The Dark One’s EVIL Sucks the Air Out of You! “Robot Holocaust” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Year 2033 – a robot rebellion turned the once convenient machines into man’s most deadly adversary.  The aftershock of war has left mankind almost extinct and most of the atmosphere uninhabitable with radiation.  The last standing metropolis on what is now known as New Terra has the only breathable environment monopolized by the tyrannical Dark One, a disembodied machine that uses human slave labor to fuel the air producing contraption for the entire city.  A motley band of heroes, led by an outsider from a wasteland tribe who can breathe the toxic air, embark on a perilous journey to the Dark One’s factory lair, evading deadly flesh-eating worms, wasteland mutants, and a ruthless robot subordinates under the command of the Dark One.   Their mission is to rescue a purloined scientist after developing a device that lets people breathe outside the Dark One’s grip of a controlled environment.

The 1980s is a goldmine for post-apocalyptic cinema that has virtually no ambit.  Whether a big Hollywood studio or a rinky-dink production, inhospitable badlands filled with cutthroat survivors and malformed beings unfortunate enough to be left alive to battle it out to the death over the Earth’s last remaining precious resources was (and to an extent, still is) a salivating story prospect with vast barren landscapes, dangers around every corner, an untamed primal violence, and a BDSM-like wardrobe that hits the suppressed kink nerve in all of us.  Tim Kincaid’s “Robot Holocaust” is right smack dab in the middle of the subgenre and plays tune to every crowd-pleasing characteristic.  The 1987 post-apocalypse actioner is written-and-directed by Kincaid who cut his teeth on gay adult films in the late 1970’s and has maintained a healthy dose of homosexual erotic and adult films throughout his career until 2017 under his pseudonym of Joe Gaga.  After complete stag only cheapies “Cellblock #9” and “…in the Name of Leather,” Kincaid received a hankering to dip his directorial toes into sci-fi and horror, beginning with the sexual assaulting alien flick “Breeders” in 1986.  “Robot Holocaust” became the filmmaker’s subsequent feature one year later, shot mostly in the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard buildings as well as the undeveloped then Roosevelt Island in New York City.  Presented by Wizard Video (“I Spit on Your Grave”), Tycan Entertaiment and Taryn Productions are the companies behind the film. Taryn Productions is a subsidiary created by Charles Band (“Puppet Master’) and named after his daughter Taryn. Cynthia De Paula produces the film, who she almost exclusively produces every Kincaid sci-fi horror fixation, and the film likely supported by Charles Band in an executive producer role.

“Robot Holocaust” follows the narrative of a ragtag bunch of good-guy survivors journeying to rescue a friend and take down a tyrannical overlord.  While not one role stands as a principal lead, the band of heroes is led by Neo, played by Norris Culf.  Starring in his first lead role following a couple of smalltime gigs in supporting roles in another Taryn Production, “Necropolis,” and in Tim Kincaid’s “Breeders,” Culf receives his big break as a wasteland conqueror able to breathe outside in the radioactive atmosphere.   As a leader, Culf isn’t as charismatic as Keanu Reeves’ Neo nor is he fierce enough to be intimidating; instead, Culf is quite reserved, unpowerful, and lacks coordination to pull off choreographed fight sequences with a believable plausibility.  Nyla, on the hand, is played Jennifer Delora of “Frankenhooker” and “Fright House.”  Delora, an martial arts blackbelt, brought the proper attitude to her fiercely feministic leader of the She Zone women tribe by adding the mean to Nyla’s demeanor.  The other woman of the group is Deeja, Jorn the Scientist’s daughter who terribly reliant on her father, sparking major contrast between her delicacy in daddy issues and Nyla’s hardnosed, man-hating feminism.  Nadine Hartstein and Michael Downend reconnect from their minor roles in “Necropolis” to be the daughter and father team at the core of suicide mission. More ceremonious than being an emotional wreck of being separated during the middle of a robot run world, Harstein and Downend bring little flair as they themselves often are more automaton than the automatons. Joel Von Ornsteiner (“Zombie Death House,” “Slash Dance”) had the most flair as Klyton, a pickpocketing free-thinking droid that looks like a cross between Star Wars’ C3PO and MAC from “Mac and Me.” Ornsteiner never let up or broke the eccentric droid’s light-hearted Robin to Neo’s Batman antics complete with rigid, robotic movements and a ray gun that never seems to work. One of the more painfully pressed roles is Valaria, the Dark One’s flamboyantly dressed second in command. Think “Forbidden Zone”-esque. Angelika Jager performance in cahoots with the Dark One is about as dry as toast and at odds with her own vestigial accent. Jager’s the congenial visual to her counterpart Torque’s effectual exoskeletal mechanical cover who could pass for a T-800 with the teeth replaced by dangling like Lobster antennae. Rick Gianasi, who went on to be Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, plays the underestimated and underrated villain, leading the way for other sidelines roles with a cast that rounds out with George Grey, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, and Nicholas Reiner.

