A Gondola Ride of EVIL! “Gore in Venice” reviewed! (Full Moon Features / Blu-ray)

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

A man stabbed to death in the abdomen. A few feet away, a drowned woman, pulled from an adjacent Venice canal, wearing no underwear beneath her dress. A double murder of a husband and wife has baffled a young, hardboiled egg-eating Inspector named De Pol, but the inspector knows one thing for sure, drugs were certainly involved. As the inspector digs deeper into the horribly confounding case, he learns that husband and wife were into a wide variety of kinky perversions that may have led to their untimely demise. Unable to make sense of some of the case’s facts and as more bizarre murders flare up all over town, De Pol leans on the behavior expertise of the department’s medical examiner as well as anecdotes by key suspects to piece together a prurient plot of perversion-killings sought to be handled quietly and quickly before tourists catch wind of what’s happening, and more dead bodies are discovered in the unparalleled canal-laden landscape of Venice.

Sex, drugs, and eggs run rampant on the walkway bridges and watery canals of the beautifully conglomerated Venice, Italy in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”   Also known by other titles such as Giallo a Venezia, Mystery in Venice, and Thriller in Venice around the globe, the “Supersexymarket” and “Patrick Still Lives” director Landi helms one of the more controversial Italian crime mysteries to come out of the golden age of giallo horror during the turn of the decade of 1979.  A script that houses a hellbent killer in super cool and reflective aviator shades, a sex-crazed married couple, and a detective racking his brain to connect the motive dots is the last treatment penned by writer Aldo Serio in what’s a non-linear, flashback driven, sordid piece of salacious culprit candy that’s more sexually explicit than is a whodunit thriller.  “Gore in Venice” is one of the few productions of Elea Cinematografica produced by Gabriele Crisanti who has produced “Satan’s Baby Doll, “Malabimba,” “Burial Ground:  The Nights of Terror,” and many others notorious for their sleazy and gory controversial content.

In the cast’s lead of this Italian production is an American actor.  The California-born, “Weapons of Death’s” actor Jeff Blynn has lived in Italy for much of his career and had become tapped to play youthful inspector De Pol, an arrogant prodigy of Venice sleuths with a habit of constantly cracking open and eating hard boiled eggs in the office, out of the office, at the crime scene, during the questioning in suspect’s home, and in just about every single scene Blynn is messing with an egg in a symbolic gesture of trying to trying to crack a strange case is to crack an egg strangely.  Blynn’s pale complexion, large perm afro, and thick caterpillar mustache make him stick out against his Italian counterpart costars that include Leonora Fani (“The House by the Edge of the Lake”) and Gianni Del (“Sex, Demons and Death”) as the deceased wife and husband, Flavia and Fabio.  Fani and Del’s impeccable Euro traits are flaunted all over Venice as sexual maniacs, exhibitionists, and voyeurs who take their relationship to the next level every time they step outside their character’s love nest full of erotica books and wall-to-wall mirror bedroom.  However, trouble in paradise sends the couple hurling toward jagged rocks with salacious orgy photos involving a prostitute (Maria Mancini), a drug-dealer named Marco (Maurizio Streccioni), and Flavia’s best friend Marzia (Mariangela Giordano, “Killer Barbys”) that omits no one from the suspect pool.  Not even Flavia’s ex-lover, a cartoonist Bruno Neilson (Vassili Karis, “An Angel for Satan”) is safe from Inspector De Pol’s investigation.  Unlike traditional giallo films, we’re already privy to the killer, a voyeuristic madman (Andrea Caron) with slick aviators and a complex hardon to kill everyone involved in the orgy and it’s up to Del Pol and his troupe of professional colleagues and chums, who provide not only the vigor (“Private House of the SS’s” Eolo Capritti’s gung-ho assistant to the inspector) but also sage, scientific guidance surrounding sexual deviancy (“Satan’s Baby Doll’s” Giancarlo Del Duca as the case’s pathologist).

