The Old EVIL Scorpion and the Frog Tale in “Drive” reviewed! (Second Sight / Screener)



“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

A solitary mechanic and movie stunt driver offers his services as a getaway driver for illicit odd jobs.  He falls for his single parenting neighbor and as the two begin their romantic affair, her ex-con lover returns from prison to reintegrate back into her and their son’s life.   When ex-con trouble brews an inescapable situation involving ruthless gangsters calling in their favor for prison protection, the stunt driver involves himself with his moonlighting work but when things go terribly wrong and he becomes a target, everyone he knows and cares for are threatened by the mobsters.  War is waged in the fast lane between the mysterious stunt driver and Los Angeles most feared gangsters for the sake of an innocent mother and her child caught in the middle.

Around 2010-2011, when I first heard of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” starring “The Notebook” and “Lars and the Real Girl’s” Ryan Gosling, I thought to myself, why would I watch this quirky comedy-romance actor drive around in a run-of-the-mill stunt car action film?  Immediately, I wrote off the film penned by “The Four Feathers’” screenwriter Hossein Amini, whose now penning the stories and teleplays of a little Disney+ streaming series you may have heard of called “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  I now admit it, as painful to my pride as it is, that I was so ignorantly wrong about Refn’s “Drive” that has turned out to be a cult hit present day and a really good and exceptional crime-drama that’s subtle on the dialogue, high on the graphic violence, and all-around superb performances.  The script is the filmic adaptation based off American author James Sallis’s novel of the same title, keeping the neo-noir intact under of guise of muscle car predilection, and is a produced by Gigi Pritzker and Chris Ranta of Oddlot Entertainment (“Buried Alive”), Jonathan Oakes and Gary Michael Walters of Bold Films (“The Neon Demon”), Marc Platt of Marc Platt Productions (“Wanted”), and Motel Movies (“Blue Valentine”). 

To be upfront, Ryan Gosling has never been a go-to movie star for me, personally, so there might have been some psychogenic bias blocker keeping me away from the film over the last decade.  However, over the years, my pallet has grown in diversity and in tastes, chiefly because of influences in my life, and so curiosity got the better of me in wanting to explore the story of and the craft of Ryan Gosling’s character in “Drive.”  The way Gosling portrays the lead, known only as either the Driver or Kid, heavily relies on expression with minimal dialogue and lets all his emotions be poured through his eyes and body language as well as his actions in an anti-charismatic sense that, in a good way, leaves the character unassuming but still confident.  Watching Gosling’s methodical flow through the role and while having a little knowledge of the neurodivergence, it’s not difficult to see that the principal character comes off as a person somewhere on the autism spectrum and doing some post-credits research, I’m not the only one who had the same thought.  Unsociable, quiet, lack of facial expression, and obsessed with routine, especially when moonlighting as a criminal getaway driver with a set of very specific conditions, are just some examples of his behavior that point in the autism direction.  When the driver meets beautiful single parent neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan, “Shame”), that is when we start seeing him deviate from his isolation, from his routine, and become more complex with what was previously a non-existent life, but of course as life blossoms into something new and safe, gangster obstacles rear their ugly head and the criminal in him is forced out for a head on collision.  “Ex Machina’s” Oscar Issacs is the first hurdle as the recently release ex-con dragged back into unscrupulous dealings with unsavory organized crime that climb the latter to “Hellboy’s” Ron Perlman and “Taxi Driver’s” Albert Brooks, business partners who oversee the West Coast turf. Perlman is a natural tough guy, as we’ve seen in countless works stretching over numerous decades and I would have never pictured “The In-Laws” and “Finding Nemo” Albert Brooks to be the minatory type but he does in fact have a dark-twinkle in his eye and can extract the false sense of security out of people before he jabs a fork in their eye and slits their throat…wrist….guts….yeah, his character loves to knife others. The all-star cast rounds out with Bryan Cranston (“Godzilla”) as the Driver’s mob-connected boss-friend-agent and Christina Hendricks (“The Neon Demon”) in a lowkey accomplice role that makes a gruesome, unforgettable impact.

