EVIL Cabbie Takes Beautiful Women for the Ride of their Lives. “Maniac Driver” reviewed! (ReelGore Releasing / Blu-ray)

Hail down the “Maniac Driver” on Blu-ray!

Taking a taxi should be a reliably safe to get from point A to point B and once you settle the serviceable transaction with payment, you can forget you ever saw that taxi driver again.  But what if that taxi driver follows you home, obsesses over you, and has psychotic plans to take your life as well as his own?  One Tokyo cabbie has those very inclinations toward the beautiful women.  These women intoxicate his severe guilt over a past personal tragedy involving the merciless murder of his wife.  He scours his passenger pool for the perfect beauty to be his closing opus, a gift to society that dealt him the same hand and will take her life as a maniacal masked killer with a blade before he turns the blade on his own neck. 

From the director of “Gun Woman” and “Karate Kill” comes the latest gore-soaked, nudity-laden, psychotronic grindhouse picture from Tokyo filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake.  Labeled as a Japanese giallo film, the writer-director Mitsutake pulls inspiration from one of most influential and prolific Italian giallo filmmakers ever, the late Lucio Fulci, and stylizes his idolizing film with his own proclivity for flair.  The 2020 released film is a thirst trap of the subgenre upon reading the heavily enticing description and its basic but effective cover art of a leather glove and jacket cladded masked maniac holding tightly onto a half-naked woman, almost in an embracing manner rather than a malice one.  Sex and blood sell and “Maniac Driver” doesn’t disappoint but what about the story?  What drives the killer from one woman to the next and does it all make sense?  “Maniac Driver’s” title suggests not, and I believe Kurando Mitsutake felt the same way when writing the script, produced by “After Life” and “Paster Shepherd” producer Mami Akari under the Akari Pictures banner.

Titling the story around the maniac driver binds the film solely to the cab driver, much in the same way William Lustig’s “Maniac” focuses on Joe Spinell’s spiraling madness and scalping mutilations, and we’re pretty much left with the driver’s innermost thoughts, about his process, about his reasons, and about his plans.  Essentially, the maniac driver drives the narrative with a contemplative fare.  Tomoki Kimura has surpassed the challenge with a pendulum crazed performance sought to not only express his derangement but can also infect the viewers with the character’s warped mind.  Kimura keeps his expression stoic and sour in a role that barely requires him to speak as we mostly hear prosy, abstract, and murderous inner thoughts.  In regard to the women the driver stalks and involves himself sleazily with, Kurando Mitsutake goes the JAV actress route and is familiar with as having the alluring Asami star pretty much naked through the entirety of “Gun Woman.”  With adult actresses, Mitsutake receives uninhibited support for the victimized characters the maniac driver fantasizes over and kills as well as Mitsutake’s satirical whims in exploiting the subgenre’s penchant for gratuitous flesh.  Adult starlets from softcore actress Saryû Usui (“Sex Detective Hatenashi”) to the hardcore Ai Sayama (“Date with a Busty Nymph”), Ayumi Kimito (“Love Kimomen”), and SOD (Soft on Demand) Create’s Iori Kogawa (“One Wife + 10 Husbands) add a little titillation with gratuitous exposure, bondage, and fornication to the max. 

“Maniac Driver” paves its own neo-giallo path that swerves away from the traditional calling cards. Instead of a typical Italian murder-mystery, Mitsutake intentionally divulges the killer cab driver with a delusional hunger and fate. All the other hallmarks of a giallo killer are there in a Fulci tribute form with leathery glove hands, a gleaming blade, a masked face, and a killer who makes a duck-like sound that’s far more menacing than comical. “Maniac Driver” also pulls from other inspirations, such as Lustig’s “Maniac” as well as Martin Scorcese’s “Taxi Driver” with Tomoki Kimura channel his best Robert De Niro impression with the iconic You Talkin’ To Me line. Behind the whole ghastly facade and polychromatic style, entrenched is a theme of survival’s guilt that leads the cab driver to the point of no return. Severely injured and helpless to save his wife from a crazed killer, he’s wrought with putting forth into the world exactly what was taken from him in the same fashion, but how the deeper we spiral with and into his derangement, piecing together his mental episodical puzzle might not be so easily pegged. Mitsutake’s seemingly straight forward narrative is a blindsiding blade to the throat when looking in the opposite direction, expecting a different outcome, and when the principal character is kept to his innermost thoughts, viewers are treated with only the maniac’s disenchantment of life. The curveball is more than welcome despite all evidence being in plain view, but with the bizarre fiendishness, schizo-universe, and the T&A, to see clear through it all is impossible, especially when Mitsutake really goes off the rails with the maniac driver’s fantasies that mesh seamlessly with reality. Scenes with Iora Kogawa and Tomoki Kimura are intolerably hazy as the actors engage coquettishly as an exquisite, kimono dressed female passenger and a public transportation service man peering his eyes through the review mirror and this leads to an explicit one-on-one encounter that includes some bondage as well as a Iaido showdown with swords drawn. Through Mitsutake’s various closeups and depth-shots, sprinkled with tight up shots to emphasize body parts and to create an oppressive world, “Maniac Driver” ebbs and flows that sort of satirical, aggrandized chaos to make light of the oversexualization, as skirts hike up while running and exposed chest flop out underneath tightly bound tops, and the sheer madness of a broken mortal man. “Maniac Driver” is an uber giallo of sleaze and psychosis, a steady ride of burning yearning, and is gory where it counts.

