EVIL Says, Victor Crowley Who? “Freak” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

Arthur Crenshaw – the name of a terrifying urban legend.  The story has it that the religious small town-born Arthur was malformed unlike anything anyone has ever seen and that the God-fearing townsfolk didn’t take kindly to his existed as Arthur was looked down upon as an abominable creation of Satan.  His parents, giving into constant community pressure, casted him out into the nearby woods to die alone.  Years later, campers would record that their food and supplies would go missing.  Some campers even went into the woods and never came out.  Present day, a group of campers reserve a campsite, seeking the thrill of the woods’ notorious backstory and for a little R&R on a quick weekend getaway, but the stories of the misshapen, monstrous Arthur Crenshaw are not just tarradiddles to give people the willies and for the youthful campers, a night under the stars has become a night of survival.

Looking for something different, unusual, and still carnage drunk in a disfigured, backwoods killer of a campy slasher?  Look no further!  Lucky Cerruti’s very own misunderstood reject Arthur Crenshaw is the type of “Freak” we’ve all been craving.  The 2020 American indie feature is the sophomore production from writer-director Cerruti who oversaw all the pre-, principle, and post- in the height of pandemic time.  The “Kindness of Strangers” filmmaker films “Freak” in New York’s picturesque Adirondack mountains surrounding the community of Ochiota and Cerruti’s able to capture a slither of the landscape beauty with the majority of shots constrained to closeups due to puppetry.  Yes!  Arthur Crenshaw is but a mere puppet with more than frightening features that makes him appear more alien than human.  “Freak’s” indie crew consists of James Bell on special effects with producers Matthew Sorensen, Kegan Rice, Jessica Fisher, Leslie Dame, and Robin Cerruti serving under multiple hats with cinematography, puppetry control, and creature design under directors Dead Vision Productions.

Consisting of mostly Adirondack local artists and actors, “Freak’s” casts yips with little bite to make Arthur Crenshaw’s wretched, hillbilly kill-monger. Unimpressive and uninspiring character buildups coupled with so-so first-time acting doesn’t exactly put one on edge for these unlucky campers’ survival. I realize that Cerruti attempts to parallel Crenshaw with the awkward tag-a-long little sister Jenna, played by independent painting artist Sasha Van Cott, by focusing on both of them being an outcast and misunderstood. Cott’s meek performance aligns with that element but the character, like the others, is terribly bland. Her brother Ryan, performed by independent musician Dorran Boucher, is portrayed as seemingly have little to do with Jenna in a big brother role that can be described as neither sympathetic or apathetic to his sibling and treats her more like just one of the friends, but encouraged by their parents to bring Jenna to socialize her into having…I don’t know what. Jenna does manage to have a spark with or soft spot for Ryan’s best friend Henry as she constantly sides with his oddball interest in the legend of Arthur Crenshaw. Her fascination keeps Henry interesting in a subconscious kind of way but the two are a mismatch from the start as he appears to be the cool kid or the jock trope of the group. “Freak” sacrifices up a platter of kill-fodder with throwaway roles by more feature film first timers in Annachristi Cordes, Hunter Wilson, Leslie Dame, Hope Stamper, and Lucky Currati in an intense introductory opener and Kent Streed as Arthur’s old man who gave a damn and one of the only principals to receive a proper personal history that provides depth and understanding.

“Freak” might have low marks in acting, but the self-labeled C-movie has straight up, grade-A kills. We’re not talking about a simple knife to the gut or a slice across the throat here. Arthur Crenshaw doesn’t quite know when to stop as that single slice turns into two slices, three slices, four slices, and on and on until the who head hangs barely on the sinew attaching the head to the rest of the body. You know when you’re dicing up chicken breast and that white tendon streaking through the raw white meat is so damn hard to cut through, it’s like that. There’s blood everywhere and then some. “Freak” is surprisingly and pleasantly gore-laden and that goes hand-in-hand with the antagonist’s physical existence as a rod puppet worked from behind under the guise of a green screen by creature designer and executive producer Matthew Sorenson. Sorenson’s visualization is quite the abstract concept in reality with reverse knee flamingo legs, essentially no torso, and a head with one big blue eyeball and snaggle teeth. Arthur reminds me a little of the aliens from the 1996 David Twohy alien conspiracy film “The Arrival.” Hell, he could have very well been a stand in. The puppet and the puppetry are quite crude but are profoundly effective, welcomely campy, and an ingenious way to make a horror film during pandemic pandemonium.

