An Experiment Backfiring with EVIL Payback. “Moonchild” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

An Inhuman government body of a dystopian future experiments with genetic splicing to create the ultimate weapon, known as Project Moonchild, against the human rebellion. That weapon, Jacob Stryker, is unaware of his newly encoded abilities when he escapes one of their holding labs to rescue his captive son from the very same apathetic regime. Stryker teams up with a group of human rebels and uncover by mistake Stryker’s hidden super solider talent of turning into an unstoppable beast – a werewolf. Hellbent on taking down his son’s brainwashing captives by any means necessary and to do it before an intestinal bomb explodes within 72 hours, Stryker convinces the rebels to assist him and now they have an ace in the pocket as they traverse in search for Stryker’s boy, encountering android and mutant bounty hunters, cannibalistic human survivors, and a surfeit of governmental soldiers hot on his tail, but when the werewolf comes out, Project Moonchild is out to seek and destroy those son-stealing son-a-of-bitches by ripping them to shreds.

Director Todd Sheets has long been considered one of the kings of SOV. The “Zombie Rampage” and “Clownado” Kansas City filmmaker writes and directs “Moonchild,” the 1994 direct-to-video, post-societal, lycanthropy actioner is Sheets’ attempt in splintering himself away from the gore. The American Prince of Gore and the Master of Splatter accomplishes the lessened bloodletting and liquid innards coming outwards werewolf feature with a dystopian rescuer that pits what remains of a separatist human society on a verge of collapse to go on a quest to cure a dividing mutation affliction and to go up against the malign immortals of killers and assassins constructed with nuts and bolts and sawblades on a super independent budget. The ambitious project comes with car chases, a large cast, and a hairy beast that fights for family! Executive producer Greg Petrak returns to Todd Sheets’ side after “Bloodthirsty Cannibal Demons” and is a production of Sheets’ very own Extreme Entertainment, a now 34-year standing product company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Feel old yet?

Playing the lab rat, the werewolf, and the integral hero, Jacob Stryker, to the story is Auggi Alvarez (“Zombie Bloodbath”) as a widowed father who will stop at nothing to save his son Caleb (Stefan Hilt) in the hands of iron-hearted inhuman leader, Lothos (Harry Rose). Alvarez, like much of the rest of the cast, fall into a monotonal expositional black hole that can make “Moonchild” a slog between the excitement. While fleeing captivity, Stryker runs into Rocky (Julie King, “Zombie Bloodbath 2”), Talon (Dave Miller, “Violent New Breed”), and Athena (Kathleen McSweeney, “Violent New Breed), a band of underground resistant fighters who are desperate enough to overthrow the authoritarian ruling class that’s comprised of henchmen with duct tape masks and are skippered by a mustache wearing an unadorned samurai kabuto helmet – catching a tad resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Lord Helmet of “Space Balls.” If you have noticed already, the cast is an entourage of Todd Sheets regulars, a small niche of actors and actress with close ties to the Master of Splatter and have reoccurring roles in most the director’s early 90s indie gems. That trend continues with Carol Barta (“Prehistoric Bimbos in Armeggedon City”) as the bounty hunter, Medusa. Looking more like your next-door neighbor grandmother, Medusa is viper-tongued assassin with an unforgettable cackle and a throaty super ability that’ll inject nightmares for nights to come. Barta’s performance is one of those cliched it’s so bad, its good acts that you have to see to believe. Cathy Metz, Kyrie King, Rebecca Rose, Jody Rovick, and Mike Hellman round out the cast.

