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.

Sonar Radiation is Music to the EVIL’s Ears! “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)



Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

After having a run-in with a beautiful woman, Edna, at a gas station who accidently wrecking his motorbike, Manchester antique dealer George offers to drive her car to her destination in the country, her sister’s place in Southgate, and then borrow the car to continue on toward his appointment in Windermere.  However, upon their arrival in Southgate, Edna’s husband Martin has been brutally murdered and the police immediately suspect the two urbanite out-of-towners George and Edna of coming the heinous crime.  In reality, the recently dead in a mile radius has their nervous system reactivated and directed to kill the living by a new sonar radiation technology aimed to destroy crop pests.  With the police and the dead on their heels, George and Edna seek to expose the truth to the world before its too late and the experimental new pesticide’s range is extended to cover more ground. 

Hitting the stop button here before we dive into our review of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.”  If you’ve never seen the Jorge Grau directed 1974 flesh eating zombie film then drop everything – you’re work, your kids, your winning lottery ticket worth millions – and take the next one hour and 33 minutes to enjoy the graphically gory, social commentary horror that not only cashes in on the George Romero “Night of the Living Dead” gamechanger undead horror but also rivals Romero’s film in story and in full, gorgeous color.  “The Legend of Blood Castle” director Jorge Grau helms the Spanish-Italiano co-produced script penned by Sandro Continenza (“Uncle Was a Vampire”) and Marcello Coscia (“Teenage Emmanuelle”) and was provided to Grau by “The Eroticist” and “Don’t Torture the Duckling” producer Edmundo Amati who wanted to make a Romero-esque flesh-eating zombie film of his own.  Also more widely known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is co-produced by Manuel Pérez and is a co-production between Star Films and Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche.

Hot off the presses of Italian action-crime dramas, Ray Lovelock (“Emergency Squad,” “Almost Human”) finds himself playing an antique merchant holding up shop in the metropolitan area of Manchester, England and as George Meaning, the relatively undisclosed personal experience as an antique merchant, Lovelock gets into character not on the business end but when the shopkeeper goes on holiday in the country, riding his motorcycle Windermere where he has arranged a meeting with some very important people that never flesh out in the end. Speaking of flesh, don’t expect the leading lady Cristina Galbó (“The House that Screamed”) to provide any as the panicky Edna Simmonds on her way to her sisters (Jeannine Mestre, “Count Dracula”) for an intervention toward her sister’s severe heroin use. Much of the only flesh to be hand in “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is that is which ripped from the bodies and stuffed into rotten, undead mouths. In itself, the entire scenario between Edna and her druggie sister is a compelling enough story to warrant attention in accumulating a sense of sisterly betrayal and a sacrificial compassion to do the right thing despite the consequences. However, that pathway, no matter how distressingly prominent it may seem, does not carry over into the main plot points of an experimental pesticide treatment involving sonar inadvertently raising the dead to be superhuman zombies. Between an Italiano (Lovelock) and a Spainard (Galbó), who not throw in an American while we’re at it with Massachusetts born Arthur Kennedy (“The Antichrist”) to be the aging local inspector keen on pinning every murder on youthful urbanites with their hippie ways and satanists beliefs. “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” fills out the cast with José Lifante (“Night of the Walking Dead”), Vincente Vega (“Historias para no dormir“), and “Flesh+Blood’s” Fernando Hilbeck as the foremost feared zombie.

What makes Jorge Grau’s take on the living dead canon so impressive is not only the social commentary story that seeks to deconstruct ecological progression as an ironic destructive poison to the Earth and its inhabitants and the striking moments in gore effects from the team of Juan Antonio Balandin, Luciano Byrd, and Giannetto De Rossi (of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi”) that have remained timeless in holding up and rivaling against many of today’s gruesome effects, but also the terror-inducing sound design that combines Giuliano Sorgini’s funky-spook with Antonio Cárdenas zombie-vision resonances of heavy breathing and resonating heart thuds that cues the lurking of an undead lurker.  The effect is potent and full of imminent danger when included into Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere’s (“Death Will Have Your Eyes”) perfectly framed shots of the Romero-esque zombie lumbering toward their prey in an unstoppable hunger to kill and eat and, sometimes, convert to their infant-legion inside-and-out of the zombie perspective.  Along the lines of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’s” environmental theme is the juxtaposition of big city and countryside in regards to their pollution levels in the opening credit scene where George rides out of Manchester through the degradation of the masses who are popping pills, wearing face masks (like in today’s COVID climate), numb to shock (in the scene where a naked protestor runs in front of stalled traffic for peace and the motorists are blank to the moment), passing by death and polluted nuclear smoke stacks.  Once the lead George reaches the countryside, he removes the scarf covering his nose and mouth and breathes in fresh air with a smirk on his face.  From then on, the story moves forward with a cautionary tale of ill-fated modern progression, such as urbanism, seeping into a natural landscape and causing death and destruction, leaving an poignant aftertaste in the inevitably of man’s ignorance will kill us all.  Grau’s film is a good candidate to be a promotional movie for the dramatic effects of climate change in today’s campaign for ecological change to reduce our carbon footprint.

