Survival Doesn’t Always Rely on the Obvious EVIL. “Among the Living” reviewed! (Dread / Blu-ray)

“Among the Living” on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com.  Click the Blu-ray Cover to Purchase!

In a post-viral outbreak world, Harry and his little sister Lily backpack from their mother’s house to the father’s rural home.  The journey requires a long hike through the English countryside and mountainous terrain, avoiding marauding thugs and the savage infected who have a keen sense for sniffing out a single drop of blood.  Pitching a tent every night becomes their only way of shielding them from the hungry eyes of both sides of the outbreak spectrum.  When Lily becomes injured, they bump into the rigid survivalist Karl and boy Tom who provide them refuge for a few days.  Harry can’t scratch the itch that Karl isn’t a good man and pursues out into the woods looking for a new place to take shelf with Lily.  Harry has various run-ins with the infected and the unaffected that possibly clue him into who Karl really is and why the man with the hammer has been terribly obstinate and hardnosed.  Suspicions and tensions spill out between them that leave Harry no choice but to take matters into his own hands and save Lily and Tom from a suspected killer. 

Let’s preface this review by saying “Among the Living” is one of the bordering maybe undead, maybe not genre flicks that will continue the polarizing debate amongst fans on whether the infected are just that, infected and crazed, or are akin to the sprinting-zombie-like flesh-eating thing that Danny Boyle has put on the table ever since “28 Days Later.”  “Among the Living” is very similar to the successful 2002 film that is also bred from the United Kingdom and began, or at least put in high gear, the running zombie revolution that continues to this day.  Writer-director Rob Worsey, who was approx. 8 years of age when “28 Days Later” was released theatrically, channels his best Danny Boyle energy while on a budget with the first feature film released last year.  As the short film cinematographer transitions into his first feature directorial, Worsey challenges himself to on a large-scale story done on a minimalist level of one brother and sister’s perilous venture to dad’s house and still sustain, to the viewer, that world-ending impression without a ton of background actors, a handful of principal characters, and a wooded, rural location away from large cities or even small municipalities or villages.  “Among the Living” is also the first full-length producing credit for Worsey along with fellow producers Oliver Mitchell and Kate Humphries, Worsey’s Wife, under Worsey and Mitchell’s cofounded Relic Films production company.

“Among the Living’s” cast is centered around four characters in an intimate show of dichotomous dynamics between the age differences. Dean Michael Gregory and Melissa Worsey perform in their introductory feature film roles as on the younger side brother and sister, Harry and Lily, who have departed home in search for their dad living in the English countryside. Melissa Worsey, along with Leon Worsey, as the boy Tom, are director Rob Worsey’s younger siblings who both have had roles in their older brother’s short films. The fourth amongst the living is the acting veteran of the bunch by the name of George Newton. “The Slayers” and “Tales of Creeping Death” actor brings forth Karl’s harden chops to be a wary survivalist, especially when coming across Harry who immediately is dishonest with Karl about his own situation. A triggered defense mechanism activated by his inexperience to survive outside the comforts of routine, Harry must use what’s at his disposal in order to protect his younger sibling, Lily, from the horrors she’s seemingly insouciant to, but with Lily’s hurt leg and Karl’s seasoned ability to see through lies, Harry has no choice but to bunk with Karl and Tom, a pair we don’t initially know yet if related or otherwise. Like most older brothers, Harry has something to prove not only to Karl but to himself when it comes to protecting his family and that leads to the constant suspicion of Karl with his ability to setup minor, debilitating traps, handle himself in combat against the infected, and modestly peacock his confidence and surety to handle what’s thrown at him. George Newton’s style is perfect for this type of resolute survivalist and Dean Michael Gregory pairs well the lesser, inferior model of protection perfection as he struggles, mentally and physically, to care of what needs to be done. Lily and Tom often feel like a waste of value story space as their teenage antics are not mischievous or even hormonally driven but the way the characters are written and the way Melissa and Leon Worsey address the minor half can only be described is innocently nonchalant. Instead of sheltering in place, staying safe from the infected, or being curious about the cataclysmic change that is happening all around them, Lily and Tom throw the ball around in broad daylight, sneak out at night to check out a beautiful light display, or just dawdle around the forest in a contrary manner until something bad comes their way. “Among the Living” rounds out the supporting cast with Alexander King (“Chesterberg”), Rob Humphries, Gary Stead, Emily Rose Holt, and Emma Wise.