As mentioned earlier, “Robot Holocaust’s” acting isn’t good.  It borders old-timey melodramatic in a proclamation sense.  There are no in-depth discussions, debates, conversing naturally, or any aspect of the dialogue having a normalcy about it as everything is vigorously proclaimed or is awkward narrated for exposition.  The other half of the problems is in direct result of Kincaid’s poorly written script that can’t capture ordinary conversation, much like those of his pornographic films, I would think. Nor could Kincaid write himself out of the erratic flippancy of some principal characters who woujld go from bad to good then from good to bad in a blink of an eye.  While the communication is about a dull as a butter knife, the costuming is where “Robot Holocaust” balances the scales with 80’s ridiculously appropriate garb of what the ruined future would sport.  A metrosexual mixture of v-neck pelt shirts of mystery animal origin and early WWF professional wrestler spandex turn the men into “Conan the Barbarian” types, to which a few other influencing aspects are pulled from the Schwarzenegger epic fantasy.  The women are equally suited but with more finesse in the way of warrior princess as well as a goddess. With a title like “Robot Holocaust,” the android designs better be spectacular and in all for its time period, Ed Fench’s designs and Valarie McNeill’s fabrications are a mixed bag of good and bad. Klyton derives too heavily from “Star Wars'” inspiration without wowing into something of the tiny production’s own while Torque radiates power and fear with a complete head-to-toe body suit of an acolyte with attitude. Both designs don’t compartmentalize by operating individual body parts, such as moving mouths or even hands for that matter, which would have nailed the robots down for a film called “Robot Holocaust.”

Ronin Flix, under the re-distribution of Scorpion Releasing and MGM, release “Robot Holocaust” on a 1080p high-definition AVC encoded Blu-ray. The hard coded region A North American release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative. Natural grain, a palatable and diverse color palette, and swelling textures, such as fine details in the skin, scuffed up droids, and a grimy industrial complex provides a zestier interest that parallels the languishing storyline. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably clean, much like the transfer, with a coextending presence of robust range, depth, and quality. The proclaiming dialogue is crystal clear, hanging on every syllable and syntax, with no issues with hissing, popping, or other flaws. Jager’s accented monologues and conversations are kitsch guilty pleasures to hear her laissez faire style and delivery. Special features include a new interview with Nyla actress Jennifer Delora touching upon little-by-little her experience with cast, crew, and overall project. There’s also the official trailer included. The physical release comes in a regular blue snapper case with one-sided grindhouse artwork of a looming Torque, an explicitly worn skull, and Angelika Jager’s Valaria with her eyes closed and slight smirk. The unrated film runs a brisk 79 minutes. The “Robot Holocaust” is only 11 years away according to the film’s timeline, but director Tim Kincaid’s future can’t help but feel like a vintage hunk of junk by the stale performances and skimpy Tarzan-like duds and getting through the brief runtime proved unfortunately challenging.

“Robot Holocaust” enslaves Humanity on Blu-ray!

