The Best Spies Seek Thrills When Taking Down EVIL! “Deathcheaters” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

Vietnam War brothers-in-arms Steve Hall and Rodney Cann banded together well after the fighting was over and channeled all their pent up energy into being adrenaline junky stuntmen for movies, television series, and commercials as a living and as a lifestyle.  When the two Australians are duped and setup into a high speed chase and a daring rescue mission by one of their country’s own clandestine government agencies in a ploy to test Steve and Rod’s daredevil abilities, they pass the qualifying assessments and are offered an espionage job by agency head under the pseudonym of Mr. Culpepper who has no other incentive to provide other than the job to be the most challenging, death-defying operation to gorge on by two extreme sport enthusiasts.  Unable to resist, the stuntmen embark to a secret base on a remote island of the Philippines where they’ll dodge bullets, explosions, and over 100 guards to fight their way in and out to obtain classified documents for their country.

“Deathcheaters” became the third viewing adventure involving the actor-director combination of stuntman Grant Page and director Brian Trenchard-Smith that falls right in between “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Rock” and clearly delineates an understanding that Grant Page was a genuine fascination for Trenchard-Smith who sought to take the daring stuntman out of solely stunt role and puree him into a leading man role, showcasing Page’s hang-gliding, dune buggy, and skyscraper falls,  for the director’s second feature film released in 1976.  And, then, there’s John Hargreaves who we will dive into his there-but-not there presence later on. “Deathcheaters” is an ozploitation action-comedy that fulfilled two of Trenchard-Smith’s obsessions – stuntmen and spy films – from a story by the director and penned to script by Michael Cove and is produced by Trenchard productions alongside a conglomerate of production companies, including “Mad Max’s”  Roadshow Entertainment (a subsidiary of Village Roadshow), D.L. Taffner (“Ghost Stories”), Nine Network Australia, and the Australian Film Commission.

Undoubtedly, “Deathcheaters” stars Grant Page as the relationship unattached and cocky Rodney Cann whose only other interest besides bedding the single ladies is his enamored basset hound, Bismark.  Cann’s best friend, Steve Hall, is newly hitched to Julia who more-or-less disapproves of her husband’s risky vocation.  “Long Weekend’s” John Hargreaves plays the cheeky Steve Hall with sarcastic charm, matching his complement stunt partner and while Hargreaves has the chops to pull of the persona, the late Sydney born actor is well behind the curve when matched up with Grant Page.  Page is a stuntman playing a stuntman while Hargreaves is an actor portraying to be a stuntman and, unquestionably, that delta shows pretty radically when Page is driving the dune buggy, is descending rapidly from a tall building, or scaling a rock cliff without a harness and Hargreaves is relatively stationary.  Hargreaves has his moments but is greatly overshadowed by the veteran Page.  Before she was Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wife, “Stunt Rock’s” Margaret Gerard was John Hargreaves on screen romance who is vocal but wishy-washy on her husband’s exploits, even on the highly dangerous, international espionage mission assigned by the enigmatic Mr. Culpepper (Noel Ferrier, “Turkey Shoot”).  “Deathcheaters” round out with Judith Woodroffe, Drew Forsythe, Annie Semler, and Vincent Ball.

“Deathcheasters’ falls on the heels of the martial arts success of “The Man from Hong Kong” and is another stunt celebratory film from the ozploitation director with a penchant for large explosions and need-for-speed car chases.  All the stunts were perfectly poised in design and well executed.  Trenchard-Smith isn’t at all afraid to have the camera right in the middle of the action, strapping the 16mm camera to whatever plausible to place the audience in the action with the heroes.  As much as Trenchard-Smith goes full throttle with a tour de force, the same tricks become a little stale after, unfortunately, having previously watched “Stunt Rock” and “The Man from Hong Kong” that also featured self-set wet-gel fires, hang gliding, free falling, and among others aerobatic and dangerous acts that are seemingly in Page’s limited bag of showstopping routines.  There’s rarely anything new in “Deathcheaters” that warrant an awe response and that can be cliched, tiresome, and overall detrimental to the experience unless you’ve never seen a Trenchard-Smith film. If you’re one of those people never to have popped in one of his films, don’t expect “Deathcheaters” to be gritty, tough-as-nails, spitfire. Many of Trenchard-Smith’s earlier films, including “Deathcheaters,” sells solely on the witty, clean banter and a knack for the implied something really terrible happened to the bad guys with nothing ostentatiously explicit in the demise category. “Deathcheaters” can be wholesome, light, and aromatic of a repartee trashcan, but you get some great stunt work, explosions, and a car chase from this 1970’s Australian picture.

