Rats! EVIL Got Out! “The Mutation” reviewed (Uncork’d Entertainment / Digital Screener)

Three detectives and a zoologist and his assistant don’t exactly know what they’re hunting down. An unknown animal has brutally killed two people, including the scientist experimenting on it after breaking loose from his lab. Keeping close tabs on the scientist’s wife who’s eager for revenge, the investigators discover through DNA residue and a first hand attack that an uranium mutated lab rat, now the size of a human, is the responsible culprit terrorizing the city. Behind every dumpster, lurking in the sewers could be the giant, killer rat hungry for a next meal and it’s up to the desperate detectives and the zoologist to stop the creature before devouring the city whole.

Giant, mutant Rats!  The antisocial Willard isn’t back to his own vengeful tricks again nor has Bruno Mattei risen from his Eurotrash grave to resurrect a rodent-infested sequel to “Nights of Terror.”  No, this scuttling little creature feature isn’t so little in Scott Jeffrey’s 2021, man-in-a-body-suit terrorizing schlocker “The Mutation.”  Last time we covered a Scott Jeffrey written and directed project, the modern day serial B-horror director was breaking hearts (well, more like, puncturing them really) with his Valentine’s Day massacre slasher “Cupid” that saw the winged and chubby, love-matching cherub be only a figment of fables and myths as, in reality, Cupid’s broken, maligned heart aims to sever relationships, and sever heads, with his deadly bow and arrow and ninja star-like greeting cards.  Giant rats don’t need a holiday to wreak havoc in this United Kingdom independent film production from Scott Jeffrey’s own Jagged Edge Productions.

Battling against the rat’s superior stealth and strength is a cast of Jeffrey film regulars beginning with lead Ricardo Freitas as the zoologist Allen Marsh.  The upcoming “Conjuring The Plastic Surgeon 2” actor reteams alongside fellow “Bats” costar Amanda-Jade Tyler, who plays a medical doctor hellbent on exterminating an adversary fed up being a lab rat.  Other than their word, Freitas and Tyler exhibit little of their vocations and with “The Mutation’s” limited budget, to expect a hospital or zoo setting shouldn’t be on the realistic table, but aside from a little backstory about Marsh’s team work and a flimsy explanation of genetic manipulation testing, the characters’ poor technical knowledge, compounded by a lack of thespian vigor, ultimately becomes clear that what should be a rich in trait zoologist Allen Marsh and Dr. Linda Rowe are nothing more than a pair of regular commoners caught in in the middle of an investigation.  Megan Purvis (“It Came From Below), Andrew Rolfe (“Amityville Scarecrow”), and Jamie Robertson (“Conjuring the Genie”) spearhead the investigation as a hapless trio of officiating authority bumbling through the case.  I can literally see the figurative question marks over top of the actors’ heads, unable to detach and discern their character confusion about a humanoid rat terrorizing the city and their actual confusion about how to portray cops on a case.  Rounding out the cast of character is Sarah T. Cohen (“Hotel Inferno III: The Castle of Screams”), Abi Casson Thompson (“Cupid”), Nick Danan, and “A Werewolf in England’s” Derek Nelson who goes from a canine howling at the moon to an upright, human life-size rodent snapping necks at a posh restaurant in “The Mutation.”

Yes.  You read that last bit correctly.  Forget the transmission black plague that killed multi-millions of people, those rats are wimpy mice compared to a killer rat that understands how to meticulously break a human cervical vertebrae with uranium produced opposing thumbs.  The mutation not only granted the rat unnaturally large mass and superhuman strength but also instill lethal ninja abilities as the all hell breaks loose restaurant scene is pure rat-cheesy carnage.  Much of “The Mutation” is heavily moist in campy bog, hobbling on a fine line of either being intentional or unintentional with spotty dense character moments played off earnestly, such as Marsh looking directly into a lab ring light after turning it on himself and exclaiming, “god damn,” as he recoils from the blinding brightness is the most stupidly funny part of the film.  My guess is if “The Mutation” wields a man running around in a scruffy and latex snarly rat costume offing city denizens then more than likely the campy category is the former with a misguided sincere shot at adding gravity to the narrative.  Though overflowing with an abundance of bottom-barrel scenarios and inscrutable character head scratching, “The Mutation” does have select satisfying moments of post-mutilation gore and a neo-monstrous CGI rat briefly holding all the cards in the finale. From my little time with the filmmaker, Scott Jeffrey makes good with palpable bloodshed and kitsch visual effects, but the stale white bread acting pitches up a conspicuously lopsided crushing blow that can’t be ignored.