Problems Arise When Your Brother is an EVIL Mutant Octopus! “The Kindred” reviewed! (Synapse Films / Blu-ray)

“The Kindred” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Before the passing of his brilliant molecular scientist mother, scientist John Hollins fulfills his mother’s adamant dying wish to destroy her life’s long work at their old seashore home. She also spills out that he must put a stop to his unbeknownst to him brother named Anthony. John, who followed his mother’s footsteps by becoming a lead geneticist, devotes the efforts of his team to assist in the removal and destruction of the data but the extent of her work was severely underestimated. Digging through journals upon journals and computer data to find any mention of a long-lost brother, John delays the rescinding proceeding. That is until a member of his team is attacked by an unknown creature and that his brother might not be actually human. On top of it all, John’s lab supervisor, Dr. Phillip Lloyd, is hellbent on obtaining his mother’s covert creation and embeds a spy on John’s team to locate it by whatever means necessary. The simple deathbed request has become a monstrously frightening ordeal that will pit brother versus brother and place everyone’s lives in mortal danger with a tentacled creature set loose.

As Vin Diesel once said in 9 “Fast and the Furious” movies, family is everything. “The Kindred,” however, is not a Vin Diesel movie, does not have supercharged, illegal street race cars or even any high-octane action, and definitely pinpoints family to be more of a burden-riddled, hazard to your health kind of deal when the little brother you never knew existed turns out to be a hybrid surf-and-turf creature with a thirst for blood. That’s the barebone synopsis of “The Kindred”, a U.S. bred sci-fiction-horror from the directors of “The Dorm That Dripped Blood” and “The Power” Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow. The 1987 creature feature is penned by the two filmmakers alongside John Penney (“Return of the Living Dead III”), Earl Ghaffari, and “The Exorcist” screenwriter, Joseph Stefano to give the script a little extra supernaturally special to make it stand out. The indie film is a production under the limited partnership of producers Jeffrey Obrow, Stacey Giachino, and executive producer Joel Freeman (“Love at First Bite”) and was theatrically distributed by the now defunct F/M Entertainment.

As a geneticist, “Manhunter’s” David Allen Brooks gives a fairly convincing performance as a strong jawed, blonde haired, and tall statured scientist wearing the now hackneyed glasses to make him appear nerdy and scientific. Honestly, the L.A.- born actor could have gone without the glasses and would have made no difference in the geneticist maven that is John Hollins but on screen, it’s a good look for the part. Yet, all the scientific studies in the world couldn’t prepare what’s to come for the level-headed researcher: a long weekend at the seashore house with direct report whizz-kids and a British acolyte of his mother’s with the blatant hots for him despite his longtime girlfriend (Talia Balsam, “Crawlspace”) tagging along to help with the cleanout. Romantic tensions flare, jealousy ensues, and personalities clash as a house full of emotional cannonballs are being launched in every direction, blinding them to the real threat at hand – a genetically spliced mistake roaming the grounds and full of bloodlust. In its rampaging path are a varied of vaguely hormonal and youthful scientist and administrative blend with a hilarious Peter Frechette (“The Unholy”), the nice guy in Timothy Gibbs (“Witchboard 2”), the Betty Childs from “Revenge of the Nerds'” with Julia Montgomery in a stepdown supporting role, Bunky Jones (“Hide and Go Shriek”), and the dubious dame of Amanda Pays (“Leviathan”) in her best Kelly LeBrock impression. The cast rounds out with a couple of veterans in Kim Hunter (“Dark August”) as mother Hollins and in an almost unrecognizable in appearance but unmistakable in performance from Rod Steiger (“Modern Vampires”) with hair (likely a wig).