Character names drenched with Greek mythology inspiration and a contemporary take on the werewolf canon, “Moonchild” is an interesting and unorthodox story to say at least. Todd Sheets had obviously perfected the limited capabilities of S-VHS shooting or was confident enough to build in a lengthy car chase into a project that didn’t rely on disgusting audiences with blood and guts, but rather actionable thrills and singular characters of the post-apocalypse with only a smidgen of horror. You see, the werewolf doesn’t make too many appearances on screen, only surfacing from beneath Jacob Stryker’s human skin twice in total. The wolfish transformation is shoddy but for the budget, there is an appreciation for the amazing looking effect as well as the other practical effects throughout the feature. “Moonchild’s” pacing can be concernedly plodding to make sure the exposition covers aspect of Stryker’s intentions, slowing down the film to the point sluggishness. It doesn’t help that the scripted word-for-word, automaton performances are not tonally textured with droning dialogue that can’t captivate and contributes to the fatigue at times. Though “Moonchild” is an evolving project for Sheets with conviction in his ability to produce, there are still some editing continuity blunders that downgrade the overall result. Upward closeup shots of Julie King as she looks down when supposedly holding a rifle on Auggi Alvarez show her hand mock holding a rifle as it comes into the frame and then the next cut is the actress actually holding a rifle. Another scene involving King has her smash in the head of a traitor on a concrete floor and the next shot is of her running down the hallway away from where the body should be but wasn’t. The corpse had vanished. Howlers, pun intended, like these conspicuous examples are what depreciate an already discounted movie, curbing any kind of recognition for Todd Sheets going outside his blood and guts comfort zone.

As one of Visual Vengeance’s SOV cult-horror titles, we come to expect temperamental image and sound quality from the Wild Eye Releasing banner due to the consumer grade S-VHS equipment and the novicey of the filmmakers as, and mostly related to the former, Visual Vengeance warns of prior to the start of every feature so thus far, but the 50GB, MPEG-4 encoded, 2-disc Blu-ray set, that presents the feature in 1080p of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is the best technical-looking SOV to date for the company. Hardly any tracking issues, artefact issues, and any tape distortion of any kind and while still lacking premium quality as we all expect today, nothing is taken away from “Moonchild’s” original SD master transfer that is a director supervised. The single soundtrack audio option is an English analogue 1.0 mono mix and the dialogue as well as the score come over nicely despite a less punchy channel output. There’s a steady, feature length electrical interference from start-to-finish that is no surprise and is not terribly audio intrusive. Depth suffers mostly with the type of equipment that doesn’t filter and level out ambient noise, but the range of sound is pleasant with the added clip tracks. English subtitles are option. The bonus features include two new audio commentaries – director Todd Sheets and star Auggi Alverz and Todd Shoots and Visual Vengeance. Other bonus features include the alternate VHS cut, Wolf Moon Rising documentary, archival behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews featurette, the original VHS trailer, deleted ending, the Todd Sheets’ directed music video Burn the Church by the now defunct Kansas City-based, goth metal band Descension, short film “Sanguinary Desires,” trailer for Todd Sheets “Bonehill Road,” and other Visual Vengeance trailers.” The phyical release comes with a 2nd disc, a bonus audio CD of the movie soundtrack, reversible cover art featuring original VHS cover on the inside, new art on the clear cased Blu-ray snapper, and original art on the cardboard slipcover by The Dude Designs aka Thomas Hodge. Inside the snapper lining are four-page liner notes by Matt Desiderio, folded mini poster of the snapper front cover, and the standard VHS throwback sticker sheet. “Moonchild” on a Visual Vengeance Blu-ray comes unrated, region free, and with a runtime of 87-minutes. Todd Sheets is a maniacal moviemaking machine with “Moonchild” being released a decade after the gorehound began and there’s plenty of admirable spirit and effects in the Kansas City werewolf in dystopia tale, but one can’t shrug off the oversights and the exasperating exposition that goes way off trail the turbulent path of indie filmmaking.

“Moonchild” now on Blu-ray from Visual Vengeance!

Channeling the EVIL from the EVIL DEAD! “Slaughter Day” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

A pair of friends who run a small construction company drive up to an isolated cabin project in the outskirt nooks of Hawaii.  When they arrived, they encounter disgruntled employee John Jones who dabbles in the dark occult.  Having murdered already one of their construction crew members, Jones invokes the evil from the book of the dead, the Necronomicon, to bestow upon himself unnatural powers to seek revenge for years of abuse on the job.  Enslaving two other members of the construction Crew, Jones relentless goes after his former employers who must fight tooth and nail for every minute of their lives.  The fight stretches across the island and spills into the streets, abandoned factories, tropical brush, and even on the side of a mountain. 