Wild Eye Releasing, along with distributor MVD Visual, get in bed with the “Freak” on region free DVD home video. The big question is is “Freak” considered a feature film since the runtime is only 52 minutes? Some would argue the not rated Lucky Cerruti production doesn’t make the cut. I would say so what? But I did find the short runtime does hurt the storyline that’s unable to beef up portions that severely lack substance, such as the campers. The DVD is presented in a widescreen format that doesn’t list the ratio on the cover but if I was a betting man, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The digitally recorded video’s data decompresses are varying levels between from a high 4 to a low 7 Mbps as banding and digital noise inference sneak into on the low-lit scenes negligibly. The DVD lists the audio as stereo, but the release actually has an English Dolby Digital 5.1. In fact, for some reason, there are two of the same Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks without any metric differences available. Despite some crackling during the more intense audio moments, the audio tracks are pretty well balanced and keep most of the blights at bay. The bonus features include a nifty behind the scenes featurette that dives deep into creating “Freak” in a wholistic view, a directory’s commentary, and Wild Eye trailers. We want more of the “Freak,” more of Arthur Crenshaw, as the Lucky Cerruti and Matthew Sorenson have a goldmine of a cult slasher right at their fingertips as the potential next big backwoods franchise that’ll breathe new life into horror and provide the genre what it sorely needs and deserves. Now…where’s Part II: The Return of Arthur Crenshaw?!?

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

EVIL Moves in When Sister Goes Missing! “Sister Tempest” reviewed (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)



“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com

Private school art teacher Anne Hutchinson faces an alien tribunal on the set of circumstances surrounding the sudden disappearance of her younger sister.  Anecdotally going through the chapters of her life, beginning with her parents perishing when the sisters were young into growing up in a confrontation household between the sisters’ warring personalities to Anne’s desperate search for her younger sister after an ugly fight one night.  Still reeling from the abrupt disappearance, a new student joins her class that ensues a sudden fascination from Anne.  When the student shows up one night at Anne’s house, unloading woes of being kicked out of school due to lack of funds, Anne offers sympathy and suggests staying in her sister’s room that’s now been vacant for some time, but Anne’s new roommate hides a secret as she must feed on raw meat to combat of a body-covering boil sprouting illness.  Little does the art teacher know that there’s a connection between her sister’s disappearance and her former blood-thirsty pupil that will shock her very core.

What happens when a promise to another person can’t be kept because that person’s will and commitment is so strong it’s becomes a severe fault?  From an not from this world alien perspective, the contradictory and irrational nature of humankind has a profoundly illogical pattern to it that bears hardly any understanding to an unlike mind.  There’s fragility to interpersonal relationships and to the people devoted to those relationships that force unforeseen, sometimes fatal, consequences when expected coherency and harmony turns into irrational chaos from seemingly arbitrary means.  This is how Joe Badon’s genre-bending “Sister Tempest” expresses that conundrum of curious conscious with a surrealistic sci-fi-horror-drama that teeters on the edge of deadpan.  The 2020 released “Sister Tempest” is the second written-and-directed feature film from Badon, following his 2017 experimental horror “The God Inside My Ear,” which falls upon similar “Sister Tempest” lines of emotionally distress-induced bale.  Filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana, “Sister Tempest” is a produced by Badon, editor/sound designer Joseph Estrade, Dustin Rosemark (“Inferno”) and cinematographer Daniel Waghorne with visual effects artist Clint Carney (screener of “Dry Blood”) and Miles Hendler serving as executive producers.

