EVIL Comes in Pairs. “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

A top-secret lab, known as the Ark 1 of Jeju Island where The Witch project is being conducted, is raided by ruthless mercenaries armed to the teeth with weapons and an enhanced superpowers resulting from The Witch project.  Eradicating every living person in the tundra camouflaged facility, one teenage girl emerges bloody from the carnage and wanders off into a neighboring snow-covered forest.  She’s rescued by Kyung-hee and her brother Dae-gil who inherited the land from their recently killed father.  The siblings are in a contentious situation of their own with a gangster uncle, Yong-du, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the property, especially when he took care of the previous landowner.  With her Witch powers, the girl helps her kind rescuers to fend off a Yong-du shakedown, but the problems only begin there as the Ark 1 mercenaries are tracking down the girl’s whereabouts to finish what they started and a tactical team, enhanced with Witch powers too, has also been dispatched to eliminate the girl as an unpredictable global threat.  When all forces collide, the Earth will shake in a bloodbath of superpowers. 

A direct, but not an entirely direct sequel to the 2018 high-action Korean thriller “The Witch:  Part I – The Subversion,” writer-director Park Hoon-jung (screenwriter of “I Saw the Devil”) returns with a follows up the long awaited sequel “The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” that promises to be just as excitingly unrestrained with more players in the superpower game culminating to an explosive head that plays out like a hard-hitting Guy Richie storyline of intersecting plot threads except without wisecracking Englishmen.  The sequel follows another, and a handful of others in sperate, funneling threads, like the first installment’s principal character Koo Ja-yoon with insurmountable supernatural abilities except now everyone and their brother can “Twilight”-jump and Wolverine-heal, making the field even-steven to a known extent up until the grand finale.  Park returns as producer as well as newcomer Hyun-woo Kim, producer of “I Saw the Devil” and “Snowpiercer,” with Next Entertainment World and Goldmoon Films serving as production companies.

The sequel does not specifically revolve around first film femme fatale Koo Ja-yoon and turns the focus on a new prodigal Witch who has been cooped up in a lab since birth, hence why the film is not a full-fledged direct sequel as the storyline goes into an offshoot that later intersects. The face of the new witch is played by Shin Si-ah who makes her feature film debut.  When not covered in blood, Shin’s mostly reserved performance opens to light-hearted and childlike wonder as her character is experiences everything for the first time outside the Ark 1 lab.  Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin, “Death Bell 2:  Bloody Camp”) and Dae-gill (Sung Yoo-bin, “Manhole”) take in the girl and become the warm absorption resemblance of family life or a life with romantic interests that can quickly be ripped away at any moment, sending the emotionally teetering girl into battle mode.  However, that sensation of relationships and tenderness hardly translates well on screen.  Perhaps losing some impact in literal translation, the trio’s dynamic retains a goalless fruition of connecting with other people, especially the superhuman powerless ones.  I found more complexities in the two factions seeking the same target – the girl.  Enigmatically opening with the mercenary raid on the secret Ark 1 lab and executing all in their path, we’re not immediately introduced to, and then barely given an introduction at all, is “The Cursed Lesson’s” Chae Won-bin’s mercenary boss lady and her squad of lesser-though of subordinates who all carry this overly murderous confidence with the latter being often measured inside their own group.  The other group is quite the opposite with the official tactical response team deployed by the Witch project head Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo), a returning character from “The Subversion.”  Compiled as chief agent Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) and her second-in-command, a South African named Tom (Justin John Harvey). Seo and Harvey have a better act as the exchange is degrading and goofy in a comical manner with Jo as a workaholic lone wolf leader of an elite group of special ops while Tom brown noses his commander with new tech and offers helpful suggestions to which his commander either breaks or doesn’t use the new tech and views him as more of a warmhearted nuisance. Jin Goo completes the principal cast as a high-level gangster boss that would be big time in reality but in “The Witch’s” universe equates to an insignificant goon in a fancy coat. With an entourage of loyal henchmen, Jin Goo rubs elbows with his business smarts to get in bed with a clandestine organization as well as staying alive as long as he can in order to rob property right from under his niece and nephews’ nose. Goo plays the part with sly astonishment as he creates a pompous persona mildly shocked by awesome abilities of a young girl with the strength of 100 men.

