Agents Chris Cannon, Mark Austin, and Becky Midnite go in guns blazing on a drug smuggling operation operated by the goons of a Bolivian drug lord and club owner named Santiago. Furious with their meddling that cost him a hefty dividend, Santiago employs the crooked agency director, Dickson, to do something about his rogue operatives, but with his bureaucratic hands tied, Dickson can only get the agents suspended until further investigation clears them of any wrongdoing. During their leave, the three go on a gold finding expedition based off the tale of a legendary suicide mission conducted by a Confederate Lieutenant during the American Civil War that involved infiltrating behind enemies lines and stealing Union gold to fund the rebellion cause. The gold is believed to be hidden deep within the woods, a secluded area Santiago just happens to learn about while eavesdropping on the agents movements. Deciding take matters into his own hands, Santiago hires an exotic hitwoman, Jewel Panther, to hunt them down for elimination.
Perhaps the Tinto Brass of action films, Andy Sidaris wrote, directed, and produced an extensive filmography of weaponry-packed James Bond-esque films crammed with robust eroticism from the late 1980’s to the heart of the 1990s under his, and his wife’s, own independent banner and though “Enemy Gold” has all the markings of a Sidaris’ productions, including many, many female assets and rock hard abs, his son, Christian Drew Sidaris is handed the sovereignties of the 1993 bodacious hot-body, action-comedy in which he co-writes with Wess Rahn. The cult film showcases the best parts of the most beautiful people who have less-than-stellar thespian chops, hiring outside the conventional casting agencies to lure the attractive attributes of what Playboy and Penthouse have to offer, and sticking them into the tightest and skimpiest clothes that would put Miami’s South beach flamboyantly wild atmosphere to shame. Let me not bring in East Coast flavor to a production that stretches from California to Louisiana under Sidaris’ economically savvy Skyhawks Films company, in association with MBP and Starlight Films.
I wasn’t joking when I said Sidaris scouted out Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds that sizzle with sex appeal when strapped with an automatic weapon. The concept is every gun-toting redneck’s wet dream when the producing Sidaris’ employ the well-endowed to be the center of the action. Penthouse Pet and cult horror icon, Julie Strain, certainly fits the description. The voluptuous 6ft 1in actress has the best role in the house as Jewel Panther, the scantily-cladded assassin with a pugnacious attitude that can turn a quarrelsome skirmish into an oddly erotic babes and bombs moment as she whacks a couple of clueless park rangers in nothing more than her thong bikini. Not only does Strain play the best monikered character in the flick, but is a tantalizing, Amazonian lioness of a personality on screen. Suzi Simpson is another centerfold working for truth, justice, and the lethal way as Becky Midnite. The blonde bombshell Playmate does a little dirty work in her cut-off, daisy duke jeans, wriggling in and out of tight situations, and tight clothes, when being eyed up and down by Santiago’s thugs. Midnite’s not as interesting as Jewel Panther and Simpson acting mirror’s than par level posture with rigid aesthetics, even during her sex scenes with Bruce Penhall (“Body Count”). The last Playboy centerfold is Tai Collins, aka Taquil Lisa Collins, and before she was a renowned philanthropist, founding multiple foundations, and spearheading charities for children, Collins was a D.C. suit, an agency head that oversees operative missions, who saw fit to be in a romantic relationship with a subordinate (“Fit to Kill’s” Mark Barriere”) and underneath that suit, you guessed it, was dressed-to-kill lingerie. Then, of course, you have the Bolivian drug lord, Santiago. The role was awarded to one of Andy Sidaris’ casted actors, the late Rodrigo Obregon. The square jaw and poofy-haired Obregon quarterbacked all of Santiago’s antagonism toward the extermination of all the beautiful people aka the agents, but was in reality, or at least in character, was a big softy compared to Jewel Panther who ended up being more despicable in her foxy iniquity. “Enemy Gold” rounds out with Alan Alabew (“Bulletface”), and “Day of the Warrior’s” Ron Browning and Tom Abbott.
