May the EVIL Be With You! “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” reviewed! (Disney / Blu-ray)


The rebellion suffers lost after lost against the oppressive First Order and news that the evil Emperor Palpatine lives casts an even larger shadow of fear and hopelessness across the galaxy. As Fin and Poe Dameron continue running small strikes against imperial targets, Rey finalizes her training as a Jedi with the help of Princess Leia, but as Kyle Ren discovers the Sith coven and the existence of Palpatine, his desire to search and track down Rey grows stronger before releasing a new First Order fleet of Star Destroyers with the capabilities to destroy entire planets. The Force pulls at Rey, guiding her to face her most difficult challenge: the truth about her parents and lineage. Rey faces crossroads that will determine whether she will continue to fight for good or cave into her anger and fear that’ll inevitably lead to the dark side.

Star Wars? What is Star Wars doing being reviewed on a blog that mainly covers the schlocky low-budget horror scene and the occasional obscure and weird Sci-Fi arthouse film? And the fact that “The Rise of Skywalker” is a Disney film makes this writeup the first ever Disney review for ItsBlogginEvil. No, don’t fret. I’m not selling out my love for the gore, scream queens, and pint-sized productions for the mondo-glitzy, big budget Hollywood epics nor am I making a soft right turn into bloodless PG-13 commercial commodities, but, and this is a big atypical but, “Episode IX” needs to be heard from those outside on the fringes. “Episode IX” is perhaps the darkest film of the cross-generational saga alongside “Revenge of the Sith,” or at least a close second, and, so it be, Disney was gracious enough to provide us a Blu-ray review copy of the J.J. Abrams grand finale to an adventure that has trekked through 40 plus years of galaxy-conflict, saw countless different alien species, gave us more pew-pews than we could ever hope to hear, three different versions of Anakin Skywalker, and the phantasmic super powers of what is known as the Force, all of which is encompassed by a fascist, utilitarian power. Co-written with Abrams is “Argo” and “Justice League” writer Chris Terrio from a story co-written also by “Jurassic World’s” Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

“Episode IX” begins with Kylo Ren (“The Dead Don’t Die” and “BlacKkKlansman’s” Adam Driver) discovering a pyramid shaped device that’ll Mapquest his way to find the secret Sith location where a familiar evil figure from the past returns and has built a gigantic fleet over the last three decades. This time around, Kylo Ren’s less of a toddler in the throes of brain development as he’s embattled with guilt and choice. Adam Driver does nail the performance with solemnity in his last performance as the son of Leia and Han Solo. The story’s heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is also facing internal conflict with self-discovery as the prospect of knowing who she is sets her on a quest to discover her ancestry and what she might find might blur the sides of good and evil. The young actress who had a number short films and one horror title under her belt (“Scrawl”) before skyrocketing into “Star Wars” mythology returns to Rey as a Jedi hot off the Leia training course and thrusted immediately into the Force’s subconscious dark star, shielding her from the truth for fear of what may come of it. While Ridley shines, the Rey character sprints from, at this point in the Saga, point M to point Z, jettisoning much of the internal grappling to a mere blip on the ship’s internal sensors. Rey also feels entirely infallible, thrusting her character beyond the limits of mortality by completely overshadowing not only Kylo Ren, but also Emperor Palpatine. The other two new to the “Star Wars” crew, Poe (“Ex Machina’s” Oscar Isaac) and Finn (“Pacific Rim: Uprising’s” John Boyega), received similar shaft treatment of reworked characters from the original trilogy, possessing nothing new to offer. Poe a watered down version of Han Solo, a hot shot pilot who doesn’t understand the concept that together him and his fellow rebellious friends can defeat anything that stands in front of them; Lando Calrissian had to educate him with a bit of heart-to-heart exposition. However, Finn is perhaps the biggest undercooked character who has an inkling of Force within him that always simmers to the surface, but nothing is definite, nothing’s explained, and nothing is provided to perhaps the best known minority character in all of “Star Wars” behind Lando. Lastly, and I know the character write is up long and might be a little drawn out, Abrams really botched Carrie Fisher’s Leia that worked in awkwardly unused footage of the Princes/General from previous films. The simple and bland rhetoric used when Leia’s having a “conversation” with Rey is nearly painful to stand as Rey pours from an emotional spigot and all Leia can be, responsively, is cold, blank, and superficial. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Harrison Ford, and Greg Grunberg co-star.

