The Fourth Go-Around with an EVIL Icon Is An Inferior Copy. “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” reviewed! (101 Films / BD-R)

Laine and her boyfriend Chase drive toward Jackson, Louisiana where Chase has planned a fun-filled weekend in the land of the notorious Creeper legend and where the annual HorrorHound festival lures fans from all over the world for a carnival celebration of horror. Rolling her eyes at Chase’s complete obsession with the Creeper and his love for horror, Laine indulges her boyfriend’s every geeked-out whim, including entering a contest for a chance to enter a Creeper inspired escape room held at a dilapidated manor house on the outskirts of town. The lucky winners and the producing team find themselves lured into a deadly trap orchestrated by a cult loyal to the Creeper and Laine, who has been handpicked by his disciples, learns through premonitions that the Creeper hungers for her unborn child. Trapped inside with an unstoppable winged monster hunting them down, Laine and Chase implore the others to fight back against a living legend of lore.

Fascinating is the monster that is the Creeper, a versatile humanoid with batlike wings, a serious sniffer, and a flesh-eating connoisseur with the strength of 10 men and a primitive, yet effective assorted arsenal of deadly melee weapons. The Creeper is a modern marvel and icon of contemporary antagonistic favorites this side of the early millennium having arrived on the big screen now over two decades ago back in 2001 and producing now four films between that time span, but within those 21 years, a tremendous controversy has tarnished the good name of the “Jeepers Creepers” legacy. That name is “Jeepers Creepers” creator Victor Salva who conviction as a child sex offender might not have stopped him from directing three “Jeepers Creepers” films but certainly put the rubber stamp of disapproval against any kind of box-office success with audiences steering clear of work. 2022 saw promise for the Creeper with a new, fourth entry entitled “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn,” a title resembling a phoenix being risen from the fiery ashes type of project that removed Salva not only from the director’s chair but also any kind of substantial compensation for the legal rights. Timo Vuorensola (“Iron Sky”) steps into frame as the franchise’s newest visionary to hopefully resurrect the Creeper from the depths of indirect persecution. With a story written by Sean-Michael Argo (erotic-fantasy-horror writer of “Sineaters” and “Fable: Teeth and Beasts”), “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” promises new blood and a new creative process with possible white glove treatment without the sully of sin behind the scenes. The first “Jeepers Creepers” film to be shot almost entirely in the United Kingdom with a few Louisiana locale shots, the fourth flight of the Creeper entry is a coproduction between Black Hanger Studios and Orwo Studios.

With a new “Jeepers Creepers” installment focused on adverting attention away from its creator, “Reborn” comes with an overhauled cast, including a new face toward the Creeper.  Instead of Jonathan Breck returning to resume the role in a fourth film, complications from an overseas production, English actor Jarreau Benjamin tackles the role with everything he’s got and with everything he has to work with.  Breck cobbled together large boots for the assimilation of a western horror villain with a mischievous and ruthless personality as he toys with his food before he eats it in the first three films.  Benjamin does a remarkable job attempting to emulate much of the same albeit the Creeper have a slightly different look because of Benjamin’s build and face structure.  Nonetheless, as the Creeper, the greenhorn fills in quite well tormenting conned prey that includes on screen couple Sydney Craven (“York Witches Society”) as Laine and Imran Adams as Chase.  To be honest, Craven and Adams had little emotion weight beyond a fantasy and lust dynamic and couldn’t find character and story support in what seems to be more of a close acquaintance rather than a highly involved and evolved romantic relationship.  They’re teamed with producers of a reality show, game show, some kind of vague media show of sorts, as the unfortunate lucky winners of an escape room challenge as well as a local Jackson resident, Stu, with a Duck Dynasty beard and salty arura about him, played by Peter Brooke (“Wrong Turn 5:  Bloodlines”) and I wanted to know more about Stu.  Is he good or bad?  Is he a patsy?  He’s mysterious but likeable and he’s written enigmatically up to a point but the descends into just another ordinary link in the chain. Ocean Navarro (“Infamous Six”), Matt Barkley, and Alexander Halsall round out the victims corralled by the cult of the Creeper. The Creeper worshipping group represented by a local shopkeeper (Georgia Goodman), a fire and brimstone preacher (Saverio Buono), and a horror hostess named Madam Carnage (Jodie Mcmullen) are a flake of a bigger scab that reveals nothing about their reasoning or their cause in helping every 23rd year for 23 days and the element of the cult cheapens the story because it goes unexplained. Overall, the performances are steady, if not slightly cliche at times, and the cast rounds out with Dee Wallace (“Cujo”) and Gary Graham (“Robot Jox”) with a familiar and strong opener that gets the blood going.