“The Kindred’s” promising 80’s creature feature showstopper is marvelously slimy, grotesquely anthropomorphic, and stunningly conceived and manipulated creature effects by a team under Michael John McCracken’s supervision. The palpable, practical special effects works for “The Kindred’s” era that offers technology limited f/x options, but for this type of subgenre to be constructed in the late 80s, “The Kindred” takes advantage of the wide birth of possibilities from makeup to creature mechanics to pyrotechnics, and to be made would have less memorable as just been another bargain-basement botch job of trying to skirt around the cost at the monster’s expense. Plenty of love is poured into showcasing the monster movie madness that includes a watermelon sinking its barbarous tentacles under human skin and an open floorboard cavity into the creature’s watery pit where the hybrid emerges and slinks back into the abyss. While the practical effects menagerie is a gawker’s paradise, I find the story is only a firecracker’s worth of entertainment in comparison to the Yonshakudama-sized starburst that is McCracken’s Kraken-like monster. Rod Steiger plays the obvious mad scientist, experimenting on the recently traumatized who’ve suffered head wounds, with the nefarious creation of mindless, mutants who are held in the basement of his lab because, well, to be a reminder of his failures? How a dying molecular scientist’s genetic splicing-gone-wrong and Rod Steiger’s version of playing God with the “People Under the Stairs” intertwines is either above my intelligence or doesn’t have one ligament of connective tissue to bind them together. Dr. Lloyd often feels like a very separate story, not dovetailed to the slippery and octopus-shaped antagonist John Hollins and his team face. The only smidgen of connection between the two conflicting plot titans is Melissa Leftridge who’s blackmailed by Dr. Lloyd to retrieve a specimen or die from the same exposure that’s mutated the creature under the seashore house. What befalls Leftridge, in itself, is another substory left shamefully abridged given the spectacle transformation of human-to-fish that randomly flares into the fold.

With an all new 4K high-definition remaster of the unrated print, Synapse Films doesn’t hold back their Blu-ray release of “The Kindred” that’s presented in 1080p, open matte 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  The AVC encoded picture quality caters to the upscale class from a nearly mint transfer print.  The color is vivid, and details come through nicely with every bit of goo and glop spewed from the creature.  Any kind of issues with compression are either minor or non-existent in the 93-minute runtime and this is typical high-level execution as on many of Synapse’s upgraded and first-time ever on HD released products.  The English language DTS-HD 5.1 master audio surround sound cuts a vigorous soundtrack with ample range.  Depth is not really tested since most of the action is in the foreground but never does the action top the dialogue that remains free from obstruction and imperfections.  Optionally, the release offers the original theatrical 2.0 mono soundtrack as well as English SDH subtitles.  Ample bonus features on the unrated release include a commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter that’s moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton, a near full length making-of featurette with directors and writers John Penney and Early Ghaffair in Inhuman Experiments that digs into genesis and principal photography, never-before-seen on-set compilation footage of Michael McCraken’s creature effects, a still gallery and storyboard concepts, TV and promotional spots/trailers, and the original theatrical trailer.  The physical release comes with a blackout Blu-ray snap case with a Synapse catalogue insert.   For a middle of the road creature feature, Synapse knocks the release out of the park, elevating by particularizing the details with care that makes the pint-sized “The Kindred” feel monolithically 100 feet tall.

“The Kindred” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

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.

EVIL is Only in Your Nightmares. Or is it? “Retribution” reviewed! (Severin / Blu-ray)

Severely depressed artist George Miller attempts suicide by jumping off from his apartment building.  During the exact same time, a low-end gangster is brutally killed by cruel loan sharks.  Being both born on Aril 1st and dying at the same time, the tortured spirit of the gangster possesses the meek artist’s body right before being resuscitated by EMTs.  After a long recovery filled with horrific nightmares, the affable artist returns to his apartment building where he’s welcomed by fellow tenants and an overly warm landlord.  Still plagued by nightmares that have seeped into his awake conscious state, George medicates himself to sleep but the nightmares continue as he sees himself using psychokinetic powers to kill random individuals with extreme malice.  The nightmares are so real he wakes up in a sweaty panic to find out that that exact person was killed the night before the very way it played in his dreams.  When George realizes the gangster has inhabited his body for revenge, he and his friends take measures to put an end to the vindictive carnage. 