Like “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Work,” “Deathcheaters” too receives the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray honor bestowed upon it from Umbrella Entertainment as spine number 10. Newly scanned in high definition 4K for the first time, John Seale’s cinematic vision has never looked better in this region free release, presented in standard widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The original vault materials held up nice enough to warrant a clear picture with only a few, brief blemishes. The super 16mm shot film, blown up to 35mm, often still feels ever so lightly flat in contour definition and in color; yet all the scenes look naturally aboriginal from the masters. The English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 mono is a naturally lossy single speaker audio mix that doesn’t exact full representation of the action on screen though robust in fidelity. Dialogue perceives feebler during exterior scenes as capturing dialogue competes with the elements due to poor boom placement or just inferior equipment. Like the other releases, bonus features are nicely packed with a newly extended interviews with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page, and John Seale from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, a new audio only interview Remembering “Deathcheaters” with executive producer Richard Brennan, new liner notes from Trenchard-Smith, a 2008 commentary with the director, executive producer, and leading lady Margaret Gerard (listed as Margaret Trenchard-Smith), Trenchard-Smith trailer reel, theatrical trailer, and a Trenchard-Smith directed bonus feature in “Dangerfreaks – The Ultimate Documentary.” The clear snapper case is housed inside a cardboard slipcover and inside the snapper’s liner is a 16-page comic book adaptation from Dark Oz, much like Umbrella accompanied with “Stunt Rock.” “Deathcheaters” shows its age but still pulls out all the stops with amazing stunt choreography and gave way to Grant Page being solidified lead man material, even with his corny one-liners, and simultaneously building upon Brian Trenchard-Smith’s early career in a niche field of being obsessed with overachieving, arrogant, and unafraid stuntmen.

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

EVIL Cowboys Up! “Ghostriders” reviewed! (Verdugo Entertainment / Blu-ray)

A small Texas town in 1887 took lynch mob tactics upon a jailed outlaw Frank Clements after a prominent resident and his family were slain.  In a last-ditch effort to save their gang boss, Clements’ men come in guns blazing but mob leader, the Reverend Thadeous Sutton, pulls the gallows lever to send Frank Clements to his doom.  Fast forward 100 years later to 1987, renowned historian Professor Jim Sutton researches the notorious murdering bandit, even owning a piece of Clements’ property with a cursed sawed-off double barrel shotgun, but the 100th year anniversary delivers good on the Clements’ curse as he and his men return from the dead and gun down all in the rural Texas backland.  Walking into a supernatural showdown with the undead is the professor’s son Hampton and his friends on a road trip to his father’s isolated estate where surviving the night of continuously respawning malevolent six-shooters will seemingly never happen.

Ghost cowboys.  That small and obscure piece of particular subgenre stemmed from the broad western horror pie can be and has been a hard product to peddle, bucking audiences off its hind side faster than a mechanical bull full of amateur rodeo saddlers.  Think about it.  Can one even name a handful of horror westerns involving cowboys, especially gunslingers back from the grave?  There’s Lee Vervoort “Gun Town” that’s more of a saloon town slasher.   “Ghost Brigade” might be the closer to the theme with Civil War soldiers possessed by evil voodoo spirits.  However, the relatively unknown TV movie “Ghost Town” from 2009, surrounding a group of college students pursued by ghostly outlaws in an abandoned western town, hits the nail on the head.  Again, these titles are rare and if you find one that does exists, more than likely the film’s a waste of cinematic space.  In any case, if you’re hellbent on a decent gunslinging ghoul film, Alan Stewart’s “Ghostriders” will saddle up just nicely.  Penned by Clay McBride (“Ghetto Blaster”) and James Desmarais (“Victim of Love”), the debut film of Alan Stewart resurrected a ruthless gang of gunslingers for pure retribution set on location at the Texas Safari Ranch in Clifton, Texas and was self-produced by Stewart, under Alan L. Steward Productions, along with fellow producers in cinematographer Thomas Callaway, who went on to be the DoP of “Slumber Party Massacre II” and “Deep Blue Sea 2,” as well as composer Frank Patterson, and Alan’s wife/production manager Susan Stewart. 