If you suffer from Musophobia then “The Mutation” is great cathartic exposure therapy, gnawing at the flesh and bone and toward DVD home video and Digital platforms today, October 5th, courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. Since a digital screen was provided for review coverage, the DVD home video release’s A/V aspects will not be analyzed in this critique; however, as far as the film’s appearance goes, Charles Jeffrey’s cinematography saturates our hairy rat-agonist in blue hues during more personal kill moments, but the backlighting is terrific, almost channel an 80’s slasher-esque of backlit vibrancy, when the man-rat is nothing but a silhouette perched on top of a trash dumpster. Classy. Yet, typical of many low-budget films, “The Mutation” is mostly otherwise softly lit that beams and ricochets lighting right off the skin, creating an overly polished varnish no self-respecting scummy rat would be caught dead in, and really could have benefit toning down the washout blue tint that steals from the details and the impact of earlier scenes. Specs are limited with no information on the DVD nor the rating or bonus content. With a creature that resembles more like a long-tailed gremlin than an oversized disease carrying rat, that’s the least of “The Mutation’s” troubles as Scott Jeffrey’s radioactive-rodent creature feature can’t find it’s four-legged footing with a languid cast and a disheveled script that gore alone can’t rescue.

The EVIL Next Door Invites the Urban Decay. “Terrified” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



A young boy is hit and killed by a bus.  A housewife is found hung in her bathroom.  A man has disappeared in his home.  Three incidences, three houses, three souls have one thing in common.  They’re neighbors.  The unusualness surrounding each tragedy grabs the attention of former forensics investigator Jano who’s own experience with the paranormal thrusts an unquenchable desire to examine the supernatural.  In a matter of coincidence, Dr. Mora Albreck, a vocational psychokinetic researcher, follows up on the disappearance of the man who called her countless times for help, but then just vanishes.  Accompanied by Dr. Albreck’s assistant, Dr. Rosentock, and Detective Funes, a weary, on-the-edge officer with a bad heart, the divide themselves to stay the night in each house and experience the paranormal phenomena calling from the beyond, but the entities calling just might terrify them. 

Hailing from Argentina comes the shivering, cross dimensional unknown from writer-director Demián Rugna’s 2017 properly titled, “Terrified.”  Originally known as “Aterrados,” the Buenos Aires filmmaker, who’s helmed hell bound thresholds previously with his introductory feature film, “The Last Gateway,” remains inside the grindhouse and horror bubble with another slit between realities thriller.  This particular bubble bursts with a whirlwind of nebulous outbreak of terror while providing microbe commentary about the potential dangers of Latin America’s water system and a perspective theme that speaks volumes on the issues of duality in what really happened and what the general public is told. Don’t trust your eyes! Nothing is what it seems! That’s the whole premise of “Terrified’s” knee-quivering appall, produced by Fernando Díaz under Machaco Films and the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales (INCAA).