To be honest with you, I thought I’d never see a ReelGore Releasing again. When speaking with Cult Epics founder Nico B., who launched the label with producer Steve Aquilina (“Violent Shit: The Movie”) in 2016, I had asked the popular curator of cult cinema whether he would continue with banner that sought to specialize in the release of extreme, violent horror after the releases of the ItsBlogginEvil generally well received “The Orphan Killer” and “The Curse of Doctor Wolfenstein?” The answer I received was a flat out no from Nico B. because, simply, the label didn’t generate enough profit. Well, lo and behold, ReelGore Releasing has been resurrected and the blood is flowing once again with a pair of new titles with “Manic Driver” being one of them. Though Nico B. has confirmed no involvement with the releases, it’s still great to see the label back in action again. “Maniac Driver” is released on a ReelGore Releasing AVC encoded Blu-ray, a BD25, and presents the Mitsutake film in 1080p, high definition and a 2.35:1widescreen aspect ratio. Despite heavily saturating to a blur scenes with brilliant, primary coloring, familiar to the giallo subgenre, the overall details are quite pleasant and palpable. Mitsutake utilizes different lighting and shadowing techniques to create different atmospherics but never seems to inherently kill the textures as they maintain a sharp, tactile presence. The Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 audio track, with forced English subtitles, is vibrant with an 80’s inspired blend of synth and riff-rock. Japanese dialogue is strong, clear, and innately clean with the digital recording, balanced by an error free and aptly timed English subtitles. “Maniac Driver” has a robust, yet sometimes overelaborated, sound design that outputs nicely through the side channels. The killer’s leather glove sounds can be overkill with every scene being loused with the individual stretches of the fabric while the energy-thumping engine combined affixed shots around the tire and grill is a powerful effect of the cab driver’s routine hunting method. The release also comes with French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus features include a making of featurette with interviews with the cast and crew, an audio commentary with director Kurando Mitsutake, photo slideshow, and the trailer. There are no stinger scenes during or after the credits. The physical appearance sheaths the 25GB disc inside a sleek red Blu-ray snapper case with reversible cover art that has two alternate posters on the inside. The film is not rated, region free, and has a run time of just under 75 minutes. “Maniac Driver” is no passenger in the giallo subgenre; the Kurando Mitsutake might be a bundle of homages and inspirations but takes the wheel of the Japanese sexploitive-giallo gas guzzler with deranged brutality.

Hail down the “Maniac Driver” on Blu-ray!

Biding Time Can Be Dystopianlly EVIL and Claustrophobic. “Tin Can” reviewed! (Dread / Blu-ray)

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

A viral fungus pandemic has plagued the world.  Fret, a parasitologist, has worked toward a cure to stop the spread of a virus that grows Clavaria-like basidiocarps from inside out the body that’ll eventually enclose the victim to death in an organic cocoon.  Before Fret can develop and distribute the recently discovered global cure for the virus, she awakes in a confined metal container constructed to suspend life duration for those who contracted the illness.  Confused and disoriented, Fret learns she’s not alone as others awake around her and able to talk with through the containers, including your infected husband John.  Unaffected by the virus and believed to be encapsulated in error, Fret works desperately on an escape from her well-intended prison in order to save humanity before it’s too late.   

By now, most of us can relate to a pandemic-driven storyline because, well, you know, COVID.  The 2020 sci-fi body horror “Tin Can” is no exception despite having been filmed prior to all the pandemic induced deaths and lockdowns.  Perhaps premise creator and director Seth A. Smith had a little foresight into coming events that inspired the Canadian project co-written with Darcy Spidle.  “Tin Can” is the fourth pen-to-paper collaboration between Smith and Spidle who previously completed two feature films (“Lowlife,” 2010 / “The Crescent,” 2017) and one short (“The Brym,” 2016) along with “The Willows,” the duo’s fourth feature film and revolving once again around preternatural events, that is currently in pre-production. For “Tin Can,” Smith and Spidle entangle a science fictional, dystopian, Hell in a handbasket world with selfish motives that outweigh saving the world. Seth A. Smith’s Nova Scotia based production company, Cut/Off/Tail Pictures, develops the story produced by company producer Nancy Ulrich and financially backed by the executive producing team of Michael Baker, Marc Savoie, Tim Lidster, and Rob Cotterill (“Possessor”).