That very 15-or-so minute opener is “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn.” That’s it. That’s the film. It’s classic Creeper with a new, beaten down, larger box truck, starkly different from his rusted Chevy HD COE that’s like a supercharged street-legal tank but with the same BEATINGU double entendre license plate and malevolent-ripping energy that would make anyone’s heart race with fear as he tailgates and blares the horn at high speed. Yet, the opener quickly rescinds into an unsolved mystery-like episode and from that point on, Vuorensola and Argo work diligently to rapidly dismiss the first three films by meta means with one of the principals stating the Creeper stories gave way to three films, hence why the fourth film is subtitled “Reborn” and acts more like a reboot than a sequel. Perhaps that is why the plot adds a stronger motivation for the Creeper who is hellbent on extracting a prenatal child from Laine. “Reborn” invokes a return to the premonition theme that go hand-and-hand with the Creeper’s return as Laine has visions of her the centerpiece of attention, covered in blood, and a baby carriage containing, supposedly, the target, but the story is so far up the abstract tail with the visions and conjectural dialogue, we never receive a straight answer as to why the Creeper is after the peanut-sized pregnancy. With any of the four films, the Creeper dispatches prey in various neat ways with a primordial arsenal of medieval killing tools and the scenes of slaughter don’t disappoint. There’s actually a gory moment of a scalp flip and a brain snack that’s well executed. What kills “Reborn” with a stake through the heart is the rotoscoping at climatic end. Clunky, chunky, and disproportionate, the actors appear to be standing and moving around in a 2D environment with unintended rigid actions that dispel realism after a wonderful show of makeup and practical effects in the first two acts.

You don’t have to wait another 23 years to see the Creeper as “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” lands on UK digital platforms on October 10th and on UK DVD and Blu-ray October 24th courtesy of UK distributor 101 Films. The just-before-Halloween release will contain a 15 certification and is available preorder at the https://101-films-store.com/. Unfortunately, I’m unable to dive into neither of the DVD or Blu-ray spec details or give a full critique of the audio/video aspects as a BD-R was provided for feature screening purposes only. The screener also didn’t have any bonus features and included only an English subtitle option. The film runs clocks in at 88 minutes and is shot with an Arri Alexa camera. “Jeepers Creepers: Reborn” might have dropped the surface level controversial dead weight but can’t fully shake the stigma and in an opportunity to reboot or rebrand the franchise, the effort is squandered by production snafus and shoddy presentation that’ll put the Creeper asleep for another 23 years until the next film.

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.

Making a Horror Movie can be EVIL on the Health! “Stoker Hills” reviewed! (101 Films / Digital Screener)

Three film studies college students are eager to win their class’s short film contest with story idea Street Walkers, a genre blending horror movie that crosses “Pretty Woman” with “The Walking Dead.” On their first night of shooting, isolated on the empty streets of Stoker Hills, their actress and friend is suddenly abducted right before their camera lens and instantly give chase without a second to call the authorities, falling right into the maniac’s nightmarish world. Left behind for two detectives is the students’ tell-all camera, leaving behind the recording as the only clue into tracking down their undisclosed whereabouts and stopping the kidnapping-killer. As the detectives home in on the killer’s lair, only hours are left before a determined and desperate madman drains every single drop of their youthful blood for a deadly selfish cause.

Director Benjamin Louis and “Stoker Hills” want you to believe in their compelling and bloody slasher narrative of periled college students fighting for their lives against a formidable, resilient killer while two resolute detectives sniff out the mystery of their disappearance before it’s too late. However, in “Stoker Hills,” nothing is as it appears to be. As the first feature script penned and produced by Jonah Kuehner, the “State’s Evidence” director, Benjamin Louis, coproduces the sheeny cinematic slasher that hits upon almost every known trope in the book by incorporating a backwoods nook, a torturous rec room, and foggy night underneath a vividly complete full moon into a story that’s one part found footage and one part cop thriller. Benjamin and cinematographer John Orphan (“The Black String”) do a phenomenal job crafting away from a Los Angeles look and into an unrecognizable, any-town-America by shooting at the dead of night in L.A.’s low-lit surrounding areas of Griffith Park and the Angeles National Forrest without focusing in on or revealing well-known landmarks. “Wildling’s” Rab Butler and Timothy Christian coproduces the 2020 teen-mystery slasher.