Synapse brings “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” home onto a Blu-ray home video, restored in 4K from the original camera 35mm negative that includes the authentic and intact opening and closing credit sequences. The region free, AVC encoded release is presented in 1080p high definition of a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture is the gold standard of presentation with a vivid and stable color palette, controlled DNR without any posterization, and greatly detailed without an inkling of lossy image quality. Two audio mix come with the release – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound remix and the distinctive to the Synapse release the original English theatrical mono mix. Though nice and nostalgic in the original English mono mix, the clarity and robustness of the channels on the DTS-HD track is by far superior with its reformulated by Synapse lossless quality and fidelity, especially in that aforementioned sound design by Antonio Cárdenas. The English dub on Ray Lovelock can be off-putting at times but the track is still beyond the best of the two available audio options. English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include two audio commentaries by author and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson, and Bruce Holescheck, a feature length (89 min) documentary Jorge Grau – Catolonia’s Cult Film King that explores the lift and films of director Jorge Grau, The Scene of the Crime is special effects and makeup artist Gionnetto de Rossi discussion on the film, another de Rossi feature of the SFX artist at a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films in the UK (43 minutes), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a sleek black snapper case that wouldn’t be complete with a Synapse catalogue booklet. If you’re a diehard zombie genre fiend, Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” must be at the top of your personal video collection. If it isn’t, kick yourself in the shin really hard and then check out Synapse’s gorgeous release of the Spanish-Italiano production that’s worth every second of your life viewing.

Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

When EVIL Literarature Jumps Right Off the Pages and Starts to Hunt You Down! “Monsters in the Closet” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)



Watch Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!

Eccentric horror novelist Raymond Castle mysteriously dies alone in his New York City apartment.  His daughter Jasmin, who never had a loving relationship with her father, returns to her childhood home, self-negative reminiscing about the strenuous verbal arguments between father and daughter with usual themes surrounding her playing with his valuable horror collectibles and her continuous use of the Spanish language despite his desires for an English only language household, but instead of finding the contents of his will or answers to who he really was a person, as a father, Jasmin discovers her father’s latest novel, an anthology collection based off the black magic spells of a 17th century that brings his short stories to life right there in the apartment with her. 

I said it once and I’ll say it again until the day I die:  horror anthologies are not my cup of tea.  Sure, there are excellent oldies, aka classics, out there, like “Creepshow” and “Body Bags,” from the masters of horror and a handful of more modern, done-right, anthologies from filmmakers on their way to such a grandiose title within the “V/H/S” series, but the majority of micro-narratives nowadays are collected from the scrapings of the low-budget trash barrel due in part to the cost-efficiency of short films, shot over a lengthy stretch of time, brought together into a single feature and the types of slim budget stories can sustain a better reception in a shorter format instead of full-length one.  Now, I’m not saying Zack and Spencer Snygg collaborated “Monsters in the Closet” falls into the latter category but as one of the first released films of 2022 to come across our ever-critical desk, the indie horror-comedy anthology needed to punch the living daylights out of use to begin the year and whether the Snyggs’ 4-episode, plus wraparound story, anthology slammed dunk or airballed will be covered below. “Monsters in the Closet” is a kickstarter project and a self-produced venture funded by a pair of sub-Hollywood filmmakers in Spencer Snygg, who has worked behind the scenes in the lighting department on some major films over the recent year, and a veteran indie softcore-horror director Zack whose has involvement with indie production companies like Troma and the New Jersey based E.I. Cinema, as you’ll see with a large, splayed display of E.I and Alternative Cinema posters strategically arranged as background fodder. It’s like a Misty Mundae poster celebration on exhibition.