What garnered much fascination with the 2018 film was the Korean dark, neo-noir tone intermixed with the uncanny abilities of a mystery person who can’t remember jack about their past. Park Hoon-jung essentially removes the simplified spine of “Part 1” and transplants it as the basis of “Part 2” with the similar added angles of a destroyed lab that supposedly no one survives but one person ultimately does and a pair of benevolent landowners who rescue, nurse, and essentially adopt the amnesiac girl back to 100% percent. “Part 2′” mirrored storyline is then targeted by at least three different angles represented by each bird-dogging group to add elements of change that include a contrast of comedy and austere posturing, the former being refreshingly novel to the two-film series that promises more to come after an open-ended finale. Returning to the sequel is the insane visual effects of “Twilight”-esque rapid movements and epic fight sequences with large explosions, a cold and bloody violent complexion, and high body count and while that’s all good and dandy for surface level popcorn effects, what’s agonizing is the how sped up they are as if every super occurrent was purposely depressed on fast forward by the power of three. If Park and his creative visual supervisors and gurus could have tempered down every other two moments with instead of having thrown cars, and among other things, seemingly skip multiple frames would have had more of a plausibility impact. The mélange complexity of multiple pursuers armed to the teeth and converging onto an unexpected teenage girl shacked up in a humble abode is a great classical spell of barnstorming besiegement that has the same improbability odds of survival as before betting on David versus Goliath until upended unto the aggressors, with all their guns and knives, who now need a prayer and much more against the prodigal youth with a considerably more amount of Witch power.

A fierce force of controlled power, and unforeseen surprises, the long-anticipated sequel, “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One,” has finally landed post-pandemic. Well Go USA Entertainment, who released the first installment on Blu-ray, has picked up the rights to release the sequel on the high-definition format, presented in a sleek and sharp 16:9 aspect ratio. Virtually no issues with the digital presentation, the Blu-ray’s 1080p heightens every aspect of detail, even to a fault with the wonky visual effects as mentioned earlier. The overall darker lit tone and range can sometimes give off the appearance of softer details but with solid contrasting, the outlining shapes up more so than often and there’s no compression distortion to render an ill-defined texture. The Korean-English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, also available is a Dolby Digital 7.1 Atmos and a Stereo 2.0, delivers a formidable, comprehensible, and frenzy-favorable mix of balanced action and dialogue. Depth perfectly pitches the focus properly while the range fuses together mostly during the fighting sequences until there’s a deep and punch-packed explosion mushrooming into a ball of crackling fire. No evident issues with dialogue and the English subtitles synch well with no flaws. Bonus content features a glossy and sped-cut behind-the-scenes featurette and the theatrical trailer. Physical features include the original Blu-ray snapper case with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same cliff-note touching cover art as the snapper case. The NTSC Blu-ray come region A hardcoded, is unrated, and has a runtime of 130 minutes. Time flies when you’re engrossed in “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One’s” take no prisoner thriller of transcendent turbulence.

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

When the Heart Loses is When EVIL Invades the Head! “The Twin” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

After the tragic car accident that claims the life of their son Nathan, grieving Rachel and Anthony move from New York City to a sublime region of Finland, a place where Anthony’s lineage lies and where he spent time as a child. Nathan’s twin brother, Elliot, is frequently overprotected by his mother after the loss. When Elliot begins to exhibit troubling signs in his behavior that links to his deceased twin brother, Rachel grasps out for explanations, looking for a rational and irrational answer that could contribute to such erraticism in her son. One possibility, paved by a local outsider with her own personal demons, is the Finnish community is beholden to a supreme darkness that seeks to possess the child from the beyond. With nowhere to turn for help, Rachel relies of her motherly instinct to protect her child at all costs and from all malice from all forms. but what the evil that plagues Rachel and Elliot might be closer to her than she realizes.

Identical twins are already at about a 10 on the creep factor scale. Margot Kidder in the dual psychotic role of Brian De Palma’s “Sisters”, the unnerving Jeremy Iron performance of manipulation and cruelty in David Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringer,” and even those Grady twin sisters from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” are an eerie extract overlooking the fact that two people can look so exactly alike. The biological phenomena goes against what proclaims us to be human in the first place – our individuality – and to be regularly utilized as a factor of the strange and unusual in a horror film just fills the cup up with a whole bunch of, and I quote Jordan Peele, nope! Finnish writer-director Taneli Mustonen is the next filmmaker to implement the oddity of identical siblings in his latest horror-thriller entitled simply “The Twin.” Co-written with Aleksi Hyvärinen, “The Twin” is the sophomore horror feature behind 2016’s “Lake Bodom” to emerge from the writers who have found cadence writing, producing, and directing comedies. Spun from Mustonen and Hyvärinen’s production company, Don Films, Don as in the title of respect, along with collegial line producer Mika Pajunen. Responsible for funding “The Twin” are returning “Lake Bodom” executive producers Fabian Westerhoff, Joris van Wijk, and Toni Valla with Shudder’s Emily Gotto acquiring distribution rights with financial backing.