Rugna’s paces “Terrified’s” entropic buildout near the edge of an anthology, ghosting us the one reason for a neighbor’s supernatural experience for the next to eventually bring the heart of the cast together as a motley group of paranormal investigators. Starting with retired forensic specialist Jano who has a morbid curiosity for the unknown that fascinates him more than the abnormal mortifies him with fear. In his first feature length performance outside of television, Norberto Gonzalo understudies the very concept of the character Jano with objective eye for curiosity and knowledge much like any scientist. Jano is invited by Detective Funes, played by another television regular, Maximiliano Ghione, to the investigation of a recently deceased boy’s corpse having returned to his childhood home and is now a rigor mortis statue sitting upright at the dining room table. Though through exposition about their training and partnership over the years, Jano and Funes sit on the opposite sides of the fear spectrum with Funes’s engendered nervousness to the whole uncanny event and mentioning his bad ticker which comes into play later on in the story. Opposite side of the street, in walks into frame Elvira Onetto, an appropriate name for the film at hand. The “Jennifer’s Shadow” actress is Dr. Mora Albreck, renowned paranormal psychologist checking in on a manic patient who recently disappeared. Rugna really appreciates the mindset of the kindred spirits in Jane and Dr. Albreck with their sense of childlike giddiness toward the whole matter while those around them – like Funes or the boy’s mother – shiver with fear or break psychologically. While Jano and Dr. Albreck naturally work their way into the story, Dr. Rosentock is left with being the odd eccentric out. While just as enthusiastic about the phenomena that’s swallowed souls around the neighbor, Rosentock just appears as Dr. Albreck’s assistant who has traveled from a great distance to study…something like what’s happening…so is said in the film. Played by George L. Lewis in his only credited role, Rosentock is as much as self-assured, unafraid, and matter-of-fact as he is a caricature of old Hammer Horror style scientists when dealing with otherworldly entities, imposing a need for a little weight to his story, but, unfortunately, his participation lives and breathes only as participate to Albreck’s project. There are many fine performances around with the ebb and flow of minor characters, played by a talented cast that includes Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano, and Natalia Señorales.

“Terrified” is one of those movies where the silence and the stillness can have a higher affect on the spine-prickles.  Rugna’s gold standard patience establishes a tense tone without the supplementary tumultuous, ear-splitting chaos that usually grinds teeth and curls toes as the sediment of panic begins to settle at the pit of the stomach.  Marcus Berta and Lionel Cornistein’s blend of practical and visual effect are near seamless, but ultimately land the one-two knockout punch of anxiety-riddled scares with tall, crumpled monsters skulking under the bed shadows, glowing eyes peering through wall cracks, and a the stiffly rotten decomposing boy popping into frame in a split second.  Cornistein’s composite designs are not too shabby for the editor and visual effects artist’s first feature rodeo let alone generated a complex olio of otherworld oddities.  In regards to “Terrified’s” themes, in my travels to Central and South America, I’ve been advised to be cautious in drinking the tap water that’s filtered differently compared to the U.S., leaving local microorganisms to swim in the guts of those unaccustomed to them, and Rugna points in that direction by consistently focusing on the water taps, drains, showers, the action of drinking water, and, also, literally spelling it out for us by Dr. Albreck to not drink the water in these spirit plagued houses due to microbes traversing from beyond through the water system.  Dual perspectives becomes important as well.  After the gruesome discovery of the boy corpse sitting at the dining table, Funes needs a rational explanation to report in contrast to the unexplained grisliness, something that makes sense and wouldn’t frighten the daylights out of him, his colleagues, or the general public.  Coincidingly, Rugna creatures also exist on two different planes, sliding between the panes, and not always visible; this is another verbally illustrated facet that unsuitably reaffirms the theme.

“Terrified” scales the expansion of dimensions with bottomless creepiness and shock value, rifting from Shudder’s streaming service and right onto a UK Blu-ray home disc distributed by Acorn Media International.  The region 2, PAL encoded, BD25 disc houses a presentation displayed in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a 15 rating for strong horror, bloody images, and language. The 1080p, HD resolution is an indifference concern with the already blemish free digitally shot film, but director of photography, Mariano Suárez, heeds every shot taking Rugna’s perspective theme to heart with lowlight and obscurities as fear-fodder. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix flexes a full-bodied, channel defining muscle with clear, prominent dialogue, a diabolical range in sound design, good depth, and an off-key canorous soundtrack because every horror fan eats up an inharmonious and creep tunes. Unfortunately, much like the “Belzebuth” release, “Terrified” comes with no special features other than a menu with the animated trailer of the film. “Terrified” is the chef’s kiss of Latin American horror, an epitome of jaw-clenching terror that’ll have you sleeping with the lights on tonight.

Buy “Terrified” on Blu-ray (Region 2) from Acorn Media International!