“The Evil Dead” meets “Double Dragon!”  A fierce bareknuckle fight against a malevolently possessed construction crew is the not-stop action and gore premise of the Brent Cousins’ “Slaughter Day.”  The heavily influenced Sam Rain and “The Evil Dead” 1991 shot-on-video occult survival horror is co-written by Brent’s twin brother, Blake Cousins.  The twins’ filmic debut concept where a maniacal occult enthusiast goes on the offensive with his vindictive side by conducting dark, Necronomicon evil against the two construction supervisors is pieced together, scene-by-scene, from the various shorts created when they were adolescents.  The four short films from their inspired youth were revisited and remade into a full length feature film financed by a nearly a next-to-nothing zilch budget, but with more than a little can-do attitude, a group of close friends and family, and a willingness to drench the cast in splatter bags fill of fake blood, Brent and Blake’s balls-to-the-wall, commercial grade equipment schlocker never lets up and pays endearment to the legendary video nasties that have stimulated their need for tangible blood-shedding effects.  “Slaughter Day” is a self-funded labor of love under the Cousins Brothers Productions and is made in one of the more tropical places on Earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i, with a few scenes shot in the town of Honokaa.

Aside from being one of the two writers, Blake Cousins jumps in the front seat to become one of the hapless heroes in the suddenly twisted, Hellish ride of that classic story of good versus evil. Blake embodies one of the few aspects that makes the viewing of “Slaughter Day” so infectiously exciting with a high intensity level somewhere around near redline critical. The intensity spreads to each and every actor in front of the camera and with Blake’s breakneck pacing as the film’s post-production editor, there’s a side-scrolling, beat’em-up video game quality about the whole run through. The acting isn’t terribly good with haywire yelling and screaming from start-to finish with a lack of professional training that gives way to under developing a story, but story be damned, the brother Cousins ambitiously puts caution to the wind by balancing out the acidic acting with exceptional camera work that occasionally would involve hazardous to their own health amateur stunt work. The unharnessed and unpadded fight sequence in the back of the pickup truck gets mad props in succeeding instead of squashing someone’s head under the tire. If everyone lives and you get the shot, it’s a win, right? The fight sequences themselves are extensive, as I aforesaid, the breadth of the short feature is like experience a live action “Streets of Rage 2,” and they have the smack of decent choreography with near miss blows and head whips. Some of the bigger fake hits lack sterling results but are nonetheless entertaining and expected. “Slaughter Day’s” cast is made up of essentially a closeknit group of friends with performances from Sam Bluestone, Dave Anderson, John Lambert, Kulaka Branco, Jeremy Couchiardi, Joe Ross, and Lincoln Ross who all have never again seen the gaffer lights of another film production.

“Slaughter Day” has many flaws: bad acting, continuity mistakes, not much of a plot, etc. While honest attempst were made to rectify a handful of those sore points, those very same imperfections are what make “Slaughter Day” ironically perfect in the SOV canon. Some of the gags land relatively smooth, such as being John Jones being bent backwards in half and sucked into a copy of the pop media cultural influencing H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon book, and others kind of flounder in the lukewarm stew of unskilled technical know-hows. Yet, I do firmly believe the brothers achieved a memorable salute to Sam Raimi’s breakthrough 1981 video nasty, “The Evil Dead” in pulling more so the macabre-isms then comedic slapstick elements of the “3 Stooges.” Brent and Blake obviously understood what they wanted to see and how much familiar content they wanted to rework to open the recesses of our memory banks to access and recall “The Evil Dead” playbook, but then the flyby the seat of their pants filmmakers take their committed vision farther by adding certifiably crazy stunts and be big and bloody as all bloody hell! Severed limbs, decapitations, exploding shotgun bursts, and impalings are difficult for even the most seasoned effects artist, taking sometimes years to master a simple effect to perfection. With “Slaughter Day,” the brothers are unafraid to take risks, something the filmmakers proved with audacious stunts, by rendering a practical effect inclined storyboard or script thought to the screen tactic and owned it with a pinch of panache pizzazz!

