Bank Robbers Find Evil in “The Vault” review!


Leah and Vee, Two estranged sisters, their knee deep in debt brother, Michael, and a couple of money hungry hired hands take siege of an old bank to score a half a million dollar payday. With hostages bagged and tagged, security cameras disabled, and no outside communication to the police transmitted, the situation and plan seems to be going smoothly, but when the actual pay load is lighter than expected, desperation takes over and panic overwhelms when the prospect of load sharks will seek to take more than just fingers for payment. A more than helpful assistant bank manager is eager and willing to share information about how to obtain the 6 million dollars in an archaic vault beneath the upper levels just as long as nobody gets hurt, but the heist’s meddling into the basement’s vault stirs a malevolent evil force and their fates will be sealed inside an unsafe repository.

The 2007 “The Signal” director, Dan Bush, directs and co-writes 2017’s “The Vault,” a supernatural thriller co-written by “The Reconstruction of William Zero” scriber Conal Byrne. Tense and polished, “The Vault” has the makings of a velvety heist film that holds up formidably strong, setting up a hostage situation after a well-executed pilferage involving zesty characters with dire complexities that drive them to villainy. The opening credits provide glimpses into the duration along with associative theme, much along the same lines as Victor Salva’s “Jeepers Creepers” that scores the Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s jazzy “Jeepers Creepers” track from 1938 that inspired fear before the arrival of The Creeper. “The Vault” uses a song 30-years junior to “Jeepers Creepers” with Tommy James and the Shondells’s psychedelic pop track, “Crimson and Clover.”

The sisters could be exemplary examples of fire and ice; Vee’s hotheaded obstinacy and violent tendencies makes her a volatile wildcard whereas Leah’s calm, cool, and calculating measures maintain their heist from derailing into violent panic. Their estrangement boils from a tiff about Leah’s loyalty to her family as Vee burgeoningly bludgeons Leah and her their brother, Michael, that Leah will skate soon after their escape, leaving the family one-third complete yet again, but Leah being involved in this heist, coming to her brother’s aid from her possible story bred locale of South America, or wherever she might have been, has Michael questioning Vee’s steadfast position. “Orange is the New Black’s” Taryn Manning is a natural born roughneck on screen and Vee is no stretch from her Pennsatucky character on the Netflix hit comedy-drama. Manning opposites Clint Eastwood’s piercing round-eyed daughter, Francesca Eastwood, whose a complete badass in her own rite. The two actresses might be short in stature, but Manning and Eastwood effectively symbolize large personalities in “The Vault” to the point where no other character can come close to competing with them, not even James Franco as an assistant bank manager with an all-too-happy to help personality. Franco, who sports a sweet stash and wavy dark hair, provides a steeliness shroud around his character, whose credited as Ed Mass in the credits, but never specially mentioned by name. Mass is a pivotal character to the story and, if analyzed thoroughly, can be unsurprisingly figured out with relative ease, but the who, what, and why are vital questions that go unfortunately unanswered. Scott Haze rounds out the four main roles with Michael, the gentle brother to Vee and Leah whose deep in debt with collectors who have already diced off one of his fingers. Haze, who has worked alongside “127 Hours’” star in a number of films such as “The Institute,” “Future World,” and “In Dubious Battle” to name a few, doesn’t have much interaction with Franco, but is more a satellite in his own regard becoming the protector of his two more than capable sisters. Supporting cast includes Q’orianka Kilcher as lead teller, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline’s” Jeff Gum as bank officer, the late Keith Loneker as a shotgun toting cohort, Michael Milford as the safe cracker, and “Traffic’s” Clifton Collins Jr. as the shady detective Iger.

Initially, Dan Bush played his cards right setting up the pre-heist all the way through the locking down the bank and all bank employees and customers are bound and gagged. Conal Byrne’s characters spill enough backstory to water our mouths, eager to know more about the angst between the two sisters, the lopped off finger of their brother Michael, and how the turmoil between the robbers is spurred and transitioned to resolution with the introduction of the helpful assistant bank manager and his helpful information about more money in a dank, dark basement vault. At this point, the salivation is intense when only tidbits of bank’s frightening phantasms are given that place the ball on the tee, stomach high, ready to knock the living daylights out our hapless and woebegone thieves, but the surefire, can’t miss swing tops the ball that scuttles in and out of bounds. The second and third acts are a completely clunky with abrupt and disjointed storytelling involving a copout exposition on the bank’s wretched backstory that ultimately leaves that important Ed Mass character hanging out in the pointless wind. Near the tail end, the film just didn’t feel complete, bordering dangerously in choppy filmmaking waters without a woolly and unexplored antagonist at the helm and Bush can’t quite pull all the end strings together to tightly knit a harrowing climax, vacating character substance with disingenuous plot twists.