Though saturated with plenty of T&A, the Sidaris team keeps scenes classy, sexy, and elegant without stepping a foot into pornographic territory that would ultimate undermine and reclassify “Enemy Gold” as another Axel Braun flesh-flick. Granted, the acting is as cheesy as a cheeseball growing on a cheesy-cheeseball tree and every fit bod sports a cut off T-shirt and vest while pretending their early 1990’s Lenny Dykstra by wearing his baseball shades and fitting a mini-mullet, but for the value, “Enemy Gold” is a goldmine of cut-price epic action providing a variety of numerous explosions and marginal Michael Mann style gun fights. Throw in lengthy scenes of nudity, such as thorough shower scenes and a primal topless with a sword around a firepit, and you have “Bullets, Bombs, and Babes!” so says the tagline. It ain’t lying! Rahn and Drew Sidaris’ script fairs as the weaker link to the entire package that setups a really good criminal retaliation premise that recoils back to one half of the titular element, gold. The film opens up during CIvil War time with a narrative prologue of a Confederate suicide mission in attempting to steal union gold and burying it deep within the forest. The preface only becomes relevant when Christ and Mark decide to use their sudden suspension leave to go on their annual treasure hunt for the buried gold. Santiago’s reprisal of his drug bust forces the Civil War backstory and the gold to be subservient, debasing the story to an unbalanced point that it can’t seem to recover from the absurdity of events.
“Enemy Gold” is worth it’s weight in buxom gratification with a well-endowed Blu-ray plus digital release from Mill Creek Entertainment. The transfer hits Blu-ray for the first via a 4k restoration presented in 1080p, high definition widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The immense details is exquisite when regarding the show of excessive skin in nearly every segment. Exterior scenes look and feel lush within the trees, bushes, and lakeside landscape. Some of the grain is inconsistent, leaving exposed some fluctuations of blockiness to hurtle over. The transfer did suffer some irreparable minor damage, such as some deep scratches that are noticeable in editing and a moment of reel flare that pops up briefly. The English language 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio offers a respectable mix helmed by the clearly prominent dialogue though, at times, renders a bit soft. Explosions are nicely discernable even in the dual channel. “Repligator’s” Ron Di Iulio’s “Night Court” meets “Red Shoe Diaries” score dips into a monotonous swanky-funk, but is an appeasing instrumental. English SDH are optional/ Bonus features include an introduction by director Andy Sidaris and, if you didn’t get enough boob action, a flirtatious Julie Strain that build up what to expect in a dated DVD launch intro. If you want even more Julie Strain topless, the behind the scenes featurette offers a little more of that DVD launch promo plus a gag of Sidaris guide to filmmaker, plus some interviews with wife Arlene and Drew Sidaris, an interview with Joe Bob Briggs, and some a brief history into the Sidaris legacy. There’s also an audio commentary and trailers. “Enemy Gold” is a prime example of the best erotica action before the turn of the century, fearlessly proud and independent to be perfectly content in the content that’s centerfold perfect. Recommended.
Set in the Midwest of the late 1980’s when a satanic cult has killed upwards of 18 people, slain in groups of threes, across the United States, three good girlfriends set forth on a road trip to a heavy metal concert. The girls bump into and befriend three aspiring musicians and fellow metal heads at the venue, inviting them to beers and some company while rocking out to killer show. The after show party moves to one of the girl’s father’s pastoral home for some late night boozing around the firepit, reminiscing about their favorite bands, and whatever else the dark night has in store for them, but the night of hedonism turns quickly into a night of terror when that satanic cult comes calling for three more souls. Some of the group isn’t truthful about their intentions and dead bodies pile up as the ritual killings aim to continue to spread.
Harking back to that killer trope oddity, a setup very keen in the 1980s, of a mysterious killer hiding behind a friendly façade, “We Summon the Darkness” is a modern day remembrance of such a subgenre in the slasher-survival field set along the drab bible belt of Indiana landscape, though, in actually, filmed in Winnipeg, Canada. At the helm is “My Friend DahmerMy Friend DahmerMy Friend Dahmer” director Marc Meyers from a script by Alan Trezza, who is the creative mind behind the short and feature film versions of another Alexandra Daddario comedy horror, “Burying the ExBurying the ExBurying the Ex,” that co-starred the late Anton Yelchin. May he rest in peace. Meyers moves his hand from the somber and inquisitive mutilations to murder of the Jeffrey Dahmer biopic origins story to the fanatical whims of pious psychopaths, daggering the crux of the issue into the misperceptions of stigmatic cultures and beliefs while at the same time being an extension of the dark comedy tone that worked charmingly with the tale of zombified ex-girlfriend hellbent on revenge. “We Summon the Darkness” is a product from a conglomerate of production companies, highlighting The Fyzz Facility,= (“47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), Grey Hawk Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, MEP Capital, and Common Enemy as well as Daddario, herself, pitching in into the producer pool that isn’t her first rodeo in that role.