Honey’s Sweet, But There’s EVIL in the “Royal Jelly” reviewed! (Uncork’d Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Bee careful what you wish for in this apiary tale that tells a story of high school misfit, Aster, an easy target for unsympathetic pubescent bullies, including the continuing at-home abuse from her half-sister, Drew, and pitiless stepmother.  With neither school or home being a safe retreat, Aster finds comfort in an unorthodox and brash substitute female teacher who has taken a shine to Aster and provides her shelter when she’s distraught after discovering her collection of apiary beehives was maliciously destroyed in an act of malice.  After living with her teacher and her son for some time, they exhibit strange behaviors, develop skin rashes, and Aster begins to notice that she doesn’t quite feel like herself either as her safe haven is unveiled as a façade for her grooming to become the next hive queen.   

“Royal Jelly” isn’t exactly the killer bee movie you’d be expecting.  Writer-director Sean Riley invites a new take of the Apiformes horror subgenre outside the beehive of being per se a creature feature with his new film, “Royal Jelly.”  And, yes, even though tiny in size, bees are still tiny creatures with mighty (painful) stingers.  Those not familiar with the term royal jelly, other than it being an unique title for Riley’s sophomore feature, royal jelly is the honey bee secretion from glands located in the hypopharynx and is the chief nourishment for colony’s larvae.  See!  Who says horror movies can’t be education?  Somehow, someway the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-born director found malefic inspiration secreting from his metaphorical hypopharynx domiciled glands and packages with it a paralleling an all too familiar fairy tale crowdfunded by Indiegogo backers, second feature funded this way behind his breakout directorial of the comedy “Fighting Belle,” and Riley’s Integral Motion Pictures.

Now, who is this leading lady willing to be misled into a turned-out humanoid life sized queen bee?  The University of Southern Mississippi Fine Arts graduate Elizabeth McCoy, of course.  The Greater New Orleans actress slips into an quasi-goth cladded outcast Aster sporting fishnet stockings and a black graphic t-shirt promoting the band Queen, a bit of fitting foreshadowing if I’ve ever come across one.  Before being bequeathed the hive throne, McCoy has to render Aster a meek existence made small by the death of her beekeeper mother backstory and surrounded by loneliness stemmed by an abusive sister and stepmother and a coward of a father.  The only joy made clear in Aster’s life is her bees.  When her apiaries are decimated, that is when high school sub Tresa (Sherry Lattanzi) flies in and shelters Aster under her wing that makes for an odd couple combination that’s one part predatory teacher fraternizing with a vulnerable student and one part comical motherhood to see McCoy tower over a short Lattanzi who is in this insect sovereign role. Doesn’t Darwin always say the strongest always survive? I guess there’s nothing in Darwinism about the tallest. Lattanzi expresses Tresa about as audaciously enigmatic as they come with little-to-no story arc to move in accord with as Tresa just shows up, out of the blue, and after a scene where Aster’s teacher has had his throat slit and I’m still trying to fathom the plot hole of how the hell Tresa entered the frame so quickly, as a substitute teacher, without ever laying eyes on Aster until stepping into her classroom. Sparse is the name of the game as Tresa, as well as Aster, are poorly written without much density and neither actress can pull off miracles adding layers to already rotten onion. The rest of the cast includes Raylan Ladner, Lucas T. Matchett, Fiona McQuinn, Jonas Chartock, and Jake McCoy.

Pulling inspiration from Roger Corman’s “The Wasp Woman,” Riley’s “Royal Jelly” ditches the experimental cosmetics for timeless folk lore while still vaunting a Corman class cinema gooey with bee secretion center. Instead of an enchanting tale of rags to riches, this loose Cinderella adaptation comes with all the classic hallmarks like an evil stepmother, a wicked stepsister, and a fairy godmother manifesting Aster’s dreams on the spot, but instead of a magical wand and a pointy hat, this fairy godmother comes in the form of a personified bee queen wearing a façade of a presumptuous substitute teacher. Riley’s openly emblematic killer bee story could go one or two ways. 1 – Aster is actually being groomed by a bee queen to take over her hive as a homolog event to Aster’s earlier class presentation on the eusocial bee social organization or 2 – Aster has snapped due to bullying and she’s daydreaming, hallucination, or dead and the bee-havorial chaos she’s experiencing is either in her head or is sardonic Hell. I like the second theory better over the first as I don’t find Aster’s sprouting of inorganic and rigid Halloween costume bee wings and a makeshift stinger, that appears more phallic than necessary, to be enticing me with a freakish reality. I still can’t get over the possibility of a predator allegory as a big truck cruising Tresa targets Aster to mate with her “sons” “Henry” or “David” to produce a heir of sorts. Either way you slice into Sean Riley’s “Royal Jelly,” little feels right story-wise with the delimited, bareboned farmhouse and apiary analogy and with the flighty characters leaving all their aces on the table which Riley scarcely goes back to address, such as with Aster’s family who just disappear from the story altogether though scenes of her snide stepsister showing slithers of guilt and sympathy go unfounded.