MVDVisual and FilmRise introduce “The Vault” for the first time on a full HD Blu-ray home video. The widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, presentation is a great digital asset that favors a night and day conception. Ground level on the bank is pure daylight or exact lighting that vibrant and clear, not a lot of noise, and no observation of aliasing. In the basement, the abyss like somber darkness doesn’t fade away any details, but in all fairness, the haunting figures in the dark are nearly saturated with creeping ill-lit blackness. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo 2.0 audio tracks evenly set the dialogue and ambient tracks with diverse depth, but with the 5.1 surround sound and basement dwelling apparitions that indirectly cause explosions, the range didn’t embark through the varying to and fro levels appropriately and, thus, impresses a lackluster lasting impact. FilmRise has been quite a bust for bonus content lately and “The Vault” is no different with only the theatrical trailer attached. “The Vault” has sturdy initial framework of agitated vehement characters and a clouded venomous basement, teasing the prospect of two powerful rams running to tangle horns, but, without warning, the narrative unfairly falls to pieces as if one of the male sheep decided to swerve last minute before the game of chicken came to a crash and morbid curiosity becomes sorely deprived of cinematic lethal misgivings.

Buy “The Vault” on Amazon.com

Take A Magical, Evil Ride on the “Caroushell” review!


Extremely frustrated with the lack of respect from snot nose kids and the monotonous, round-the-loopy-loop that is his life existence, Duke, the carousel unicorn, has finally had enough the moment after a fat kid mounts him for a ride, smacks him like a giddy-up horse, and wiping his snot onto Duke’s glossy wooden eyeballs. The latter being the final straw that broke the unicorn’s back. Duke breaks free from the amusement park ride in search for a better quality of life when he happens to discover that killing makes him feel good, real good. With a newfound purpose, Duke vows to hunt down and end that fat brat, slaughtering anyone and everyone in his path of carnival-esque carnage that leads the unicorn not to water, but to a house party where the kid stuffs his chubby face full of cake and other goodies while his older sister and her friends order pizza and hit hard the alcohol as they discuss a love and hate for a popular kids show, My Tiny Unicorn. When Duke shows up at the front door, his statue-like presence is a big party hit amongst unicorn show fanatics who are unsuspecting of his murderous desires. The only person capable of stopping the mayhem is the amusement park mascot, a jovial warden cowboy named Cowboy Cool with his trusty, evil unicorn stopping six-shooter.

Step right up! Step right up! Behold and be amazed by the stupendous and the downright bonkers horror-comedy, “CarousHELL,” about a killer carousel unicorn from big top maestro, writer-director Steve Rudzinski. The “Everyone Must Die!” filmmaker helms a satirical slasher co-written by Aleen Isley in her first credited treatment. “CarousHELL,” a whimsical play on carousel and hell if you somehow couldn’t figure that out, inexplicably sprints with the inanimate killer concept that visually livens an old “Family Guy” wisecrack about the latest Stephen King novel being about a killer lamp! Instead of a bright bulb shining blood red and using the electrical cord as a noose, Rudzinski and Isley explore the macabre qualities of an inorganic unicorn by extending its cache of weapons beyond the obvious long, pointy horn to also being able to wield a machete without opposable thumbs, sharp shoot with a bow-and-arrow with hooves, and even have the capability to kill with ninja stars despite the sloping shoulder conformation. Impressive…