“Stoker Hills” begins very much in the same way as my last review of Seth Landau’s “Bryan Loves You” with a deep-in-character production by the great Tony Todd (“Candyman”) as a film studies professor. Instead of warning audiences to look away if frightened or to be ushered out of the theater when shocked beyond just stomaching the content, Todd’s professor of cinema is passionate and enthusiastic about what great filmmaking and the auteurs who wield their work upon the world. However, much like “Bryan Loves You,” Tony Todd only dabbles into the narrative with a superficial house role that opens the doors for Ryan (David Gridley, “The Unhealer”), Jake (Vince Hill-Bedford, “Sorority Slaughterhouse”), and Erica (Steffani Brass, “Ted Bundy”), three slackjaw, maybe even indolent, students eager to take “The Walking Dead” and turn it into a “Pretty Woman” romance comedy known as “Street Walkers.” The concept is no Guillermo del Toro or Martin Scorsese, but nonetheless barely sates the professor’s threadbare faith in the three’s semester-ending grade. Along the way, we’re introduced laterally to character who will eventually be integrated into the story later and at a state of prominence to the mystery, such as with fellow star student Dani Brooks (television actress Tyler Clark) and her university benefacting donor Dr. Jonathan Brooks (John Beasley, “The Purge: Anarchy”). “Stoker Hills” also isn’t entirely linear as the footage soon appears to be corrupted only to be on pause by two officers investigating the case and analyzing the video. William Lee Scott (“Identity”) and Eric Etebari (“Scream at the Devil”) play the high-blood pressure, blue collar, family-man Detective Bill Stafford and a sophisticated bachelor and quasi-Rain man Detective Adams respectively. The Scott and Etebari cop drama show entertains as less CSI and more NYPD Blue or Law & Order with a conspicuous partner correlation only to be separated by adding snippets of out of context humanity, such as why Adam’s is a loner and Stafford hates changing baby diapers. Powerful stuff. Each character is connected to “Stoker Hills'” antagonist, Charles Muyer (Jason Sweat), who’s been abducting young, healthy people off the streets and into his vacant buildings of intravenous drips of blood into a milk crate-based cylinder beaker tube. Thomas R. Martin, Joy McElveen, Maya Nucci, Michael Faulkner, and “Eraser’s” Danny Nucci round out the cast.

Director Benjamin Louis cherry picks the best traits from a triad of genres to smush together into one trope-tastic “Stoker Hills”  A lumbering mute killer bred to annihilate in his nihilism from the slasher genre, two dedicated detectives determined to catch a killer and able to snoop out clues out of nothing that’s familiar toward the cop drama genre, and a pair of brosefs, who dude each other in every other line of dialogue no matter if it’s joshing in film studies class or being chased harrowingly through the woods and having their foot snagged in the teeth of a beartrap, pulling from the pot-smoking and arrogant hijinks of two immature college aged guys usually hovering around the teen comedy category.  All the actors really get into their parts to the point of a fault in creating a bogus, simulated environment as if a knockoff matrix, coded by naive aliens who know nothing of the human race other than watching “American Pie,” “Law & Order,” and every Renaissance era slasher film, is being pulled over the eyes. The whole ordeal that has a context surrounding Charles Muyer’s bad pig heart is also grossly under kneaded and bordering nonsensical until the ending. That game changing ending spooled by meta wiring puts in perspective every last minute of the well-paced 91-minute film, and when the narrative quickly closes upon itself and fades to black into the credits, every scene previously pondered and examined, crisscrossed into a mental algorithm that breaks down character arcs and progression devices, and spits out answers like an Amazon Alexa has suddenly last all its calculated determination in a snap of a flash. Kudos to “Stoker Hills'” screenwriter Jonah Kuehner for conceiving an overtreated trope decoy story and kudos to director Benjamin Louis in pulling the wool over our eyes without flinching or showing his cards too early.