Speaking of “The Neon Demon,” a more recent Nicholas Winding Refn film, you’ll begin to absorb the Denmark-born filmmaker’s stylistic motifs between the two films involving lingering shots, graphic violence, and the integration of electro-pop tracks into an eclectic soundtrack. Many of the scenes convey an emotion through dialogue-less scenes and the soundtrack to contrast actions speak louder than words. However, there is one radical theory of mine that I believe has a firm foundation is that everything from point A to point Z in the story is all in the Driver’s fantasy world. I know “Drive” is a movie and the need to suspend belief is important but only to an extent and depending on the quality derived from the filmmaker. Refn’s a good filmmaker, we know this, but everything the Driver experiences pitches upon pure imagination when the truth is stretched to be in his favor for the length of the feature. First example – the Driver slams into the side of another car head on, but the headlights, front bumper, and ventilation grille are all clearly intact. Second example – a tense-elevator scene involving the Driver, Irene, and a mobster assigned to take the Driver out takes an improbable turn when the Driver turns to Irene, both bathed in the sudden appearance of a spotlight, and they kiss passionately for quite a while. The moment become the perfect opportunity for the goon to blow away his target. Instead, he lets them kiss and then a close-quarter fight ensues shortly after. Third example but not last – the Driver is nearly an unstoppable force with no background to who he really is or why he is in Los Angeles, but he fights like a hardened criminal and knows how to play the organized crime game, never really have bad hand in his deck of cards, and even is given an ambiguous “Shane” ending. So, I ask again, is the beautiful girl, the ripe for the picking off gangsters, and the prodigious skillset all in his head?

I’ve clearly misjudged Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” to be pretty-boy, stock-story, waste of time. Though I’m still not convinced about Ryan Gosling’s acting, like a Supreme Court Judge nowadays, I’m overturning my naive judgement and calling “Drive” a true modern day cult film hiding in plain sight, receiving new life from Second Sight films with an UK limited edition 4K UHF/Blu-ray release as well as a standard 4K and Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, this review covers only a BD-R screener so commenting on the true quality of the image and audio will not be recorded, but release specs include a new 4K master produced by the original post-production company with Refn’s approval, the UHD is presented in Dolby Vision HDR graded by the film’s original colorist, audio options include a Dolby Atmos and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with optional English subtitles, and the 4K UHD are region free while the Blu-rays are region locked encoded on region B. Standard bonus features include a new exclusive commentary by director Nicolas Winding Ren and The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw, a feature length conversation with Refn, editor Mat Newman, and composer Cliff Martinez reminiscing about their sudden post-theatrical career success with “Drive” when the film saw more success on video, Gutting a Getaway – a new interview with Mat Newman, and 3 Point Turns – a new video essay by Leigh Singer. The limited-edition contents include a premium box set with new Driver Scorpion artwork by AllCity, a 240-page hardback book with new essays by various authors, an exclusive interview with “Drive” author James Sallis hosted by Matthew Thrift, original storyboards, stills, behind-the-scenes photos, the original Sallis novel with new AllCity artwork as well, and 7 collectible art cards. What a massive, massive haul for the film that didn’t do great in theaters due to poor financial support by investors who saw the film as a failure. The film has a runtime of 100 minutes and is UK certified 18. Don’t be like me and neglect a chance to see “Drive,” a great piston-pumping and violently beautiful crime-drama paralleled love story that deserves our time, our attention, and everything including the kitchen sink Second Sight Films pumped into the tremendous limited-edition boxset that dropped this week for release!

“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

EVIL’s Feast or “Famine” reviewed!


An annual high school famine event goes horribly wrong when a prank backfires, killing popular teacher Mr. Balszack and scarring those directly responsible for his untimely death. Five years later, a new student seeks to revive the famine-for-24-hour old tradition, inviting the same familiar faces involved in the prank, and hoping to rejuvenate vigor into the even again. Clicks form, alliances solidify, and outsiders become the insiders into just what’s really happening to the graduating class. With the night still young, a killer masquerading as the school’s mascot, The Nailer, exacts a terrible death upon those trying to not die of hunger or become dead from being categorized as unpopular. No one is safe from The Nailer who has chained the doors and has hands on every school authorized item weaponized for his eviscerating pleasure.

High School has never looked so dreadful from the late Ryan Nicholson’s written and directed 2011 gory slasher-comedy, “Famine,” co-written by “Girls Guns and Blood’s” Jeff O’Brien from a Taylor Nicholson story. Nicholson, who died this past October due to brain cancer, was for most a special effects guru who worked on well known films such as “Final Destination,” “Blade: Trinity,” and most recently, last year’s “The Predator,” but Nicholson was also a writer and director who specialized in gruesome, off-color horror, including a bowling horror-comedy “Gutterballs,” a bloody revenge thriller starring Debbie Rochon in “Hanger,” and a cannibalism film of the psychosexual style titled “Collar,” all of which have been released by notable cult home video distributors. With the Canadian bred “Famine,” the multitalented Nicholson had already found DVD distribution with his own company, Plotdigger Films, and a limited collector’s edition with Shock Entertainment back in 2013, but the indie extreme horror devotee, Unearthed Films, have reclaimed the New Image Entertainment title rights for a high definition Blu-ray release.