After a series of prefacing introductory and non-linear story scenes, Anne Hutchinson, a debut feature role for New Orleans based actress Kali Russell, sits in negative space wearing an orange jumpsuit and being introduced to her alien tribunal council.  Dazed and confused, but not totally in shock and frightened about being in the presence of otherworldly extraterrestrials, Anne recounts events surrounding the disappearance of her sister, played by Holly Bonney (“Bird’s Eye).  As sisters, a defined line between the older responsible and the younger immature is contentiously formed between Anne and Karen as they deviate from earlier promises after their parents’ untimely death to take care of each other.  Through Anne’s retelling of her life, her mother, though hard and disciplined, had a conditioning care that burdened the eldest child with a sense of duty and care at a young age and this really is no different from most firstborns who shoulders already a ton of responsibility regardless in taking on even more when the parents are no longer around.  You love them to death is great idiom that rings true in Badon’s subversive-cinema standards tale when the sisters can’t see eye-to-eye on matters and there’s a loss of connection, accountability, and gratitude that the audience can relate to.  For much of the picture, Holly Bonney takes a backseat to Kali Russell’s spiraling disconnect that affects her relationship with love interest Jeffrey the Janitor (Alex Stage, “Eat Brains Love”) and new life-entangling pupil Ginger (Linnea Gregg).  The latter Greg played character has a little more layers to peel back that involves directly with Anne.  Ginger’s is venom in disguise as vampire of sorts who requires raw meat and to keep her human appearance intact.  There’s a representational duality in Ginger, reflecting both a monstrous quality and a sweet innocence that ties into Anne personally and into the search for the sister.  “Sister Tempest” rounds out the cast with Clint Carney (“Dry Blood”), Lucas Boffin (“Return to Sender”), Andre LaSalle (“The God Inside My Ear”), Cami Roebuck (“Children of Sin”), and Sarah Rochis.

“Sister Tempest” has a foundational design we’ve all likely seen before with breaking points, dualities, and downhill-racing mystery unfathomable to the naked eye, but the Josh Badon story inexplicitly feels different from the others.  Perhaps because of Badon’s unconventional storytelling style that throws the normal perceptions for a loop, literally and figuratively, with a 50’s-ish callback to science fiction films or its glamour of 70’s-ish British horror in color and macabre or an unsane mixture of both. I’m not going to sugar coat “Sister Tempest” as an easy to follow, low-hanging fruit film that simple, straight-forward, and is everybody’s cup of tea. That would be a waste of peddle spiel. There’s a zaniness quality that can’t be ignored that surrounds the principal Anne character as if she’s experiencing an ersatz world normally. Some would say that Anne’s caught in a maelstrom, or tempest, of unclear thought and her ordeal is catalytically charged by the work and the love that is poured into her sister’s wellbeing only to be thrown back into her face. Badon has a flair for the unusual, an eye for the odd, and can extravasate an uneasy air from a capsule of seemingly randomized happenstance and beyond the already preternatural events to aggregating the wayward tension.

“Sister Tempest” is the very definition of independent movies with a take it or leave it spellbinding archetype that’s unlike anything ever seen before. You can bear witness to Joe Badon’s mesmeric madness and melancholy with a brand-new Blu-ray from Darkside Releasing. Presented in two aspect ratio formats, a 2.39:1 and 1.33:1, the screen really runs the side-to-side gamut. Image quality shows zero sign of issues from the high-definition digital video, shot on a 4K black magic pocket cinema camera. The blacks are deep and rich as well as the coloring through Daniel Waghorne’s versatile cinematography involving gel lighting, color reduction, and spotlighting. The English language 5.1 surround sound shows no sign of slowing down this A/V wonder with clean and lively multi-audio tracks that come through every channel definitively. Bonus material includes an audio commentary with the director, produces, and actors, a blooper reel, a deleted scene, and trailers for Darkside releasing surreal and giallo films. “Sister Tempest” Lynchian style is not going to please the masses, but it’s certainly the wildest ride in the theme park of contemporary indie cinema.

“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com

Beware! EVIL is Afoot in a Small Town! “I Scream on the Beach” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Mellow Coast is a small, quiet fishing town typically free from big city violence.  When a dead body shows up on the Mellow Coast’s shoreline, a past of enigmatic and thought solved disappearance cases return to haunt Emily whose father was murdered right in front of her when she was little, yet the local police department ruled her father’s case as simply a father-husband leaving his family when no evidence of blood was recovered, and his car was missing.  The murders and disappearances are connected to a now defunct large corporation working on shady experiments and as Emily digs deeper into her father’s case, a light is shed upon the dastardly transgressions of a shifty, under handing corporation as well as more bodies, including her close friends, turn up dead around town. Pieces all the clues together with the help of a keen detective desperate to solve a case no other officer wants to touch, Emily comes face-to-face with an unsuspecting, tightly knitted killer.