Much like the shark with their rapierlike olfactory, Rob Worsey’s infected can smell a droplet of blood from a faraway distance.  The scent sends a guttural roar of excitement into the air before they run full speed to track down the injured prey, but this doesn’t mean the infected are incapable of seeing or hearing the unaffected; the blood scent is an additional hunt tactic Worsey supplements one of the more frightening genre creatures to existed – a wild-eyed, running and rampaging, flesh-eater.  For Worsey’s world where chaos reigns with savagery from all sides, there didn’t appear to be a significant threat from the infected as Harry and Lily, as well as Lily and Tom, tramps through less-thicket forests, setup their flimsy camping tent in conspicuous places, and the infected a scarce despite their instant presence as soon as blood is spilled.  To the viewer, survival seems easy-enough as there is no sense of a Darwinian theory or a predatory hierarchy to warrant concern – just don’t scrape your knee and everything will be dandy.  Of course, scraping the knee comes easy to accident prone Lily as she becomes the device to ring the dinner bell and put her and her brother into constant danger.  Where Worsey succeeds better is within the interactive drama between young, green-horned survivalist Harry and older, saltier survivalist Karl as Worsey’s able to delineate suspicion and misdirect assumptions to create a barrier that Harry can’t climb over in order to befriend Karl to the fullest and like a new to the force detective trying to solve his first case, Harry eager wants the pieces to fit despite not completing before his due diligence of gathering facts, truths, and evidence.  A dubious Harry keeps the viewers on the edge until the very end when the revelation is known what kind of man Karl really is among the living.  As far as zombie/infected films go, “Among the Living” doesn’t offer much in the way of something new, especially with the same adult man and teen girl narrative we’ve seen before but is only the backdrop to the bigger picture of trust and betrayal when faced with desperation and we get more of the latter from Rob Worsey’s debut film than really anything else. 

Dread Central presents an Epic Pictures’ Blu-ray release of “Among the Living.”  The AVC encoded, 1080p, high-definition BD50 carries with it an IMAX extended widescreen 1.90.1 extended aspect ratio and the image is lush with foliage bursts, leaving the contours of the terrain clearly visible as much of the narrative takes place in the forest or the picturesque rolling hills of the English countryside.  Muted colors often run the show to convey a darker toned theme but are graded naturally.  Jordan Lee’s cinematography isn’t exactly exciting but delivers a balance of contrast between brilliant lighting and keeping the black voids nice and inky, leading to note no obvious compression issues on the disc as well.  The Blu-ray comes with two audio options – a UK English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a Dolby Stereo 2.0. I couldn’t really distinguish between the two channels suggest that the girth of soundtrack, ambience, and dialogue are primary funneling through a two-channel output, leaving depth confined to the same space, and there’s hardly any range to speak of when it’s just characters in the woods for the length of the film with only their wits about them. Dialogue is clean and clear despite some hard to follow regional dialect, but there are English SDH, as well as Spanish subtitles, available. Special features include a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews, Rob Worsey’s “Bee Sting” short film horror, the theatrical trailer, and Dread trailers for “Tiny Cinema,” “Midnight,” “Bad Candy,” and “Tin Can.” The physical release comes in a standard Blu-ray snapper with a composite cover art of characters in mute greys, blacks, and blues. The region free release comes not rated and has an 85-minute runtime. Rob Worsey’s bland, derived horror doesn’t impede the complexities of social disorder during a state of anarchy as the filmmaker seeks to subtly show the world crash and burn and those unwittingly turning a blind eye to the unconventional compassion until it’s too late.

“Among the Living” on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com.  Click the Blu-ray Cover to Purchase!

Not All Zombies are EVIL. Some Zombies Save Lives. “The Loneliest Boy in the World” reviewed (Well Go USA Entertainment/ Blu-ray)

“The Loneliest Boy in the World” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

The unexpected tragic death of Oliver’s mother, involving a pool, a television, and a garden gnome, places the now aged-out and deinstitutionalized Oliver into a difficult position. The sheltered, socially awkward young man, living by himself in his mother’s home and still makes like his mother is still with him, is given a last chance ultimatum from his supportive social worker and a pessimistic psychologist to make friends, to lead a normal life, and to sustain impendence or else he’ll have to return to being institutionalized as an adult. Local contemporaries single out Oliver for being weird, unusual, and a loner to the point that his childlike and naive mind turns him desperate enough for a friend to dig up corpses, those who used to be well-liked in the community, but when one morning the exhumed bodies come to life as a nuclear family that eats, breathes, and is sort of living. Though rotting from the outside, the undead family encourage and advise Oliver through his toughest life challenge yet – to be normal.