Like most films about twins, the 2022 released twists and turns of a back-and-forth intrapersonal thriller uses one person to Eddie Murphy the roles. That person in “The Twin” is the pintsized Tristan Ruggeri who made his television debut as young Geralt in the hit Netflix book-adapted dark fantasy series “The Witcher.” Unlike most films about twins, Ruggeri really only has to play one but teeter the personality of the other in a symbolic showing of painful sorrow manifested to sorely miss what’s essentially your exact self. Imagine you’re a twin of a deceased sibling and you look at yourself and see your brother or sister. Rugger’s able to capture that emotional payload at such a young age despite being rigid as many child actors typically unfold early in career. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Rachel, a distraught mother coping with the tragic loss, and the audience experience darkening, supernatural plot that’s unravelling a Satanist cult’s clandestine desires to bedevil her now only son Elliot.  “Warm Bodies” and “Lights Out” star Teresa Palmer plays the now the mature and safeguarding motherly role in the grand horror scheme alongside fellow “Discovery of Witches” costar Steven Cree (“Terminator:  Dark Fate’) playing her novelist husband, Anthony. For “The Twin” to actually work for the viewer to understand on a sympathetic level, you need to feel the love between them and finding love between Palmer and Cree is about as loveless as a platonic relationship. Aside from sharing a bed and a child, the romance and amorous has been removed from play, but that of frigid factor could have very well been intentional for the story. The principal casting concludes with Barbara Marten (“The Turning”) and the town eccentric, a foreigner who Rachel relates to and latches on to when the crisis with Elliot worsens.

“The Twin” is small principal cast with big background actors that menacingly swallow nonconformers alien in nature to their surroundings. Foggy atmospherics, looming, creaky wooden house, and the dissociative difficulties that put Rachet through a tizzy compound the fear and the affliction of anxiety that turns everything close to you against you in a heap of isolation. All the dead silence and surreal nightmares build tension effectively, keeping the audience on the edge for that peak moment. Mustonen and Hyvärinen throw in a capacious curveball that lets characters wander and explore then develop and action against before pulling the rug from under our one-directional firm footing for a twist. That twist, however, is a play fake we’ve seen before in recent years with the armor of horror shielding the true trepidation. When the peeling begins and the revealing shows us more complicated layers beneath the rotten onion, the once randomized vectors formulate a picture and within the systematic process of slowly uncoiling initial perceptions and believed facts, the story takes on a whole new meaning and, sometimes, even begs the question if what we just watched is still a horror picture after all? “The Twin” very much fits into this goose chase genre but fits like a size two times too small. The path Rachel follows is a yellow brick road to Oz. Oz being the satanic cult is scheming kid-snatch in place of the Beast more vigorous. Mounds upon mounds of hearsay, circumstantial evidence, and even a factoid or two lead the film by the nose to an unwittingly demise of its importance to the story as a whole once all the cards are laid out before us. “The Twin” then goes into heavy exposition to try and explain much of what Rachel experiences and it really felt like a bunch of hot air, a passive attempt to briefly summarize the last 109 minutes without really telling us much about anything. There’s still lots of questions concerning Anthony’s wealth, background, and mental fortitude. Questions also arise about the story’s hook that suddenly drives the characters to make radical changes in a blink of an opening montage eye. “The Twin” has shuddering moments of stillness suspense and a disorienting subcurrent that severs safety at every turn but flirts with unoriginality too much for exhilaration in an all-been-done-before dogleg…with twins.

Acorn Media continues to be the leading UK home video rights distributor for exclusive Shudder releases as “The Twin” makes it’s Blu-ray debut in the region. The PAL encoded region 2 Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Retaining mostly in gray and blue hue to convey melancholia to the fullest extent possible, the picture quality doesn’t retain a terrific amount of detail. Textures are often softer during gel-night scenes with no well-defined lines and when compared to day-lit scenes, the details are starkly steelier. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound caters to a sound design that can differentiate between the bumps in the night as well as the stock-still silence that strikes at the nerves. Dialogue amplitude is on the softer side but very clean and very clear to comprehend. English subtitles have optional availability. Special features include a making-of featurette with cast interviews spliced in. The standard Acorn physical releases for Shudder remain the same for “The Twin” with a common blue case snapper with one-way cover art of uninspired creation. The film is certified 15 for strong horror, threat, bloody images, and violence. As far as doppelgänger bearing horror, “The Twin” is nowhere near identical to others but as for its fraternal individuality, there’s little unique about the Taneli Mustonen picture involving paranoia and primal maternal instinct.