As if slasher films are already tough enough in trying to unlock and solve who the mysterious homicidal wolf in sheep’s clothing is before the big, blood reveal, the 2020 horror-comedy “I Scream on the Beach!” surely takes the cake as the impossible and no-win kobayashi maru test of the slasher genre. Hailing from United Kingdom with a retro 80’s VHS veneer, the Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday written-and-directed parodying red herring seeks to be deceptive and as cryptic as logically possible with a masked serial killer storyline stretching over a span of 10 years that culminates to an illogical and shockingly socking finale. “I Scream on the Beach!” is the first feature from the filmmakers working as a pair and as individuals, but Churchyard and Holiday have been skimming together that micro thin layer of the horror stratosphere with college short film works, such as “Fragments” and “The Ratman of Southend,” the latter referencing Churchyard and Holiday hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Southern Essex. The duo cofounded TIS Films Limited during their production of “I Scream on the Beach!” with Churchyard and Holiday as producers alongwith Claire Bowman and executive producer Hill Burton (“RoboWoman, “Slasher House 2”).

The story follows Mellow Coast local Emily, her friends, including a bashful big city transplant with a crush on her, and Detective Kincaid embroiled in a 10-year mystery beginning with the murder of Emily’s father (Rob Shaw) or maybe even beginning with the murder of Dr. Lloyd (Lloyd Kaufman, “The Toxic Avenger”). Hard to tell as Dr. Lloyd expositional death is brought up as background plot painting an unscrupulous picture against a devious, experiment-conduction corporation. In her first feature film and first of many productions with the Churchyard and Holiday team, Hannah Paterson is placed in the final girl role of a VHS decorated slasher that has her twisting and turning from the pub to every which way to find corpses stabbed, gutted, and decapitated in the search for the truth about her father. Her friends, played by Jamie Evans, Rosie Kingston, Ross Howard, and Reis Daniel, are the trope typical asshole, hot girl, filmic nerd, and good guy love interest, in that respective order, are definitely defined to bring out the shine around this specimen of the slasher genre. Lurking in the shadows, as a contemporary scream queen of such films like Debbie Rochen’s “Model Hunger” and “Cute Little Buggers” starring alongside the iconic Caroline Munro, is the Australian born, English raised actress Dani Thompson as a snarky bar keep and aspiring actress who pokes her into the picture as the sort of easy girl and easy target for other characters to love-and-hate, especially amongst Emily and her friends in a mixed bag of feelings toward her role of bitchy Paula. Martin W. Payne (“Toxic Schlock”) as the staunch, Mellow Coast chief inspector, Tess Gustard as Emily’s combative mother, Will Jones (“Terror at the Black Tree Forest”) as the dispassionate inspector, Andrea Sandell (“Patient Zero”) as a fake nun, Chris Linnat-Scott as the creepy Dr. A, and Mark Keegan in a surprising reprising role fill out the cast.

Churchyard and Holiday embark on a VHS faceplate journey with their inaugural film complete with faux tracking lines, low-quality picture, lo-fi audio, and rounding out the semblance with schlocky f/x composition and content.  “I Scream on the Beach!” is a non sequitur, yet perfectly fitting, title for a seemingly beach-themed slasher that evolves erratically and radically as the story progresses into an eyebrow raising “…what?”  I would also dare to say that the acting isn’t the best but rather reflects the modeled era of straight-to-video indie low-budget horror with mild ostentation exaggeration with a character or two grounding the film with relative gravity from floating toward a too far-gone outcome. “I Scream on the Beach” is a kind of film that sits in the nosebleed section of the video rental and physical media aisle (if there are such things as video rental or physical stores anymore) but, sometimes, the cheap seats can be the section where anything goes, and no one will ever know about what happens near the roof. I’m not saying the Churchyard-Holiday production is a raunchy, nudity-laden, immodest, grindhouse peepshow worthy of the now ousted 42nd Street; in fact, “I Scream on the Beach!” mounts a tame and respectable horror-comedy that, like the cheap seats, is nothing to be ashamed of because in the end, they both provide entertainment on a budget.