“Famine’s” quick to gut story doesn’t leave much room to build character, leaving much to exposition in the parameter of backstory, and only dances around the prospect of a principal role. Christine Wallace comes close to that role with Jenny, a ditzy school regular with a case of yelling tourettes syndrome and a hard on for another girl’s boyfriend, as a character on the outskirts of what really happened to Mr. Balszack that fateful famine day. Tall, broad shoulder, well-endowed, and with a pixie cut, Wallace is a striking actress acting similar to a baboon with a backpack and books. Also hot in the sultry pen, but in a more cool, calm, and mysterious way is Miss Vickers under the dark and tepid attributes of Michelle Sabiene. Sabiene and Wallace balance out with a warm blend of vapid cold and vivacious hot that split like a log under the stroke of an axe with Beth Cantor’s performance of Cathy, a mentally challenged student who often exchange sallied remarks with her quasi-friend Jenny and is seemingly the epicenter of Mr. Balszack’s demise. Cantor’s hunched over, Jerry Lewis crosse-eyed, and mimics the movements of a stiff corpse to obtain an overplayed performance that sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t pleasantly compliment the ruckus hijinks of a trope-ladened volley. The remaining “Famine” cast closes out with Nathan Durec, Sanya Silver, Terry Paugh, Thabi Maphoso, Ady Mejia, Gustavo MacSerna, Christopher Lomas, Karyn Halpin, Des Larson, and Glenn Hoffmann as the Nazi sympathizing Principal Nielsen.

Being familiar with “Gutterballs” and “Collar,” going into “Famine” with an open mind and the expectation that there will be blood spilled and gore galore was an easy sell for me to plop my keester down, pop the disc into the player, and press play with conviction. Yet, certain bars were reluctantly met with “Famine” and, by golly, it is my sincerest hope that I do not defile the recently deceased’s good name and reputation with my honest negativity, but after thoroughly enjoying the tasteful practical gore effects with the disemboweling spillage, the ramming of a nail spike to the head, and the sulfuric acid doused melting man, “Famine” carries a languid story with characterizations held sparely together with lose threads and comedy that’s flushed with odd behavior rather than genuine purpose. “Famine’s” an inflammatory reckoning of pervertible indecencies and blood with a harking slasher, a score well deserving of Nicholson’s legacy, but the point, if there is one, falls flat and hard on it’s face executing a fail in materializing an organized chaos that “Gutterballs” provided.

Unearthed Films have been a good friend to Ryan Nicholson with a home video release of “Collar” and a segment on “The Profane Exhibit.” Now, along with MVDVisual, “Famine” comes to feast onto Blu-ray presented in widescreen, shot in a high defintion 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a just over an hour runtime of 77 minutes. Image wise, the Matt Leaf cinematography is bright, clean, and on the side of a warm sterile shade of yellow, but offers nothing truly new to the genre or find adulation from the comedy of it all. Still, not a single issue with uninspired imagery. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 renders a heavy score track that softens the dialogue track. Dialogue does, at times, becomes a strain to discern. Range and depth on the ambient track fairs better with plentiful slasher characteristics. The bonus features are quite anemic with a still gallery and Unearthed Films’ trailers. “Famine” isn’t one to starve on an unpinned story as Nicholson carves up a mediocre massacre with a filet mignon finish.

Click to buy “Famine” on Blu-ray!

Dead Parents Create Good and Evil Children. “The Orphan Killer” review!