As you’ve probably noticed, the “Ghostriders” crew is small and wears many large brimmed hats by engaging themselves deeply into this 1987 released indie production.  Same can be certainly said about the cast.  Actor turned stunt man Bill Shaw was booked for dual performances between two characters stretching 100 years apart with the zealous Reverend Thadeous Sutton and the reverend’s grandchild, professor Jim Sutton.  The ancillary gunfighters, led by Frank Clements himself, Mike Ammons, are actually members of a roadside replica of a wild west town.  The actors, trained to shoot revolvers, take fake bullet hits, and learn to be rootin-tootin’ cowboys and townsfolk, took to the camera’s key antagonist roles that required them to also do some stunt work.  When considering the other cast, “Ghostriders” struggles to emerge a lead out of the various roles.  In the role of Professor’s Sutton’s son, Hampton, Jim Peters’ often subtle comedic timing, towering stature, and his cool-and-calm intellect as a stunt pilot points to lead man material, yet there are elements and qualities surrounding his young adopted sidekick Cory, played by Ricky Long, who went on to have a very long and extensive career working on the purple dinosaur kid show “Barney,” that qualifies the often inept and lovesick grease monkey to Hampton’s stunt planes as another candidate for lead man.  Even Bill Shaw could be considered principal.  Either way, for an 80’s flick, “Ghostriders” campy characters and dialogue flatten whatever substance McBride and Desmarais tries to wedge into their narrative.  Whether be the tragic bond that glues Hampton and Cory’s strong friendship or Cory’s inability to read his recent court Pam (Cari Powell) and her fascination toward Hampton, those moments of human depth are cannibalized by “Ghostriders’” round’em-up, shoot’em-down gang of ghosts.

Alan Stewart’s “Ghostriders” might be an intelligible film, but it’s certainly not an intellectual one due to budget and inexperience complications.  Pacing is good with the historical backstory opening transitioning into the present’s continued lawlessness of curse-resurrected 19th century killers after building up the prominent players with depth and humanism in order for us to care about their plight, but also in regard to the characters, there’s much left unsaid and undone to nearly every role for a complete and justifiable narrative arc.  Point in case, Clements and his gang’s ability to return 100 years after the hangman’s knot tightened around their throats goes very much unexplained along with their connection to Clements’ shotgun that seemingly holds the key to their supernatural slaying.  A lack of essence towards the titular antagonists’ return from the pine box to wreak havoc on the Sutton bloodline really has no merit to stand on, leaving a void in the crux that doesn’t serve well within the parameters of an imagination reasoning.  We need some sort of resolution for Clements return, whether it’s a deal with the Devil or perhaps stolen Native American necromancy rituals used to cheat an outlaw’s own foretelling of death, to make sense of the senseless driven chaos because, as far as we’re shown, Clements and his gang are no more than just abnormal bad dudes doing normal bad dude things.  “Ghostriders” also won’t knock your boots off with high dollar special effects.  There’s some superimposing of people and items disappearing and some solid stunt work (again – some of these hombres are moonlight as stunt people), but the most impressive practical special effects used are the blood squibs.  If you like firecracker pops making craters and spurting blood off of bodies, “Ghostriders” has you covered with plenty of squibs with a select few in slow-motion.  