Continuing to pluck out atypical wild horror genre films, Darkside Releasing distributes “I Scream on the Beach!” onto Blu-ray home video as part of the UK release collection. Keeping with the VHS effect, the stretched 1:78:1 aspect ratio feels to mimic only the very summary of details that continue into employing other SOV gags such as tracking lines, as I mentioned above, as well as a flat coloring palette. The English language PCM 2.0 continues to stay the antiquated technical course, taking the joke all the way, with a badly dubbed and ambient filled lossy audio tracks that keep with the kitschy package. The unrated, 87-minute, full director’s cut release comes with retrograded previews, such as “Mask of Thorn,” optional cast and crew introductions to the film, an audio commentary, complete short films “The Decorator” and “The Hiker” that were briefly spotlighted in the story, and promo spots from the Music and Film Festival. “I Scream on the Beach!” falls above being better than low-rung horror that’ll still knock your socks off, literally, with surreptitious corporation experiments insidiously embedding its clandestine claws into small town denizens in the dark and being stalked.

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Don’t be Afraid of an Unstoppable EVIL Killer on Your Fishing Trip. Do be Afraid of the Very Pregnant Wife You Left to Go on that Fishing Trip! “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

Dastan is about to be a new father, but he is over his head with debt and can no longer withstand the verbal abuse of his headstrong, ready-to-pop wife, Zhanna.  When an opportunity opens up go fishing with his best friends Murat and Arman, he whisks away before she can sink her nagging teeth into him again and tries to enjoy the relaxation of catching fish by floating down the river.  That’s until he and his friends stumble upon an execution by a crime boss and his goons.  Frantically trying to escape, they run into a strange man with a burnt face living out in the wilderness.  The three friends and the gangsters are targeted by the maniacal, murderous stranger with an apparent unkillable survival instinct and supernatural abilities. 

Who would have thought one of the best action-comedy horrors would have come out of Kazakhstan and come to think of it, this 2021 Yernar Nurgaliyev film “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is probably the only Kazakhstan film come across this desk.  Natively titled “Zhanym, ty ne poverish,” Nurgaliyev’s genre blending zany is bursting with dark comedy, gore, and a framework that tests the sturdiness of friendships as well as the clear-cut recognition for the things you have in life because the world isn’t always greener on the other side.  In fact, the world is actually dusty and partway arid in an isolated Kazakhstan landscape that resides with antisocial individuals – mob transgressions, deranged psychopaths, and even those who just want to get away from their wives.  The regular comedy helming Nurgaliyev cowrites the script with first time screenwriters Zhandos Aibassov and Daniyar Soltanbayev under Art Dealers productions in association with the international action company, Nomad Stunts, that delivers the film’s amazing fight choreography.

An ensemble cast of character actors construct a living, breathing dark comedy worth the time and effort. Plenty of unsuspecting twists and turns keep the preposterous party going beginning with an opening of a very black and white passive aggressive quarrel involving principal character Daston (Daniar Alshinov, “A Dark, Dark Man”) who, from this male reviewer’s perspective, takes a relentless verbal whip in emasculation. Alshinov expresses so clearly the biting-tongue frustration in a hilarious montage of on rage’s edge with wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) dishing out the third degree on all his husbandry failures. Avoiding his wife’s warpath behavior, aggravated by being on the verge of giving birth at any time, Daston’s quickly sneaks in his desires and hightails it on a last getaway before he becomes a father or dies of incessant verbal abuse, whichever comes first. Community school officer Murat (Yerlan Primbetov) and sex-toy dealer Arman (Azamat Marklenov) finally are able to steal away Daston in a little time for themselves. The acting trio leading up to the fishing spot are naturally conversive that gives into their characters longstanding friendship with quippy jabs at each other and overselling their less-than-satisfactory positions in life, but not until the friends stumble haplessly while floating down the river into being witnesses of a murder by low-end horse gangsters and run into a stoic one-eyed, burnt face bald man intent on spilling blood for vengeance because the gang killed his dog does Daston and his friends need to go to Hell and back to realize how special their friendship means to each other. “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” is a bro movie (and I mean the characters say bro a lot) with an orchestrated series of unfortunate, yet very funny, gruesome events to resolidify a tattered friendship and to reexamine life. The film costars Almat Sakatov, Rustem Zhanyamanov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Bekaris Akhetov, Kadirgali Kobentay, and Gauhar Sagingalieva.