If you haven’t guessed already, Alexandra Daddario (“Burying the Ex,” “True Detective”) stars as Alexis Butler, one of the three metalhead girlfriends cruising to the show, and sequestering herself the ringleader of the road tripping trio as a level headed, parental type with an edge to keep her ostentatious blond friend, Val, played to the fine tune of being uninhibited crazy well by Maddie Hasson, and the timidly sharp Beverly, a role docile to the point of uncertainty and shepherd well by “Hell Fest’s” Amy Forsyth. The three very attractive concert goers bump into another trio of friends, more haplessly hazardous, if not hopeless, band mates who try their hardest to be as metal as they can be, even if that meals throwing a chocolate milkshake out of the window of their speeding van onto the gals’ Jeep. Austin Swift, Logan Miller (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”), and Keenan Johnson (“Alita: Battle Angel”) make up the group caught red handed in a stroke of coincidence that the girls find them at the very same concert. As much as the two groups mirror each other in personalities, matching up almost perfectly in the varying degrees of state, one group holds a darker secret that could cost the other their very lives. That level-headedness Daddario portrays onto Alexis’ mindset becomes ravaged with wild fires in her eyes and her laid back amount of patience becomes threadbare frazzled when the bodies start to drop in a satanic twist of murder and mayhem, frenzied with extreme ideology founded on multiple levels of greed. Daddario wears crazed well in a very different side to her usually starry eyed and elegant approaches, making all the others seem abhorrently normal in comparison. “We Summon the Darkness” rounds out with Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard, Harry Nelken, and that “Jackass” Johnny Knoxville as Pastor John Henry Butler.
Despite Daddario’s rising stardom and luminous performance, “We Summon the Darkness” falls hard into a mosh pit of despair. The concept is sound and promising, but the execution couldn’t rise to the occasion with limited secretion of the murderous evil that has spread like a pandemic across the nation that’s has sorely downgraded and diluting the nature of the news and media’s role in beyond hammering in the deaths. When story turns dark, the effect feels whiffed and not as jarring as hoped as little is then diagramed to help assist the viewer grasp just what these satanic cultist wish to accomplish. Also, Trezza’s script is highly predictable as the twist is unfolded fairly early on even before the catalyst transition to a darker tone, spoiling the unveil with too many gnomic sidebar conversations and a slew of obvious character tells that don’t exactly shield the truth of their true wolf in spiked studded, black jacketed, metal band patched sheep’s attire. Also, the film pulled too many punches, teetering on the balancing beam whether it’s an edgy killer comedy or a killer comedy with that’s soft around the belly area. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out why a walk-in pantry has a lock on the inside…?
Metal posers rule while the victims haplessly mewl in this Marc Meyers’ film, “We Summon the Darkness,” hitting retain and digital shelves this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital courtesy of Lionsgate and Saban Films. Since the screener provided was a digital streamer, the video and audio aspects will not be covered; however, the Blu-ray specs will feature a 1080p High Definition, 16X9 (2.39:1) widescreen presentation with an English 5.1 Dolby True HD mix while the DVD is presented in the same aspect ratio and will sport an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Both releases with have optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles. Special features will include a featurette entitled “Envisioning Darkness” and an audio commentary with director Marc Meyers and writer Alan Trezza. “We Summon the Darkness’s” cheekiness is fresh for an 80’s maniac homage armored with solid performances by Alexandra Daddario and an uncharacteristically stoic Johnny Knoxville as a devout pastor against metal music, but seizes up, derails off the tracks, and fizzles to a reduced version of the greater version it could have been.
Backdropped inside the mid-1960’s of Bennington, Vermont, famed horror fiction writer, Shirley Jackson, and her husband, Stanley Hyman, a folk literary professor at the Bennington College, welcome a young newlywed couple, Fred & Rose, in their home, but the stay isn’t for social purposes as Fred stands to be the assistant professor aiming to achieve greater success under professor Hyman and Rose becomes the happy wife whose reluctantly willing to help with household chores as the surly Shirley flounders in a writer’s rut, sour around polite company, lethargic for most of the day, and at war with her cheating husband, but Shirley finds inspiration when taking a fascination to Rose, merging her with a news story of a missing local girl that leaves Shirley entranced, catatonic, and inhibited from writing her novel. Once disdained by Rose’s very presence, Shirley exploits Rose’s eager ambitions and trustworthy attributes by befriending her as an endless flood of literary muse offerings that breathe life into Shirley’s next masterpiece.