Santa Maria.  Mother of God.  Help me!!!  That phrase, attached to the very last seconds before a gruesome death and announced blankly from fiery, dagger eyes, has forever been seared into the recessed corners of my eardrums as the death cry that echoes throughout Guy Magar’s 1987 gory and visceral possession identity crisis, “Retribution.”  Magar’s ultra-violent and super-chromatic film is the filmmaker’s grand inaugural entrance as a full-length director following up behind a string of director chaired television episodes, including episodes from “The A-Team,” “Blue Thunder,” and “The Powers of Matthew Star” that regularly contained quickly charged, action packed sequences.  The Egyptian-born director translates those intense moments of frenzied disturbance into his mean-spirited and unforgiving vindicator of a script cowritten with then first time screenwriter, Lee Wasserman.  Shot in Los Angeles, “Retribution” is a virtual tour of the city, using the streets of L.A. and real locations, such as the Don Hotel for George’s residence and the nearby House of Neon Art, as a lively, eclectic, and wallet-saving convenient giftwrap for the film’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde complexion that feels totally normal compared to L.A.’s divergent glamour.  Magar and Wasserman produce the film with Renegade and Unicorn Motion Pictures serving as the production companies and presented by Taurus Entertainment, formerly connected with United Artists. 

There are probably many actors that could been imagined for the role of George Miller, the suicidal artist plagued with visions of him committing murder, but it’s hard to imagine that venomous stare of complete satisfaction in madness spread across the face of anyone else other than Dennis Lipscomb.  No disrespect to the “Eyes of Fire” and “Wargames” actor but Lipscomb isn’t a chiseled-jawed and muscular leading man; in fact, Lipscomb is quite the opposite, but his range into mild-manner, all around nice guy George Miller into the lust for hatred and murderous revenge George Miller hangs on with complete chasmic permanence.  However, George’s love interest with the street working prostitute and fellow Don Hotel resident, Angel (Suzanne Snyder, “Return of the Living Dead II,” “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”), hardly ever seems natural in not only in the characters’ surreal age-yawning dalliance but also the chemistry looks and feels flat between Lipscomb and Snyder.  Magar and Wesserman neglect diving more into that bond between them but their enamored gleamy eyes for one another is apparent and strong without the context to back it up.  “The Dungeonmaster’s” Leslie Wing also is placed as a George Miller sympathetic advocate in her role as hospital psychologist Dr. Jennifer Curtis, but Dr. Curtis has more background to contend with in comparison to the suddenly conjured fondness from Angel as Curtis is a mental health professional caring for a suicidal patient from at his rock bottom worst to a complete positive turnaround in his mental transformation.  Curtis has more skin in the game with George’s supposed delusions of actually killing people in his nightmares as she defends not only George’s unique supernatural circumstances, but, in a way, herself as a licensed medical profession following HIPAA laws.  “Retribution” holds many dear and unforgettable characters that essentially captures the entire 1980’s spectrum of personalities and, even for a brief scene, the cast gives each role their all, including performances from Susan Peretz (“Dog Day Afternoon”), Clare Peck (“Teen Wolf”), Chris Caputo (“Ghost Warrior”), Danny Daniels (“Voodoo Blood Bath”), Ralph Manza (“Godzilla”), George Murdock (“The Sword and the Sorcerer”), Mike Muscat (“Hunter’s Blood”), and Hoyt Axton who doesn’t stray too far from his good intentions, but naïve, father role in “Gremlins” to being a detective tracking down suspect George Miller. 