As noted in the previous paragraph, “Gore in Venice” is less giallo than one would expect despite an alternate title denoting the film as such in Italy as “Giallo a Venezia.” Does the killer have gloved hands? Yes. Is Landi’s film stylish enough to pass criteria? Absolutely. Does “Gore in Venice” live up to the eponymous title? Blood flows freely. Yet, why doesn’t “Gore in Venice” feel like a traditional giallo? One of the more clinching reasons is the mystery dissolves roughly halfway into the story by exposing the unmasked, unconcealed killer, trailing off from that unsolved perplexity of who the killer might be at the conclusion. However, one could argue that though the killer is revealed, the question of why all the carnage still remains, leaving the giallo more or less intact. Violent tropes aside, Landi’s film abundantly saturates itself into carnal exploits that linger on-and-on more than necessary to get the point across. These scenes of masturbation, public exhibition, and raging erotic zigzag along a blurry, indistinct line of pornography, coming (and coming!) away from the intended murder-mystery subgenre with more skin and slaughter. That’s not the say “Gore in Venice” fails to live up to the moniker as the kills are as grisly as implicitly promised with a large blade to the vaginal cavity, one poor soul gas drenched and lit up like a bonfire, and a one gal having the naked legs cut out right from under her complete with an extreme closeup of the sawing pellicle perfection. Whether because of Mario Landi’s direction or Aldo Siro’s script, the explicit eroticism eats way too far into the story that, in turn, ultimately betrays any kind character development aside from the tragic perversive arc of Fabio and Flavia. Inspector De Pol often skirts around much of the action being only an investigator continuously trapped in the accounts of other people’s tales of debauchery and always one step late to the crime scene party that baffles his keen scrutinizing eye. I’m not one to deprecate graphic sexual content, especially in works that display actual fondling and masturbation in their art, but “Gore in Venice” mildly entertains as a low-end giallo albeit a spectacularly vivid and vehement blood show in front of the unique waterways of Venice.

Under one of the more slapped together and detailed shrouded cover arts I’ve seen this year comes “Gore in Venice” onto Blu-ray home video as one of the revisited classics purchased and redistributed by Full Moon Features. The Blu-ray is an AVC encoded, region free, 1080p presentation of an uncut (and uncensored) remastered feature exhibited in a full frame 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The Full Moon back cover mentions the transfer was compiled from the best available materials, but, honestly, the original 35mm print looks great with only sparse dirt specks and an occasional frame omission. Details look good as well despite the flat coloring. The Italian language LCPM 2.0 and 5.1 offer nearly identical outputs with no real composition distinction between the two others than a slightly more complex background track of motorboats ripping through the canals. There are no bonus materials with this feature only release that’s house in a standard blue snapper case and a red on black, cheesy, Eurotrash cover art for the 99-minute film. Libidinous with a capital L, expect more of sesso e depravazione with profound tidbits of gore than an engrossingly intelligent crime thriller in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Surrounded by Aquatic EVIL, No One Can Escape “The Island of the Fishmen!” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

Check out the scantily-cladded woman encroached upon on “The Island of the Fishmen” Blu-ray!

A French prisoner ship sinks to the bottom of the Caribbean leaving only a handful of prisoners and the Left Lieutenant Claude de Ross, the ship’s doctor, stranded on a lifeboat for weeks until they a mysterious force drives them through the fog and crash them on the rocks of a seemingly deserted volcanic island. Only a few prisoners and the doctor manage to survive the wreckage, stumbling upon a ritualistic area of empty graves and abandoned artifacts of an island society. This is where the haggard and hungry men meet the beautiful Amanda Marvin on horseback and follow her through the island jungle to a clearing where the edifice of Edmond Rackham sits imposing on them. Having left his home country, Rackham settled upon this uncharted island, garnering local Caribbean inhabitants as servants, and being a greedy treasure hunter who might have just discovered the lost city of Atlantis. There’s only one problem, the city is surrounded by aggressive fishmen kept at bay by Amanda’s famed disgraced biologist father who has fallen severely ill, charting a course for the good doctor, Lt. Claude de Ross, to be unharmed in order to care for perhaps the only person who knows how to manage the wrath of the fishmen.