Everybody run for “Stoker Hills” and become caught up in a diabolical twist that’ll deflate the suspense out of you but also leave you pleasantly surprised. 101 Films released this film last month, March 28th, on digital platforms. Since “Stoker Hills” is solely a digital release from UK distributor, there are no audio or video specs to note or review. Aforementioned, John Orphan helms the “Stoker Hills” noir and no-nonsense veneer which is and also the minor league Jigsaw traps are very “Saw”-like, even down to peppering certain scenes with over illuminating primary color gels if by spotlight. Roc Chen, a profound composer for China over the last decade, notes a less than impactful score in what could be considered more run of the mill material, but that also could play into the whole narrative twist. There were no bonus features available with the film nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. At first glance, “Stoker Hills” treads over the same worn trodden path of slasher predecessors, but then the finale hits like a five-finger slap in the face from Will Smith and, suddenly, everybody could be, should be, and will be talking about “Stoker Hills'” gripping gambit.

Don’t be Afraid of an Unstoppable EVIL Killer on Your Fishing Trip. Do be Afraid of the Very Pregnant Wife You Left to Go on that Fishing Trip! “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

Dastan is about to be a new father, but he is over his head with debt and can no longer withstand the verbal abuse of his headstrong, ready-to-pop wife, Zhanna.  When an opportunity opens up go fishing with his best friends Murat and Arman, he whisks away before she can sink her nagging teeth into him again and tries to enjoy the relaxation of catching fish by floating down the river.  That’s until he and his friends stumble upon an execution by a crime boss and his goons.  Frantically trying to escape, they run into a strange man with a burnt face living out in the wilderness.  The three friends and the gangsters are targeted by the maniacal, murderous stranger with an apparent unkillable survival instinct and supernatural abilities. 

Who would have thought one of the best action-comedy horrors would have come out of Kazakhstan and come to think of it, this 2021 Yernar Nurgaliyev film “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is probably the only Kazakhstan film come across this desk.  Natively titled “Zhanym, ty ne poverish,” Nurgaliyev’s genre blending zany is bursting with dark comedy, gore, and a framework that tests the sturdiness of friendships as well as the clear-cut recognition for the things you have in life because the world isn’t always greener on the other side.  In fact, the world is actually dusty and partway arid in an isolated Kazakhstan landscape that resides with antisocial individuals – mob transgressions, deranged psychopaths, and even those who just want to get away from their wives.  The regular comedy helming Nurgaliyev cowrites the script with first time screenwriters Zhandos Aibassov and Daniyar Soltanbayev under Art Dealers productions in association with the international action company, Nomad Stunts, that delivers the film’s amazing fight choreography.

An ensemble cast of character actors construct a living, breathing dark comedy worth the time and effort. Plenty of unsuspecting twists and turns keep the preposterous party going beginning with an opening of a very black and white passive aggressive quarrel involving principal character Daston (Daniar Alshinov, “A Dark, Dark Man”) who, from this male reviewer’s perspective, takes a relentless verbal whip in emasculation. Alshinov expresses so clearly the biting-tongue frustration in a hilarious montage of on rage’s edge with wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) dishing out the third degree on all his husbandry failures. Avoiding his wife’s warpath behavior, aggravated by being on the verge of giving birth at any time, Daston’s quickly sneaks in his desires and hightails it on a last getaway before he becomes a father or dies of incessant verbal abuse, whichever comes first. Community school officer Murat (Yerlan Primbetov) and sex-toy dealer Arman (Azamat Marklenov) finally are able to steal away Daston in a little time for themselves. The acting trio leading up to the fishing spot are naturally conversive that gives into their characters longstanding friendship with quippy jabs at each other and overselling their less-than-satisfactory positions in life, but not until the friends stumble haplessly while floating down the river into being witnesses of a murder by low-end horse gangsters and run into a stoic one-eyed, burnt face bald man intent on spilling blood for vengeance because the gang killed his dog does Daston and his friends need to go to Hell and back to realize how special their friendship means to each other. “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is a bro movie (and I mean the characters say bro a lot) with an orchestrated series of unfortunate, yet very funny, gruesome events to resolidify a tattered friendship and to reexamine life. The film costars Almat Sakatov, Rustem Zhanyamanov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Bekaris Akhetov, Kadirgali Kobentay, and Gauhar Sagingalieva.