Rudzinski also co-stars as Joe, a diehard pizza delivery guy and passionate dog lover who is desperately trying to earn money for his ill-stricken four legged friend. Rudzinski, sustaining both roles as a director and a performer, solicitously molding Joe as an oblivious nice guy just looking to do his job and even though he’s a bit of an impatient spaz, Joe’s not the biggest spaz swimming in the character pool. Rudzinski could be considered the lead male in the one of many boisterous roles of “CarousHELL” who certainly manages to get the girl without having to lift an finger. That girl being the self-indulgent Laurie, big sister to the unicorn pissing off brother. With her face glued to her social media phone and being a spoiled brat herself, Laurie has little-to-no attachments to anything: she’s not tied down to one boy, weighs social media clicks heavily in life, and finds disrespect the choice of attitude even toward her pole–strapping stripper of a MILF mother. Pittsburgh, PA born Sé Marie (“Cryptids”) does bitchy well, finding a nice niche to nest in with this harebrained, but light-hearted slasher with bite. Joe and Laurie have excessive personalities, but nothing can top Preston who sets the field bar. The house party co-host starts off as a complete douchebag complete with popped collar and an unquenchable thirst for bare chests and the introduction of Chris Proud really makes a first impression in a truly unbearable, over-the-top role, but believe it or not, Preston is one of the few characters of the film to have what could be construed as an arch storyline. Preston, by the end, transforms into a likable character with penchant expertise for the My Tiny Unicorn universe (a spoof toward Hasboro’s “My Little Pony”) and is the only character to perceive the first hand danger from the infiltrating and evil unicorn from hell. Duke is hands down the best scribed character of the entire film. Voiced by veteran voice actor, Steve Rimpici, Duke can literally stand inanimate and still be a vital part of the story. The versatile Rimpici is like the movie trailer voiceover guy with an uncanny Duke Nukem-type voice who has movie credits including the Dustin Mills’ directed features, “The Puppet Monster Massacre” and “Easter Casket,” as well as stints in video games such as “Red Dead Redemption” and “Mafia III.” The cast rounds out with Sarah Brunner, P.J. Gaynard, Judy H.R. Kirby, Josh Miller (“Amityville” No Escape”), Teague Shaw, Haley Madison (“Haunted House on Sorority Row”), Cindy Fernandez-Nixon, Shawn Shelpman (“Red Christmas”), Corella Waring and Michael Mawhinney.

With a film like “CarousHELL,” killer special effects need to be a must as marketing an inanimate villain will be hard sell. Yeah, “CarousHELL” has catchy dialogue, witty enough banter, and gratuitous and non-gratuitous nudity. There’s even multi-positional sex with the unicorn. Thanks for that searing image Steve Rudzinski and Haley Madison! However, a slasher requires good kill moments and the special effects work by Cody Ruch meets the demand with a brutal that include a beautiful gored unicorn horn kill to the neck, a double impale followed by a goopy string entrails, and an Ronald Lacy melting scene with charring laser eyes! Even with a high body count and delectable moments of insanity at it’s peak, “CarousHELL” will undeniably find a general audience outside the scope of genre fans who will understand the context behind fashioning a unicorn slasher, those who are just easily entertained, and maybe a slither of fans of westerns.

MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing delivers the hell raising attraction, “CarousHELL,” onto DVD home video presented region free, unrated, and in widescreen format. The digitally shot video has a pleasing standard of quality. A few moments of brief aliasing but nothing to specifically note that matters. The dual-channel audio was the most disconcerting issue that’s affecting the release. More so with the exaggeration of performances with the screaming and the screeching, the feedback distortion is pesky and jarring. Dialogue is prevalent and forefront, but lacks range and depth and so the verbal tracks tend to blend together. The bonus features are a welcoming site with a commentary track, cast interviews that explain how the film came to fruition and that better explains what the “CarousHELL” they were thinking when creating this fun flick, a few deleted scenes that explain the disappearance of minor characters, bloopers, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. Just like “JAWS” did with ocean, “CarousHELL” will cause hesitation when deliberating if riding a unicorn will endanger your mortality. “CarousHELL” is fun, campy, and a whole bunch of nonsense that has our full 100% support in the horror community.

Evil Rips through the Whitechapel District. “Jack the Ripper” review!