A swimmingly aquatic creature feature with an all-around gratifying men in costume pastiche, familiar to the style of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” in Sergio Martino action-adventure horror “The Island of the Fishman.” Also know under the revamped shots of “Screamers” aka “Something Waits in the Dark,” here we have the original film in all it’s natural glory from the director of “Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key” and “Torso” director Martino from a script by Martino, Sergio Donati (“Orca”), “Slave of the Cannibal God’s” Cesare Frugoni who workshopped with Sergio Martino’s older brother, Luciano Martino, (“So Sweet… So Perverse”) on the original story. Some would also say that “The Island of the Fishmen” is also a crossbreed between H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and, aforementioned, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The 1979 Italian production stars an international cast shooting along various locations in Italy and is produced by Luciano Martino under Dania Films and Medusa Distribution.

American, United Kingdom, and, of course, Italian come together to form “The Island of the Fishmen” cast that doesn’t stray too far away from their individual innate dialects. The most pompous is he Essex-born Richard Johnson’s sadistic and fortune hungry Edmond Rackham with a caricature of a voice that isn’t like anything in his performance in Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.” As Rackham, the inflections reminisce of a British Humphrey Bogart mixed with a one Dick Dasterdly and so Johnson comes off a bit cartoony and overly dramatic compared to the film’s panache malnourished yet earnest hero in Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli (“Murder Rock,” “The Scorpion With Two Tails”) as Left Lieutenant Claude de Ross, a ship’s doctor who suddenly becomes the medical caretaker and leading guard over a lifeboat full of hardened prisoners, some who have blood on their hands. Franco Javarone and Roberto Posse play a pair of surviving convicts, especially two at odds on how they should treat their next in rank penal officer. Though being thrust into the oversight position, the Lieutenant doesn’t have to worry about his prisoners for too long as the island’s baleful environment with jungle death traps, poisonous water, voodoo priestess, a sadistic lord of estate, and mutant fish people swimming in circles around the island’s parameter and through the cut through waterways sees to their wellbeing. “Island of the Fishmen” does have a few predominant male figures of different caliber but there are also a pair of women inhabiting the island who, too, have counteracting roles. Bond girl Barabara Bach (“The Spy Who Loved Me”) became plagued by the ocean’s frightening fishmen only two years later as the captive dame of Edmond Rackham who holds her hostage as he pushes her father (Joseph Cotton, “The Survivor”) to continue with his mind control potion over the fishmen. Then, there’s Shakira. No, not the Brazilian singer-song writer with the hypnotizing booty shaker. This Shakira is a voodoo priestess, played by Jamaican actress Beryl Cunningham (“Dorian Gray”), who works for Rackham but ultimately envisions foreboding doom on the volcanic island. Giuseppe Castellano and Franco Mazzieri round out the cast.

A whole lot is going on in this film that from the surface seems, surfacing meaning the home video covers and posters, to focus chiefly on the hostile half-fish half-man creatures that bubble to surface, check out top side for any unwanted visitors, and quickly dispatch them before disappearing under the glassy waters of the Caribbean. I adore the design of the rather stiff but crudely convincing creature suits with buggy fisheyes, razor piranha like teeth, and cladded entirely green and scaley in a design by Massimo Antonello Geleng who by vocation was more a production designer with credits including this film along with “Cannibal Holocaust,” “City of the Living Dead,” “The Church,” and “Dellamorte Dellamore” to name a few. Yet, the fishmen were not a sole source of danger on an island that had a deadly schemer in Edmond Rackham, the motif of voodoo and jungle trap throughout, a volcano ready to erupt and engulf the island with lava, and the lost city of Atlantis as the grand epic finale that pivots this story on an acute elbow left that shows a mighty ambitious story on an Italian slim budget. To put it frank, Sergio Martino was able to put all the elements together into a cohesive, coherent plot with action, horror, exploitation, and mad science fiction albeit the story’s wild and diverging concepts.

