Wes Craven’s Evil After School Special! “Summer of Fear” review!


Julia Trent is left orphaned after the fatal accident of her parents that involved them falling to their fiery deaths when their car careens off a cliff attempting to drive their housekeeper home. The only family Julia has left is the Bryant family whom she hasn’t seen in over 15 years. The Bryants welcome their niece with consolation and open arms, inviting her to room with her cousin, Rachel. Rachel has the perfect life: a loving mother and father, a cute boyfriend, and the ability to ride and compete in horse competitions. However, Rachel’s world is upended when Julia enters her life and something just doesn’t seem right when Julia slowly begins to push Rachel out of her comfy position, bewitching the men in her life to turn against her and being the center of a number of considerable accidents. As Rachel suspicions grow and she becomes further attached from all those that surround her, an investigation ensues with Rachel at helm to retrieve what’s rightfully her’s from an underlying evil.

The late Wes Craven made for television movie “Summer of Fear,” also known as “Stranger in the House,” is a living relic; a time capsule type horror this generation will find difficult to grasp, like Nintendo’s Gameboy or music tape cassettes, with thrilling suspense unlike today’s cookie cutter product. After he shocked audiences with the controversial “The Last House on the Left” and crafted a shifty dream killer in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” director Wes Craven embarked on a venture into the television movie scene that didn’t spur graphic content, but focused putting the supernatural in the forefront of reality with a similarity to that of “Tales of the Darkside” or “The Twilight Zone,” captivating audiences sitting in front of the boobtube with twists and thrills in a Halloween premiered NBC movie. Based on Lois Duncan’s novel of the same title and written for television by Glenn Benest (who also wrote another Craven directed picture “Deadly Blessings”) and Max Keller, Wes Craven greatly accepted the challenge of reaching a broad audience without being subversive and explicit, sharing his vision with another living horror icon in the starring role.

“The Exorcist’s” Linda Blair has a role that’s certainly a far cry from the possessed Reagan, but the 1978 “Summer of Fear” had opened up a sleuth-type role for Blair that made her more of the hunter than the victim. Blair’s raspy voice and spoiled girl attitude completes the privileged daughter of the household compared to her tall and charming rival, Julia Trent, in “Necromancy’s” Lee Purcell. Purcell compliments Blair all too well and, together, the on screen tension is ever present, even if slightly over exaggerated. From that point on, “Summer of Fear” was filled in by other great talent such as Jeremy Slate (“True Grit” ’69), Carol Lawrence, a very young Fran Drescher in the beginning of her career, Jeff McCracken, and Jeff East (“Pumpkinhead”), but the more fascinating role, that was hardly explored, is awarded to MacDonald Carey, the resident occult professor of the neighborhood. Carey’s has a very old school actor with a performance very familiar to Robert Mitchum and the veteran actor’s vast career felt very small here in the catalytic role as the confirming source for Rachel in her suspicions.

In addition to the withdrawal of the contentious content, “Summer of Fear” entertains on a minimalistic special effects stage that still pops with jaw-dropping suspense and still caters to an, even if slightly dated, story altering moment that rockets toward a maelstrom finish. All the while, Lee Purcell’s character has such glam and beauty that the bewitching sticks overpoweringly raw as a telling moment that beauty isn’t all that’s wrapped up to be and people can be ugly on the inside. Through brief glimpses into Julia Trent’s authentic past, including the mountainous Ozark retreats, one could conclude the story’s ultimate ending, but the fact that the actors embrace their rolls and Wes Craven connects himself enthusiastically to the project makes “Summer of Fear” a solid small box show of terror.