“Slaughter Day” might be release number five for Visual Vengeance but is clearly the Wild Eye Releasing cult-horror SOV sublabel’s second adulation of “The Evil Dead,” following “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.” The rough-and-ready S-VHS quality, presented in a full screen 1.33:1 from the original standard definition master tapes, can take on a grueling affect with a below par outcome. Tape lacks the proper color resolutions and that displays here immensely with full of deep and warm purples, reds, and yellows that you’d think the brothers were using gels to tint the picture. Tape wears, static interference, tracking lines… you name it, ‘Slaughter Day” visually had it. Delineation and details are deduced to a softer, overlapping ghost image that barely yokes together resolution pertinent pixels. Like always, Visual Vengeance’s disclaimer warns of the consumer grade equipment issues. These issues extend also into the English Stereo audio mix with a consciously underlay of static shushing, lo-fi dialogue recording, and zero depth and range to add more fuel to the “Slaughter Day’s” chaotic fire. Perhaps that’s why the dialogue is terribly rampant with the hope to invigorate and illicit engrossing captivation. The video game punch throw sound bites are a good touch and a innovative way to keep with the fighting game motif. The special features include a new audio commentary by directors Brent and Blake Cousins, a new audio commentary with Visual Vengeance’s own Matt Desiderio and Rob Hauschild, a quickly paced new interview with the Cousins Brothers regarding the genesis of “Slaughter Day” and they’re excitement about the new Blu-ray release, all four original “Slaughter Day” shorts, an earlier short entitled “Full Metal Platoon,” the “Slaughter Day” theme song, trailers from other Cousins films, such as “Rising Dead,” and the original trailer cut. Physical release features include a mini poster of the Visual Vengeance cover artwork, a three-page colorful essay from long time cinema contributing writer Tony Strauss, retro Visual Vengeance stickers that has graced all the company’s releases so far, a reversible cover art with new artwork as well as the original VHS art, and a cardboard slipcover with a heavily demonic and menacing Thomas “The Dude” Hodge design. The film comes unrated and has a runtime just shy of an hour at 58 minutes. I always get the warm and fuzzies when obscure works of art receive the red-carpet release treatment and “Slaughter Day” is an exemplar of SOV at its best while being innately its technically worst. Lots of ambition, lots of derived creativity, and lots of guts behind and in front of the camera to make a life-long dream of filmmaking come true.

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

EVIL Bigfoot is All About the Amputating and Mutilating! “Suburban Sasquatch” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

“Suburban Sasquatch” On Sale Now at Amazon.com!

A mystical, murderous beast of lore has suddenly appeared in the woods of a small Pennsylvanian town.  Hikers, fishermen, urbanites, and even grandmothers are not safe from the carnage dished out by Bigfoot.  Sniffing around crime scenes is eager freelance reporter Rick Harlan to unearth the truth about the recent string of grisly attacks and make a name for himself as a journalist.  Harlan finds himself in the middle of a police coverup, a Native American woman-warrior, and one suburban playground where a phasing in-and-out Sasquatch can make a killing whenever and wherever.  The Native American, Talia, is destined to square off against the evilest anthropoid her tribe has ever faced, one that thirsts for blood and does the unspeakable with the women it abducts.  The story and clash of the century may be Rick and Talia’s last in this brutal man versus beast showdown. 

As an aficionado of the horror genre, I’m on what seems to be an eternal quest to unearth the best (I’ll even settle for just good at this point) Bigfoot/Sasquatch film that really can scare the pants off viewers while providing a good storyline and solid special effects for the hairy big guy. Is that so much to ask?  The next undertaking to flash across our eyes, like a brisk fur of man-beast in the forest thicket, is the classic SOV-shot and shamelessly spooled special effects endeavor that is “Suburban Sasquatch.” The 2004 Dave Wascavage film is the sophomore project for the writer-director, following up from his deadly fungi party comedy-horror, “Fungicide,” with a shot at the title for best-worst, or is it worst-best, Bigfoot movie in the early 2000s. Shot in my old stomping grounds of West Chester, Pennsylvania, the suburban setting is authentically captured in that piece of the Commonwealth state with sprawling neighbors that give wide berth of land between houses and plenty of parks and wooded areas to Sasquatch-suit tramps. Wascavage produces the film himself, while also wearing multiple hats in many other crew roles and creates the feature under the filmmaker’s very own Troubled Moon Films, a production company that prides itself on low-cost video production and storytelling in which Wascavage self-proclaims Z grade movie making results.