I adore “Star Wars” as much as the next nerd who grew up between the first and second trilogy. The blending between science fiction, westerns, and samurai tropes speaks volumes on how engrained George Lucas made space come alive with larger-than-life gusto that appeased not only fans of space adventure and wonders, but also fans saturated inside the spaghetti westerns and those with an affinity for Akira Kurosawa films. Those genre bending tactics really brought the film community together to appreciate the novelly detailed miniatures that came to life and the eccentric, sometimes outlandish, characters like Han Solo, Jabba The Hunt, Boba Fett, and Leia in that scantily-clad slave girl bikini. Yet, “Episode IX” irks me, irks me hard, as the once innovate “Star Wars” has been placed into a bingo ball spinner to have it’s originality called out once again in one ginormous homage to see, again, the Emperor, who seems very high and mighty upon his throne of Sith muscle, pitted against a ragtag team of good doers and their champion quasi-Jedi who has to make a between benevolent freedom or a junta power. That’s not to say that “Episode IX” is a total sham of a finale. Fans will receive the totality of a “Star Wars” film complete with light saber clashes, space battles, and the beautiful, yet sometimes violent, different worlds that ships can hyper speed to in seconds. The visual and practical effects are bar-reached and awe-inspiring by means of thousands of ships clustered together, the dim-lit bars crowded with varied character creatures, and the speeders racing through canyons and sandpits become heart-pounding thrill rides of excitement. The introduction of new characters, like the amiable and smile-evoking bot technician Babu Frik, the former Poe co-spice trader and survivalist Zorii Bliss, and another ex-Storm Trooper, Jannah, forms that similarity bond with Finn, are new blood that delight when on screen. Yet, these new characters are shamefully underused as minuscule support that garners only a speck of adoring fandom but little else to the story’s plotline.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” comes home with a 2-disc Blu-ray and Digital Code release, sheathed inside a rigid slipcover, presented in 1080p, full high definition, widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Video is top shelf quality of everything a “Star Wars” film should be with colors and details galore that are arranged purposefully and perfectly to aesthetically please a contrast against the bleakness of space. The extensive line textures are seriously sharp and along with the vast special effects professions who model, shape, and digitally imprint the liveliness into the work, but there are instances, such as on the Sith home world, where the visual effect of an arena filled with distantly scoped blurry Siths dampens the moment of Rey’s endmost consignment. It looked and felt cheap and didn’t properly convey’s Rey’s loneliness against all odds. The lossless English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio caters to every pew-pew blaster sound, every ship zipping through space with an engine-like exhaust, and every electrical discharge of a light saber humming in the throes of dual. The dialogue, and Chewbacca’s guttural growls, are effervescently prominent with a natural tone and not commingled by the other tracks, making “Episode IX” some of the best sound work to date in any “Star Wars” film. Capping off the Saga soundtrack with the familiar John Williams robust overtone and coursed throughout an engaging orchestra that moves in synth with story’s dynamics. The bonus feature disc includes an over two-hour documentary entitled “The Skywalker Legacy,” a full length feature of orgasm supplementary regarding “The Rise of Skywalker” and diving deep into the mythos of “Star Wars'” history. Other bonus material includes the mechanics of creating a speeder chase on the Pasaana world, shooting in Jordan to utilize it’s dessert location to create an alien planet, exploring the D-O ship that’s new to the franchise, an interview with Warwick Davis who returns to “Star Wars” to once again don an Ewok character along with his son Harrison, and a cavalier look at the otherworldly creatures and highlighting those who play the part of these beings. For many, the book of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” has been closed as the final episode completely arcs the Skywalker story. Yet, for a few who wish to explore more, “Star Wars” is sought to be an open to a means for other characters to be explored, such as with The Mandalorian,” and, just maybe, that cute Babu Frik. “The Rise of Skywalker” exited in a cliche fashion, a warp drive to an already established and tiresome rehash of circumstances, while only supplying a healthy demand of star power and intense action inside a rapturous package overflowing to the brim with too much content and too little substance.

Complete the Saga! Amazon has “The Rise of Skywalker” on Blu-ray+Digital!

When Alone, EVIL Will Be Your Company. “The Wind” reviewed!