Doppelgänger Releasing releases the Wes Craven classic “Summer of Fear” for the first time onto Blu-ray home video. Transferred to a 1080p resolution, the presentation is certainly made from TV in the Academy, 4:3 or 1.33:1, aspect ratio. Image quality sporadically has moments of definition instability where the image goes fluffy or soft and amongst the duration’s entirety are a slew of white specks and noticeable grain, but the transfer remains solid over the decades that display a grandeur of vivid coloring despite some scenes of with an overburdening washed yellow tint. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio cleanly presents the feature with not a lot of flashy audio moments and the dialogue is clean and clear suggesting that the audio track aged very well. Bonus material includes an audio commentary track by director Wes Craven, an exclusive interview with Linda Blair, photo and poster gallery, and concluding with the original 1978 trailer. “Summer of Fear” might be obsolete in modern ways of terror filmmaking, but Wes Craven imprints a searing cult classic that brandishes more than just guts and gore. Instead, the father of “Scream” continues to impress beyond the grave, thanks to distributors like Doppelgänger Releasing, with the filmmaker’s expansive range that debunks many popcorn horror goers’ assumptions about the director and his films. “Summer of Fear” simply showcases that Craven was a jack of all trades when coming down to brass tax in creating a terrifying story.

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Can You Survive Rob Zombie’s Evil Death War? “31” review!

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Traveling across a remote highway, five carnival workers journey to their next small top gig on Halloween day in 1976. Stopped by scarecrow-like figures in the middle of the road, the carnies find themselves led into a hostile trap and are kidnapped, held hostage to be poorly prepped for the dilapidated warehouse “Murderworld.” The violent death labyrinth is set for a hellish game entitled “31”, launched yearly by the sadist Father Death with Sister Serpent and Sister Dragon, that pits the captive against a series of killers, specialized in their own brand of merciless murder. To survive inside “Murderworld,” you have to stay alive for 12 hours in the dark, dank warehouse.
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After a self produced campaign, a hefty amount of soul crushing crowdfunding, and a slew of production and distribution ups and downs, “House of a 1000 Corpses” director and shock rocker Rob Zombie was finally able to release this year his latest horror installment “31” since 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” Lionsgate acquires the home entertainment rights to deliver “31” with a R-rated version of the Zombie’s claimed return to roots horror. The survival slasher, when compared to the director’s other work, capitalizes as the most seriously disturbed work to date, but the premise is not particularly original. We’ve all seen the placing of disoriented victims in a life or death game scenario before; Schwarzenegger’s “The Running Man,” based off the Stephen King novel, strikes many similarities, closely relating the two films by sheer plot alone. With Zombie’s “31,” the differences stagger between the main characters being simple carnies looking for a place in the world and “Murderworld” not being a total dystopian future of skewed justice. Instead, the shock rocker pens in his own ‘motherfucking’ motivations of satanic rituals to filthy the pot of sadism and mayhem.
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Overall, I thought “31’s” characters were inviting and interesting even if they’re a cookie-cutter roster engineered by the likes of Rob Zombie. The idea is good to have five ordinary folks enduring a 12 hours bout of being hunted by a pint sized nazi enthusiast, a pair of chainsaw wielding hillbilly whack jobs, a tall German in a pink tutu and his Harley Quinn modeled femme fatale, and, then, there’s Doom-Head, portrayed by the impeccable Richard Brake. My first experience with Brake came from another facet of the word ‘doom,’ 2005’s “Doom,” to be exact, the adaptation of the popular id Software survival horror video game, and even then did Brake have the outer shell of a complete sleaze ball, dipped in an indescribable amount of pure malevolence. Rob Zombie is able to tap into Brake’s true potential with Doom-Head, an egocentric nihilist professionally suited for murder while oozing with unapologetic shamelessness. Along with Brake lies co-stars very familiar from prior Zombie films and these individuals are Jeff Daniel Phillips, deeply blue-eyed Meg Foster, and Judy Geeson from “The Lords of Salem,” the legendary Malcolm McDowell and Lew Temple from the “Halloween” remake, and, of course, Sheri Moon Zombie, the dedicated wife who stars in everything the man does from movies to music videos. Rounding out the film has Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Kevin Jackson, Jane Carr, Pachno Moler, David Ury, Torsten Voges, and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’s” Elizabeth Daily on the docket.
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The problem with the characters are not that their ‘cookie-cutter’ characters, as I aforementioned, but rather their just well, well under written. Developmentally, almost every character becomes wasted space, floating stagnantly across the 103 minute runtime. For the hunters aside from Doom-Head, they’re backgrounds are mysterious which fits the rules of “31.” Doom-Head is a different story because he’s the golden child of “Murderworld,” spoken very highly by Father Murder and graced with so much monologuing that it’s absurdly comical and, unfortunately, predictable. As far as the carnies are concerned, most of the group never blooms into relevancy and I couldn’t help but to root for most of their savage deaths. Sheri Moon Zombie’s Charly character was the slice of life, the slither hope, that showed promise. Yeah, Charly looks and sounds much like Baby Firefly, but Charly is a fantasy heroine with a modest range of emotions and when even faced with defeat, she’s stands strong.
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Though I wanted “31” to exceed all my expectations with the promise of untapped brutality, here we stand with a cut version Rob Zombie’s crowdfunded film. I’m interested in what exactly hit the cutting room floor because, just taking in “31” at first viewing, every single scene could be remedied by reimplementing, if any, omitted scenes. From my understanding, Rob Zombie submitted the survival horror numerous times to the MPAA in order to purposely retrieve a R-Rating and the ending result suggests a heavily cut film: off camera moments of attack, choppy warehouse segments, unintended shortened character developments, etc. Something more must be behind the scenes that holds back a fan well-deserved and fan well-funded unrated version and I’m not totally knocking this rated Lionsgate release, but a perception has been cemented on the fact that fans were promised an unadulterated Rob Zombie spook show and ended up not getting what they paid for ultimately.
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing the Saban Films’ “31” on Blu-ray on December 20th in 1080p High Definition with a 16×9 widescreen 2.46:1 presentation and an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. A DVD version is also available. The presentation is in the detail of the image quality with only some minor dialogue loss, slightly muddled amongst the levels, in the DTS track. Certainly not a disparaging opinion, but once in close quarters, such as the carnies’ van, the ambiance hum of the engine, the tires on the road, and the jingle-jangle of objects in the van drown out parts of dialogue from Meg Froster and Jeff Daniel Phillips. An impressive 2-hour comprehensive documentary on the making of the film entitled “In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn” and an audio commentary with writer-director Rob Zombie completes the bonus material. “31” feels like a Rob Zombie film; the rocker’s trash talking grit and loads of rockabilly swag leaves his unique brand seared into the horror scene, but Zombie’s “Murderworld” story is a promise-filled return to roots sensation for the director. Honestly, Zombie never strayed from his grungy grindhouse of inhuman torture and death origins, but only for a fleeting moment, and so “31” stays the abrasive, distasteful course that’ll speak, like in cult comprehensible tongues, to only his fan base.

