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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