Described as a modern fairytale with zombies, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is a satirical comedy horror about the rite of passage into adulthood from the screenwriting team of John Landis’ “Burke & Hare” writer Piers Ashworth, producer of “Director’s Cut” Brad Wyman, and “Maximum Overdrive” star and “Rated X” director Emilio Estevez. Director Martin Owen (“L.A. Slasher”, “Let’s Be Evil”) helms the late 80’s deco piece with a Halloween backdrop, fitting for any undead family to suddenly animate into an eclectic and eccentric fashion that encircles what it means to understand family values in a very trendy niche specific of the late 80’s style. The feature is produced by Piers Ashworth, Ryan Hamilton (“Possessor”), Matt Williams (“Let’s Be Evil”), Pat Wintersgill (“Amulet”) and a conglomeration of executive producers including Emilio Estevez and is a production of the London, UK-based Lip Sync in association with Future Artists Entertainment and presented by Great Point Media and Well Go Entertainment.

Max Harwood gives a peculiar performance as a soft-spoken, sheltered-to-a-fault mother’s boy, Oliver, with a delusional depiction of reality. Though Harwood’s performance pairs well enough with Martin Owen’s rocky shore small town of equally asymmetrical corporeality, the titular Oliver comes off derivative of done before loners and Harwood provides little range to fully arc with the character’s transition from a naive young adult on the fringe of losing everything to the compendious hero of his own story by unearthing not only dead bodies that come to life but learning from their advice, truth, and experience to flesh out his own path of courage and confidence. A part of the LGBTQ community, Harwood is joined by fellow community comrade Tallulah Haddon in a strange turn of casting as Oliver’s love interest, Chloe. Queers play straight in the innate course of acting that, as of late, has often been called out for its hypocrisy of an actor portraying something their actually not. The “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” Haddon is an outsider to Oliver’s surroundings as isn’t influenced by those who have labeled Oliver weird or strange. Instead, Oliver and Chloe spark interest out of hate for being different, a relatable scenario for someone in the gay community. Oliver’s undead family is undoubtedly the best lot with a wide range of happy homemaker personalities and a decaying best friend that supports Oliver’s wings to fly from the next. Susan Wokoma is the stay-at-home mother with a knack for reading the room while her skin peels off and falls to the floor. Ben Miller is the red-blooded Frank that displays glimpses of being a renaissance man at times and Miller plays the beer drinking, jack-of-all-trades father figure aptly. “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’s” Hero Fiennes Tiffin comes on the scene cool and suave in a skin that’s literally drooping off his bones and his eyes have disintegrated from his sockets; Tiffin’s charming, lively, and a source of verbal wit that would be missing from the film. Lastly, Zenobia Williams rounds out the family as Mel, the little sister who is frankly underused and is quiet and subservient to being nice to her living older brother. “The Loneliest Boy in the World’s” cast rounds out with Jacob Sartorious, Hammed Animashaun, Alex Murphy, Sam Coleman, Mitchell Zhangazha, and “The Curse of Buckout Road’s” Evan Ross and “Alone at Night’s” Ashley Benson as the two sole American actors in a contending professionals betting on Oliver’s outcome in friend making.