Rob Zombie’s “31” on Blu-ray!

“31” on Motherfuckin’ DVD!

Good. Evil. I’m the Guy with the Gun. “Ash vs Evil Dead” review!

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Ash is back! The chainsaw for a hand, fouled mouth, Deadite destroying retail stock boy returns to face Evil with his boomstick once again after the last monstrous incident some 30 years ago. Trying to stay under the radar and not make waves amongst the ignorant living, Ash has sunk low into the drunken and fat state of barely living until he accidentally reads from the pages of the Necronomicon during a night of irresponsible reefer madness. Now, evil forces thrust Ash into an impossible position to which he’s unable to remove himself from and with the help of his enthusiastic co-worker Pablo, a loyal immigrant sidekick, and the pessimistic Kelly, the orphaned daughter of Deadite victims, Ash and his gun-toting, ass-kicking haphazardness crew will take the terrifying show on the road, tracking down a way to destroy this Evil and the Necronomicon before it swallows the world and release a demonic wrath that’s never been seen before!

Many horror fans thought the day would never come. A number of us believed the rumors were a myth, a hoax, or a bamboozling viral campaign set forth to stir up fandom and the water cooler conversation. Then, a trailer was released and Starz! brought “Evil Dead” back to audiences’ who wanted to relive the the havoc Kandarian demons, to an audience who wanted to expand more upon the mythology of Sam Raimi’s epic hero, and delivered to an audience who don’t even know who Bruce Campbell, the legend, is and why he’s important to the horror community.