“Ghostriders” rides into the black sunset with a rare cowboy horror from Alan Stewart and the film is receiving new life on an unrated Blu-ray from Verdugo Entertainment and MVD Visual.  Verdugo Entertainment’s an independent cult film distributor seeking to release forgotten retro features of the 70s and 80s, centralizing themselves mainly around westerns, horror, or in this case, a blend of both.   The region free Blu-ray converts the 16mm A & B negative into a 4K scan resolution that maintains impeccable image quality with little to fuss about, such as extremely faint and seldom vertical scratches.  There wasn’t any noticed forced enhancement or cropping which provides logical evidence to a pristine original negative. Though the original English language mono soundtrack bears the same unblemished qualities as the video, the difference lies within the soundtrack’s weak decibel levels that leaves the dialogue corridor stuffy and muddled behind a curtain a fairly perceivable static interference through the duration. The release labels the audio as remastered, and I’m certain the audio was spruced up from a worser quality, resulting in a much more palpable and persistent outcome that works at your attention rather than leaving caution to the wind. Verdugo offers up a nice selection of special features with an audio commentary with cinematographer-producer Thomas L. Calloway, writer-producer James Desmarais, and moderator Steve Latshaw, a brand-new original documentary “Bringing Out the Ghosts: The Making of “Ghostriders” with Desmarais and Calloway recollecting memories of being on set and talking about the cast and crew, an archived documentary “Low Budget Films: On the Set of “Ghostriders” is a Baylor University funded vintage doc about the makings of independent film, more so about this particular one, feature stills and behind-the-scenes photo gallery, the original trailer, and a new reissued trailer, which you can see below, all packaged nicely in a Blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcover with a cheeky illustration of three skeleton desperados cladded in cowboy attire and brandishing Winchester rifles. Nowhere near what the film is like but the comicbook-esque cover is eye-catching and whimsical enough to draw you in. Verdugo Entertainment could have easily chewed up this unknown cult film and spat it out with cheap distribution ease into the marketplace spittoon. Yet, the indie distributor dressed the late Alan Stewart film with respect, properly showcasing a neater, cleaner, and far from forgotten meaner spirited square off against the living and the dead.

When EVIL Gets Inside Your Head…


An immigrant cabby named Luz stumbles dazed into a German police station, repeating a profane distortion of a religious prayer to a couple of baffled detectives. Meanwhile, in a nearby bar, a forwardly chatty woman is diving seductively into a spiel about her Catholic schoolgirl friend who just recently jumped out of her moving taxicab to a psychoanalysis specialist on the edge of his seat. Drunk enough to take advantage of, the Doctor falls for the woman’s alluring trap, beguiling him to do her bidding as an unwilling host. As the now possessed doctor arrives to evaluate Nora for the police, he instigates a hypnosis recreation of the details events leading up to Luz’s ravings and disillusions. What happens next goes beyond human comprehension and rational as the doctor desires more from the stupefied Luz than what meets the eye.

Undoubtedly a strong skiff of demonic peculiarity weathering forth against an unforgiving maelstrom of spiffy-glamourous and yacht-sized counterparts is Tilman Singer’s memorizing tale of demigod deception in “Luz.” As the German born filmmaker’s first written-and-directed full length feature film, a film school project shot entirely on 16mm color negative, Singer dazzles with a throwback grindhouse glow set ablaze with a neon flare that adds to the perilous seduction and violation of the mind and primal infatuation. “Luz’s” was filmed in Cologne, Germany, where Singer studied film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, during the production year of 2018 and saw success at various Germany festivals, including it’s debut at the Berlin Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Festival. The Academy of Media Arts Cologne also serves as the production company, as it was, after all, a school project, and listed as Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM).

“Luz” wouldn’t be what as staggering as it is if it wasn’t for the invested cast who brings Singer’s vision to the spectrum. Luana Velis’s seamless grasp of the editing has remarkable wealth when playing a disoriented cab driver coming in off the street and Velis as Luz, in the ebb and flow of reality when Dr. Rosinni (Jan Bluthardt) entrances her with a blend of hypnosis and psychoanalysis techniques, sustains character through various transitions present inside a large police board room, reality, and the subconscious recollection of places and events inside her mind that Singer constructions for visualization, not reality. Singer melds together places, people, and events, throwing audiences for loops and casting misleading signals and just where the hell our characters are gathered. Bluthardt is equally captivating post transformation, coming off like a calculated maniac, resolved in his wild role. Perhaps, my favorite of the cast list goes to Julia Riedler as Nora Vanderkurt, Luz’s icy former bedfellow from Catholic School who slithers into Dr. Rosinni’s ear like a bewitching asp while seeming like a normal bar patron, but Riedler’s spin on Vanderkurt breaks the construct beyond that of the sleazy barfly and into something more conniving, wicked, and alcohol infused while still steamy with sexual emissions. All three performances are keystones to “Luz” success while fellow cast mates Johannes Benecke, Lilli Lorenz, and Nadja Stubiger, offer some spot on support.