“Suburban Sasquatch” is a pendulum swing between character perspectives, disassociating any one character from being a main lead and focusing more on a group of principals that even includes the suburban sasquatch itself.  If focusing on the heroes of the story, or the hero-ish types, then Rick Harlan (Bill Ushler, “Viscera”), Talia (Sue Lynn Sanchez), and the two officers – John Rush (Dave Bonita) and Steve Parker (Juan Fernandez) – would be your best bet as the unorganized protagonists deal with the beastly menace in their own way.  The acting is forced and rigid all around but not entirely at the cast’s culpability.  The script is extremely breathy and scenes last too long by lingering exposition that resulted in the film’s too-lengthy 100-minute runtime, likely drafted as a shorter run film but dialogue was added to flesh out a full-fledged feature.  Even so, performances are blankly vanilla and, to be fair, that’s to be expected inside the low-budget market. Dave Weldon, Rush, Parker, and even director Wascavage himself enact Bigfoot’s posturing and behavior familiar to a mountainous silverback gorilla with wild cupped hands waving overhead and while this seems silly in the obviously cost-efficient makeshift suit packed with unnatural folds of the stomach, a bulging bosom, and a mouth that chews like a latex-fitted gumming grandmother, the trio make the best of Bigfoot’s monstrosity and hirsute lumbering to the point of knowing what you’re getting in a sasquatch for the rest of the film. It’s all about consistency, especially when four actors interpret the movements. Wes Miller, Dallas Quinn, Troy Stephen Sanders, Loretta Wascavage, Edward Wascavage, and David Sitborn, who I thought had the most natural dialogue in the entire story, rounds out “Suburban Sasquatch’s” mania.

Has “Suburban Sasquatch” become the Bigfoot film of my long-awaited dreams? Unfortunately, no. However, what the 2004 inexpensive picture offers is invaluable cabbalism that theorizes one reason why Bigfoot is only briefly caught out of the corner one’s eye, a peripheral phantom, with a phasing feature that allows Bigfoot to go in and out of reality. Like a good b-movie horror writer-director, Wascavage also capitalizes on the creature’s stature by not only arranging a towering comparison against his enemy and food but also by fabricating a big hairy foot, larger than man’s chest, to emphasize more on the beast’s epithet. In order to achieve the height, Wascavage uses easy, practical tricks to jumboize, such as playing with different depths, but Wascavage, in another one of his many hats, also attempts his hand at crude computer generated graphics that stretch beyond the images’ limits to achieve his desired effect. Pixelated and warped without any depth or any amount of smoothness, the cut and paste photoshopped animation is jerry-built “Monty Python” at its worst in a so bad its worth seeing phenomena and certainly priceless for internet memedom, especially when coupled with severed appendages doctored from the local Spirit Halloween flying in all different directions in a Bigfoot’s fit of animalism. A couple of slashing eviscerations, a head-popping decapitation, caricature arrows and tomahawks, attack crows, and a whole lot of thwacks summarize much of the monkey business violence “Suburban Sasquatch” unfurls and while not completely bottom-of-the-barrel terrible, translating better than most SOV post-work, this Bigfoot berserker extends the search for a better entry in the subgenre.