The casting is interesting as a melting pot of nationalities and cultures intertwined into an alternate reality where the dead can be willed alive. Again, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is marketed as a modern fairytale and it’s comparable to the likes of if Andrew Currie’s 2006 “Fido,” where in a managed post-apocalyptic world the zombies are kept on as servants for the living in a 1950’s backdrop, was under the Peter Jackson landscape lens of hilltops, seasides, and graveyards. The obvious farce in the late 1980’s pattern aims to set the bar for a number of themes, including growing up into adulthood, to bring back traditional family values in order to push out and correct absent parent trauma, and to embrace the family as nurturing guidance. Oliver’s struggles are frugally displayed but that doesn’t mean the first act misses the mark on plotting the dots of his lonesomeness with being the target of bully teasing, the subject of an insensitive bet of established adults, and being in a position of having no living family or friends to slake his dependence. The one thing to note about Oliver’s sudden lifeline cut is that he doesn’t appear to bothered or frantic about the death of his mother or the prospect of being alone and possibly end up institutionalized. Instead, the unsocialized introvert falls into a semi-chimera state where he’s still tethered to his mother as he watches her favorite television shows and recalls their play-by-play during his graveside visits with mom. The whole concept of death is seemingly foreign to Oliver as he never calls the demise of his mother her death but rather an accident and he finds exhuming recently dead corpses to be his friends normal though he obviously knows it’s illegal and unacceptable normal behavior as he quickly hides or disguises the pre-animated bodies when visitors show up at his doorstep. There’s never an explanation why the dead come to life, but one thing is for sure is that the expired exhumed did a Frosty the Snowman just for the sake of Oliver’s desperation for companionship and, perhaps, that’s the entire reason why. The need for family was granted to the nice, dissociated boy in a lightning bolt of unexplainable supernatural serendipity to right all the bad things that are happening and will happen to him. Zombies are typically resurrected to take life and eat away at the living while Oliver’s zombies are atypical, restoring life and providing hope in an optimistic paradoxical universe.

Dark and quirky, “The Loneliness Boy in the World” is heartwarming with cold bodies. Well Go USA Entertainment releases the AVC Encoded, 1080p high-definition Blu-ray with a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The presentation is quite colorful with a vast palette of foundational primary colors sprinkled with retro-vision, such as tape camcorder view, that splits the difference in extracting the vivid pink-laden house interior as well as the spot colors on the characters with stark contrast against the lush greenery background or the rocky, wave crashing shoreline. Night sequences are often blue tinted but not overly saturating. I didn’t note any issues with compression as blacks are generally deep without splotchiness or banding. Details are mostly fine with intricacies more expressive on the decomposing bodies that give off great muscle, skin, and organ decay. The Blu-ray comes with a single audio option, an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Dialogue never has to outbattle the ambient tracks or The Invisible Men pop score. The ambient range really comes through the auxiliary channels well with the central element focusing on the dialogue. English subtitles are optional. Bonus features include a short behind-the-scenes with more fluff from the cast who seemingly can’t get enough of this project and the theatrical trailer is also included. The physical release comes in a standard Blu-ray snapper with an illustrated mesh artwork of essentially every character in the film, even the dead Dachshund. “The Loneliest Boy in the World” has a runtime of 90 minutes, is regionally hard coded A, and is rated R for language and violent content. Enjoyable yet explainable, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is more defined by its cadaverous twist of fate than the theme it attempts to convey; nonetheless, the Martin Owen film has heart, soul, and the living dead.

“The Loneliest Boy in the World” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

Four Kids to Stop EVIL From Wiping Out The Rest of Mankind. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” final Season reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

The last time we saw the four Colony Campus travelers trekking across country, Hope and Huck were helicoptering back to the Civic Republic Military, Iris and Felix find Will to learn their home has been wiped out, Silas sacrifices himself up to the CRM for his friends to get away, and Elton discovers Percy alive but severely injured after uncovering Huck’s deceit.  Separated and deeply rooted into their own difficulties and dilemmas, the long-term goal is to survive and find each other again while unearthing clarity around the CRM’s true top-secret military operations – wiping out neighboring alliance colonies with lethal gas.  Hope reunites with her father to assist in how to quickly eradicate the dead but the advancement in their works comes across CRM immoral hurdles that force the group into radical action against the most powerful and well-organized military faction known to what remains of mankind. 

“The Walking Dead” spinoff series, “World Beyond,” comes to a close on the two-season arc that aims to die up bits and pieces of connective elements into the ever-expanding universe that is “The Walking Dead.” Showrunners Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrete return to season two with a drive to give fans a broader sense of the enigmatic Civic Republic Military (aka CRM), to supplement a main series character’s hand in the fate of the human race, and to take continue to reach across the domestic planes to show that there’s more than just Georgia-Virginia heat and TexMex dead and drama. Gimple and Negrete’s “World Beyond” is the little brother of the series two predecessors but offers same amount of drama under a blanket of undead gore. Friendships will be tested, moralities will be checked, and the dead will still walk in this ancillary limited series that runs from 2020 to 2021, totaling 20 episodes. David Alpert, Brian Bockrath, Maya Goldsmith, Gale Anne Hurd, Ben Sokolowski, and also across the TWD universe and graphic novelist co-creator Robert Kirkman return to season two as executive producers under the presentation of American Movie Classics (AMC) with Idiot Box, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, and Valhalla Entertainment serving as production studios.