Living at the edge of the 19th century frontier, husband and wife, Isaac and Lizzy, live in complete seclusion as far as the eye can see until another couple, Gideon and Emma, settle a mile away in a nearby cabin. Unused to the punishing conditions the frontier might yield, the St. Louis bred Gideon and Emma find living without the comforts of urban life challenging and rely on Isaac and Lizzy’s strength and experience for survival. However, the frontier’s harsh reality produces a malevolent presence that flows through the prairie, stalking and toying with the settlers, only revealing itself to Lizzy while the others act if nothing is going on or just acting strange. The sudden and violent death of Emma and her unborn child send Gideon and Isaac on a two-day ride to nearby town, leaving Lizzy to face the isolated terror alone with only a double barrel shotgun that never leaves her side, but in her strife, Lizzy learns more about her newfound neighbors and even unearths some troubling truth about her husband that even further segregates Lizzy from the rest of reality.

If there wasn’t one more single thing to demonize, director Emma Tammi conjures up “The Wind” to mystify the western frontier. As Tammi’s debut directorial, penned by short film screenwriter Teresa Sutherland, the supernatural film’s dubbing could be a rendering of a long lost Stephen King working title, but all corny jokes aside, “The Wind” really could from the inner quailing of Stephen King’s horror show mindset. The film’s produced by Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath under their U.S. label, Divide/Conquer, and released in 2018. The same company that delivered the horror anthology sequel “V/H/S: Viral,” Isa Mezzei’s sleeper thriller “CAM,” and the upcoming, second remake of “Black Christmas” with Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes. With a premise dropped right into the fear of the unknown itself and with some powerful production support, “The Wind” should have soared as an unvarnished spook show come hell or high noon, but the jury is hung waiting on the executioners ultimate verdict regarding Tammi’s freshman film.

Five actors make up all the cast of “The Wind,” beginning with the solemn opening night scene with frontier men, Isaac Macklin (Ashley Zukerman of “Fear the Walking Dead”) and Gideon Harper (Dylan McTee of “Midnighters”), waiting patiently outside a cabin door until Isaac’s wife, Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard of “Insidious: The Last Key”) walks out, supposed baby in hand, and covered in blood. The subtle, yet chilling scene sets the movie from the get-go, sparking already a mystery at hand and coveting most of the focused cast. The two characters unannounced at the beginning, swim in and out of flashbacks and toward the progression of Lizzy’s embattlement with “The Wind.” That’s not to say that these characters are any less favorable to the story as “Slender Man’s” Julia Goldani Telles shepherds a vivid description of subtle lust and extreme instability that rocks a strong and self-reliant Lizzy living priorly a stale reality. There’s also the introduction of a wandering and warm pastor that leads to chilling reveal questioning any kind second guesses there might be about Lizzy. All thanks to veteran television actor, Miles Anderson.

“The Wind’s” non-linear narrative teases two courses, one working forward and the other backwards to a catalytic moment that becomes motivational for majority of characters in the prior days and the beginning of the end for one in particular. Though the latter centralizes around Lizzy’s flashbacks and encounters with the evil spectral wind, her descent into madness conjures more violently through the discovery; it’s as if her current state of mind has been stirred, whirled, whipped, tumbled, and agitated from the past that keeps lurking forward into her mind’s eye. Tammi pristinely conveys a subtle message of undertones from the past and present that chip away at Lizzy’s forsaken reality, leaving those around her delicately exposed to her untreated alarms to the nighttime wind of a menacing nature. Teresa Sutherland’s script to story is illuminate tenfold by the wealth in production that recreates the rustic cabins and the callously formed hardships of the western frontier and if you combine that with the talents of cast, “The Wind” will undoubtedly blow you away.

Umbrella Entertainment delivers Emma Tammi’s “The Wind” into the Australian DVD home video market and presented in the original aspect ratio, a widescreen 2.35:1, that develops a hearty American untrodden landscape for the devil to dance in the wind. Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief’s coloring is a bit warm and bland to establish a western movie feel and really had notes of a Robert Eggers (“The Witch”) style in filmmaking with slow churn long shots and a minimalistic mise-en-scene, especially for a similar pseudo-period piece. Eggers invocation solidified itself more so in the Ben Lovett’s crass and cacophony of an instrumental score that adds more to the creepiness factor while remaining relatively framed in the time era. The Umbrella Entertainment’s release goes right into the feature without a static menu so there are no bonus features to dive into. “The Wind” might feel like an unfinished piece of cinematic literature, but remains still a damn fine thriller that seeps ice cold chills into the bones and ponders the effects of loneliness and trauma that’s nearly puts this film into the woman versus nature category, a premise that will be hopefully concluded by a upcoming book adaptation.