Much like the first three predecessors on the Wild Eye Releasing Visual Vengeance banner, “Suburban Sasquatch” receives a massive, special features loaded Blu-ray upgrade coming in catalogued at number four. Also, like the first three volumes, Visual Vengeance precautions viewers about the source material quality, an array of standard definition master tapes. The region free release is presented unrated in full-frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the picture quality fairs better than most SOV releases. While still heavy on the electrical interference with dancing pixels finding difficulty delineating the image, there is less tracking line obstructions and no macroblocking. Details are standard definition quality with softer details, more like smudgy, in the natural color tones and lighting. The English language lossy stereo audio mix has no punch behind unlike Bigfoot who comes out swinging like Rocky Balboa in every human encounter. I would take a wild guess and say the audio is more mono as every aspect from the dialogue to the soundtrack sounds muffled or muted, likely door to poor audio recording equipment and no boom mic, making the actors’ articulation often difficult to hear. Sound effects are the only mix that has any kind of stereo potency with an overboard variation of the impact or ambient sound that adds to “Suburban Sasquatch’s” slipshod satire. Optional English subtitles are available. But if you’re buying the release because you’re interested in the special features, then Visual Vengeance has you covered with a brand new 2021 audio commentary featuring director David Wascavage, a second commentary with Sam Panico of B&S About Movie and Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum, and a third commentary track, a RiffTrax episode special, that provides hilarious MST3K-like comedy throughout the feature. Other bonus material includes an archival behind the scenes featurette, the designing of the Bigfoot costume, outtakes, the so-called CGI making-of, an interview from David Wascavage, a behind-the-scenes image gallery, the original teaser and theatrical trailer, and other Visual Vengeance trailers. The physical release itself comes with a cardboard slipcover with artwork with new artwork, a reversible Blu-ray cover with the original artwork on the inside, a two-sided insert, retro VHS stickers, and a mini poster. All that is missing, beside the link, is the kitchen sink. To conclude, Visual Vengeance ample format and bonus material enrichment doesn’t take away from the fact that “Suburban Sasquatch” remains the trashiest sasquatchsploitation on SOV ever!

“Suburban Sasquatch” On Sale Now at Amazon.com!

To Death Do Us EVILLY Part! “Savage Vows” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com

A fatal car crash claims the life of Mark’s wife.  Plagued by vivid nightmares of death and grief-stricken by the loss, Mark finds comfort in his closest friends who have come to console and stay with him after the funeral.  Slowly, Mark’s friends begin to thin out.  Thinking they’ve gone home or stepped out briefly, Mark continues to spend time with his remaining friends, watching horror movies, and eating fast-food hamburgers while contemplating how to handle the sorrow for the rest of his life without his wife by his side.  Other than a select few of his friends attempt to take advantage of his vulnerability, what’s really happening behind the scenes is a crazed killer is taking out his friends one at a time and while Mark continues to sink deeper into self-pity and become contentious with the greed of others, the killer mercilessly works closer to him by wiping out his entire friend network before he even comprehends what’s going on.

Let me take you back in time to the archaic and fashion disreputable (or maybe just plain questionable) year of 1995 where the hair was bigger, the cars were more manual, and where Blu-rays, DVDs, and those godawful streaming services were a futuristic glimmer in the eye as cassette videotapes were stocked the shelves. One of those physical retail locations was a brick-and-mortar store owned by Robert (Bob) Dennis who became enticed to stick his hand into the movie making machine and convinced to direct his one and only full length feature film, a shot-on-video slasher indie entitled “Savage Vows.” Bob Dennis’s then wife-now-ex, Carol Dennis, co-wrote the 80-minute script of an obscured death dealer racking up a body toll of Mark’s disputable friends who secretly despise each other and have sub rosa intentions. Shot in and around Wilkes-Barre, PA, where Dennis operated and shared ownership alongside brother Michael J. Dennis his video store, Full Moon Video (no relationship that I can deduce to Charles Band’s Full Moon aside from selling his hot horror commodities on tape), “Savage Vows” retains a two-location shoot encompassing Mark’s house and an always tight budget cinema staple cemetery for full blown low-budget honors. Gage Productions funds the project under another Dennis relation, executive producer Gage Dennis, along Carol Dennis wearing the dual hat of producer.