Though many U.S. audiences know this film as Roger Corman’s highly altered, New World Pictures presented cut retitled as “Screamers,” Full Moon features releases the original oeuvre of Sergio Martino with a remastered Blu-ray release from the original 35mm negative. The 99-minute film is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that captures in perfect matte composition and frame the locational miniatures, such as the manor house or the underwater Atlantis temples, in a compression that doesn’t make the structures obvious fakes. Slightly tinged yellow, the overall color palette is renders out well enough to suit the release with a pristine transfer seeing no signs of real significant damage. The English language tracks come in two formats – a PCM 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The English-speaking actors have their original tracks intact while the Italian cast have their original dialogue re-dubbed in English for posterity on new releases such as this one. Dialogue, nor any of the corresponding audio tracks, show any signs of fidelity issues or damage, but do feel muffled, even on the 5.1 as if the sound was boost stifled and left with some of the channels lacking vigor. Aside from Full Moon trailers, the R-rated film rides solo on this hi-def release. “Island of the Fishmen” is a small film fighting hard to swim upstream and really does a number on many different levels regarding where the audiences should focus their attention on, but I can see why Roger Corman wanted to give Martino’s film a second run after a commercial flop with a new, gory scenes edited right into the heart of “Island of the Fishmen’s” flexible, cartilaginous bones. Despite Corman’s efforts, Sergio Martino’s unmolested, original reeling reel is the one and only catch of the day for this purist.

Check out the scantily-cladded woman encroached upon on “The Island of the Fishmen” Blu-ray!

Sometimes, The Choice Itself is EVIL. “A Woman Like Eve” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)



Eve is a stay at home mother of two who ensures the house is in tiptop shape and that dinner is promptly on the table for her working husband, Ad.  When Eve has a break down at the Mother’s Day family dinner table, Ad purchases her a train ticket to enjoy France’s sun and sand with her best friend, Sonja.  There she meets an alluring woman, Liliane, living freely and humbly in a commune.  An attraction flourishes between them after Eve returns to home to the Netherlands and can’t stop thinking of her time with Liliane.  Soon, they become romantically involved with Liliane travelling back and forth from France and that sets the stage for conflict as Ad discovers his wife’s yearning desires for Liliane to horrid and confusing for their young children not to mention also their marriage.  Eve is caught in the middle between the woman she desperately wants to be with who still lives in the commune and her children she can’t deal to part from in a tug-a-war of emotions wrought by a failing marriage, society perceptions on lesbianism, and damaging court room battles for children custody.

When thinking about the history of LGBTQ+ films and the filmmakers behind them, director Nouchka van Brakel’s “A Woman Like Eve” should be at the top of any film aficionado’s list despite flying, unjustifiably, under the radar for decades as the Dutch film makes a profound statement with, at the time, unmapped gender fluidity of the 1970’s timeframe that included the women liberation movement that sought to free domesticated women from the limitations of household responsibilities, it cracked the barriers on what constitutes as healthy union between two people, and dove into the intricate internal struggles of a keystone person being pulled between two very different lives of family dynamics.   Co-written alongside Judith Herzberg, the 1979 romance drama, natively titled “Een vrouw als Eva,” has a very different kind of evil than the werewolves, vampires, zombies, serial killers, and ghosts typically showcased in our reviews and that is those narrow-mindedly frighteningly submerged in antiquated traditions peered through the perspective of a feminist director in Brakel.  Matthijs van Heijningen, who produced Dick Maas’s elevator-horror “The Lift” and also Brakel’s prior work on “The Debut” and later work on “The Cool Lakes of Death,” produces the Dutch tale under his indie banner, Sigma Pictures.”