“Luz” summits fear with intrinsic performance art of hazy, but colorful, atmospherics and off-kilter shapes and lines, making the most routine settings feel unsettling. It’s a strong cinematography showcase by Paul Faltz who was able to frame and fright a scene from a sterile and fatigued, wood paneled office environment; essentially put, Faltz turned coal into a diamond while Singer brought a keg of European horror to the party. Unconventional, of course, with a profound arthouse quality about it, “Luz” is very much inspired by the European masters of horror, but pulls quite a bit from the vibrancy of American filmmaking too, pulling inspiration more noticeably from John Carpenter’s overwhelming sense of apocalyptic doom from such a scale down narrative and the terror looms like a chandelier hanging by a single thread just waiting from the startling crash of glass and metal. There are themes related Catholicism, homoeroticism, guilt, and obsession through the venomous innate nature of demon, as if unknowingly leaving an open invitation for evil by way of spiritual clairvoyance and Catholic defiance. Full of abstract visuals and melodious dialogue, “Luz” still burns the scary story lantern with a flickering of imminent existential combustion.

While the theatrical release has been officially canceled, “Luz” will still live on through the digital world, being released by Sharp Teeth Films, who released the POV slasher horror “You Are Not Alone,” on June 1st in the United Kingdom. With this being now a digital release, critiquing the audio and video quality will be limited to the artistic direction. Video-wise, Singer sought the use of a 16mm film stock with the speckle and grain texture of that beloved, yet enveloping imperfection and shooting in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, using an Arri Alexa and RED cameras that supported an anamorphic lenses. The result is phenomenal to digest with some serious depth when considering how small the sets are, turning mere pockets of space into the likes of grand ball rooms. The German, Spanish, and very little English dialogue tracks are clear and prominently abutted against a well adjusted ambience mix; in all, the audio package has good depth and range. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener. “Luz” is weird, mystifying, and can wriggle into your favor with a chilling essence taking a leisurely stroll along your back, propping up the hairs one strand at a time. Highly recommended.

A Double Dose of Revenge Against EVIL in “Psycho Kickboxer” and “Canvas of Blood” reviewed!


Alex Hunter had all he could ever want. A blooming career as an up-and-coming kick boxer, a successful police chief father on the verge of finally nailing a crime lord, and becoming recently engaged to marry to his long time girlfriend. Yes, Alex’s life fortune was very valuable indeed until it suddenly came crashing down to a fateful end when the ruthless crime lord his father was pursuing, known as Hawthorne, kidnaps and brutally murders his father and finance right in front of him and leaves him to die. Found and rescued by a well-bound special forces veteran, a recovering Alex lives to fight another day, a day for retribution against the a city of evil and crime. The one time kick boxer turns to a life of vigilantism under the guise of the public designated The Dark Angel who cleans up thugs, thieves, and low-lifes with martial art combinations that put Hawthorne in a supply chain bind when drug deals fall through at the result of The Dark Angel’s meddling. Nobody knows the identity of the masked hero, but one Cassie Wells, a journalist, aims to unmask the citizenry protector with the help of a bumbling private detective, but when they become too close to Alex, Hawthorne sets his target on them as bait.

The American 5-time world kickboxing champion, Curtis “The Explosive Thin Man” Bush, stars in his debut leading role performance in the martial arts, action-melee, “Psycho Kickboxer.” Also known as “Psycho Kickboxer: The Dark Angel,” the film had exclusive rights to being born and bred in Southeast Virginia, more specifically in the Hampton Roads area, with a local cast and crew and the opportunity to utilize region locales and business, such as his own, the Curtis Bush Karate Club, and those he was acquainted with at free of charge. Bush, born in Virginia Beach, puts up the cash, along with a slew of family and friends as investors as well, to finally produce his own work without having to be another masked Foot Solider in a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” sequel or just be another bad guy who can kick real good for the camera. Bush hires TV series and documentary director David Haycox and freshman filmmaker Mardy South to work from a Kathy Varner script. Bush’s career didn’t quite take off to be the next Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme of Virginia Beach despite having athletic talent and good lucks, but he lives comfortably now in Hawaii with his family. Instead, the legendary fighter, who retired at the age of 37 in 1999, can look back at 1997’s “Psycho Kickboxer,” a five year project that began filming in 1992, as a crowning cinema achievement outside the square ring and without the confinement of 20.1 x 20.1 ft ropes alongside a heap of localized co-stars Kim Reynolds, Rick Clark, Tom Story (“Metamorphosis”), Rodney Suitor (“Traxx”), Jeffrey Kotvas, and George James.