“Ash vs Evil Dead” blends seamlessly into the series’ saga, pitting once again our chainsaw wielding hero against a body-possessing force that’s more vicious and blood thirsty than ever. Any and every soul is up for the shredding and ripping grabs when Kandarian demons are concerned while also new, unseen variations of Kandarian demons make a fashionably late appearance. This time around is slightly different than before as, unlike Ash and his unlucky bunch caught in evil’s clutches, Ash has willing assistance in Pablo and Kelly to form a battle trio and take on this evil head on. Ray Santiago (Pablo) and Dana DeLorenzo (Kelly) are a fresh contrast to an aging Bruce Campbell, but Campbell pizzaz and rudimentary quick-wit dialogue manages to steal the scenes. Campbell, Staniago, and DeLorenzo are joined by a fourth; an actress reuniting with Bruce Campbell from long ago in her own fantastical series “Xena: Warrior Princess.” None other than Xena herself Lucy Lawless dons a mysterious Ruby Knowby who holds a deeper understanding of Necronomicon.

Sam Raimi also makes his grand and spectaculr return to his rightful spawn. Raimi, Campbell, and long time Evil Dead collaborator Robert Tapert’s production company Renaissance Pictures, along with Starz!, are the chief production companies on the television series that was originally meant to be the third sequel installment of the “Evil Dead” franchise. However, the zany-comical horror writing and directorial style that only Sam Raimi can deliver was reproduced for the first episode of season one to recreate the devilish “Three Stooges” slapstick atmosphere bred for a brooding, yet hysterical, Starz original series. A handful of directors take the helm of nine more episodes after Raimi, with one of the “Xena: Warrior Princess” directors Rick Jacobson being the most recognizable name among the list, and once the story expands further into the season, a loss of slapstick buffoonery that trademarks Raimi so very well is lost, but doesn’t slow down the blood spattering carnage.

Starz! and Anchor Bay Entertainment’s 2-disc Blu-ray edition of “Ash vs Evil Dead” season one is available today at your local or online retailer! Presented in a HD 1080p widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and a Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, the 10-episode, 294 minute runtime, unlimited goriness will soak into your funny bones right before shattering them into axe-cleaved pieces! Special features include an audio commentary on all episodes, Inside the World of Ash featurette, How to Kill a Deadite featurette, and the Best of Ash featurette. Plus, the release comes with a lenticular slip cover. Bring on “Ash vs Evil Dead” season two! Hail to the King, Baby!

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Stopping Evil Takes Relentless Determination. “Bound to Vengeance” review!

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Twenty-one year old Eve has been chained to a basement structure of a desolate house in the desert.  She turns the tables on Phil, her sexual predator, by clocking him hard with a stone brick and escaping his hellish domain, until she realizes, through Phil’s pictorial archive, that he has more girls in similar captivity.  Driven by guilt over her sister’s own demise at the hands of their captor, Eve sets forth a nonstop mission to release girls no matter the cost even if that means bringing her injured rapist along for the ride.  As they stop from location to location, not all the victims are as calm and collected as Eve and her predator isn’t the only dangerous one in this particular sex trafficking ring.

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“Bound to Vengeance,” also known under the working title “Reversal,” would naturally seem from first glance reading the title as a rape-revenge exploitation film by José Manuel Cravioto, except the story begins in the basement with Eve’s escape.  Cravioto’s film fast forwards past the pre-show character story development, the terrifying abduction, and the uncomfortable rape scenes or sequences.  Instead, the story bee lines straight toward the revenge act, raising Eve out of the ashes like a worn torn Phoenix and obtaining the upper hand on Phil.  From there, only sporadic interjections of her prior abduction are revealed through video tape footage of her and her boyfriend.  Even without displaying all the horrible things that have happened to Eve, a successfully conveyed cognizance of her strife goes without saying, or in this case, showcasing because the Rock Shaink Jr. and the late Keith Kjornes, whom I remember from his first penned wacky work in “Repligator,” cover Phil’s monstrous and unquenchable sexual rampage through the scared and scarred eyes of all the victims Eve intends on liberating and from Phil’s spew of lies from his own snake forked tongue.