I’m in total awe of Guy Magar’s “Retribution.” That opening scene of the suicide attempt with Alan Howarth’s building tension score drops not a single piece of dialogue yet opens with a gripping life and death situation, musically synced to progress toward a harrowing climax, and every frame is dripping with vintage 80’s appeal. Magar definitely knew what strings to pull to get the blood pumping, to get you excited, and to drop an excellent mystery right in the lap, or the middle of the street in this case with George Miller’s body after it flops off the car it just smashed onto. From that point on, “Retribution” peddles forward following the recovery, recouping, and ruination of George Miller’s life at the unseen hands of an exploiting, malevolent spirit that seeks to track down the top-tiered gangsters that shot and burned him alive and exact his own brand of harsh psychokinetic justice. Does it matter how George and this gangster, both born on the same day and both nearly died at the same time, came to fuse transcendently together? Don’t worry. Magar didn’t think it was important either and he’s right! “Retribution” snags all the attention for the sole purpose of the ride and that ride being a beautiful, color-coded daymare. The one aspect that ultimately retracts the buzzing high, stemmed from most 80’s films, is the sluggish love interest subplot between George and Angel stutter stepping into an awkward phase of interactions that hard stops much of core plot and though the plot is neurotically nonsensical to begin with, George and Angel’s desires for each other are about as cringeworthy as they come. Stick with the gore by honing in on Miller’s subconscious alter ego of a gangster serving his killers their just desserts via Kevin Yagher (“Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”) and his highly effective special effects on a low end budget that, along with a brilliant showing of cinematography by Gary Thieltges, tips into the categorical likes of “The Evil Dead” or “The Exorcist.”

“Retribution” delivers a fervency unlike ever seen in one of the utmost, must-see, shamefully overlooked horrors films of the 80’s.  Now, with a deserved boost and in style, “Retribution” gets the royal restoration treatment with a jammed-packed and sleek 3-disc Blu-ray set from Severin Films and distributed by MVD Visual.  Disc one’s theatrical cut, clocking in at 107 minutes, comes from the recently discovered 35mm pre-print elements, shot on an Arriflex 35 BL3 per IMDB, and has been digitally scanned in 2K, presenting the region free film in 1080p Full High Definition inside the original widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  “Retribution’s” image pleasingly pops with fine delineating attention to the details that reach out to the point where they’re nearly tactile textures.  Every single setup of Robb Wilson King’s production designs are rich to begin with but are even figuratively injected with a smoother compression growth enhancing hormone, adding more layers of surface level details that personify and personalize the space.  Magar’s chromatically fluorescent vision is a literal tilt-a-whirl palette blast of phantasmagoria.  Disc tow is the extended Dutch video version that adds back in the extended seconds on the longer, gorier kill scenes.  The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is the sole mix on the release and, honestly, sates the need with the dual channels.  You obviously don’t get the surround sound, which considering this release would have been ideal, but the stereo mix, as well as the dialogue track, is still full-bodied, identifiable, and spotless of blemishes.  John Carpenter understudy Alan Howarth scores his solo synth-laden story on tenterhooks with a tinge of a Miami Vice theme as well as setting tonal moods that add depth to character layers.  If you want the entire OST, you’re in luck!  The third disc is a compact disc of the entire soundtrack.  Special features includes over two hours of content with Severin exclusive looking back at the experiences with the late director Guy Magar and the ins-and-outs of making “Retribution” interviews with co-writer Les Wasserman Writing Wrongs, actress Leslie Wing Shock Therapy, actress Suzanne Snyder Angel’s Heart, actor Mike Muscat Santa Maria, Mother of God, Help Me!, soundtrack composer Alan Howarth Settling the Score, special effects artist John Eggett Visions of Vengeance, artist Barry Fahr The Art of Getting Even, production designer Robb Wilson King Living in Oblivion.  Other special features include Guy Magar’s student film “Bingo,” stills and poster galley, and the theatrical trailer all packaged under a cardboard slipcover and a reversible snap case cover. Severin Film’s “Retribution” release is a triumph, a proper regenerarcy of revenge cinema, with all the gory details being the star of the show.

Own this Amazing 3-Disc set of “Retribution” from Severin Films!

Necrophilia EVIL Will Love You Beyond Death! “Nekromantik” and “Nekromantik 2” reviewed!