Personally, “Psycho Kickboxing” round kicks close to my heart, targeting the marshmallow center, and landing a Curtis Bush southpaw punch right (or should I say left) into one of my favorite home town films of all time. You see, this reviewer is a native of the Hampton Roads area and raised in the area for 28 years until becoming a Northerner. Honestly, I’ve never heard of “Psycho Kickboxer” or even Curtis Bush for that matter, not even the mayor honored Curtis Bush Day that’s April 27th, and once I looked past the slew of mullets and mustaches and saw the name of a local bar, Hot Tuna Bar and Grill, briefly observable in a scene, the regional newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, and a resident country station, 97.3 The Eagle, with a pair of DJs as themselves. Championing “Psycho Kickboxer” as a good film is an enormously uphill one and even being a cult classic wobbles on the bunny hill as filler scenes, specifically the film’s ninja-cladded Curtis Bush tearing through bad guys is more than half the movie as montage segments, run rampant over what should be character exploration of redefining and rediscovering character arc qualities. However, the Haycox and South directorial has some blood red and amorous highlights with a pair of exceptional head rupturing scenes I’ve ever bared witnessed from the special effects of the Creations Unlimited team, Steve Stephens and Clay Sayre, and some tasteful T and A from Kim Reynolds in her bathtub that’s shouldn’t dare be missed.

The accompanying feature on this pyscho-revenger set tells the story of Julia, a young violin prodigy, who feels the extreme pressure weighing her down with an abrasive and abusive boyfriend and the intense passion she has for music that’s literally destroying her gifted hands from within. Her father, an art professor who has a disabled hand himself, quickly rushes her to a doctor for examination and concludes surgery is the only course of action to right the damage, but the coked up, alcoholic of a surgeon botches the job, leaving poor Julia unable to use her hand and diminishing any hope of playing her violin again. A long line of deep engrained corruption integrated inside the justice system is uncovered by her father after a sabotaged lawsuit exonerates the doctor from any wrongdoing. Pissed off with rage, the art professor decides to take justice in his own hands or, rather, his own hand as he fabricates instruments of death to paint his own retribution for physically and mentally injuring his daughter who is now in a semi-catatonic state. Police are baffled by each death that leaves little clues to the man who perpetrated them as one detective continues the investigation of grisly murders.

“Canvas of Blood” is the rightful backseat second feature being inferior of the two films on the double bill release. Set on location in and around the Baltimore, Maryland region, the anomalously rare 1997 revenge flick, that was only released on VHS, was at one time the debut disaster-piece from writer-director Joel Denning, produced by the Post Productions Film Company in association with Bad Credit OK and presented by Michael Mann – no, not the same Michael Mann who helmed Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in “Heat.” Instead of intense gun-blazing battles and gritty dialogue exchanges, Denning’s carnivalized approach to vindictive measures is met with an unscrupulous amount of aberrant sound effects such with a fart track, overweight male strippers with mullets in thongs doing abhorrent dance moves, and exaggerated character travesties in a mishmash plot involving a decorated war vet now art professor painting a trail of blood with his interchangeable cyborg mitt arsenal that includes a flame thrower, bone saw, and a T-800 “Terminator” style hand for massive nutsack squeezing. The most difficult to comprehend about a tale that warrants no deep thought is whether Denning’s intentions are sincere or to make a mockery of the revenge genre with a blatant boorish attempt. As far as actors go, the now radio personality, Jennifer Hutt, does what she can with cheap cinematic artwork and the same thing can be said about Jack Mclernan, who portrays no Paul Kersey, a role tailored by Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”, and while McLernan might strike a resemblance to the “Once Upon A Time in the West” actor, McClernan can only muster about half the set of stoic acting chops to save any kind of face. Lance Irwin, Andy Colvin, Marian Koubek, Mark Frear, Jamie Bell, Michael Mann Reennie McManus, Irena Beytler, and Svetlana Milikouris co-star.