“A Woman Like Eve” would not have been as provocative with thickly layered nonconformist and spirited topics without the compelling performance of the film’s two leading ladies in Monique van de Ven (Paul Verhoeven’s “Turkish Delight”) as Eve and  Maria Schneider (“Last Tango in Paris” costarring Marlon Brando).  Van de Ven captures a woman tormented by not only what “proper” society, society being her friends and family, tells her to be, but also distresses going against the grain of her innate guilt and nurture for her two small children during a time of emotional transition that impels her to pursue a relationship with not just any other person but another woman.  That other woman being Liliane, an established outlier of what’s considered normal as a lesbian living how she wants in an outskirts commune, and while Schneider’s performance treads lightly through what should be mountains of emotions, especially in a role that has a foundation of someone been out of closet, doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and has tethered a line of security to her soul fulfillment center, Liliane still maintains as the steady constant that never wavers from who she is and what she wants.  Toss in the German born and “A Bridge Too Far” actor, Peter Faber, and you can see the gunpowder burn for miles in tense and uncomfortable discourse when Eve confides into Faber’s character, Eve’s husband Ad, about her proclaimed love for another woman and then we witness Ad patronize her with what he calls an epidemic of woman independence and shrugs her true feelings like scraping foods scraps from a dinner plate and into the trash. Faber can get downright ugly with the homophobic bigotry that begins to carousel Eve’s ebb and flow of having any kind relationship with her separated husband until justice system proceedings for children custody. Marijke Merckens, Renée Soutendijk, Anna Knaup, Truus Dekker, and Mike Bendig round out as the support characters caught is the web of Eve’s love affairs and legal issues.

Feminist filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel depicts tremendous themes of a woman’s status in what could have been a universal position for women all over the globe. Seen as only housekeepers, dinner makers, and children bearers or caretakers, women were placed at a standstill after suffragists fought for the right vote at the turn of the 20th century but that fire inside them stayed lit and you can see that with Eve in the opening scenes as she’s longing and looking for something more than to be a house wife. She eventually obtains something more with love for Liliane, the second theme Brakel implements extends upon unfettering women is with lesbianism. Lesbianism is shown to bring down shame upon family, friends, and even just society in general as Eve was offered no solace from those she had a prior relationship with after coming out, a choice seen as a radical and an integration part of that women’s independence movement. Brakel wanted to explore uncharted passion between woman and woman and, in doing so, lifted the curtain on on various foremost concepts that are still…still being talked about today where inequality in the workplace through sexism and salaries still wage a battle of the sexes and homosexuality is still too taboo for even the modern day system. “A Woman Like Eve” has surely inspired and been of homage in more modern pieces, such as “Blue is the Warmest Color,” and should be exhibited more educationally on it’s abundance of relatable themes and not just be another work of unseen cult fiction but be rather a praised film of realism based on nonfiction.

To watch Eve toil in her new life is like climbing Mount Everest; it’s a long, arduous journey with challenging, sometimes spirit crushing, obstacles to overcome in order to reach the top, but once above the cloud, the tooth and nail fight for what’s finally yours and yours alone can be worth it. Unfortunately for Eve, her cumulus glass ceiling is poignant. “A Woman Like Eve” importance is shamefully overlooked and that’s why I’m grateful Cult Epics has brought Brakel’s film, for the first time, on DVD and Blu-ray in North America. Basing this review off the Blu-ray release, clocking in with a 103 minute runtime, the newly restored high definition transfer from the original 35mm print, shown in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, looks respectable from a moderately preserved transfer. An occasion scratch and some real delineation issues with night scenes factor in only little impact when the story is shot mostly in bright daylight and is well light all around with lots of natural grain. No cropping, compression artefacts, or enhancing was detected and the coloring appears very natural without any overcorrecting or mistakes in the primary or secondary hues. The new Dutch/English/French language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 renders dialogue clearly and positioned as the foremost track with a solid sync with the error-free English captioning. There’s a slight lower key hum throughout and some crackling and popping but none of those are a hinderance to the viewing. As far as bonus material, the region free, unrated release contains a 2020 interview between Brakel and film journalist Floortje Smit at the Eye Filmmuseum, a poster and still gallery, and the theatrical trailer on a dual-layered disc. The limited edition package includes new and original cover art on a reversible case sleeve. Probably seen as antiquated celluloid, I see Nouchka van Brakel’s LGBTQ proud and woman empowering film, “A Woman Like Eve,” as historical treasure dug up by Cult Epics, carefully spit-shine restored, and encapsulated forever on physical media for all to enjoy.