Nurgaliyev develops a physical comedy based around a plan gone awry collision course between four groups destined to intertwine in battle royal.  “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” lands the slapstick one, two, three combination of action, comedy, and notes of horror well outside infantility and outdated material in a smartly laid path of events unfolding to a brawling showdown of those left standing.  I believe the imbalance between physicality and the humorless, if not slightly bothersome, subtitled dialogue stems from the lost in translation.  Subtitles can only convey a literal account of the Kazakhstani reflection and regionalism mayhem often blown to unrecognizable smithereens during a crude translation, but being a foreign film with grossly simplified subtitles shouldn’t be a cause for total write off as there’s much to enjoy from the funneling, concentrated, ever-twisting storyline to the outrageous action stuffed tightly in cramped houses to the perfectly spectacular blend of practical and CGI violence and gore fabricated nearly seamlessly by special effects duo Juliya Levitskaya and Elde Shibanov. Heads role, jaws detached, and plenty of eviscerating shotgun blasts crest above as the cherry on top of the Dastan and his friends’ misadventure through Kazakhstan countryside in a story that’s as ruthless as “Deliverance” and as magnetically dark and eccentric as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

101 Films brings what is called an “insane, violent, and hilarious” fun from Kazakhstan (and we couldn’t agree more) to a UK Blu-ray home video. The region B, high definition, 1080p Blu-ray features a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio of the short 74-minute film, certified UK 15 for strong gory injury detail, violence, threat, and language. Image quality is quite good of rendering mostly the grassy desert-like Kazakhstan landscape and the framing prompts greatly what to expect through either Azamat Dulatov’s harness cam strapped to the actors for closeup reactions or perfectly timed pan when needed to express off-center comedy. What’s really sensational about the film is the localized soundtrack. Nurgaliyev doesn’t buy, beg, borrow, or steal popular westernized tracks to broaden his film’s release and, instead, the soundtrack has a plethoric range of native music from lounge pop to hip hop. The Kazakhstani PCM stereo has more than enough ample timbre and offers a suitable range and depth despite being a dual channel. There are no dub tracks (in case you were wondering) and the English subtitles are forced (for those of few who don’t like to read during the film). Though bonus features would have been nice to root into and explore more of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the country’s film industry, the only bonus material on this 101 Films’ release is the theatrical trailer. As far as fiasco films go, “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It” ranks high this side of the 21st century as a humorous, violent, and perspective redirecting genre-bending film that needs be in everyone with a black sense of taste’s library.

Now On Bluray from 101 Films – “Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It!”

There’s EVIL in the Saying, No Other Choice. “Violation” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



On the precipice of her loveless marriage ending, Miriam and her not-quite-yet estranged husband getaway to visit her sister, Greta, and husband, Dylan, at their quiet woodland and lakeside home, an area where Miriam and Greta fondly grew up together.  Also sharing a past together as high school friends, Miriam and Dylan enjoy each other’s company in a playful and quipping manner after a lifelong friendship, but after a night of drinking and an outpour of internalized emotions, Miriam slowly awakes to Dylan forcing his way inside her and is unable to stop him.  Confronting Dylan and Greta separately further strains the tense situation to the point that Miriam is made out to be the villain in her own sexual assault, sending Miriam to plot a thorough premediated revenge to not only avenge herself but also to save her sister still married to her attacker. 

Real hands-and-knees puked vomit splattering over a black tarp.  A blindfolded, naked man tied to a chair with a real erect penis saluting tall.  If you’ve never seen this Shudder exclusive 2020 released film and you’re reading this review opening fresh eyed, you might automatically presume Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s “Violation” a work of pure vomit gore and BDSM pornography.   Let me quickly put your mind at ease by saying “Violation” is nothing of the sort, but these unmistakable aspects in the Canadian revenge drama are real and explicit as a deep-seeded personal choice for the writing and directing duo’s first feature length project.  Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer’s collaborated history goes back to 2017 as they together write, direct, and produce a handful of short films with a core base of dysfunctional sexual themes in “Slap Happy,” “Woman in Stall,” and “Chubby,” to name a few in their credits.  “Violation” continues the trend, providing cathartic discussion for the filmmakers’ tabooed motif at an attempt at bold realism.  “Violation” is self-produced by Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli under their production banner, the Toronto-based DM Films, in association with Telefilm Canada and The Talent Fund with financing from the executive producer line of independents, such as François Dagenais (“Ankle Biters”), and the husband-wife duo of David Hamilton and Deepa Mehta of Hamilton-Mehta Productions.

