Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.
Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.
“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.
Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.
Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.
“Red Nights” is not exactly a new film. Being released in 2010, the erotic, giallo-inspired, thriller has only been available for DVD purchase in the Belgium market while Germany has the sole blu-ray edition. With much anticipation, Philadelphia based company Breaking Glass Pictures will be bringing “Red Nights” to DVD in the States in all it’s suspenseful and bloody glory.
The ancient box of the Jade Executioner has become the fascination of everyone’s desires. From crooked politicians, to thieves, to sadomasochistic murderers, the box contains a poison that will increase your pleasure by ten fold while leaving you completely paralyzed and increase your pain by the same amount. This twisted tale with a sexual aura constructs a cat-and-mouse game between two femme fatales, Catherine – who just wants a giant pay day for the box and Carrie Chan – who wishes to use the poison for the ultimate pleasure from pain, while a Manau crime lord embarks on a mission to retrieve back his stolen antique box.
This is the first feature length film from French directors Laurent Courtiaud and Julien Carbon and while “Red Nights” looks beautiful on screen – the shot scenes remind me the Wachowski brother’s Noir film “Bound” – the story can be a bit loose and slow at first. The By the end of act one, “Red Nights” really pick up the pieces and the story of how Frédérique Bel’s character Catherine, a personal assistant to the crooked politician Savini, becomes snared in a web of deadly game with Carrie Chan – played by Hong Kong actress Carrie Ng – and in this game, minor players get a slow and painful death which translates very well to screen and relates very precisely to the character’s personas. Carrie is a sadist who can whip a dry martini while skinning you alive. Catherine is a bit more hesitant but her greed can force her hand to kill.
The gory effects are surprisingly realistic for a pair of visual effects crew members – Jam Abelanet and Bertrand Levallois – who don’t have much horror and thriller film credits behind their names. This goes hand and hand with how I described the first time directors and how the crew of “Red Nights” got it right the first time. Where the film lost me a many of times was the back and forth dialect of French, Chinese, and a little bit of English thrown in there for good measure. As much as I like a foreign film to use their native tongue, it’s hard to follow when a conversation between a Chinese actress who speaks in full Chinese and then the French actress retorts in full French. “Red Nights” would not make a good Rosetta Stone substitute.
Carrie Ng creates a fascinating character in Carrie Chan, a respectable, world renowned perfume designer and model. Chan’s dark side involves tight leather, bondage ropes, and razor sharp metallic finger talons that shred skin like shredding a block of cheese. Carrie Ng is lustfully sleek and sexy with her bad girl image that suites her well. Frédérique Bel couldn’t compare to Ng’s prowlness nor clean good looks, but I have to give Bel credit for making her character Catherine a sneaky and aggressive go getter. Maybe the issue was in the script’s writing, but Catherine seemed to lack a lot of intelligence for being in a game that could cost her her life. Catherine trusted everyone too easily and let people go too quickly without any kind of punishment or pain.
While “Red Nights” won’t break the DVD retail shelf bank, I’m still glad Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films are releasing this foreign gem to the masses of ‘Merica. And while I appreciate every aspect of this film from the director’s inspiration of Giallo genre to the histories of Chinese folklore, I can’t see my country men going crazy over a Chinese girl with finger blades. However, the story for Carrie Chan might speak more to horror enthusiast in that the Jade Executioner’s poison is similar to the box in Hellraiser. The box is described to show you the pleasures of pain much like the poison in “Red Nights.” Lets also not forget that Japanese porn actress Kotone Amamlya and French actress Carole Brana do a bit of nudity as well – click to see my skin page here. Come Tuesday October 21st, DVD will be readily available for purchase, but why wait? Pre-order your copy of a unique thriller with hints of gruesome horror torture!
Hasn’t the hand held first person camera run it’s course? The recently popular method has been criticized as shaky, unintelligible, headache inducing, and over abused. I agree with that criticism as well, but I find there lies a bit of realism in the corners of each the richly blindingly dark and snowy static scenes of a hand held camera.
The Inside is the next flick to hop on the hand held bandwagon. A young man purchases a second hand video camera at a pawnshop and discovers that the tape is still inside the camera. He plays back to footage of five girls out on the town for one of their own’s 21st birthday party. The girls break in to an abandoned undisclosed location for a little wild times, but three vagrants break up their fun and unleash terror upon them. But when the vagrants think they have the upper hand, a supernatural evil falls upon the girls and themselves leaving all of them to fend for themselves against pure evil. When the man finishes the tape, he retraces the girls steps in search of what caused their demise.
While the shaky hand cam has more realism than any third person perspective, a great backbone of a story can make the film all the sweeter, but The Inside has a flimsy plot line that doesn’t explain what kind of evil forces these girls are dealing with nor can be explained what this “Grave Digger,” as IMDB.com has labeled the character, has gruesomely bestowed upon the victims. Perhaps the take away from this movie is that people disappear without a trace all the time and this could be a theory to how and why…? But glimpses of Satanic pentagram symbols sprayed on the wall and quick visions of Satanic goats are being tapped into the camera’s signal, which I don’t think is the correct type of signal. But this confirms some kind of ritualistic satanic practices being held and, perhaps, going terribly and horribly wrong. I feel there should be a prequel to The Inside to give us a little more insight into who or what the “Grave Digger” is.
What behoves the story to maintains a chilly manner was to keep the characters portraying like horror ignorant idiots. For example, the young man, played by director Eoin Macken himself, who bought the camera decides to retrace the girls’ steps and investigate by himself. Why not turn in the camera to the authorities after witness physical assault, rape, and supernatural evil terror of the girls? This man was not superhuman, but much rather a bum looking to pawn of his wedding ring – we aren’t privy to his background either and have to deduce what we see to come to some kind of half-cocked conclusion.
Amongst all the chaos and confusion after the supernatural shit hits the fan, the movie takes a 180 degree turn in the other direction and no longer are we invited guests at a party or the voyeurs of a perverse snuff film, but a survivor ourselves. However, the sound is much to hectic to make any comprehendible sense. All that I knew for sure was when the “Grave Digger” was about to make an appearance – a baby wailed and there was an electronic hum – which made an unfitting tell of his whereabouts, but the “Grave Digger” was an interesting looking character despite his mysterious background and his grimly cryptic intentions. He’s naked and covered and blood – if you’ve ever seen Shallow Ground then you might have a clear representation of what I’m talking about.
Much like most hand held camera movies, The Inside is no different or nothing much more special. There is an open ending, which is a common characteristic of films like these which has to do with the realism factor once again. The Inside will chill your spine, yet you won’t figure out why it chills your spine in the first place. Check it for yourself by buying your copy of The Inside at Monster Pictures.com