POP Cinema’s Shock-O-Rama banner presents a Psycho Horror Double Feature with “Psycho Kickboxer” and “Canvas of Blood” on a single disc DVD and both films are presented from in a VHS-rip, 4:3 aspect ratio, format that gives no indication of an enhanced or upscale treatment to the transfers. “Psycho Kickboxer,” which was actually shot in 16mm and transferred to Betacam VHS, fairs better with a unscathed negative obtained cleanly without the annoyance of compression artifacts, due to the lower bitrate from the more than likely clean 16mm source. However, don’t expect colors to pop and details to be fine from a VHS transfer that’s has a slightly fuzzy and gray washed tone. Canvas sports much of the same with a more warmer tone and some over-saturation of blue tint, but tracking distortions and analog graded noise are more evident flaws in this presentation. The English Language mono tracks on both features are a composited nightmare of little range and depth. Fight ambience could have been pulled right from the Double Dragon Nintendo game and the subjective overlay of obscurely crude ambient tracks, even an overly synthesized enhanced screaming I would consider as well, dilutes “Canvas of Blood’s” objective plotline. The DVD extras include Shock-O-Rama vault trailers and a 3-page booklet insert containing a 1998 Alternative Cinema Magazine article written by Curtis Bush who provides a humbling anecdote about film’s origin story and the process of making his independent movie dream come reality. There’s no contest. “Psycho Kickboxer” TKO’s “Canvas of Blood” in every round of the Psycho Horror Double Feature, despite the horde of mustaches and mullets and despite both films not really being a horror. Shame that world class kickboxer Curtis Bush’s career didn’t skyrocket afterwards, but thats what makes “Psycho Kickboxer” inherently special and exceptional to behold, just like the fighter himself.

“Psycho Kickboxer” available on DVD! Click the Cover to buy!

There’s Not a Big Enough Pipe Cleaner to Exorcise this EVIL! “Drainiac” reviewed!


Julie, troubled by her mother’s suicide one year ago, is forced by her deadbeat dad to accompanying him in cleaning up an old house he purchased for renovation and resale. As he takes off to attend to “important business” at the local watering hole, Julie is stuck alone with the mop and bucket inside a mysterious, rundown house she’s suspicious of being haunted after strange occurrences and horrifying visions transpire during her isolation. Lurking beneath the house and seeping through inside the rusted pipes, a figureless water demon’s presence persists with malicious intentions and things become worse when Julie’s friends check in on her. Drowning in the supernatural seepage amplified by Julie’s trauma, they become trapped on the property that won’t allow them to escape, draining them of hope against a bodiless, hell-bent entity until a certifiable exorcist shows up at the door arrogantly confident of ridding the flood of evil from this house for good.

Back in the year 2000, Brett Piper’s written and directed volatile ghost house feature, “Drainiac,” saw the light of day for the first time on DVD home video. Unfortunately, through the dismal proceedings of post-production funding and a less than enthusiastic distribution company, that version of the film is undercooked and unfinished in the artistic eyes of Piper who worked with a slim budget of $10,000, making every detail crucial and required to flavor the dull taste of anemic financial support. Luckily for the “Queen Crab” director, his collaborations with Shock-O-Rama Cinema, a sublabel to the indie film doting POPCinema, gave the 20+ year indie filmmaker access to digitally remaster to ultimately finish “Drainiac,” leaving the issues with the previous version water under the bridge, water related pun intended. “Drainiac,” believe it or not, has extraordinary relate-ability to today Americans who are frightened from the mistrust of confidence in their local water treatment systems and drainage pipes for the fear of lead poison and other harmful contaminants, which, in these affected citizen’s circumstances, is a “Drainiac” monster of sorts, hidden from sight with an uncertainty of product quality that drips from their faucets and into the bathtubs their kids play in and into their water drinking glasses.

