, replacing the tearjerking moments with more of the icy blank stare used in just about ever other scene and to the point where Gobin just might smack his tears back into his tear ducts. Kendall (Kayla Crance) is the constant bittersweet thorn in Dominic’s life as the father and daughter are more like father versus daughter. Crance challenges Gobin very well, even overpowering him in select scenes, protruding a defiant brat without an inkling of remorse until bodies start to really pile high. While Dominic and Kendall are certainly scribed as emotionless mavericks, Stella (Angela Steel) brings us down to a more sensible and realistic character who grieves for her slain daughter with alcohol and depression while also rekindling a once extinguished flame in a surprising twist of events. The best character performance overall goes to Jim Dougherty as the local sheriff who can stand toe-to-toe with Dominic and spitfire insults between Dominic and Sheriff Rex scribed very well for the Indiana University studied actor. Rounding out the cast is Scott Ganyo, Rosalind Rubin, and Grant Niezgodski.
Perhaps a little too ambitious trying to compact a endless frontier, Grand Theft Auto world story into over two hours, clocking in at 142 minute runtime, that feels every minute of it. There’s, perhaps, too much going on here with the potluck genres and plot twists that once the apex of the story has finally been reached, the first acts take on a whole different significance that doesn’t build to the necessary resulting finale that ultimate defines Dominic who, in the beginning, starts off strong, a tough guy who doesn’t take crap from anyone and that’s including his rebellious daughter Kendall, but then flounders just after reaching the small town, interacting passively with his sister Stella and a few townies, to the point where Dominic is just an inquisitive visitor. Dominic’s purpose is the push, push, push the town folk into giving the answers he seeks, like Porter tracking down his share of the stolen money in “Payback;” instead, Dominic’s is the one being pushed to the point of breaking and, finally, then do we see the Dominic’s dark side and his particular skill set in torture and manipulation.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual presents a not rated 2-disc DVD collector’s edition of Jakob Bilinski’s “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh.” The 2014 Cinephreak production is display in widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the image quality above par with a clean picture composited with natural color tones and colorful filters to give some Giallo cinematography charm. The CGI bloodsplatter near the end is, well, CGI, but the run of the scene is fun and brutal that the generated pseudo-blood is used appropriately. The Dolby Digital 5.1 dishes out a well-balanced concoction of ambiance, soundtrack, and dialogue, with the dialogue being clean and clear even during more intense moments. Disc one contains the feature film with option audio commentary by writer-director Jakob Bilinksi and star-producer Bill Gobin. There’s also commentary by Cinematographer DP Bonnell along with Bilinski on the track. Disc two contains even more with a making of piece entitled “Peeling Back the Flesh,” 21 deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, auditions, and Unearthed Films trailers. Under a stellar presentation within the plentiful content of a 2-disc set from Unearthed Films and MVDVisual, “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” is certainly a “modern, Midwesternized spin on Giallo,” plus much, much more when considering the other genres that might have diluted the foul-mouthed scripted story and left the focus more fuddled, but happens to maintain a fun, semi-gory approach that can’t be argued.