Nurgaliyev develops a physical comedy based around a plan gone awry collision course between four groups destined to intertwine in battle royal.  “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” lands the slapstick one, two, three combination of action, comedy, and notes of horror well outside infantility and outdated material in a smartly laid path of events unfolding to a brawling showdown of those left standing.  I believe the imbalance between physicality and the humorless, if not slightly bothersome, subtitled dialogue stems from the lost in translation.  Subtitles can only convey a literal account of the Kazakhstani reflection and regionalism mayhem often blown to unrecognizable smithereens during a crude translation, but being a foreign film with grossly simplified subtitles shouldn’t be a cause for total write off as there’s much to enjoy from the funneling, concentrated, ever-twisting storyline to the outrageous action stuffed tightly in cramped houses to the perfectly spectacular blend of practical and CGI violence and gore fabricated nearly seamlessly by special effects duo Juliya Levitskaya and Elde Shibanov. Heads role, jaws detached, and plenty of eviscerating shotgun blasts crest above as the cherry on top of the Dastan and his friends’ misadventure through Kazakhstan countryside in a story that’s as ruthless as “Deliverance” and as magnetically dark and eccentric as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

101 Films brings what is called an “insane, violent, and hilarious” fun from Kazakhstan (and we couldn’t agree more) to a UK Blu-ray home video. The region B, high definition, 1080p Blu-ray features a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio of the short 74-minute film, certified UK 15 for strong gory injury detail, violence, threat, and language. Image quality is quite good of rendering mostly the grassy desert-like Kazakhstan landscape and the framing prompts greatly what to expect through either Azamat Dulatov’s harness cam strapped to the actors for closeup reactions or perfectly timed pan when needed to express off-center comedy. What’s really sensational about the film is the localized soundtrack. Nurgaliyev doesn’t buy, beg, borrow, or steal popular westernized tracks to broaden his film’s release and, instead, the soundtrack has a plethoric range of native music from lounge pop to hip hop. The Kazakhstani PCM stereo has more than enough ample timbre and offers a suitable range and depth despite being a dual channel. There are no dub tracks (in case you were wondering) and the English subtitles are forced (for those of few who don’t like to read during the film). Though bonus features would have been nice to root into and explore more of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the country’s film industry, the only bonus material on this 101 Films’ release is the theatrical trailer. As far as fiasco films go, “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” ranks high this side of the 21st century as a humorous, violent, and perspective redirecting genre-bending film that needs be in everyone with a black sense of taste’s library.

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

Reap the EVILS You Sow. “Wired Shut” reviewed! (101 Films / DVD)

The failings of a once famed novelist, Reed Rodney, have come calling after a horrific car accident leaves Reed with reconstructive surgery and his mouth wired shut.  Stuck in remote mountain home, sipping pain meds through a straw and hitting terrible writer’s block after the critically trashed last novel, fortune and distinction never seemed so lonely until his estranged daughter, Emmy, shows up at his front door, looking to spend some time with him before going to school abroad.  Their hoary embattled relationship, built on alcoholism, lies, and abuse, urges Reed for a change of heart, willing to reconnect with Emmy by any way necessary, even if that means being a punching bag for her bottled up emotional outpourings.  When an unexpected intruder exposes a callous secret and lives are at stake, Reed and Emmy must rely on each other to survive a twisted prowler’s sadistic games. 

“Wired Shut” is the teeth-clenching, family quarrelling, sociopathic surviving inaugural full-length feature from Vancouver born director Alexander Sharp.  The home-invasion thriller too hails from Vancouver, Canada with an old-fashion tale of an inside job story co-written by Sharp and the director’s steady collaborator Peter Malone Elliott in which the project is also the first full-length script for the two writers.  “Wired Shut” houses a single location with a small cast but indulges varying levels of crazy and a good amount of bloodshed initially pie-eyed by the immense build up of downtrodden characters.  Singed family relations, the ebb and flow of trust, and the untangling of an ugly knot to retether a stronger bond becomes the parallel of reconnecting in this GoFundMe crowdfunded film under Lakehouse Productions and Alexander Sharp’s Sharpy Films presented by Motion Picture Exchange or MPX.