On the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, women are afraid to walk the streets alone at night and angry mobs have begun to turn their backs on the police’s ineptness on catching a killer. Jack the Ripper is what the people of London label the maniacal murderer who, with surgical precisions, guts his victims and leaves their lifeless bodies on the dark, dank cobblestone streets. Scotland Yard Inspector O’Neill is joined by his friend and American counterpart, a New York police officer named Sam Lowry, to hunt down and stop Jack the Ripper’s killing spree. Deeper into the investigation, the officers are informed that the suspect they track would have medical background with a skilled blade hand, but even with that information, Jack the Ripper alludes authorities. Lowry’s romantic involvement with a young woman named Anne Ford, whose under the ward of the notable Dr. Tranter, might be very connective tissue between the constabularies and the secretive medical society needed to crack the case of the notorious Jack the Ripper before he strikes again!

Jack the Ripper is a real and iconic villain that not only terrorized the streets of London, but had later graced the screen many times over from Bob Clack’s 1979 thriller “Murder by Decree” to the 2001 Allen and Albert Hughes gothic and graphic “From Hell,” starring Johnny Depp. Before the production of those films, before Jack the Ripper really had any kind of footprint in cinema, Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman directed the 1959 mystery-thriller “Jack the Ripper” from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster and Peter Hammond based off the theory that Jack the Ripper had a medical practice history. Baker and Berman’s film hit the controversial market from right out of the gate with grisly and ghastly murders, for the circa 1950s, and bared topless actress frivolously to insinuate the lady drunkards, the showgirl dancers, and the lone walking women as ladies of the night. Prostitutes would have been burden the selling of an already certifiable X film from the BBFC and the MPAA. However, the filmmakers constructed alternate cuts, shorting the grisliness to just grim and sheathing bare breasts with articles of clothing in shot for shot censorship. Only on the continental, aka French, version does a truly uncut and complete film live to excite, but instead a complete feature, the unmolested scenes are only available on the bonus features of the Severin Films’ release. That’s not to say that the U.S. and British versions are a complete waste of time. The classic time is utterly timeless and gripping that offers up immense amounts of whodunit suspense, implied sensationalisms, and an adequate take on how incompetent law officials can be exhibited when politics and women are afoot. Plus, the U.S. version, bought and presented by legendary producer Joseph E. Levine, comes with a brassy score by Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo. The British version, also known as more of the approved director’s cut of the film, is scored by Stanley Black.

Tall, handsome, and walking into another country like he owns the land, detective Sam Lowry is introduced at about 10 minutes in, standing at a bar and reluctant to be rough and tough with a mob ready to lynch him for potentially being the Ripper because of his inquiries. Lowry’s charming persona with the women, like the bar maiden and Anne Ford, are only offset by his complete incompetence to be a police detective. Lowry does absolute zilch investigation and, instead, goes out on a date with Dr. Tranter’s niece and makes snarky comments at a merciless, ready to judge horde of scared Whitechapel residents. American hunk Lee Patterson stands out amongst the gothic rich atmosphere to the point where’s he, like his character, is an outcast and Patterson’s talents could only take him so far into a gloomy, morbid narrative that was unwilling to accept his chiseled chin and starry eyes. Eddie Byrne fit the mold better than Petterson as the Scotland Yard Inspector at rope’s end with not only Scotland Yard, but also the rest of London. As Inspector O’Niell, Byrne, who went on to star in “Island of Terror” and “Devil’s Darkness,” humbly accepts his restraint as the Irish born actor takes a wallop from all sides and still remains calm, collective, and ever present on the task at hand with a character being beat from all ends of the spectrum. Anne Ford opposites Lowry as the potential love interest who has come of age, as she notes a few times, to takeover temporary responsibilities at the hospital where her uncle performs dire surgeries. Being oppressed by her own family and seeing London being ripped a part by its own people, Anne latches onto Lowry, an outsider, to find a connection or a release from sullen cloud that hangs over Whitechapel. Unfortunately, Betty McDowall is sorely overshadowed by many of “Jack the Ripper’s” formidable characters and that Anne is not wholeheartedly written though her character is important to the story. Even the showgirls sizzle in more ways than one than does McDowall whose kept in check by Lowry, doused with someone’s problems, and only given an allusion of her worth in a moment of fright. Ewen Solon (“The Curse of the Werewolf”), John Le Mesurier (“The Jabberwocky”), Barbara Burke (“Blood of the Vampire”), Denis Shaw (“Curse of the Werewolf”), Bill Shine (“Burke & Hare”), and Anne Sharp (“Murder on the Campus”) round out the cast.