Purchase “A Woman Like Eve” on Blu-ray or DVD

Evil Asks, Why Haven’t You Checked the Children? “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” review!


High schooler Jill takes a babysitting job, overseeing two sleeping children while the parents have date night. The phone rings and an assumed prankster tries to scare Jill, either asking why she hasn’t checked the children or doesn’t say a word, but as Jill fields calls throughout the night with the same terrorizing voice, the terrified sitter phones the police whom trace the call from inside the house. Jill barely escapes the deadly encounter that left two children victims to a psychopath; yet the now happily married, mother of two small children is faced with the same killer seven years later after he escapes from a mental institution. Hot on his trail is detective turned private eye John Clifford who will stop at nothing from stopping a maniac who will kill again. Years later, Jill and Clifford team up once more to investigate a similar case of a co-ed being specifically terrorized by an obsessive stalker through the span of five years to the point where his next move could be her last.

Perhaps one of the best, if not the best, openings to a horror movie ever, Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls” puts a freeze on the heart, forces to choke down the breath, and tightens the already painfully clenched fists with sheer, thick tension bred from an urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs. Walton, and co-writer Steve Feke (“Mac and Me”), develop two successful thriller from script to screen, spanning over the course of 14-years. Walton’s uncanny ability to invoke fear through a conduit of simple objects, such as a telephone ring or in the thicket of dead silence, and leading a direction of motivational hesitation or slowness to the story and through it’s characters is dread absolute. There’s similarities between Fred Walton and “The Driller Killer” director Abel Ferrara with a scent of realism and grittiest blanketed with a knack for the abstract in certain facets. Though slightly fluffier to Ferrara’s shock value, Walton builds anticipation in not just his hit first film in 1979, but also in his made for TV movie in 1993.

Starring as the lead in both films is Carol Kane. The “Scrooged” actress shells out a white knuckling performance in Jill, the terrorized babysitter phoned inside the house by man upstairs. The harrowing night that will scar for Jill for life will continue through into the sequel, “When A stranger Calls Back.” As Jill grows through both films, so does Kane who builds the character a tougher exterior to match wits with second psychopath stalking a hapless co-ed. She’s teamed with legendary actor Charles Durning. Essentially in Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls,” Kane and Durning never have any scenes together, performing in almost two separate stories until the climatic that intertwined that collaboration. During’s a fine actor and can be the bull of any detective and/or private dick lead, but, to be honest, Durning always carried a hefty, front-heavy load that didn’t quite fit his character, John Clifford, chasing on foot a much leaner foe. “When A Stranger Calls” cast also includes Ron O’Neal (“The Final Countdown”), Tony Beckley (“In the Devil’s Garden”), and Colleen Dewhurst (“The Dead Zone”) while “When A Stranger Calls Back” also includes Jill Schoelen (“The Stepfather”) and Gene Lythgow.

A fleeting glimpse of brilliancy can go relatively unnoticed in Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls.” Much of what makes the film so effective is essentially obsolete; for example, rotary phones are dinosaurs or even landlines for that matter. Also, the way Walton breaks up the film into a definitive three separate acts perfectly stretches the urban legend much more than warranted and the director also completes the story and character arcs. Dana Kaproff’s sophomore score can be characterized as menacing, suspenseful, and aesthetically unfit to the point of inspiring dreadful sensations that heighten the story’s already engrossing nature. In “When A Stranger Calls Back,” the opening is basically a mirror image of the original film with a slight (of hand) change and the narrative itself is captivating enough to get engrossed with, but there’s something about the made for TV movie that doesn’t quite sit right. Perhaps, the killer’s underdeveloped motives doesn’t make things crystal clear or just maybe the killer’s use of a ventriloquist and body art into his perverted and obsessive arsenal is too zany. Despite being a made for television movie, Walton’s followup film was premiere on Showtime back in 1993, giving the movie a not-so-diluted and PG-13 appeal; instead, bits of grittiness and some strip club nudity rivals the tone of it’s predecessor.