The bee invasion has landed with Uncork’d Entertainment’s release of Sean Riley’s “Royal Jelly” this September on all digital platforms From the unhinged “Homewrecker” to the love you to death “Cupid,” Uncork’d Entertainment distributes a wide berth of independent horror, stretching to all home entertainment platforms, and acquires the bee-horror “Royal Jelly” that fits into the company’s catalogue. Since released digital, the audio and visual aspects won’t be given the once over. Jonathan Hammond (“Attack of the Southern Friend Zombie”) serves as cinematographer who’s overexposed day scenes are starkly contrasted by the night scenes’ hard lighting slathered with an unforgiven blue tint. The inconsistent visual styles and slips, such as unfocused, blurry scenes at the dinner table near the beginning of the story, clash in the 94 minute runtime. Joe Hodges lays down a common brooding industrial score that’s not half-bad as the melodies change with the extent of the solid sound design. Stay tuned post credits scene for a millennial targeted public service announcement to protect and support the bee way of life by scanning a QR code to receive information on how to exactly do that. Pleasantly informative and certainly unusual, “Royal Jelly” evinces more the echelons of bee society and lot less the terror of horror and that takes a lot of the sting of Riley’s film, making this bee killer movie a total buzz kill.

Own or Rent “Royal Jelly” on Amazon Prime Video

The Crossover EVIL Has Been Fearing! “Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog reviewed! (Warner Bros / DVD)



“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”

A sub-frequency sound sends Scooby-Doo into a crazed and booty shaking fit.  So much so, Scooby runs away from the mystery solving gang and straight into the quaint, bizarre rural town of Nowhere, Kansas where he bumps into another canine, Courage, whose experiencing the same soundx and sensations.  When a plague of monstrous cicadas dig from out of the earth, Scooby and his friends, plus Courage and his lovable human Muriel and grouchy old farmer Eustace, must understand the copious amounts of the longstanding strange and unusual happenings in Nowhere to solve the mystery of the giant cicada attack that goes deeper into Nowhere’s roots…literally.  The two dogs have to peel off their scaredy cat shells and face fear head on while chowing down some of Nowhere’s delightful delicacies!

Finally!  The two most famous, fright-filled dogs make their cinematic crossover debut in “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” that brings the terror tenfold to toon town!  Under the supervision of the serial animation director, Cecilia Aranovic, who helmed two previous Scooby-Doo installments, “Scooby-Doo! And the Curse of the 13th Ghost” and “Scooby-Doo:  Return to Zombie Island,” and tackled the action-packaged animation of “DC Super Hero Girls,” finds herself tackling a short-lived, Cartoon Network created cult fan favorite, “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”  Returning to the Scooby-Doo universe is the televised “Mystery Incorporated’s” writer and editor Michael Ryan penning a script with Courage the Cowardly Dog and creative mastermind of John Dilworth in mind to maximize all the grandstanding personalities faithfully.  Both lovable and yellow-bellied pooches are produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, who do more crossovers of their cartoons characters than NBA’s Tim Hardaway, and are joined by Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network studios. 