“Jack the Ripper” is a classic, literally and physically. The scaled down sets of the Whitechapel area bring to life the tenebrous soil of 19-century London. The elegantly painted backdrops of tall mast ships enshrouded by synthetic fog paint an archaic picture of how movie magic has progressed over the decades. Attention to detail in the set construction and the flavor of time period customers brought a sense of authenticity that nostalgically harps on the once was that now only exists as recorded cinema history. “Jack the Ripper” casts a forgotten beauty in the barbarism. By today’s standards, “Jack the Ripper” would be written off as banal and uninspired by critics and audiences, but if you can imagine yourself in 1959-1960, Robert Baker and Monty Berman just blew your mind with onscreen taboos and in America, Joseph Levine’s technicolor blood scene, with a duration of only a few seconds, would be the viral talk of the town.

Severin Films presents “Jack the Ripper” onto a region free, 1080p Blu-ray for the very first time anywhere! Complete with two cuts of the film, the British and American version, Severin presents both in their released aspect ratios of a lossy standard 1:33:1 in the British version and 1.66:1 in the American version, both in B&W with a pop of technicolor in one scene in the American version. Severin’s transfer is perhaps the best we’ll see from an original print that’s laced with scratches, but a bit more light, or some brighter contrast, sheds some light in the inky corners while managing a rich appearance that’s not monochrome or sepia. The English 2.0 audio track maintains an equal quality with some static in dialogue and ambient tracks. Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo’s brass-heavy score thunderously pack the scene that surely takes the lead amongst the tracks. Bonus features include snippets of the continental versions with the extended violence and nudity and the audio commentary with Robert S. Baker, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, assistant director Peter Manloy is extracting and interesting helmed by horror historian Marcus Hearn. Also included is an interview with the author of “Jack the Ripper” The Murders of the Movies” Denis Meikle, “The Real Jack the Ripper” featurette, theatrical trailer, and poster and stills gallery. Exposed and disclosed, the various faces of Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman’s “Jack the Ripper” now have a hi-def upgrade and though a full continental version eludes this release, Severin provides the cliff notes in order to not overcook the same story a third time.

Finding Love in the Most Evilest Ways! “Brutal” review!


One man kidnaps women, gags and bounds them inside his bleak apartment, and unleashes a fury of hate and disgust whilst searching for one woman who will understand him and his relentless, and vehement, scouring. One woman lures highly aroused men back to their apartment for what they believe will be a night of passionate embrace or of simplistic carnalities of inhibition. While the guys are thinking with the wrong head, the woman slices and dices them to a pulverized pulp of death meat and repetitively fillets their manhood postmortem without guilt. She, too, also searches for something, but is more reserved about it as she allows men to verbalize their needs and desires to her. As the two killers go through the melee day-by-day, they eventually find each other, but before realizing their compatibility, the killer inside themselves square off against each other in a one-on-one bout of maniacal mayhem that must unravel in blood before unsheathing true love.

Who knew that love could hurt so badly? Director Takashi Hirose exhibits a painful peak into two desperate swains callously searching for some understanding, some deep rooted mutual pain that plagues their own embodiment, in “Brutal,” Hirose’s 2016 feature that packs a bloody brawling wallop of the human will toward punitive punishment and desperate determination. The Japanese filmmaker also wrote and co-produced the three part chapters that segments Man, Woman, and Man and Woman into a commingled three act narrative of utter chaos that glorifies finding a soulmate in the most insane circumstances. E-Harmony. OKCupid. OnlyFarmers.com. None of these so-called matchmaker websites have the formidable fortitude to remove all the political niceties and to dig into the human psyche the way that only Takashi Hirose can to lure out and strip one person’s entire vulnerability and, essentially, the parts that makes us ultimately human into a raging, yet emotionally unstable, hapless lover.