vlcsnap-2016-01-21-19h57m41s50Dark Factory Entertainment, for a company as a whole, is as small as a guppy when compared to bigger, badder fish in the ocean; however, “Bound to Vengeance” is like a piranha, a flyspeck river fish with a vicious bite.  I’m also impressed to see “Kindergarten Cop” star Richard Tyson presenting a delightfully decadent performance in his character Phil, whose a mid-40’s man living a double life, living the American dream with a beautiful wife, innocent young child, and living in a grand house while a darker, hidden side revels in an oversight role in the world of sex slavery.  Phil represents the very definition of a very real evil inside our society and Tyson, through that slightly raspy and baritone voice of his, brings out the character’s warranted ugliness.  Tyson opposites Stephanie Charles, saddling into the empowering female role Eve, and Charles meets the veteran Tyson eye-for-eye on all their scenes together, never once sensing a performance recession.

vlcsnap-2016-01-21-19h41m18s205The rape-revenge flick, minus the rape, concentrates, just outside the surface, around the sex slavery ring.  In fact, the insightful story is quite educational and informative, sectoring separate pieces of the sex trafficking ring from a simple abduction, restraint, and rape to a criminal empire consisting of various locations and various hands in this particular ring.  Victims also go through stages of stockholm syndrome, such as with one of the girls Eve attempts to free, but she’s too far gone under the influence of Phil and his forceful philandering friends.  And for a film that’s about sex trafficking, sex has nearly been omitted from the entirety with only some disheveled and scanty covered women, some with BDS&M outfits.  Criavioto’s suspense thriller breaks the narrative barriers without being, story suggestively, sexually explicit and gratuitous.

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The High Fliers distributed DVD and Dark Factory Entertainment production is a win-win for both companies where dynamic actors and sexually charged subject matter thoroughly straps you forcibly in the passenger seat and causes a five-finger death grip on the oh-shit handle bar.  Prepare to have your eye balls glued to screen and your jaw drop when each scene becomes more intense than the other, from girl-to-girl, to house-to-house.  Gravitate to this release as soon as possible as I swear disappointment will be far, far away from any reaction bestowed upon this Cravioto film.

Evil Revolts! “The Last House” review!