“Straight Outta Nowhere” reteams the “Mystery Incorporated” voice cast of Frank Welker as Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo, Grey Griffin as Daphne Blake, and “Scream’s” Matthew Lillard as Shaggy Rogers.  The revamped “Ducktales’” Kate Micucci replaces Mindy Cohn as the voice of Velma Dinkley with an apt Velma impression that easily transitions without discording the mystery solvers.  Courage voice actor Marty Grabstein reprises his quirky exclaiming hound whose full of heart and also returning Thea White stepping into the boots of Muriel, one-half of Courage’s owners.  Sadly, like original voice actor for Eustace, the late Lionel Wilson, who passed away shortly after the original show’s discontinuance, Thea White also passed away but the sting of her death was more poignant as White past July at the age of 81 and this crossover is presented in White’s memory.  Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck funnyman Jeff Bergman voices the grouchy and sarcastic Eustace without missing a beat and with about as much cynicism as his predecessors even when unloading a boatload of scares with his giant and unsightly boogey-boogey mask!  A Eustace classic! To preface my character opinion, this movie is obvious about the Scooby and Courage spellbinding the little viewers about location gumption in themselves to face their fears when it matters, but Scooby and Courage’s friends and family provide pivotal, building black support that should render each mystery solver and podunk rural-ite as a mini-lead within the story. That’s not the case inside this crossover that lacks specifics with certain characters, such as the straightforward Fred, Daphne, and Velma who instantly fall way behind without much dialogue or screen time in favor of the more caricatured Muriel, Eustace, and Shaggy. Eustace even gets his own rap music video. Some minor characters from Courage’s past return to scheme and terrorize with the voice work rounded out by Jeff Bennett (“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood”), Chuck Montgomery, and Paul Schoeffler.

Who would have thought it? Scooby-Doo has been a staple of Saturday morning cartoons, television specials, spinoff movies, holiday events, and has been reimagined animatedly and in live-action since 1969. And Courage the Cowardly Dog? Well, Courage ran on Cartoon Network from 1999 to 2002 with little specials here and there in between, but virtually radio silent when compared to his over 50 year-old co-star. Yet, did you know, the 2021 film isn’t the first time these two hounds crossed paths? That’s right, Scooby and Courage (along with Shaggy, Mureil, and Eustace) were first seen in a brief Cartoon Network promo together that you current see on Youtube – search “Scooby and Courage Cartoon Olio.” To be honest, I had assumed Scooby-Doo, who has spanned over multiple generations, is practically known worldwide in every household, and has been an invaluable money-making machine for Warner Bros., would tip the crossover screen time into the animated Great Dane’s favor, but in a pleasant surprise, a good chunk and crucial portions of the story revolves around Courage and his immediacy characters who are brought to the forefront with Scooby and the gang clearly taking a backseat to the smaller, lesser known pup.  Even the animation sides more with Courage, preserving within a smoother veneer the intrinsically warped details familiar to the show, as seen with Eustace’s Courage-scaring mask or Courage’s fluid scared reactions, and we can be honest with ourselves that although Scooby works in Courage’s surrealistic macabre world, the Dane and his gang have been rendered countless times in many different animation styles throughout the last five decades.  Enigmatically familiar to one of the mysteries Scooby and his gang dive right into, the tale fashions a composite of two different protagonist dynamics to expose who or whom are behind the giant cicada attack and the hypnosis causing ruckus; however, like the original episodes of the early 2000s, Muriel and Eustace are present just for the ride as Muriel stumps a self-frustrated Velma with elementary riddles and Eustace mouths off like an old kook without as much as a care in the world around them or what’s happened in their own backyard of Nowhere. 