“Shirley” is a biopic allegory of half-truths and a tale of a grim waltz between common civility and the yearning, paralyzing pursuit of opus mastering from the “Madeline’s Madeline” director, Josephine Decker. From the creator of the “I Love Dick” television series, writer, Sarah Gubbins, who adapted the screenplay from the author of “Shirley: A Novel,” Susan Scarf Merrell, provides a textural interpretation of renowned horror and mystery fiction writer Shirley Jackson during the bitter final years of her and Stanley Hyman’s unusual, yet threadbare functional, relationship. “Shirley,” in itself, is like one of Jackson’s terrifically terrifying horror stories woven together with anecdotal fragments of Shirley’s flailing existence with the new energy of a fictional young couple to drain the life from for her own benefit and is cinematically arranged the story like a perverse thriller of intellectual capitalism. The Los Angeles Media Fund (“Dark Crimes,” “The Bye Bye Man”) and the biographical drama producing powerhouse, Killer Films (“Notorious Bettie Page,” “Infamous”) serve as the production companies behind “Shirley.”
Hot off her success in the gender-dystopian television series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and in Leigh Whannell’s vision of a Universal monster classic, “The Invisible Man,” Elisabeth Moss embodies the titular role of Shirley Jackson with a fluid performance of a corkscrew soul. Moss aims to make Shirley as a detestable gorgon with nihilistic and agoraphobic intellect and a narcissistic view of her work she considers to be the holy grail. Moss is methodic and calculating in her character’s icy social skill set and floats half-seen above the water’s surface like an alligator hunting, ready to snap when a warm blooded meal doesn’t expect a thing. Shirley Jackson is only as interesting as her philandering other half, Stanley Hyman, who has a whole separate cache of quirks and callous intentions, though parading in a much more vibrant, lively, and gregarious manner. “The Shape of Water’s” Michael Sthulbarg has pitch perfect execution of Hyman’s managing tugboat who pulls and escorts this cruise liner-sized ego to port with an unorthodox show of a manipulation and affable disingenuous blend working tirelessly that ship to anchor after a long voyage on rough, stagnant seas. Fred and Rose enter like a parallelogram, a four-side rectangular where two sides pair together equally in length, of innocents wondering into a den of a pair of hungry lions. Then, the parallelogram flips and skews to form an twisted mirror of itself that has turned the sweet and loving Fred and Rose into a pair of awaken fragments of Shirley and Stanley. We don’t get to experience much of Logan Lerman as the assistant professor who shadows in Hyman’s overshadowing dominance, but we’re rather engrossed by Odessa Young’s onscreen reciprocity with Elizabeth Moss. Rose falls short of being the epitome of youthful innocence with a fast and loose shotgun marriage to Fred because of her pregnancy and her rendezvousing sexual appetite with Fred, but Rose’s delicate curiosity and naïve gives way for Shirley, Stanley, and even Fred to tread all over her. Young fully grasps Rose’s disadvantage in the viper’s pit that sizes her up for a great fall.
“Shirley” doesn’t bask in the spotlight of the biopic-ee’s celebrated work, like “The Lottery” or “The Haunting of Hill House,” even if it name drops the former; instead, Josephine Decker’s film is cut from the Susan Scarf Merrell cloth that disconnects and desensitizes intellect from moral conduct. Distinct lines are drawn between the couples Shirley and Stanley, whose dynamic teeters on alcohol, smokes, and a banter based on a fraction of love less, and Fred and Rose, who are teased with the taste of the good life, bow and scrape for the attention of their hosts. As the scrupulous infatuations begin to blur the lines and Fred and Rose become infected by Shirley and Stanley’s inceptive wicked cynicism, a metamorphosis occurs as the naïve newlyweds are now the bitterly tireless unable to cop with their shortcoming whereas Shirley and Stanley remain unaffected, if not, better off than from when they started, leeching the purity from the impressionable youngsters like a pair of scholarly vampires. Decker’s airy, dreamlike touch evokes another level of the already Freudian bombarded “Shirley” that’s laden with heavily schemed psychoanalytic foreplay and undercurrent human reaction to a string of unconventional occurrences.