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


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

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

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

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

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

A Hell Ride in the Recreational Evil! “The Toybox” review!


An estranged and recently widowed grandfather purchases a used RV to take one last family road trip with his two sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter to rekindle a broken relationship. On an isolated stretch of desert highway, the family decides to pull over to assist two stranded motorists and offer them a ride to the next town. Suddenly, the RV veers out of control, steering itself to the middle of the dangerously sweltering desert. The group now finds themselves all stranded and alone with a RV that outputs a strange vibe, displaying vividly horrific secrets inside the RV’s enclosure. One-by-one, the RV kills them off and soon they realize that their ride to family fun is no more than a reincarnated recreational vehicle with a long lineage for death and thirsty for new blood.

Fan crushes are a strange phenomena. Once an actor or an actress imprints their image, their voice, or their one-time portrayal of a charismatic character onto you, the unexplainable captivation never releases the firm grip around the psyche. Denise Richards has had a long impression on this reviewer, resulting in a severe case of fan crush. The Illinois actress won my heart as the determinedly beautiful starship pilot Carmen Ibanez in Paul Veerhoven’s “Starship Troopers,” one year before her anticipated and unforgettable champagne popping nude scene in the convoluted thriller “Wild Things.” Twenty years later, Richards, an ageless beauty, co-stars in the Tom Nagel supernatural horror, “The Toybox.” Nagel (“Clowntown”) directs his sophomore film penned by screenwriter Jeff Denton and, together, the pair of filmmakers toy with and present an idea of a detestable serial killer leaving his twisted soul in the under the rusted hood of a his torture chamber, a beat up old RV camper. A killer RV story that sounds to be right up horror-comedy’s alley is actually a rather earnest narrative that has a solid kill count with an innovative, outside the box villain and a no one is safe attitude.

I’ve already mentioned that the goddess Denise Richards co-headlines “The Toybox” and though I have yet to experience her more recent work over the years, “Valentine” was the last horror film that I can recall with Richards in the cast and her role in Nagel’s film as a loving, yet undisciplined mother and wife in “The Toybox” puts her at the opposite spectrum of her roles in the late 90’s/early 2000’s career. Still, the now recently re-married mother of two still has her unrivaled hots and still has her acting chops as a leading lady despite the lack of Hollywood glam and stardom. Her co-star, Mischa Barton, has been an upcoming figure in the b-horror community. “The O.C.” actresses has starred in a string of horror films in recent years such as “The Hoarder,” “L.A. Slasher,” and “Apartment 1303 3D.” Barton tackles a tomboy Samantha whose picked up, along with her brother, by the RV traveling family and while Barton has a fine performance, she doesn’t quite sell the intensity as a final girl. Greg Violand (“The Devil’s Toy Box”), Matt Mercer (“Contracted”), David Greathouse (“Yoga Hosers”), writer Jeff Denton, director Tom Nagel, and introducing Malika Michelle round out of the remaining cast.

“The Toybox” loosely aims to unravel the inner turmoils of the characters mainly focusing around the estranged relationship of the father and his two sons. The trio can’t quite shake the secret inducing uneasiness that boils inside their broken relationship, making a situational cakewalk for the killer RV to pit them against each other as a deranged therapy session to unsheathe their kindred issues. The bickering and the blaming hurts those they love the most around them first, a very relatable and unfortunate circumstance in beyond the sensational borders of movie magic. However, no matter how much movie magic Nagel constructs to gore-out “The Toybox,” a stiflingly story rears an ugly head via undercooked characters pivotal in being the heart of the narrative. Samantha, Barton’s character, has soft, buttery edges that don’t take shape to ultimate purpose for being a focal point and the same can be said for David Greathouse’s serial killer character Robert Gunthry whose RV-inhabiting backstory is whipped swiftly a single anecdote.

Skyline Entertainment and Steel House Productions present Tom Nagel’s “The Toybox” onto Blu-ray home video in high definition 1080p and a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Image is quite sharp despite lacking vivid coloring and going more for a dusty western-horror, exhibiting the rocky arid landscape of the pacific coast. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is nothing to write home about, but offers a clean dialogue track, ample ambience, and balance. Depth’s slightly weak, but won’t hinder the experience. Bonus material on the single layer BD-25 includes a behind the scenes of various takes throughout production, the theatrical trailer, and a feature commentary with cast and crew. “The Toybox” is no child’s plaything. A RV serial killer with the homicidal motivations stemmed from pure evil and, in a fair opinion, only director Tom Nagel could have poised a coherent film without making it out too, for a lack of a better word, campy and that’s not my weird obsession with Denise Richards talking.