In the lead of Miriam is the writer, director, and producer herself, Madeleine Sims-Fewer, succumbing to a characterized funneling toward piteous rock bottom within her role who, from the get-go, is already in hot water with a dissatisfied husband about their trip to see Miriam’s sister. There’s rarely any happiness for Miriam throughout, even amongst the contentious heart-to-hearts with her own sister, and the little designated of joy to her is quickly squashed by the narrative’s crux and then that’s when Sims-Fewer has to about face to a deeper austere level than even before when those closest to Miriam push her away and become her worst enemies in a blink of an eye. Those mercurial enemies are played by Anna Maguire as Miriam’s fickle younger sister Greta, reteaming with her “Forgotten Man” costar Obi Abili as Miriam’s distant husband Caleb and rounding out the cast as Miriam’s alleged rapist and Greta’s husband Dylan is Jesse LaVercombe who also previously worked on the directors’ short films “Slap Happy” and “Chubby.”  Sims-Fewer and Lavercombe really deserve praise for their dedication and courage that circles back to the beginning of this review about real puke and real erection.  There’s vulnerability when totally exposed and these two actors, who have tremendous chemistry, shy very little away from the uncomfortable provocations in hard to swallow scenes of realism.  We also know where Greta stands in the whole scheme of things, but a big plot hole obtrudes with Obi Abili’s Caleb who unexplainably vanishes in the latter half of the two part narrative.  There’s an unsaid presumption that Caleb left Miriam as already rocky marriage kept spiraling down the toilet in the first act, but there was no resolution, leaving the character out in the wind and neglected from the what could have been an interesting interplay of Miriam’s obsessive plot.

“Violation” is not the typical rape-revenge thriller where the victim rises from the ashes like a phoenix and has an insurmountable, if not endless, amount of hate and determination for street justice to see their rapist or rapists six feet under.  “Violation’s” slow burn method leans toward a character study with Miriam.  Her compassionate human side commingles with her victimized treatment and anger as she’s constantly and consistently second guessing her actions or feeling the utmost, sick-to-her-stomach remorse for her actions that needed to be done in order to avenge herself and also protect her sister as noted in a parallel dream she tells Greta about Miriam sitting in the next room while her sister is unintentionally self-strangulating.  Yet, another side to this tale that could also explain Miriam’s hesitancy and, perhaps, guilt.  Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli are very explicit in Miriam’s unhappiness with her marriage and also her flirtatious wanting of Dylan, pent up by the lack of sex and joy in her marriage, and she also initiates a kiss with Dylan.  Combine those details with a night of drinking, Dylan’s firm stance, and the way the film is shot ambiguously, a pressure cooker moment builds between the characters and viewers whether what stated happened actually happened.  Now, I’m not arguing a case for rape culture or make excuses for rapists, but “Violation” tilts toward Miriam’s mental quality that has been compromised by a contentious marriage, life envy, and the preconceived notion that she’s not a good person.  Either way, what follows the inconspicuous moment is sharply horrible, a real unsettling exhibition of meaningful art. 

“Violation” is certifiably fresh and deservingly so with jarring scenes of gruesomeness, a topical theme of trivializing rape accusations, and compelling character study of one woman’s disharmonious existence in her small inner bubble.  Now, you can own it the Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli film on UK Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded, region 2 Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p full high definition in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2:39:1. “Violation” embodies an engulfing nature domination of the screen through an Adam Crosby lens. No matter how big and important the moment may be in the story, Crosby’s entrancing us with the tiny embers with a close up of the camp fire or having the actors dwarfed by towering trees until the second act that compartmentalizes two antagonistic characters in the same room. The release shows no signs of deflating Crosby’s and the filmmakers’ semi-surreal, flora and fauna vision with a sleek digital recording teeming with a range of wide landscape shots, stark long shots, and super closeups. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound captures as snap, crackle, and pop of the great outdoors; however, the dialogue, though quite clean and clearly audible, sounds a bit boxy at times. Special feature include two extras that are essentially one and the same taking up double the space on BD25 with a meet the filmmakers (Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli) talk very briefly about the genesis of the “Violation.” The second extra, the TIFF Intro, mirrors nearly world-for-world the first special feature. “Violation” has a runtime of 108 minutes and is rated 18 in the UK for strong violence, gore, sexual violence, sex references, and nudity. Viscerally intimate and ghastly, “Violation” is labeled the anti-rape revenge narrative with a close examination of trust and the unfortunate triviality of rape sure to churn stomachs and second guess the intentions of those close to you.

Own “Violation” on Blu-ray Home Video!