Butch, the one and only moniker for the actor, portrays the Man who is a very strong and determined man that brings to his apartment many nice, and sometimes unsavory, attractive ladies; however, he doesn’t whip them up an aphrodisiac dinner or sweep them off their feet with a romantic Rom-Com. He likes to move the relationship along, at a hare’s pace, with getting down and dirty and in certainly not in a sexualized manner. Butch pinpoints the man’s ambitions, machine-like in his will with a hint of softness behind the eyes when plucking through the headcount of numerous women for his match. Ayano is equally compelling as Woman and though Ayano has brawnier range of comedies and dramas under her belt, she notches gore and shock as if it’s simple to get stabbed 50 times and be completely nude with unpleasant prosthetics garnishing the naughty bits of your body. Butch and Ayano are quintessential to “Brutal’s” languishing love story and present themselves with such confidence, which is made key from their previous work with Takashi Hirose – Ayano worked with Hirose in his dramatic horror short, “Bandaged” in 2011 and then Hirose worked with Butch in a 2012 zombie short entitled “Moratorium” that starred Japanese cult and former pinku actress, Asami. The film also stars Katrina Grey (“Vampire Reborn”), Takashi Nishina (“Ringu 2”), Naho Nakashima, and Nanako Ohata.

Hirose doesn’t hold back the punches. In fact, he’s added one or two more for good measures. Helmed by a three person crew and one visual effects artist, the special effects department ramps up the rampage and carnage, making poetry out of ruthless romanticism. The end result is absolutely killer with stab after stab, gore galore, and post-mutilation prosthetics of the naughty bits. Hirose steps aside for fight sequence director Satoshi Hakuzen to exalt his gift for action sequences. Having previously worked on “Resident Evil: Degeneration” and “Dead Sushi,” Hakuzen showcases his mixture of gore and shock horror and hand-to-hand combat in the smallest of quarters while still seamlessly continuing Hirose’s narrative. Yet, “Brutal” doesn’t follow much of the laws of basic human biology as when people are knifed multiple times, whether spreading punctures along the various parts of the body or more precise slices into one focused area like the crotch, they keep breathing breath and they keep moving like their Arnold Schwarzeneggers covered T-800 endoskeletons in “The Terminator” and that unfaithfulness to realism inches “Brutal” more toward a fantastical flavor.

Unearthed Films and MVDVisual present Takashi Hirose’s “Brutal” onto Blu-ray for the first time and it’s brutally honest with a phenomenally fair picture engrained from a singer layer BD and presented in 1080p with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors really match the film’s coarse tone of a desaturated hue where the blood runs like caramel colored water. Textures look fine, especially around the natural looking skin toned bodies of each person, and the no noticeable issues with compression. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track fairs equally well with a prominent dialogue track and a sickening range of lacerating thrust that make wet whiff sounds of cold steel that much painful. Tatsushiro Hirose’s rock score unfortunately wanes in soundtrack behind the intensity of Man and Woman’s blood thirst for love to the point of almost non-existent. Subtitles sync up nicely to the dialogue track. Bonus features a clipped production progression of behind-the-scenes, trailers, and music videos. “Brutal” and Unearthed Films found each other, just as Man and Woman in their twisted circumstances, and present an entertaining 67 minutes that solidifies Takashi Hirose one hell of a romanticist and absolutely, 100% bestow his film a true-to-form designation.

Evil Ousts Evil in “Christmas Blood” review!


On Christmas Eve for over a Decade until 2011, a psychopath dressed as Santa Clause hunts down people on his naughty list, people whom have, at one time or another, been incarcerated. Santa’s violent kill streak ends when detective Thomas Rasch tracks puts multiple bullets into Santa after the gruesome slaughter of three people. After 6 years of imprisonment, with no sign of improvement from his holiday hallucinations, Santa escapes to continue checking and crossing those unlucky souls off his naught list, leading him to Alta, a small, quiet village in the northern most part of Norway where one woman when unpunished on his list. Unbeknownst to Santa, the woman he intends to frightfully dispatch has committed suicide, leaving behind a daughter, Julia, to oversee her mother’s home. Struggling to cope with her the loss of her mother, Julia’s college friends from all over the world embark to comfort her on Julia’s first Christmas without her mother, but the gesture of goodwill only speaks to their impending doom with a serial killer Santa ready to reign in Christmas with red blood soaked, holiday fear.