Become the fly trapped in a web of deceits with “Shirley” heading to Hulu, VOD, virtual cinemas, and select drive-in movie theaters come June 5th, 2020 distributed from Neon. The rated R, 107 minutes quasi-biopic is presented a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, a digital screener doesn’t allow me to critique the A/V quality. However, composer Tamar-kali’s subdued score lingers on the right side of brooding without feeling overly dreadful and with feeling more horrifically intrusive, complimenting Shirley’s aggressive mind rape of Rose’s psyche. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener nor was there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Unlike the sullen, reality bending state as the titular persona, “Shirley” is an entertainingly cathartic glimpse into the worst side of erudition plagued upon those lesser informed that builds lustrous works of horror on the backs of perfidy.
Set years inside the landscape of a post-apocalyptic world, a young locaiton scout named J.D. stumbles upon a hidden cabin after being severely injured during his travels. While catching his breath and notating the position of the cabin in his notebook, a man comes up behind him, armed with a hunting rifle and has it pointing at J.D.’s head. Playing cool and calm, J.D. relinquishes himself to the man’s every suspicion, even to the point of chaining himself inside a locked room, to ease the man’s fears. The next day, the man introduces himself as Henry and provides food and medical assistance when J.D. proves he doesn’t pose a threat. The two men begin to form a bound once the waters of distrust subside, providing Henry with much need and desire companionship and a place where J.D. can soothe his trekking feet, but when Henry’s paranoia bubbles to the surface and the feasible threat of a raiding group upon Henry’s quaint isolated cabin appears imminent, their newfound friendship will be tested.
In an unpredictable course that has been marked in our year of 2020, a pandemic has quickly spread through the most powerful and copiously stocked sovereign nations on Earth. Now, imagine if that same pandemic, ravaged the world’s population, and subsequently it’s resources, to the extent of lawlessness and death, leaving many question, lonely, and afraid and what that would do to their mental state. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” explores this pretty well through the course of the first few season until it just became a ebb and flow battle of the good versus the bad. However, writer-director Marvin Choi recaptures the core essence by exploring his vision of the apocalypse in “A Knight’s Tour,” where there’s more of a mighty, but small undercurrent of the unknown that overwhelms the brain’s rational thought process, affecting prosperous relationships and transforming them into a claustrophobic resistance of dangerously delusional episodes. The film, being released in 2020, is Choi’s first behind the camera and in the seat of the director’s chair, helming a script with a title based off a game played with a chess’ knight piece that has to tour every spot on a checkered chessboard within its allowed moving pattern, not to repeat a spot, and return back to its original point. “A Knight’s Tour” is also the Korean-American Choi’s graduate thesis at the California Institute of the Arts that saw supplemental fruition from fellow student-turned-producer Sara Razack and shooting was held on the Dominguez Ranch near California’s Lake Piru on a budget of $25,000 and released under Choi’s company banner, Fugitive Frames, a subsidiary of the Fugitive brand that also includes Fugitive Games, for videogame reviews that Marvin Choi plays, and Fugitive Photography for professional photos with partner John C. Velez.
The intimate production allows for the characters to unfold the story from the only two actors in performances that really saturate the frames with uneasy intentions and keep posterity uncertain outside cabin doors and beyond the safe haven thicket. Darnel Powell and Joseph Price star as J.D. and Henry in what would be their debut full-length feature film performances. Taking the roles head on, Power and Price relationship never takes a backseat during the entire 77 minute runtime. J.D. and Henry are rudimentary beings trying, in their own ways, to survive in what is now a collapse society; J.D. runs with groups, scoring out locations that might serve himself for refuge and, maybe, a bit of payment depending on the group whereas Henry shuts himself in after losing not one person but two people he’s cared about to death and the other reason is unknown during the chaos of the mysterious outbreak that cut society into grated chaos. Despite the subtle acquiescent approach to Henry’s disregard toward stranger-danger concept, Price plays into Henry’s strong silent type and can field and hold the switch out into Henry’s obtrusive and frantic visions of the past. Powell’s take of J.D. comes off a rudimentary and less of a bamboozler as suspect. J.D.’s smart, cunning, and experienced in the field and Powell plays into well enough, but not enough to actually sell the hustle or if there is even one. Dynamically, they’re not embroidered into the elaborate patterns of the knight’s tour, but more related to the chess match itself with sacrificing trust like pawns, able to diagonally out smart each other like Bishops, and exposing their true intentions like an unprotected King until they find themselves in a stalemate of unglued trust and friendship when designs are calculated and true self invokes pity.