Another amazing aspect of “Drainiac” is the fresh-face, young cast in their humble beginnings that flourished into solid careers and feels absolutely energetic and stimulating to know their roots reach far back to a cellular grindhouse organism becoming their vocation life. Georgia Hatzis debuts as the beleaguered Julie, a resilient survivor of her mother’s suicide with an oil and water dynamic with her estranged live-in father. Maintaining Julie’s sanity while still fronting a stable façade couldn’t be easy, but Hatzis builds upon Julie’s strength and owning the character’s self-doubt. Hatzi extended her career into television, but Julie is her most memorably performance, especially braving bathing full front to be attacked by a drain’s quasi tentacle erotica sequence. Perhaps the most recognizable face in the film co-starring in the film in her mid-teens, Alexandra Boylan is conscripted to be Julie’s best friend, Lisa. Boylan, who went on to have roles in “The Hitchhiker” remake and the invasive thriller “Home Sweet Home” as well as branching out into life behind the camera as a producer and writer, plays consistently a rationally steady bestie that grounds Julie when needed and is the firm leader of their group of friends that also includes a shaky and nearly spineless Jake (Ethan Krasnoo) and a shallow beauty Tayna (Samara Doucette). As the black sheep in the group, perhaps not even a friend at all, was Wade, a hog riding, wisecracking jerk who didn’t have sense of personal space, especially when the rapey urge washes over him. Wade is an abhorrent human being that came to life due in part of Robert Gorden’s performance. Soon to be seen in the television comedy entitled “My Wife Divorced Me Because I’m a Zombie” that is taglined “The Walking Dead Meets Modern Family,” Gorden will make you hate his guts and despise his obnoxious 90’s haircut and wardrobe and the overall package is enjoyably cathartic to have him pitted against a conventional set of friends. Other colorful talent includes roles by Philip Barbour as an exorcist who reassembles the fisherman Gordon from the frozen fish stick packaging, Steven Bornstein as the despicable dad of the year, Todd Poudrier as a melting derelict, “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.’s” Andrew Osbourne as the melting derelict’s friend, and Elizabeth Hurley! No, not the Austin Powers’ Elizabeth Hurley, but an Elizabeth Hurley nonetheless!

“Drainiac” is Brett Piper’s finest work. Copiously laced with assorted practical effects now completed with a coloring touch up and enhancement by Penn State grad colorist Dave Northrop, “Drainiac” is now has a definitive package that includes Piper hyper-psychedelic matte effects, creepily good stop motion clay creatures, and an abundance of well-crafted gag effects to give the drain presence a slimy drain-protuberance without exposing a tangible thing in the pipes. “Drainiac,” in every category, has a vibrant late 80’s, early 90’s epoch authority even though clearly set and stated at the turn of the century and this is partially because of how the film was shot in 16mm, giving the feature a grindhouse texture. Along with the turn of the century, CGI becomes a huge factor no matter the budget of the film as long as portioned appropriately, but Piper sticks with a practical craft which, in a sense, is a large piece of his filmmaking passion and so “Drainiac’s” is the essence of Brett Piper.

Courtesy of POPCinema’s Shock-O-Rama Cinema horror banner comes Brett Piper’s “Drainiac” onto a special edition with a 24 progressive segmented frame, high definition DVD from the original camera negative and presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Having never experienced the original, unfinished cut of the previous release, watching this present cut will forever be seared into my soul as the best possible rendition in the past, present, and future. The 16mm film stock quality has a lot of natural grain upon a semi-washed look over a gradient-lenient color range sanctioned around the natural lighting that then explodes into a varying vividness of hues when the FX-enhanced scenes spark an immense saturation of color schemes…in a good way. No sign of damage to the original print nor any other signs regarding frame or edge enhancing and cropping. The English language 2.o stereo track, with a re-edited mix as part of the remastered package, is free of distortions, prominent dialogue, and a classic chilling piano soundtrack that pays homage to notable horror films before it’s time. The only issue to mention is some synchronization with the dialogue track and the picture seem to be off early on in the presentation where actors move their mouths to vocalize the lines, but nothing comes out. Special features are a little anemic considering the painstaking involvement and time gap in remastering “Drainiac,” but they include an audio commentary by writer-director Brett Piper and a read worthy tidbit of an inner-lining booklet written by commentary moderator, Greg Conley. THe DVD cover art is very snazzy (or snotty-like) similar to of another POPCinema release, Greg Lamberson’s “Slime City.” Reminiscent of “Evil Dead” or even some inklings of early Peter Jackson, Brett Piper has a knack for proving low-budget horror’s misconceptions are nothing more than that, misconceptions, by keenly tinkering to perfection a story that’s made is seemingly funded from a pot of unlimited gold from nifty, traditional effects and a narrative that works wonders on the imagination, keeping you glued to guessing from start to finish.

Special Edition “Drainiac” available on DVD! Click the DVD cover!