Second Sight presents “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” double feature on Blu-ray home video in the United Kingdom. Despite the upgrade, a DVD-R was provided for the review so technical aspects will not be reviewed. The disc did include bonus features such as Fred Walton’s inspirational short film “The Sitter” and interviews with director Fred Walton, Rutanya Alda, and Dana Kaproff, and Carol Kane. Carol Kane has more recently been the quirky and city-salty landlady that’s quick to whip sarcasms and clobber any hipster with a gentrifying agenda with a baseball bat in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but Fred Walton saw Kane for how the actress could truly perform under a realistically terrifying moment, a moment that savors being on tenterhooks and frozen in time for almost the last 40 years as a classic and iconic scene in horror movie history. “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” is simple, yet deploys effective thrills with pure impending loom and dread in massive, lucrative quantities that may have been antiquated by time, but is epitomized as vintage and elegantly construed horror.

A Double Bill of Evil! “Murderlust” and “Project Nightmare” review!

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During Sunday’s services, a calm and confident Steve Belmont heads the Christian Sunday school youth class and seeks to be the permanent director of the Church’s suicide crisis unit that’s coming to the end of the planning stage. On Sunday’s, Steve performs as the model citizen whose ready to serve and give back to his community. During the rest of the week, the horse race track security guard can barely sustain societal worth, arriving late for work, constantly drunk, and has disdain for people being a speed bump in his path to greatness. All Steve Belmont has in life is the potential director’s job and his thirst, his unquenchable thirst for strangling women and dumping their bodies in the excessive heat of the Mojave desert. The local newspapers label his killings that of at the hands of the “Mojave Murderer” and his lust for killing call girls and young women runs a thin line alongside his Sunday best and when he begins to trust a Church regular, Steve’s mistakes begin to catch up with him.
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“Murderlust” is the first feature on the Intervision Picture Corp’s double bill DVD release from director Donald Jones and writer James Lane. The 1985 suspenseful horror-thriller comes to DVD for the very first time and doesn’t just boldly display a story of another run of the mill serial killer but does so with remarkable performances and a body of work that’s well crafted. Lane pens the center character focus on Steve Belmont and his delusion of power, being an overwrought sociopath with a belief he’s better than everyone else, and Belmont’s brazen lures to secure helpless victims is nothing short of a con artist’s trait. The ability of convincingly seducing the congregation to his benefit provides him pseudo mystical powers that pull the blinds over their God fearing eyes while he continues to slack through a meager life and holds tightly his reign of terror near the Mojave. Basically, in Belmont’s mind, he is God.
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Eli Rich plays Steve Belmont, who can only be described as a twisted blend between Michael Beihn and Nick Offerman, and Rich canisters Belmont’s psychopathic tendencies in an terrifying performance of exact realism. Not many films can pull off the on and off switch of a serial killer, even Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” was sensationalized, but the relatively small time actor produced a manufactured fearful reaction. Rich splits Belmont into two personalities while still managing to be contain a menacing aurora to feed audiences with dread, fear, and suspense and while Rich might be doing more than just one public service for his community by picking up and strangling local street walkers, Belmont never transitions into that role of the likable anti-hero as he manages to forthrightly ostracize himself from friends and family. As Steve’s square statured and responsible cousin Neil, Dennis Gannon epitomizes the upstanding citizen character, but maintains a soft spot for his unscrupulous next door neighbor cousin. Rochelle Taylor’s role is something of a love interest for Steve, who can’t bring himself to kill her even when the opportunity is present, but the one film and done actress Taylor can’t bring “Murderlust” to the promise land with an overzealous portrayal of an eager beaver, love struck Church girl that doesn’t fit the bill of Belmont’s world.