“Tin Can” might evoke a sense that one main character will be the focus point for the entire storyline, such as with “Buried” that stays put on the singular person trapped in this very tight, very claustrophobic-inducing soda can. Yet, that is not such the case with “Tin Can” that does circle around a centerpiece character in Fret (Anna Hopkins, “V/H/S/94”) but the cure-all scientist waking up in a life-extending canister while on the edge of saving mankind isn’t alone. Surrounding Fret are strangers, colleagues, and even her husband, some of whom, such as her husband, are suffering the protruding fungal fairy fingers of the virus. Anna Hopkins fields a hefty, difficult role after an initially a humble beginning as a scientist that more so-or-less feels the pangs of a low rent indie, but as Hopkins’ Fret transcends time by waking up weeks (or maybe months…years?) later, her environment becomes frantically imprisoning. The tight confines of the titular object with medical tubes dangling from the ceiling, a Tracheostomy tube down the throat, a malfunction video screen, and mysterious bars that light up one-by-one set a stronger stage for the actress to be put up against and Hopkins nails the mindset of a woman vehement and determined with escape to not only save her own life but the life of billions across the planet. In the cans beside Fret, providing Hopkins with more serve-and-volley fuel, is her husband John (Simon Mutabazi) inflicted by disease but becomes more than just a victim, Wayne (Michael Ironside, “Starship Troopers”) who I couldn’t really grasp as a component in the story as he’s like a project financier in the tin can project to save his own skin from being reskinned by fungus, Darcy (Amy Trefry) as a colleague-friend of John and Fret, Whistler (Tim Dunn, “The ABCs of Death”) who is the most interesting and weird doomsayer of the bunch, and a fist banging mute (Sara Campbell) also inflicted. For much the back-and-forth in the cannister talk, the dynamic is more of a talking head roundtable of initial discussions of popping open a small air vent so they sce outside their enclosed cell and eventually lead to more depth and deception that narrows the story with the what, when, why, and how.

“Tin Can” aspires to be a chaptered three-act conundrum. I don’t mean that in a negative perspective. What Smith brings into existence is a polished independent film of Cronenberg-esque and has ensuing weirdness act-after-act only paralleled by the double-crossing exoneration or a retaliating impugn of keeping one alive after being severely scorned. The first act plays out like the world of today, a devastating pandemic that has ravaged the human population. The second act unsheathes the mystery of waking up inside the tin can device with people she knows and is eager to discharge herself from a capsule that’s supposed to sustain her life. Then, the third act rolls in, the third and final chapter, and time has officially been corrupted as we know it with a futuristic beings suited in various colored alloys. Alloys are definitely a theme beginning with title “Tin Can.” Fret discovers a cure for the diseases by commingling it with an alloy and each containment artificer is suited in a different metal and are credited as Copper, Gold, Silver, etc. What Smith could be suggesting is the element that could cure us could also incapacitate or, even worse, transfigure our existence with a lifesaving, yet life altering, solution to the extreme. Cinematographer Kevin Fraser industrializes the look of “Tin Can’s” existential view and is a glorious rusty bucket of a cheerless life. If Smith wanted to convey a life of nihility and automaton, Fraser nailed down the oxidation state. “Tin Can’s” a cold hard look at the cost of saving the world that, in the end, might not be worth saving.

A part of the Dread Central at home release line, “Tin Can” arrives onto a high-definition Blu-ray distributed by Epic Pictures and MVD Visual. The region free Blu-ray is presented in a throwback 3:2 with letterboxing and has a color reduction implemented to give it that demoded depiction. Image looks amazing without an inkling of any kind of compression issues especially with many of the scenes shot in darker and bleaker circumstances. Fraser delivers some awe-inspiring, creative angles that produce a how-did-they-do-that response to get a 360-degree single take of Anna Hopkins in the cannister or the rotation of a limp body on a large wheel door. The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio mix has solid sound design as more than half of the picture is off the principals talking through their metallic cylinder containers that created a muffled depth and low range flickering in the backorder, the mechanized hum mixed with scraping metal, does wonders to sell the dystopian effect that borders steampunk. No inherent or noticeable flaws in the final product. English subtitles are available. Special features include a commentary with Seith A. Smith, The Last Bell Doe Toll – the making of “Tin Can'” exhibits the construction and creation of the displaced subsequent future, how to achieve a few of those crazy Kevin Fraser shots, and provide cast and crew interview insights, and the bonus content rounds out with two music videos – The Last Bell Does Toll and ZAUM – The Enlightenment (Part I). “Tin Can” runs at 104 minutes and is not rated. “Tin Can” is ingenious on a level many will not fully understand and, frankly, I barely can tether my impression and have it make sense, but there’s a unique ore core to this science fictional, ill-fated fantasy that can be so odd at times you can’t help but not look away.

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

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!