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Erotic escort Love falls for on the side boyfriend Ned, a regular client with who she’s madly in love and with who she doesn’t charge a dime for her services. When Love wants out of the escort business, her controlling pimp Sunny says otherwise by sending her and two other girls on Love’s final trick, an all night mansion party. When the girls arrive at the gated mansion, they’re greeted by three strange hosts: Cleb, Selma, and Hate. Each of the three girls partner up with each of the hosts and move forward to their separate rooms where the escorts fall victim to sadistic tendencies, but Hate has more in store for Love. Ned, concerned when Love didn’t call once all night, sets out on a rescue mission to track down Sunny and gain information in means necessary on the whereabouts of the girl who love struck him.
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“The Last House” is a 2011 mixed subgenre film directed by b-horror director Sean Cain that was originally released under the title “Breath of Hate” and was penned by first time writer Wes Laurie. The ambitious story plays out cordially with a talented cast of actors behind the camera, but the story, though larger than life for a b-horror flick, follows a non-linear path that builds and builds for a grand finale and while that sort of tension usually creates a good setup, the ending nearly fizzles, not generating enough pizzaz and spark worthy the wait of the last five minutes of the total 91 minute runtime. However, the Laurie script fascinates and entertains throughout because of character structure through the aforementioned non-linear layout and because of the physical and emotional outpouring portrayed by the actors such as Lauren Walsch, Timothy Muskatell, Jason Mewes, and, especially, Ezra Buzzington.
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“The Hills Have Eyes” remake actor Ezra Buzzington steals the entire movie as Hate, leader of the three sadistic maniacs, and Hate, in himself, is an interesting character who seeks to start revolutions against humanity through brains and brutality and maybe even something more. Buzzington embodies a “Die Hard with a Vengeance” Jeremy Iron’s type personality with a calm demeanor on one face and a ruthless side on the other, but he single handedly separates the character from the likes of any other and creates Hate, with the help of a Laurie twist ending, to be potentially a long time running franchise character. There is a fierce downside alongside Hate where his lackeys were served a overshadowed injustice. Monique Parent plays another sadist, Selma, and her time on screen didn’t add to the girth and felt unnecessary. The then 46-year-old actress, with more than 100 film credits to her name, looked absolutely stunning, sizzling with lust for her cougar age. That should be no surprise to fans of Parent who are mostly familiar with her previous work in a number of softcore porn films. Sadly, Parent has no nude scenes though the part strongly suggests it; “Evil Head’s” Joanna Angel and “Amateur Porn Star Killer 3’s” Regan Reece take the burden of skin diligently – thank you Joanna and Regan. The third sadist, Cleb, is portrayed by Jamaican native Ricardo Gray. Gray’s take made Cleb, frankly, my least favorite sadist as Gray went overboard with a character that could been a menacing psycho-sexual deviant to a half-witted, Jurassic role-playing pervert. If there was perhaps more of Cleb’s backstory, a better picture of this sadist’s mindset might have reversed the first unfavorable impression.
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Jason Mewes has always played the part of the funny guy character. The same stereotype description can be laid upon other actors of similar character such as Hollywood studs Jim Carrey, the late Robin Williams, or the cult favorite Bill Murray. Mewes, a strong supporter of independent work, has most famously, for most of his career, teamed up with writer-director-actor Kevin Smith and produced some of the most notably comedic material to ever be released for about around a decade starting near the mid-1990’s. Not many audiences, aside from fanatical Mewes fans, are aware that the same Jay, of “Jay and Silent Bob” films, has had quite a few horror credits. From John Gulager’s “Feast,” to David Arquette’s “The Tripper,” Jason Mewes doesn’t just do comedy, but what makes “The Last House” unique from the other independent horror films is that Mewes is cast in a serious horror film whereas “Feast” and “The Tripper” are horror-comedies that still tap into Mewes endless vein of laughs. Instead, “Dead Girl” actor Timothy Muskatell takes the reigns on the comedy as a pot smokey, womanizing lackey and Muskatell is born for that type of part. Porn star Timmy Pistol also delivers some goofy laughs in a brief cameo with Jason Mewes and also, fun fact, Tommy Pistol and Joanna Angel were both in “Evil Head!”
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Mewes, Buzzington, and even Parent are major, recognizable names in the movie industry, big enough that even audiences so attached to Hollywood stardom would still be familiar with them. Two of the names mentioned headlining “The Last House” are accompanied by one more name that isn’t familiar to mainstream audiences, but any knowledgeable horror enthusiast would surely recognize. “Sleepaway Camp” actress Felissa Rose is that third headlining name and, unfortunately, shouldn’t have been exploited. Rose’s on screen appearance runs a total of around two minutes as the mansion realtor, but her presence falls from the face of “The Last House’s” universe after her single scene. Her iconic name alone will draw in the horror masses, but when she filmed the minor role, Rose was near popping at 9-months pregnant and she didn’t have one single story merit line or action.
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Distributed by Wild Eye Releasing, “The Last House” picture quality looks amazing presented in a detailed widescreen format. The audio quality comes and goes; at some points during outside scenes the ambience or the soundtrack plays at a whisper. When in more confined scenes, the tracks blare with some crackle. However, none of these will impact watchability nor take away from the film itself. “The Last House” aka “Breath of Hate” will make a deep gash into the independent horror scene and Wild Eye Releasing will help deliver Hate into your home entertainment on November 24th.