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After a couple of quick Mojave Murderer victims, one including the scene illustrated for the DVD’s front cover with a topless and unchaste Ashley St. Jon, Steve, along with the flow of the story, banks into a suppressive funk. The narrative’s pace slows when Steve attempts to organize his life around his murderess hobby, turning the suspenseful thriller into a drama segment that is more or less of a laundry list on how to obtain rent money for an aggressive landlord, until the demand to hunt tugs heavily at his pant leg and he can no longer ignore the urge. “Murderlust”, despite the captivating title, is nearly a bloodless horror thriller. Steve uses his signature method of strangulation, leaving smartly no blood trail, and only at the finale does blood spill when Steve deviates from his unsympathetic hunt, kill, and dump program.
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Woodland campers and best buds Gus and Jon wake up to discover their gear has been shredded and dispersed. They’re soon pursued by a frightening force of unknown origins. Lost and hungry, the two friends stumble upon a mountain cabin where cabin owner Marci shelters them for a night. Rested and resupplied, but haunted by their dreams, the two continue on foot in search of a town; instead, they become split up and Gus finds himself in the bizarre belly of a government facility that’s conducting an experiment and root of Gus and Jon’s predicament. Gus must confront the inner workings of his mind and take back control of his thoughts or else all that he knows, his friendship with Jon, and all that he desires, his passion for Marci, will soon be lost to the unchecked government secret known only as Touchtone.
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The second film on the double feature, “Project Nightmare,” starkly contrasts in genre with “Murderlust.” “Project Nightmare,” otherwise known as “Touchtone,” is a science fiction thriller piggy backing as a bonus feature and the 1979 conduit for confusion showcases how scarily surrealistic director Donald Jones can achieve. An odd film that materializes shortly after Gus and Jon’s plight begins and doesn’t let up the enigmatic ambiance as the audience will surge deeply into the rabbit whole. Even though told linearly, “Project Nightmare” feels, in fact, like a nightmare, peppered with sporadic scenes of uncomfortable imagery and repetitive ambient noises and soundtrack that jar the senses. Jones’ direction and style denotes an appeal of black and white scenes, but, in color, the film works better to give an ominous a stimulating visual and without that color, the story just wouldn’t work.
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Charles Miller and Seth Foster star as the baffled and lost campers Gus and Jon. They’re joined by Elly Koslo, as Marcie, and Harry Melching, as Carl the government scientist, who provide indifferent character roles or just products of the imagination to support the dreamlike atmosphere. As a whole, the actors’ dynamic was obsoletely rigged but in an unsettling Lynchian fashion causing your eye balls to stay with the scenes. “Project Nightmare’s” experience will make you feel you’re watching a film much older than produced with the costumes, the language, and the wood paneled elevator and granted that Jones’ isn’t big budget, but the director was able to deliver with the minuscule budget available to fruition a sci-fi odyssey.
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Intervision Picture Corp has a snazzy, two-headed snake in “Murderlust” and “Project Nightmare” presented in full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a single channel Dolby Digital mono track. The original prints looks great with “Murderlust” slightly heftier in the cyan department during it’s 98 minute runtime. The single channel had better luck with the 74 minute runtime in “Project Nightmare and “Murderlust” had moments of softness where dialogue became a strength in exercising one’s hearing. Both issues listed didn’t hinder the final product; in fact, I’m quite pleased with the end result on both features. “Project Nightmare” has a natural presence that’s appeasing and “Murderlust” blankets itself warmly in, well, the associated Mojave desert. The bonus content on the Intervision release include two audio commentaries with writer-producer James Lane. The “Project Nightmare” commentary has partial audio. In conclusion, “Murderlust” might not be this tour de force of bloodletting hookers. The sheer realistic characteristics of a serial killer among us are more alarmingly exploited and continue the terrifying ordeal with “Project Nightmare,” a sci-fi sensory conundrum overloaded with spastic psychological terror from the Golden Age of film.

Murderlust

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