Witty, zany, and all of the above with a nostalgia high, “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” will delight fans of both series with the hope for more team-ups in the future.  Warner Bros. Animation will release the film on DVD come Tuesday, September 14th with a G rating approved for all audiences and with a runtime of 78 minutes. The disc’s animation picture quality is about as animated and as lively in it’s vibrancy as the characters with no real cause for format concern as aside from a cleaner, more robust color palette, the colors translate nearly indistinguishably from it’s 1080, HD counterpart as the colors do saturate nicely, leaving little room for a potential washed or dull veneer. The English (and dog gibberish) language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound mix boosts an energetic and immersive output with nonstop creature effects, explosions, laser zaps, etc. All the creepy ambience and score that make “Courage the Cowardly Dog” spookily alluring is right here on this DVD, filling out the channels with dichotic range and space with the depth. Screams take centerstage as the keystones to ever scary flick to maximize the intended feeling of fear and, in this case, laughter. One of the more disappointing aspects of the release is the special features and while three episodes, seemingly randomized picks – Scooby-Doo! Where Are You!’s – “Decoy for a Dognapper” and The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour’s – “The Gruesome Game of the Gator Ghoul” and “Chiller Diller Movie Thriller,” is a blast from the past and a bit of nostalgia watching reruns as a kid, I really wished there were interviews with the voice cast, especially Marty Grabstein, Thea White, and Courage creator John Dilworth to laud the show and let the fans their appreciate for the little guy…meaning Courage. “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” wins on many levels: Courage the Cowardly Dog is back, Matthew Lillard is Shaggy once again, and the most petrified pooches in all of animation land bring two generations of people together for the whole family to enjoy their staple idiosyncratic gags and colorful personalities.

A Must Own “Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” on DVD!

No Sam Raimi. No Bruce Campbell. Just the EVIL! “Evil Dead Trap” reviewed (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Nami, a Japanese late night show host, is seeing her ratings dipping.  Though not in danger of losing her all-female produced show, Nami decides take her team on an investigation of a mysterious snuff tape that was mailed to her specifically.  Left for her is a bread crumb trail of directions to an abandoned military base, Nami and her crew explore the campus’s rundown structure, searching for evidence, a body, a story that they can televise.  Ignoring the dangerous presence around them, they dig deeper into the dilapidating labyrinth where they horrifying discover something waiting for them laid out in a cruel plan of deadly traps with a maniac pulling at all the strings. 

Bred out of a pedigree of pinkusploitations and a nation’s crisis of identity after the Second Great War, “Evil Dead Trap” is a greatly symbolized Japanese machination tale helmed by pink film director Toshiharu Ikeda (“Sex Hunter,” “Angel Guts:  Red Porno”) and penned by an equally historical pink film screenwriter and “Angel Guts” manga series creator Takashi Ishii (“Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture,” “Angel Guts” series).  Also known under its original Japanese title, “Shiryô no wana,” as well as, and my personal favorite, “Tokyo Snuff,” in Spain, “Evil Dead Trap’s” smorgasbord of rape, torture, and gory death naturally shocked viewers upon release and continues to do so as one of J-Horror’s branched out films that segued out from the brutal and depraved pink film inspired context into the new longstanding ghost genre we’ve seen over the last few decades with “Ringu” (“The Ring”) or “Ju-on” (“The Grudge”).  The production company Joy Pack Films, behind the 1980’s obscure Japan films, such as Genji Nakamura’s “Go For Broke” and Banmel Takahashi’s “Wolf,” houses the “Evil Dead Trap” from executive producer Tadao Masumizu.

If you recognize a couple cast members, or maybe just their naked bodies, then there’s something depraved about you!  With all kidding aside, but no seriously, if Rei (Hitomi Kobayashi) or Kondo (Masahiko Abe) look familiar, then you my friend are pink film aficionados as Kobayashi has starred in “Hard Petting” and “Young Girl Story” and Abe was in these pink film hits the “Pink Curtain” trilogy and “Female College Dorm Vs Nursing School Dormitory.”  If these faces didn’t touch you in any kind of sensual way, no worries, leading lady Miyuki Ono brings the star power.  The “Black Rain’s” Ono plays Nami, a go-getter television host/personality with her sights set on ramping up her late night show’s ratings, but also sucked into the posted snuff film’s darkest allure that’s personally calling her into to a precarious story lead.   Nami could also be a homage to one of screenwriter Takashi Ishii’s manga-inspired pink films entitled “Angel Guts: Nami” and the title might not be the only aspect paid honor to with that particular Nami written with a journalistic vocation drawn into and obsessed with a serial rapist’s attacks, making a striking parallel between the two stories that are nearly a decade apart. Eriko Nakagawa and Aya Katsurgagi fill out Nami’s investigating team as Rei and Mako. As a whole, the characters lack personality; Rei and Kondo tickle with relationship woes that are snuffed out before fruition, Rie’s timid innocence barely peaks through, and Nami and Mako’s thicker bond compared to the rest of the team is squashed to smithereens way before being suckled into note worthy tragedy. This late night show team has been reduced to slasher fodder and, honestly, I’m okay with that as we’re only here for the deadly traps. Noboru Mitani, Shinsuke Shimada, and Yûji Honma, as the mystery man looking for his brother, complete “Evil Dead Traps” casting.