The outer shell narrative that encompasses and unites each separate story entities begins with a frantic Tom C. Niksson as the diehard believer in his own success horror writer Raymond Castle, covered in blood, manically talking to himself, and in the throes of typing away before a cloaked stalker wielding a knife closes in on him. Niksson, who worked under Zack Snygg’s pseudonym, John Bacchus, in that Easter holiday E.I. Cinema favorite, “Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell,” steps into that looming, ever-present figurehead from the grave, delivering random dad joke dialogue while cozying up the audiences for an audiobook rendition of Castle’s latest bestseller, a black magic spell anthology of horror stories that come to fruition when read aloud. Other than his talking head role, Niksson’s involved in some contentious flashbacks with Jasmin as a child, but we never see Niksson and the adult Jasmin Flores (Jasmin) ever in the same scene together as the flashbacks are Jasmin voiceovers. Nikkson’s theatrical behavior perfectly suits the stagecraft atmospherics in erecting the gameshow-esque of a horror host whereas Flores is often stiff as a dry plank of wood. Limitations drawn from her lack of experience keep the actress’s timing and delivery often subdued in an obtuse and ungraceful character when escaping the ever-changing fiction-to-non-fiction villain of the minute. Jasmin, the character, is already inherently underwhelming in a role that has no purpose or buildup to understand her headspace surrounding the sudden death of her father. What do those flashbacks mean to her or are they just melancholic gibberish? And why isn’t she more interested in his death or even showing a lack of care for it? Throughout “Monsters in the Closet,” a fair amount of pleasantly surprising performances from the anthological works pull the overall project together better than those in the wraparound story. Along with a first person view zombie tale as the first short, Luke Couzens and Carmilla Crawford play newlywed new homeowners going through the frustrations of DIY Hell until they off each other with tools, the silver spoon Jordan Flippo becomes tarnished when a camping accident turns this rich daddy’s girl into an unstoppable killing machine to protect her immaculate image, and side-splitting John Fedele (“The Vampire’s Seduction”) as the humbly polite mad scientist Frankenstein who can’t get over the death of Mrs. Frankenstein (Valerie Bitner) and keeps resurrecting her despite her wishes to stay dead.

What I like and thought interesting about the “Monsters in the Closet” corpora is that they’re written in-house by at least one of the Snygg brothers, sometimes both.  This extends style and control over the entire body of work boundless to the ideas and the panache of other filmmakers and showrunners without having to associate themselves.  The Snyggs’ balanced anthology comes with equal levels of comedy and horror that unearths the humor in humorless scenarios sans the sometimes tired gags that can devalue a project into tedium and, ultimately, into worthlessness and since we’re already being beholden to more than one narrative that jumbles the mind, the mental capacity is too low to withstand different numerous tales in one sitting as well as to try and struggle with the bad unfunny bits.  “Monsters in the Closet” at least has a whimsical darkness about it, a sinister playful attitude, and isn’t afraid to get gory from time to time beginning with the Spency Snygg directed zombie existentialistic “Please Kill Me Again” that takes the viewpoint of a recently turned woman with normal inner thoughts and intentions, but the cravings begin to take over.  The Snygg brothers follow up with darkly satiric “Home Improvement” involving a new couple’s adversary journey to fix up their rundown new home to the point where they can’t take any more of the repairs or of each other and the overflowing sardonic banter starts to spill blood; this bit is fun, more than you know it relatable, and gets real nasty at the end. The weakest short is “The One Percenters” with a nob’s daughter eager to mingle amongst the common folk during a seemingly harmless camping trip that turns deadly after she accidently kills her boyfriend.  Conceptually, the message is sound with the wealthiest subverting the law theme and Jordan Flippo is stunning as a plutocrat’s high expectations daddy’s girl, but the story lacks enough obstacle and tension-filled stuffing for an interesting enough short. “Frankenstein’s Wife” spotlights John Fedele’s equable, light-hearted humor in affectionately reconstructing and resurrecting the wife he accidently kills and with each attempt at bring her back from the dead, her corporeal temple becomes less and less of herself through Frankenstein’s botched cosmetic surgeries. The lovesick cycle is both deranged and full of laughs from Fedele’s riotous desperation take of a classic character.

Gravitas Ventures unchains all the creatures loose in their digital distribution of The Snygg Brothers’ “Monsters in the Closet” anthology now available on-demand and digital platforms this January. None of the audio or visual aspects will be covered since the feature is not a digital release, but when I say The Snygg Brothers self-produced the film, I mean they literally wore nearly every single departmental hat, including director of photography and visual effects that impresses with a wide range of shots from drone, to hand-held, and to tracking done with depth and various levels of focus. There is no one trick pony behind the camera. Some of the digital effects, such as the bullet holes that riddle the basement floor and walls, cheapen the already cheap production and, for the most part, the practical effects reach the passing bar with the obvious lay figure body parts and crude masks/getups. There are no special features or bonus scenes with this release that runs unrated at 88 minutes. Anthology bias be damned, “Monsters in the Closet” is a rarity in a dying breed subgenre with a jocular sense of sinister, social commentary humor braided into a tenebrous fray between man versus man and man versus monster.

Watch “Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!