In a role where you have to keep your trap shut at all times because you’re playing a former self-centered rake who crashed his Lamborghini and had to have your mouth wired shut, Blake Stadel (“Rise of the Damned”) has one of the easiest parts in all of move making history.  Thank about it.  Zero lines of dialogue, you’re feigning an ego that is as shattered as your character’s jaw, and you write or type if you have to communicate.  Now, I’m not belittling Stadel’s once famous novelist, Reed Rodney, as the actor has to absorb the pity, the verbal abuse, and the overall confinement resulted by his injury as a sort of surrender to unfortunate happenstance.  Reed’s moment of life-altering clarity came pre-introduction when crashing the Lambo that left him vulnerable and alone, two bad, pre-depression dispositions of mind and being.  Across the table stews the stark opposite with Reed’s daughter Emmy, played by Alexander Sharp’s sister, Natalie Sharp (“Baby Monitor Murders”).  Pent up with anger and seething with intent, Emmy is executed with these qualities with perfection by Sharp.  However, Emmy extinguishes her fiery eyed hate too quickly in the fate upturning twist that creates a dubious bubble around her and not in a good way.  Emmy’s defining moment of clarity is weakly pawned off just for her and her dad to have a slither of reconnection in a breakneck transition without any struggle or sacrifice to change her mind.  Her blurry change of heart quickly becomes moot by Behtash Fazlaili’s (“The Evil In Us”) unhinged performance as Emmy’s delinquent boyfriend, Preston.  Preston eclipses the entire father and daughter dynamic with a clichéd villain by monologuing and squandering wasted opportunities to end it all and getaway scot-free.  Fazlaili’s performance also doesn’t inspire terror or much of anything at all except for frustration with the cavalier, walk-on act that’s supposedly a mentally broken man fallen to and reshaped by life’s hard knocks.  What’s on screen is Joker-esque mush relating little backstory that drives him to scheme and to be completely off his rocker whereas, in contrast, we know what motivates Emmy and we know what motivates Reed.

The slow burn of “Wired Shut’s” first two acts attempts to humanize Reed as a dejected and alone with Emmy sparking life into an object he can now be fixated on to mend his meaningless, post-accident existence, but Emmy, herself, lugs her own daddy-issue baggage giving way for the two to buttheads in exacting their feelings upon one another.  Sharp fishes for sympathy but keeps loose with expressing Reed and Emmy’s contentious relationship; a relationship that truly never existed with an alcoholic Reed’s persona no grata behavior around Emmy’s mother and her that extends his jet setting lifestyle with the next mistress.  Though loose, you can see both stand and the foreseeable twist coming because of it in an unsurprising turn of events.  What is surprising is Preston’s sudden Jekyll and Hyde as if Reed’s salivated score is Sharp’s theme that for the love of money is the root of all evil.  The theme is peddled and not exactly discerned in Fazlaili’s character who’s more concerned with the cat and mouse game of unbelievable hilarity.  Part of the absurdity has to do with Reed’s three story house with a built-in elevator and if you’ve ever ridden an in-home elevator, the cramped, smaller versions of a regular Otis are slow as Hell dripping with molasses.  Yet, somehow, Reed and Emmy happen to beat Preston down a meager two stories with the push of a button while Preston stops to take an injury breather at the third story landing.  Getting in the elevator should have been easy pickings when exiting, but in entertainment for some, keeping the audience attentive is pinnacle even if that means sacrificing the story for cheap thrills by stretching the realism just a little bit.

“Wired Shut” will leave you speechless with a pedestrian anticlimax after watching the DVD. Distributed by the United Kingdom’s 101 Films, the region 2, PAL encoded, 91 minute thriller is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio on a DVD5 and thoroughly soaked in a sea of tenebrous blue tint as the first, many firsts for these filmmakers, feature length cinematography for Martin Taube. Crystalized sleek and fresh with a modern, straight-edge finish, Taube main objective centers around personal space and to detox comfort with the strain and psychopathy, using close ups and up or down angling to exact an uneasy position during strenuous moments. The continuous tinting from start to finish could have been done without as it chokes the story in nearly an unviewable consumption. The English language Dolby Digital Stereo AC3, 5.1 surround sound mix, is a LFE sound cannon with a bass-heavy rattling industrial soundtrack by Oswald Dehnert and Rayshaun Thompson. The soundtrack’s sonorous tone crackles at the format’s compression, leaving granulated pops when the volume levels peak, which is really surprising for today’s digital and format spec cautious handling. Dialogue levels render nice and clear and the sound design’s not bad either with a complex range of soundbites inside a single setting, especially when Reed pops the wires when forcing open his mouth. The DVD is bare bones with special feature and the DVD cover itself is poorly misleading with a hooded figuring, standing backlit in the woods, with a large blade in hand. There is no such slasher figure in the movie. “Wired Shut” is not a slasher. I repeat. Not a slasher. “Wired Shut” is rated 15 for strong threat (gun pointing, knife to the throat), injury detail (stabbing, slicing, and surgical fastening coming undone), and language (Yes, foul language is present). As far as home invasion films go, “Wired Shut” says nothing new about the subgenre, but offers an intriguing ingredient of incapability and the strength to push through to the other side with the if there’s a will, there’s a way mentality underneath intruder chaos.