“Savage Vows” transposes the family affair from behind the camera into the forefront of the camera as Bob and Carol Dennis not only nurture widowed-slasher concept into a full-fledged video feature but also take on principal, yet ill-fated roles themselves while also employing Bob’s brother, Mike Dennis, and Jamiece Dennis into the background and extra fatality-fodder to fill in where needed. The scene interactions transcend through naturally as suspected with having family members mimic being mincemeat for the grotesque grinder and to put forth their best foot in the dialogue despite the rather cliched and trite rap. Though Bob Dennis and his cohort crew of closely related cast member might not be the marquee glowing luminaries of low-budget lore, there is one name, a singular cast member, that sticks out as a present-day household name in rinkydink D-movie horror. The filmmaker who has made a notorious name for himself for his schlocky and shoddy sharksploitation films, has trespassed and exploited the property of Amityville on more than one occasion, and continues to be an unfazed direct-to-video deity amongst the bedrock in the bottom of the barrel genre pool is none other than Mark Polonia, the director, who often collaborated with his late twin brother John Polonia, brought us “Splatter Farm” and has also a defacing sharksploitation rut-rack with the so-bad-it’s-drinking game good grievousness of “Land Shark,” “Virus Shark,” and, most recently, “Sharkula.” Mark Polonia has more than just the role of Adam, Mark’s best friend, in this story as the then just hitting his stride Polonia encouraged Bob Dennis to expand beyond his wishful thinking of creating a horror movie and also provided creative notes during principal photography. Just being this far down in the character-cast paragraph section, you know “Savage Vows” Armando Sposto (“Night Crawlers”) barely makes a blip on the radar as the widowed Mark, but the shame of it all is that Sposto provides fathoms of depth when juxtaposed to any other in the cast. Having just lost his beloved, Mark’s up against the wall of grief and Sposto does his damnedest to convey that without flinching as the young actor has to teeter between misery and another self-conscious emotion pivotal to the endgame. Kelly Ashton, Adam Bialek, Jackie Hergen, Grand Kratz, and Sally Gabriele make up the rest of the “Savage Vows.”

To death do us part” is the ceremonious idiom that signifies an everlasting commitment to one another. For Bob Dennis, it’s the marginally grim phrase that also drives the plot, but “Savage Vows” wanes nearly entirely from matrimony motifs, never really genetically incorporating the sacred act of bonding two people itself into its slasher anatomy.  Instead, Bob Dennis (and Mark Polonia) land on the ghastly side, or rather the latter side, of a marital life span with the untimely splitting of a union and this particular union, Mark’s marriage, ends in tragedy and therefore a gothic-cladded funeral of gloom and despair are rooted and entrenched into the story.  Though perfectly suitable to drown oneself woes, “Savage Vows” reaches further into that dispirited nature with Mark having fallen into negativism and his friends lend their sympathy with a sleepover offer of consolation. That’s where the comradeship becomes icky at best with friends who disguise their underhanded true intentions with a show of spurious sympathy and that kind of malevolence benevolence within the closeness of others mirrors itself, in a foreshadowing type of way, in the heart of the plot that lacks the pith of solid slasher kills. The kills scenes are of the run-of-the-mill stratification that slowly ascend to a not so bigger or better rehashed versions of themselves. The finale cap sets the bar a little too late in my book with a deserved kneecapping kill that simultaneously sums up “Savage Vows” skin-deep concept.

A longtime leader in resurrecting obscure SOV horror back from the 80s and 90’s analog grave, SRS Cinema does what SRS Cinema does best with a supremely graphic and retro-approached DVD of Bob Dennis’ “Savage Vows.” The NTSC encoded, region free DVD5 presents the film in the original aspect ratio of a matted 1.33:1 with a shot on video quality that’s high on fuchsia hue in what’s a warm, inflamed, infrared color palette that obtrudes in a non-stylistic choice. Certain trope-filled nightmare scenes have a catered good synth score and stay ablaze with visual terror fuel in which the hot pink-purple palette would have worked to the scenes advantage. As expected, as these imperfections add that wonderful je ne sais quoi to the shot-on-video epoch, the subpicture white noise and tracking lines are a welcome treasure trove for trashy rare cinema albeit the gargling of quality. The English Mono track never flushes or levels out with any promise due to a lack of a boom recording and far-removed mic placement. The dialogue remains boggled down also by e-interference with a slog of hissing issues, but still manages to be intelligible. Bonus features includes an 80-minute, feature length, commentary track with supporting star Mark Polonia on the phone with writer-director Bob Dennis, a bloopers reel, and theatrical trailer. Say, I do to “Savage Vows,” a love-it or hate-it, little known, SOV slasher with a can-do attitude of stab-happiness of the unprincipled so-called nearest and dearest.

“Savage Vows” on DVD at Amazon.com