Season one regulars Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Crumpston, Nicholas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, and Annet Mahendru return to see their characters through the waves of the flesh-biting undead and the unbridled, unchecked power trips to the bitter end. Performances from season one into season two two retain individual natural orders of progression within the slogging imbroglio surrounding one ultimate thematic goal – to survive without sacrifice. From the regular cast, Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, and Nico Tortortella step up in the rapid-fire series of blistering complexions based on the known and unknown facts of the environments or colonies that influence them. Tortorella actually showcases some of his fighting choreography unlike what we’ve experienced in the first season, making his Felix character that much more bad ass. Hal Crumpston, Nicholas Cantu, and Annet Mahendru don’t necessarily provide inedible takes of their equally thrust in turmoil characters but also don’t take their themselves to the next level. I still find Huck, played by Mahendru, to be average in a key role of double-edged duplicity. Plus, that forced deep Southern accent doesn’t do Huck justice, forged to contend with her military trained and tough cozenage. Crumpton remains flatlined with Silas’ two-toned solo-pot of emotions and Nicholas Cantu, who I consider the philosophical voice of reason for the group, isn’t provided enough screen time substance in season two to make an impact as his personal tribulations, such as learning Hope killed his mother during day one of zombie fallout, are dropped with barely a mention. New series regulars come aboard stemmed from their provisional season one stints. Joe Holt becomes more involved as Iris and Hope’s scientist father, Ted Sutherland reoccurs as Percy being found injured and is nursed back to health to seek revenge on Huck as well as become Iris’s love interest, Jelani Alladin returns with a fulltime status as Felix’s partner and has more of security role pivotal to the rebellious efforts against the CRM, and Julia Ormond returns as Huck’s mother and as Lt. Colonel Kubleck aimed to do what must be done in order to achieve mankind’s longevity. The new regulars, with the addition of new newcomer Maxmillian Osinski, breathe new life and new complexities of a narrative’s David and Goliath’s approach with added poignant distress as well as subdued hope. The cast rounds out with Natalie Gold, Anna Khaja, Will Meyers, Madelyn Kientz, Robert Palmer Watkins, Gissette Valentin, and “The Walking Dead” crossover Pollyanne McIntosh as Jadis filling in as a CRM head honcho with a new and approved queerish haircut.

The second season promises a whole new set of perils through the world of the undead and, to be more specific, “World Beyond” pivots the focus from the dead to the cruelty of man, keeping up with the “TWD” universe’s majority themes of staggering scruples and survival barbarity.  “World Beyond” trades decaying dentures for military might as Hope, Iris, Elton, Silas, Felix and Huck exhaust their trek to a divisive end after season one’s from West to East’s coming-of-age, growing-in-ghouls expedition that leads them to step outside their comfort zones and into the real world from the safety of the Campus Colony.  We learn early in season one that going back home is not an option as the Campus Colony has been wiped off the map by the CRM, but that hidden truth runs deep into the new season’s storyline and becomes this paradox notion that causes division amongst the principal characters.  Much of the belief the CRM committed genocide is founded on gut-feelings and hunches, as Iris continues to arduously state and even going as far as killing one of the CRM soldiers without proof of ice-cold facts of CRM’s hand in murdering the close-knit survivalist friends back at the Campus Colony.  On the subject of killing, one of the initial gripes by “World Beyond” was that the first season was gory-lite and lacked a concerning amount of undead rapaciousness for flesh.  The same can be said for the second season that saw little bite from the zombie contingent and, instead, focused more of the dynamics of conflicting groups trying to get the upper hand on each other, but also mirroring the layout of season one, gore and that inherent blood-n-guts cornerstone that, as we all know, makes audiences return show-after-show, season-after season to the “TWD” behemoth.  The latter episodes feature a crimson blood-splattering display of head shots, throat rips, and eviscerations that can sate fans toward forgiveness on being reserved in grisly gaudiness.