“A Knight’s Tour” doesn’t feed into the thrills of a do-or-die, post-apocalyptic death heap as Choi carves out the materials for the ever fluid human disposition. Instead of junk cars revamped for destruction and pillaging carnage, Choi challenges the overglazed with violence eyes of audiences to determine the gambles set by the two leads, to extract the souls of J.D. and Henry, and watch them either become brittle or come to terms with a change of heart. What’s interesting about the two men, or more the structures of these two men inside the pages of the script, is there willing to quickly trust each other. At first sight, Henry has a rifle pointed at J.D., has the location scout chain himself inside a closet, and keeps the chain on him for a few days after. There are two sides to this coin soon after that first night. One, J.D. allows himself to be captured and subjected to Henry’s every called shot. J.D. even provides step-by-step exposition how he could have taken the rifle left on the table and shoot Henry in the back. J.D. is either a very honest and trustworthy individual or is trying to get on good terms with Henry, to observe his habits, and to get a better look at the loner’s stockpile for future taking. Two, Henry, though careful and precise, easily lets J.D. into his life, letting him out of the closet and able to roam around the cabin with the chain still around his ankle. Henry gives in into his desperation caused by loneliness, allowing himself to instantly attached to J.D. as if, and probably was, the only person he’s seen in a very long time. Much like the sequences of the game, “A Knight’s Tour” never retreads on the same path twice, proving to uphold the tension with a singular theme to chew on and comes out on top without any glossy doomsday bombardments that makes the blood boil with cathartic obliteration of each other.
“A Knight’s Tour” depicts the fragility and longevity of one’s inner thoughts sanctum while in a post-apocalyptic world and is feature debut from Marvin Choi, distributed by independent genre distributor Terror Films, and has made a noble run of the festival film circuit, including the Pan African Film Festival, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, and Montreal International Black Film Festival. Set to release this month digitally, the roll out will include multiple streaming services for viewing pleasure, such as Prime Video, Tubi TV, Watch Movies Now, Google Play, and others. Since the product is a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be covered, but nothing obvious inherent seemed to disrupt the balanced, yet low-keyed audio mixes and 1.78:1 widescreen video presentation. There were no bonus features included or additional bonus scenes during or after the credits. Marvin Choi’s “A Knight’s Tour” will make a subtle impact across the indie film circuit with searing themes of manipulation, deterioration in solitude, and the games we play against each other for the advantage over our fellow man.
In a distant future, the entire Earth goes dark without warning. Communications are completely severed with no sign of life exists except for those scared and confused inside what is to be called The Circle of Life that has encompassed Moscow and other parts of neighboring countries. Reconnaissance teams venture out into the quarantine zones, discovering dead bodies as well as noticing people have gone missing. A month later, an outpost goes under siege by an army of bloodthirsty bears. These bizarre events go unexplained, leaving military jarred, and to find answers, seven teams are dispatched to various areas surrounding the outpost to locate signs of life. While the teams are scouting, an powerful alien reaches out to the outpost, warning them that Earth is in the middle of a four wave attack by his race looking for a new home. Before their 200,000 year trip ends with destination Earth, the last wave, 160 million mind-enslaved missing humans, will attack the Circle of Life at the command of the alien informant’s counterpart and it’s up to the ravaged scout team to band together to extinguish the extermination of mankind.
Nothing is more frightening than wiping out 95% of the world’s human population in the blink of an eye without so much of a sign of explanation. Welcome to “The Blackout: Invasion Earth,” which depicts just that very unfathomable scary episode of terra-loneliness and free-for-all, fear induced panic amongst the civilian population, tapping into the same vain of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “Arrival.” The big budget, Russian sci-fi action-horror, originally titled “Avanpost” or just “The Blackout,” is penned by television scriber Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov. Released this past November in Russia, “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” touchdowns inside the North American market from genre distributor Shout! Studios come June 2nd, becoming a planet-sized contender for the biggest science fiction film of the year with relentless suspense, alien-on-alien hand-to-hand combat, and an encroaching bear blitz that can’t go unseen! The Moscow based TV-3 and Premier Studios serves as the production companies with studio heads, Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, producing an estimated $4.3 million dollar film.