“Evil Dead Trap” boasts a melting pot of inspirations, a mishmash of genres, and spins a nation’s split identity variation crowned in aberration. Diversely colorful neon-hazy lighting complimented by a Goblin-esque synth-rock soundtrack from Tomohiko Kira (“Shadow of the Wraith”), Toshiharu Ikeda shadows early Dario Argento inside and outside the popularity of the Italian giallo genre as the “Evil Dead Trap” murder-mystery horrors resemble more of a westernized slasher with a killer concealed behind a mask stalking a fringed, neglected compound in a conspicuous outfit. While the killer dons no hockey mask or snug in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, an equally domicile, yet more calculated, antagonist taunts more brains than brawns, especially with the severity of traps that seemingly float from out of nowhere. The fun is chiefly in the imagination of how the trap designs operate in the void of physics of a slasher fodder film so wipe clean the Jigsaw and the “Saw” films from your mind completely and relax to enjoy the outlandish kill scenes. Some of the kills are imperialistically inspired by Imperial Japan, that is, to blend the wartime nation’s atrocities with how the proud country wants to distance itself from that old-fashion, war-criminal, stoically perverse superstratum layer, but that’s were “Evil Dead Trap” pulls for most of the juicy parts as well as supplementing with Argento lighting, some, believe it or not, “Evil Dead” elements of that menacing presence bulldozing through the spiritual world, and an divergent climatic finale stuck to the narrative body that’s akin to pulling off the head of a doll and replacing it with T-Rex head’s. The uniformity quells under the pressure of how to end Nami’s and her attacker’s coda with pageantry weirdness that’s typical status quo Japanese cinema. Lots of symbolism, little modest explanation.

Get caught in “Evil Dead Trap” now back in print and on Blu-ray courtesy of Unearthed Films, distributed by MVD Visual, as part of the extreme label’s Unearthed Classics spine #5. The Blu-ray is presented in a matted 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a format rarely used in the States but widely used in other countries. Reverting to the 1.66:1 from Synapse’s 1.85:1 crop, Unearthed Films showcases more of the European feel, heightening that colorful vibrancy of the Argento-like schemes. Image quality has peaked on this transfer with natural grain with the 35mm stock, but details are not granularly sharp in an innate flaw of the time’s equipment and lighting. Shinichi Wakasa’s unobscured practical effects heed to the details and don’t necessary suffer the wrath of miniscule soft picture qualities when you’re impaling someone or birthing a slimy evil twin…you’ll see. Add in Ikeda’s wide range of shooting techniques, you’d think you’re watching Hitchcock or Raimi and the focus really lands there with the differently camera movements and techniques. The Japanese language single channel PCM audio fastens against that robust, vigorous quality to make “Evil Dead Trap’s” diverse range and depth that much more audibly striking, but there’s a good amount of silver lining in there being no damage albeit discernable, but not intrusive static to the audio files, dialogue is unobstructed and prominent, and the stellar synth-rock soundtrack nostalgically takes you back to when you first watched “Suspiria” or “Dawn of the Dead.” English subtitles are available but display with a few second delay which can be cumbersome if trying to keep up. Special features includes three commentaries that include director Toshiharu Ikeda and special effects supervisor Shinichi Wakasa, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake (“Gun Woman”), and James Mudge of easternKicks. Plus, a Trappings of the Dead: Reflecting on the Japanese Cult Classic retrospect analysis from a Japanese film expert, Storyboards, Behind the scenes stills, promotional artwork, trailers, and a cardboard slipcover with phenomenal artwork. Highly recommend this atypical Japanese slasher, “Evil Dead Trap,” now on Blu-ray home video!

Own “Evil Dead Trap” on Blu-ray!