If you can’t get enough “The Walking Dead” or “Fear of the Walking Dead” then “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” can help fill that void with a short-lived arc in other parts of the dead-riddled planet and the final season comes to Blu-ray home video with a 3-disc, 10-episode set from Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded UK set is presented in an unmatted 1.78:1 aspect ratio which comes standard for U.S. television programming. Picture image comes from the HD AMC premiere and the noticeable dull details and banding in the digital compression codec. The quality won’t cause eyestrains or be a breaking eyesore as many viewers will notice little difference between television and the Blu-ray data output. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix has no flaws in the digital recording that provides a high bit clarity on each isolating channel and funneling them into one well-blended mix. Range and depth are on point and come through in a tumultuous world of gunfire and that recognizable growling dead. Optional English subtitles are available. With a runtime of 439 minutes and certified 15 or over, “World Beyond” has plenty of content and violence to salivate over but just in case you crave more, bonus features include the Comic-Con@Home 2021 Panel hosted by “Talking Dead’s” Chris Hardwick and includes showrunners Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrette as well as cast members Aliyah Royale, Alexa Monsour, Annet Mahendru, Jelani Alladin, Joe Holt, Hal Crumpston, Nico Tortorella, and Nicolas Cantu in the Hollywood Square-like Zoom panel. “World Beyond” scratches “The Walking Dead” itch for more with a Martial Law look and lockdown theme of military oppression over what remains of the civilian population, an aspect we haven’t seen extensively before in the franchise and slips into the timeline as a needed gap-fill, stretching over a new place and new set of people.

A Mushroom Cloud of DNA Altering EVIL Proportions! “Mutant Blast” reviewed! (Troma / Blu-ray)

“Mutant Blast” is a BLAST!  Now available at Amazon.com

A top-secret military unit conducts human experiments to create the perfect super-soldier. Their illegal and amoral work has proven more difficult than desired with only one subject, TS-347, being deemed functional and fit for dutiful purpose. Maria, operating incognito with an adversarial paramilitary group, infiltrates the cell section where TS-347 is being held to either purloin the property or destroy it in order to not have the DNA be replicated. There’s only one problem – the failed superhuman experimental trials that transformed people into flesh-eating zombies have escaped confinement to begin the apocalypse. Barely escaping with their lives, Maria and TS-347 run into Pedro, a simple, low ambitious man with no clue to what is happening after awaking from a party-induced hangover. Together, they trek to the ocean for safety, but multiple nuclear bombs send their journey into a tailspin of mutant hostiles along their path.

A nuclear orgasm within every minute, the Portugal-made post-apocalyptic comedy-adventure-horror “Mutant Blast” is crazy fun and certifiably crazy. Produced in 2014 but not released until 2018, the Fernando Alle written-and-directed debut radioactive-to-rendezvous through a zombie infested and freakshow continent leaves no stone unturned with an unbridled and practical effects-laden story that’s reminiscent of early 90’s splatter-comedies. Being one of the select more recent films to be actually produced instead of distributed by Troma Films (“The Toxic Avenger,” “The Class of Nuk’Em High”), “Mutant Blast” doesn’t have to work too hard to be granted passage into Tromaville’s sophisticated affinity catalogue. Troma’s masterminds Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, who has a zombified bit part in the film, coproduce “Mutant Blast” alongside Alle and Matt Manjouridas, executive producer of Shudder’s “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, also financially supports Alle’s film that should one day, hopefully, be on the docket for Joe Bob Briggs to introduce its rat-fu, seafood-fu, and titty-shot-fu to the rest of the horror fanbase.