“Christmas Blood, aka “Juleblod” in the original Norwegian lingo, is Reinert Kiil’s yuletide splattering spectacular. Kiil writes and directs a new horror-holiday classic of the Norwegian variety that turns the jolly, red nose, cookie-eating fat guy into an axe wielding maniac. “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” “Black Christmas.” “Jack Frost.” “Christmas Blood” joins the high ranking level of a niche genre, the X-Mas horror genre, which doesn’t see really the light of day in conventional theaters, but home video unsheathes the new life into films one may have never heard of such as Kiil’s “Juleblod” Yet, the overall body of work for Christmas films is very black and white. They’re either overly feel good films with a blanket of pure white joy and happiness or utterly insane and soaked with the crimson interior body fluid, unless you count Die Hard or Lethal Weapon as Christmas films than one can make a case. “Christmas Blood” is certainly in that far right polar opposite of extreme violence, but is solid and engrossing, chopping body parts away with trepidation and stringed up with multi-colored lights.

Ringing in the holiday screams are young victims typically associated with familiar slasher archetypes. The “Christmas Blood” prey, typically adorned by actresses due to their ability produce toe curling, are a pact of university school friends gathered together to rally around one who has recently lost her mother to suicide. Helen Eidsvag, Haddy Jallow, Yassmine Johansen, Karoline Stemre, Kylie Stephenson, and Marte Saeteren share the limelight as unsuspecting Christmas carnage-fodder and all of the actresses hail from Norway with the exception of Kylie Stephenson, who has odd interjecting into Norwegian conversations with her Australian English dialect. Written as great friends, but also depicted as the worst of enemies as various facets of animosity slithers between them, the actresses pull off of their ill-fated character quirks well: Eidsvag as the innocent and naïve Sanne, Jallow as the drug indulgent and secret keeping black sheep Kitika, Johansen does stern and uptight girlfriend well in Katja, Stemre as a favorably licentious mute Elisabeth, Stephenson is the fun-loving non-national in Annika, and Saeteren as the heartbroken Julia with loss of her mother. I’m not sure if “Christmas Blood” would be a socially acceptable film in the States and not because of the blood-spatter blasphemy of traditional holiday and Christianity values, but because of how the one and only black character is treated throughout the narrative in a predominately white movie. Kitika has no verbal filter, smokes weed despite her host’s severe objection, slept with and was going to sleep with again her friend’s boyfriend, is kicked out into the freezing cold along with said friend’s boyfriend by the rest of her white friends, and is eventually slaughtered and stuffed into Santa’s sack. The remaining cast includes Jørgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, and Andreas Nonaas.

“Christmas Blood” is a retro-grade horror film that very merrily feels like a product of the Golden Age of slasher-survival genre from the 1980’s with a powerful and unstoppable aggressive killer, a delectable high body count, and a significant calendar date to infamously memorialize the event, similar to Friday the 13th or Halloween dates that are have been synonymous to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Generally speaking, Santa’s already this jolly mystical being worshipped by all and in “Christmas Blood,” that mysticism is really exploited, but as a frightful killer Santa who is seemingly able to be in two places at once and survive a barrage of bullets. Only a couple gripes linger that don’t necessarily derail Santa’s slay-ing of bitchy former co-eds, daft police offers, or any unfortunate person in his blizzard path of butchery. For one, the wordy title card sequence explaining the background of serial Santa’s 13-year killing spree is sorely out of place and slightly kills the buzz built up initially by the gruesome opening scene that sets the morbid tone. Secondly, on the technical side, the lighting is very dim lit. The coloring scheme from the decorative bulbs is festively great and there’s also a very low-tone neon red, blue, and yellow juxtaposed against a bleak, cold setting as if walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light district at night, but with less people, more snow, and no peep shows, but the overall lighting is thin-to-damn near black at times that, shamefully, shades some of the gore work into a silhouette something and your eyes attempt to define what is being seen, but can’t definitively consume the form. Luckily, numerous gory moments make the cut in the light that include exposed entrails and some sheer brutal force with an axe to the neck and to the vagina!.

Artsploitation Films present “Christmas Blood” onto DVD this December. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the details are a little lost in the dim lighting as mentioned before, but the image quality looks vibrant on colorful in the mise-en-scene lighting and there are no issues with artefacts. The Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track is rather pristine like a bow-wrapped present under the tinseled tennenbaum, gifted with clarity, synchronization, and no distortion in any aspect. English subtitles are available and are synched well. However, Artsploitation’s release offers no bonus materials aside from a static menu, but this Reinert Kiil’s “Christmas Blood” snarls Merry Fucking Christmas by bastardizing the popular Scandinavian folkore of the genial Saint Nick into a fierce and frightening killing machine!