Unless you’re a no-life film buff whose up to speed with all the latest Russian thespians, many of us in the States will not recognize these Slavic actors; actors such as Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Artyom Tkachenko, or Svetlana Ivanova with no standing in the usual cache of domestic and international circle of ascertain identity that any joe can just look at a cast list and go, “aha!,” and put your index finger right on their name in recognition. However, if you look closer, you’ll unearth titles you might have heard of, such as “The Darkest Hour” (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Night Watch (Aleksey Chadov). Fyodorov and Chadov play Yura and Oleg, military comrades by circumstance who are pitted against an inexplicable and unknown occurrence. Though fighting the same war, the two friends contrast different backgrounds. Yura comes from a long lineage of military blood, but becomes somber in his soldier role as he suffers an immense loss at the moment of blackout and when he discovers love for a field medic, Olya (Svetlana Ivanova), his will to fight survives by a thread. Juxtaposed against Yura is the cab driver turned enlisted man Oleg whose only living relative, his dementia-malady mother, had survived the blackout and the event has given this man in a rut purpose and a fire lit inside him. Artyom Tkachenko plays the stoic alien savior with a nearly human form, all except the three slit vertical mouth, makes him deceptively trustworthy and Tkachenko eats into that cautionary persona of whether this being is actually assisting in saving the human race or angling his prey to work against an adversarial counterpart, Ra (lya Volkov) to gain dominance totality. Performances all around exact a fair amount of rigidness to them, but I blame the forced English dub that can seemingly thwart natural deliveries. The physical and range of action is choreographed with assiduity from the actors, making me believe root cause of the rigidness is certainly the dubbing. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” closes out the cast list with Konstantin Lavronenko, Andrey Mezhulis, Artyom Markaryan, and Lukerya Ilyashenko.
“The Blackout: Invasion Earth” is a special effects juggernaut; some of the best, awe-inspiring visual effects I’ve ever witness has come from Russia, with love, that’s a projectile explosion of a thriller and, in true Russian fashion, a slew military grade heavy duty vehicles are heavily showcased through as if they’re on parade as modified tanks, BTR-70’s, and triple rotor attack helicopters for answers and rescue recovery. Being that the film is set in the future Moscow, Baranov didn’t oversell the evolution of technology and, in fact, made a stark contrast that hindered humanity still in the throes of a primitivism culture when up against otherworldly powers. Yet, there were still boots on the ground soldiers tossed into the meat-grinder that is the quarantine zone. Sure, there were some sentinel machine guns that shredded the enemy at the first sign of sensor, but despite all the flying gizmos, armed to the teeth choppers, and nifty gear, mankind had not strayed far into development. The stagnancy of man’s evolution became the highlighted theme as their deconstructed to being simply a virus that loves, hates, mates, etc. and without all that man has technically progressed throughout the years, man, itself, stays the same. The 160 million people caught in the blackout, turned into mindless slaves, and even before the war against an unknown force, rebellious and fearful groups pit brother against brother. The message suffers slightly from the cut-and-dry rigidness as aforementioned, but more so with the main characters with try to digest the alien’s, perhaps, too complicated plan of usurpation that has been 200,000 years in the works. While the story might be clunky and kind of claggy in the middle, the intensity clings to you from the moment of the alarming sound, troop mobilizing opening credits to to those BRT-70 trucks mowing down a horde of slaved individuals and never ceases with jaw-dropping, effects-driven cinematography to let you re-catch your breath for 128 minutes.
Witness mankind’s last stand against it’s first form in “The Black: Invasion Earth” being distributed on June 2nd by Shout! Studios onto DVD, Blu-ray, On-Demand, and digital streaming from these streaming services: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since a digital screener was reviewed, the video and audio technical aspects will not be reviewed, but for the record, while the English dubbing is less desired and still hinders the story slightly, the dubbing isn’t all that terrible with crafty timing to stay in sync and maintaining some natural exposition deliveries. There were no bonus materials accompanying the release and there were no extra scenes during or after the credits. No bonus features were listed on the press release either. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” bedevils with a population consuming reset laced with existential philosophies and the ups and downs of human nature set up behind the curtain of an impressive visual menagerie of brilliantly detailed special effects on the most grandest of scales.