Living her best imitation of Ellen Ripley with a shaved dome from “Alien 3” is Maria Leite as the infiltrating noble cause soldier aiming to stop the experimental creation of human super soldiers by any means necessary.  Leite makes looking like a badass action hero pretty convincing and her comedic timing is wonderfully contrasted with Pedro, “Blarghaaahrgarg’s” Pedro Barão Dias in his introductory role into feature films, as a lighthearted and bewildered man strikingly outside his element and out classed what’s about to face him.  If you haven’t noticed, the characters names don’t stray far from the actor’s and that makes the chemistry a little easier, especially on “Mutant Blast’s” ambitious post-apocalypse and kooky freakshow façade.  Dias has the charming qualities of a gleefully lost puppy in a world that has everything trying to kill his character Pedro where previously the carefree partying fool was left alone, if not also insignificantly thought of, to his own devices.  If hitting the notes on the “Alien” franchise notes a part of the Fernando Alle’s must-have adulation check list then “The Terminator” is another box the filmmaker sought to check off as well with the TS-347 cyborg-ish super solider played by the then nearly 50-year-old professional bodybuilder Joaquim Guerreiro doing double duty as also the evil counterpart TS-504, splitting his obvious presence except with a prosthetic mask, makeup, and way more clothing overtop his shirtless glistening pectorals and deltas.  Their odyssey to the ocean has them cross paths with other survivors, sprouting various fission bomb mutated genes as if seeds were sowed in their skin.  Mário Oliveira, Hugo Cássimo, Andreia Brito, Joao Gualdino, Pedro Caseiro, Mauro Herminio, Francisco Alfonso Lopes, Basco Ferreira, Paulo Alexandre Firmino, and João Vilas fill the colorful shoes playing one, or sometimes multiple, mutants.

If you like gooey and explosive foot-to-head smashes, then “Mutant Blast” is for you.  If you like single punch decapitations, then “Mutant Blast” is for you.  If you like baby rat hands, third ear growths, melted faces, horn protrusions, zombie head backpacks, giant rats squirting highly acidic teat milk, Dolphinman versus a French speaking Lobster man, then “Mutant Blast” is definitively in your very best interest. Past all that juvenile jazz that, if done right like Alle did it, transforms a lobotomizing spectacle into a complete cherry of cinema, underneath the liberating layers of free, self-made movies, lies a subtle message weaved into the very fabric of “Mutant Blast’s” nuclear core story. Alle’s undoubted wants audiences to take away from his film not only riotous laughter and an appreciation for tangible gore effects but also to take away a sense of how we, people of Earth, seek to self-destruct. Life is precious yet experiments turn into crazed maniacs, we nuke ourselves in an ironic act of fighting fire with fire in cleaning up our messes, and with the lobster who turned into man names Jean-Pierre, wears a suit, speaks French, and hates “motherfucking” dolphins delivers a monologue served up on a platter of overfishing, environmental indifference and destruction, and a general apathy overview for life in general conceptualizes as the vertex of the Alle’s entire theme before the one-on-one with the James Gunn created Dolphinman who makes a very special appearance.

Troma’s newly upgraded, upscaled, and likely high on uppers release of “Mutant Blast” is not available on a director’s cut Blu-ray that wouldn’t be complete or official with a Lloyd Kaufman introduction from the COVID bunker. Released in high definition 1080p, the region free, 2-disc, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with an 83-minute runtime. I’m genuinely impressed by the compression of this Troma release as the image quality looks quite good with little-to-no compression afflictions in the digital video, displaying an above par codec in the ballpark of 24-26 megabytes. Granted, “Mutant Blast” isn’t perfect with signal aliasing infractions, but the overall image stands out amongst the catalogue as one of the best from Tromaville. Offering two dual audio options – a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a LPCM 2.0 stereo track – you’ll get to enjoy every squish, squash, and squirt on the effects track to compliment to head bashing assaults. The Portuguese and French language dialogue tracks render no issues with clarity and the English subtitles keep things smooth and easy with ample timing and errorfree. There are a slew of dubbed languages including English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and, if you want to be precise, Brazilian Portuguese. Troma also offers up some fantoxically futuristic extras with a making of featurette Lobsterman Caws, the giant rat pre-production test, a doc about “Mutant Blast” heading to Korea over a three-day coverage span, Portugual audiences’ reactions to “Mutant Blast,” the film’s special effects, blooper reel, bottlecap challenge, the original theatrical trailer, international trailer, 30 second trailer, and see how Lloyd Kaufman transformed into a flesh-eating Portuguese zombie. In the gloriously objectionable essence of all that makes Troma Troma, “Mutant Blast” is textbook Troma, a modern new face for the company, and is radiantly glowing from the same toxic waste that gave birth to the beloved Toxie.

“Mutant Blast” is a BLAST!  Now available at Amazon.com

The End of Days Runs on EVIL Fuel! “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival.  At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure.  After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives.  Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.

For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood:  Road of the Dead”, before the first film.  While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously.  Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so.  In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together.  The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.”   “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.

To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.

“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.

The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.