Husband and wife, Rob and Betty, enjoy the company of other people in their bedroom. Those other people are corpses. With Rob’s profession being a street cleaner after grisly accidents, he’s able to bring home bits and pieces of deceased individuals: eyeballs, hearts, hand, etc. When Rob is left in charge to dispose of half decomposed corpse fished out of a lake, the necrophiliac husband brings home a third party to his necrophiliac wife for play time, but when tensions between them rise with the loss of Rob’s position, Betty doesn’t want to waste her life with a deadbeat husband when she can have a dead man give her all the pleasures she desires. Feeling lost without the company of the corpse, Rob struggles to find his place in life and resorts to murdering animals and prostitutes to get his rocks off, leading to an extraordinary life alternating conclusion.

Necrophilia. Necrophilism. Necrolagnia. Necrocoitus. Necrochlesis. Thanatophilia. The act goes by many terms and divides into many segments, but the end result concludes to the same sexual attraction and acts, involving intercourse, with a lifeless corpse and writer-director, Jörg Buttgereit, aimed to exploit the exploits of grave robbers and murderers to stand against the strict censorship that was presently structured around German cinema in 1987. As Buttgereit’s first full length directorial filmed in West Germany and co-written by Franz Rodenkirchen, their censorship battling film, “Nekromantik,” is tinged heavily in necrophilia that, while obviously gross and illegal in the conventions of society, intertwines with the unwavering romantic gesture; a sensual disposition of tenderness and love for the other whether or not their eyeball is hanging out of a decaying socket or their covered in a think layer of body purging mucus. “Nekromantik’s” tragedy isn’t so much in the appalling acts, but in the defining human directions of grief and destruction that ultimately still make us human even if our acts are inhumanity.

In “Nekromantik 2,” a female nurse named Monika digs up a freshly buried male corpse to be her sexual play thing, but as she questions her feelings for necrophilia, Monika tries to suppress those deviant desires by befriending-to-date a young man, Mark, whole also keeping limited parts of the body while cutting up and disposing the remaining pieces. Seemingly going well with her boyfriend, Monika’s relationship resembles a stint of normalcy, but her desires bubble to the surface as she fantasizes about the corpse and goes to great lengths to keep Mark lifeless as possible during their lovemaking. Mark’s suspicions about her girlfriend does deter him from beauty or his desires for her, but how long can Monika go without her beloved bloated and discolored carcass? What lengths will show go to secure her happiness while taking advantage of Mark warm body?

As an extension of Buttgereit’s “Nekromantik,” “Nekromantik 2,” also known subtitled as “The Return of the Loving Dead,” is a direct sequel in limited fashion with only the corpse being the connecting factor. However, the 1991, East Germany filmed “Nekromantik 2” aggregates and compounds the unsavory lust for the dead that depicts a stronger sense of violence at an explosive carnality in the final act. Along with Franz Rodenkirchen as co-writing, Buttgereit returns to co-write and direct the sequel of considerable unlawful content, according to German authorities that arrested and trialed Buttgereit for poisonous material that could affect the youth of Germany. However, Buttgereit comes unscathed by the tribunal in a justified win against censorship. “Nekromantik” and the sequel aren’t necessarily set in a platonically set society, but held within the confines of an invented world chockfull of ignorance and drenched in biodegradable bliss.

Daktari Lorenz stars as the hopeless romantic for putrid partners. Lorenz is a good look for the Joe’s Street Cleaning Agency employed Rob as Lorenz is a scrappy man with thinning wild hair set on top of a receding hair line and has a feral soul behind his wide eyes, fitting for a fellow who did a short stint in porn in later years, but starring as Rob, however inglorious he might portray the role, wasn’t Lorenz only contribution to Buttgereit’s “Nekromantic” as he became the special effects guru behind the corpse’s fruition – the corpse that would be Rob’s character’s rotten rival. Rob’s tragedy situation is a plight of villainy against villainy, leaving the role unsympathetic to audiences but still leaving a residue impression of sordid anxiety. Rob’s only rival to necrophilia is within Monika, played by Monika M., from “Nekromantic 2” who goes through a different kind of internal struggle. Whereas Rob struggles with loss of two companions, one living and one dead, Monika struggles oppositely with one living and one dead and the choice she must make between the two. Monika doesn’t long for a cold, slimy, dead body and she choices to dispose the one that was held firm in her embracing grasp; yet she has an inkling for normalcy, a urge to undercut her deviancy, and acts upon the reformation despite the addictive callings for necrophilism. There’s not much in terms of a supporting cast in his low-budget shock horror, but the few co-stars include Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt, and Mark Reeder.