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Audrey Miller is your borderline, but overall good, Catholic woman, but the Saint Michael’s Orphanage dance teacher withholds a dark secret from her past. Audrey, herself, is an orphan along with her estranged brother, Marcus. At the age of 6-years old, Marcus took the brutal death of their parents the hardest, transforming a young innocent boy into an emotionless and destructive shell of his former self and while they attended the orphanage where Audrey currently teaches, Marcus suffered at the hands of wrathful Nuns hellbent on forcing Marcus to repent for the sins he’s committed. Years have gone by and Marcus, donning the Nuns’ gifted mask to frighten other children away from him, has been confined to a neglected psych ward, but, now, Marcus has found an escape and seeks to hunt down his beloved sister, trapping her inside Saint Michael’s, to relay a message that blood never abandons blood unless it’s fatally punctured with a blade.
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Matt Farnsworth’s 2011 “The Orphan Killer” is a cold-hearted, slaugtherfest, aiming to reap the Catholic church of sinners by committing the ultimate sin. Serial killer, Marcus Miller, becomes this generation’s misunderstood maniac, being the right hand of God and smiting blasphemous individuals in a one-night stint of blood drenched dirty work. Being the sophomore feature from writer-director Farnsworth, there’s plenty to be impressed with here from the setting up victim characters and the killing-ground stage to quickly canonizing Marcus after learning the atrocities his victims; Marcus blurs into the realm of anti-hero in a twisted sense of the slasher genre with religious undertones – such as Audrey wearing a barbed wire crown of thorns. He’s very familiar to that of iconic genre staples such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, yet Marcus Miller’s unique origins background and murderous methodology doesn’t share with the already established grisliness. If Farnsworth is willing, this serial killer could be expanded upon with such a rich backstory.
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Story wise, there are familiarities toward that of Michael Myers’ background with the bloodlines. Instead of Laurie Strobe being related to her coupled murderer, Audrey, played by stunning beauty Diane Foster, has, unbeknownst to her good fortune, to her still breathing psychopathic brother, Marcus, portrayed by David Backus. Both Foster and Backus have previously worked together on another Matt Farnsworth written-directed feature, his breakout indie film, “Iowa” in 2005 that also starred Rosanna Arquette {David Cronenberg’s “Crash”) and Muse Watson (“From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money”) and have great cat-and-mouse chemistry through love-and-hate sibling rivalry. Farnsworth also co-stars his own flick as Audrey’s cop boyfriend who becomes mixed up in the mess when Audrey doesn’t come home next morning. Unlike Audrey and Marcus, Officer Mike Hunt – yes, Mike Hunt – lacks substance and is portrayed a bit of a wild card when Audrey goes into dire stress. The cast rounds out with Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Charlotte Maier, Spencer List, Dana DeVestern, and John Savage.
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The realistic, sometimes over the top, practical effects make the scene in a welcoming glorified shower of gore splatter. Marcus Miller’s killer tactics vary from victim-to-victim, whereas some slashers maintain one particular kill setting, making “The Orphan Killer” eye-catching and extremely engaging. The unbelievable production value for an offbeat slasher that’s so profane to religion temples and other holy aspect shouldn’t go unnoticed and I’m not just speaking highly solely of the special effects. The structural bones of a cathedral church setting and the amount of extras used in well choreographed dance recital and Miller kids’ flashback scenes show the committed financial backing put to work in Farnsworth’s film. Farnsworth edits his own work that’s slightly erratic at times, but overall successful with the action that’s involved and the displaying the severity of splicing together great practical kill scenes. I’d say his style is certainly earthy and sometimes there are glimpses of channelling iconic directors.
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Produced mainly by Farnsworth’s company, entitled simply enough Matt Farnsworth Films, in association with Full Fathom 5, “The Orphan Killer” has rightfully found a friend at the Reel Gore Releasing home distribution label with a Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray and DVD combo release. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation sharply defines details, especially in the blacks, and does well with desaturating the hues to give it a gritty, dirty appearance that compliments the abandoned sections of Saint Michael’s. Two audio options are available, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2 channel; the 5.1 delivers a heart pounding score, but the soundtrack by Bullet Tooth releasing, featuring a slew of hardcore metal bands, oversteps into some dialogue sequences. However, Ventana’s cover of “Cry Little Sister” kicks off right after the opening credits; an early sure sign of good things to ahead. Bonus features include a “behind the Murder:” an exclusive video diary, teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, music clip, and a slideshow. “The Orphan Killer” has religious metaphors under a sacrilege of brutality and unleashes a retroesque Renaissance slasher for modern day terror.

Buy “The Orphan Killer” at Amazon.

On the Evil Chopping Block! Midnight Son (2011)

Monster Pictures was gracious enough to send me a copy of their latest release Midnight Son!  This is a UK release and, luckily, I have a cheap region free player.  Directed by Scot Lebercht (The Blair Witch Project), I’m interested to see how this film plays out as a “lonely young security guard Jacob (Zak Kilberg) has a terrible secret.  He can’t stand the sun, he rarely goes outside, and lately his unquenchable hunger can only be tamed by one thing: fresh blood.  When he hits it off with pretty young Mary (Maya Parish) who has some issues of her own, his craving kicks into overdrive as his monstrous inner demon beings to come out… and nothing will ever be the same again.”

Sounds like it could be a winner and so far, it has Tracey Walter in it!  Good enough start.  Review will come shortly after.

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