Evil Messes With the Wrong Family! “Pickings” review!


Ruthless mobsters crack down hard on barkeeps, strong arming their way into seizing every bar in town. When they mess with Jo Lee-Haywood, the too cocky gangsters messed with the wrong Southern gal as Jo turns out to be Jo Pickings, one of three dames of the notorious Pickings gang. Jo tries to abide by a straighten arrow inspired by her deceased husband and four kids, but crime tugs at her violent past, scraping the good from her clean off. With the help of her brother, Boone, and her sisters, Doris and May, Jo and her family of heavily armed outlaws aim to fight back against thugs and thieves in this modern day western.

“Pickings” is the freshman film of first time feature film producer, writer, and director Usher Morgan. The contemporary gritty western is a maelstrom of goliath turf wars that’s stylized with rotoscoping and other comic book fatigues to dress Morgan’s film as an aesthetically popping story with illustrative visuals, anomalies, and raw tooth violence. The clear cut message, a fairly popular thematic motif among westerns, is don’t mess with family, even if family has been through an estranged time, and though Morgan’s theme runs a fairly conventional line, the “Sin City”-esque overlay gives “Pickings” a strong double take. What’s an especially fun and unique concept is having one of the characters, Sam “Hollywood” Barone, be exhibited in black and white while everyone else is in color as if the character was pulled straight from a Humphrey Bogart classic.

Elyse Price headlines as Jo-Lee Haywood, a wife-mother scorned by notorious gangsters, but the tough as nails mother of four runs a tight-ship when it comes to her bar and to her family. Price doesn’t hold back, taking the gut-checking hits and delivering a twice as big response with a performance of contempt and revenge. Price is joined by Joel Bernard, the sole brother of the Pickens gang whose as tough as they come, especially when you’re the only boy with three sisters. Bernard does the job matching Price’s hard nose character with his own more subtle version. The two other sisters, Doris and May played by Michelle Holland and Lynne Jordan, barely scratch the surface in an appearance that makes their characters difficult to absorb. Aside from Jo Lee-Haywood, the only other character with a significant character arc is her daughter Scarlet Lee-Haywood filled in by Katie Vincent. Vincent’s softens up against her mother’s violence despite being a passive witness to her cornered brutality, but can adhere to the akin familiarities of her family’s long and violent history. The cast rounds out with Yaron Urbas, who in my opinion is a decent mobster, Michael Gentile, and Emil Ferzola.

“Pickings” doesn’t come without problems and one of the problems is is the story concludes on a really too clean note. The inner monologuing exposition of Jo Lee-Haywood conveying her start-to-finish tale of her involvement with the three dames, Doris, May, and Jo, is a good visual like the rest of the Morgan’s film, but is just that, a good visual, and doesn’t carry the weight of suspense and becomes even more diluted when Doris and May have little interaction with Jo and barely any screen time at all to put the oomph into conveying their badassness. Aside from being obvious and telling, the gun blazing finale is also a bit underwhelming and disappointing, chocking everything to a one sided victory without any, or the hope of any, dire loss to compensate just feels empty and, again, too clean for comfort.

Courtesy of Dark Passage Films comes “Pickings” onto DVD and Blu-ray home video. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that capture the neo-noir facets of shadowing figures and haunting mysteries. Morgan’s film doesn’t necessary pop with color, but that’s particularly the nature of the genre. Aside from that, no real issue with the DVD transfer. The audio is a stereo option that has an ample dialogue track and a stocky ambient accompaniment. Katie Vincent’s bootlickin’ acoustical score never wavers, cracks, or looses range. Extras include deleted scenes, filmmakers’ commentary, “The Mop” a Pickings short, a behind the scenes featurette, and a spoof reel during the end credits. Loaded with female empowerment, “Pickings” is a violent crime drama with neo-noir battle garments of two warring clans ready to get along like the Hatfields and McCoys, but the undercutting finale puts a sharp spur in one’s couch melding backside, leaving much to be desired from a women scorned vendetta.