Overall, the “Nekromantik” films can still produce shock systemically despite being antiqued from the ye ole days of Video Nasties from the 80’s. Director Jörg Buttgereit might be thought perverse or mental to pinch body parts or dead bodies for tales of romance, but no matter his intentions to bring to the cinematic table, Buttgereit could be considered a far-fetched genius delivering the very definition of necrophilia to the screen and hoisting up a narrative around a taboo and illegal stricken act in the name of anti-censorship. Both films are nearly dialogue-less and, perhaps, wouldn’t have been highly accepted in the cult world if the score wasn’t as poignant or powerful as it was. Composed by Hermann Kopp, John Boy Walton, and, again another hat, Dakari Lorenz, as well as Monika M. in the sequel, they compose a classical and new age soundtrack that’s neither obtrusive to the ears nor not necessarily out of bounds of being parallel with the explicit material, marking the tracks as much as a character and being the quintessential dialogue much needed for a virtual silent, and extremely graphic, social commentary piece.

Cult Epics has really outdone themselves with a fantastic re-release of their previous issues of the “Nekromantik” films, releasing a limited edition, only 500 copies, Blu-ray release of both films, sheathed not only in their individual slipcase with original artwork, but also housed fully in a larger, double-sided slipcase bundle with artwork by Martin Trafford whose been a long time collaborator with director Jörg Buttgereit. The two films are presented in their original aspect ratio, 1:33:1, with two cuts available of “Nekromantik”: a director approved, super 8mm restored transfer, blown up to 35mm, that’s of a relatively washed image, but is vastly superior and clean look with hardly any blemishes upon the reconstructed coloring, which looks great considering. The second cut, a 35mm “Grindhouse version,” is a HD untouched version that keeps in the burns and blemishes and emits a warmer image in comparison. The 16mm, director approved transfer of “Nekromantik 2” is also neat, clean, and infraction free with a more natural color scheme overlaying and not as stylized as Buttgereit’s first film. The German language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound with re-transcribed English subtitles puts the vigorous soundtrack on a pedestal in the midst of previous releases that saw lossy audio compositions. With hardly any dialogue and next to none excitable action in both films, the burden lies truly on the back of the score that’s riveting and powerful and the right call to improve amongst the options for tinkering. There are also German language 2.0 stereo mixes available. A wealth of new and old bonus material includes the new transfers mentioned above, plus introductions by director Jörg Buttgereit, Q and A with the director at the American Cinematheque, audio commentary on both films by Buttergereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen with Monika M. and Mark Reeder included in “Nerkomantik 2,” the making-of for both films, “Nekromantik” featurette, still galleries of both features, two isolated versions the films’ soundtracks plus a live version of “Nekromantik 2,” “Nekromantik 2” post cards, and a couple of Buttgereit short films entitled “Hot Love” and “A Moment of Silence at the Grave of Ed Gein,” plus music videos and live concerts from the director, Monika M., more. Cult Epics’ wrote the definition on the definitive release for “Nekromantik” and “Nekromantik 2” and if you thought the content couldn’t get any gooier, grosser, dissident, and vile, Cult Epics said hold my beer and went to grave and back with a phenomenal package bundle that’ll be a necrophiliac’s delight as well as a gory gem in the collection of any horror film enthusiast.

Visit Cult Epics for your copy!

 

Plus, the holidays are right around the corner and at http://www.cultepics.com you can gift yourself or gift to others their very own Messed Up Puzzles’ 1000 piece jigsaw set inspired by both “Nekromantik” and “Nekromantik 2!”  These NSFW puzzles are a limited run, with 50 out of the 300 signed by director, Jörg Buttgereit!  (Selected randomly through distribution).