Become Wrapped Up in EVIL with “The Shroud” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

Centuries before, an evil witch is brutally tortured and killed while covered in a white shroud. In present day, a nun, part of a special sect vowed to never let the unholiness of the shroud deviltries be unearthed from the forgotten rubble of a divine stupa, is raped by two men wearing masks. With the help of a hired obtainer, the nun will stop at nothing to get her hands on, even at the defiance of her brother’s advice, but the shroud’s a bewitching mistress and its power are intoxicating. Breaking her piety pact with God and her sworn duty to protect man from wickedness, the nun succumbs to the sin that drips from the shroud’s blood-soaked fabric and exploits its personification powers of evil doings by not only exacting revenge on her attackers, sending the shroud to assassinate her attackers without an ounce of mercy, but also converting her devout habit to a shameless, promiscuous one of immorality.

A made-in-Italia possession film about a killer burial garment and a nun with big guns giving out the last rites. What could go wrong? The immediate impression arises a lot of interest in this 2022 released inanimate killer object flick from writer-director Fabrizio Spurio. As Spurio’s third feature in the horror genre, “The Shroud” envelopes the 50-year-old, Rome-born director’s first ambitious single story length venture behind the more episodic anthology, “Innesti,” and the more obscure “Vanity,” that taps into the willingness participation to do anything for stardom. “The Shroud” embarks into a more religious and supernatural discourse that clashes the sin and the sinner with a blurry line of empowerment. Made with pennies, or rather made on the Italian centismos on the Euro, “The Shroud,” or “Sindome,” is a production of the Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci inspired Goreproduction company, cofounded by Spurio with Francesco Lagonigro tacked on as a fulltime collaborator in shooting low-budget, independent, free-thinking cinema of underground horror.

The last time I saw the sultry lead Italian actress and extreme indie horror luminary, Chiara Pavoni, was in the avant garde “Xpiation” helmed by one of, if not the dominant, underground horror filmmaker, Domiziano Cristopharo.  In her motherly-voyeuristic role, Pavoni radiated with dark, sphinxlike desire in her well-dressed, pin-up sex-symbol performance of longing and control.  Pavoni doesn’t stray far from that archetype with her latest role in Spurio’s “The Shroud” as she plays a woman of virtue, a nun to be more exact, who has quickly turned lubricious and vindictive after her being raped.  Pavoni is certainly bodacious on screen as she adorns tight-fitting outfits that barely contain her snugly-packed large chest, exposing a Mariana Trench deep cleavage in a Spirit Halloween sexy nun getup for much of her role’s sordid side.  As a thespian performer, Pavoni has the subtle moves of a temptress who knows what she wants but dialogue deliveries are something left to be desired as the “Demonium” actress goes through the motions of plain speak as does much of the other cast, including the Goreproduction producer costar Francesco Lagonigro. Lagonigro plays her object obtainer who, by the seducing forces of the shroud, turns into her sex-slave or gothic lackey as visions of death please feed him the sensation of guilty pleasures. Lagonigro’s version of a factotum is about as cheesy as they come with a glaring lowered brow and white and black face paint to embellish something that looks nowhere near sinisterism. If we’re supposed to take Lagonigro’s maniacal manservant role seriously than Spurio, and Lagonigro for that matter, misses the mark badly in a poorly sized up rendition of a Renfield like stooge. “The Shroud” rounds out the cast with many miniscule, nearly nonspeaking roles with Paolo Di Gialluca (“7 Sins”), Andrea Pucci, Allesandro Massari, Giuseppe Andreozzi, Sara Lagonigro, Monica Rondino, and Andrea Pacilli and Samuele Lagonigro who composed the score for the film under the moniker, Sam and Andy.

As you can see, “The Shroud” is a family production for the Lagonigros who won’t hesitate to pitch in to make Francesco’s lewd and crude extreme horror on a bar tab’s worth. Conceptually, “The Shroud’s” an appealing idea of religious hypocrisy and the natural human desire to be immoral. Rules are meant to be broken as Spurio seizes control the very one thing a woman should have control over – her body. By introducing rape by two masked men, Spurio rips away that control and for a nun who whole schtick is to abide by God by maintaining purity in keeping her holy temple intact, she must seethe with humiliation in front of her Lord and inevitable turn away from him because there is nothing left unadulterated to give. She has sinned, whether intentional or not, and so the tainted nun must keep on sinning in various ways: lust, revenge, and murder. Despite being on a budget, Spurio’s ability to liven up a plain white tablecloth is what making movies is all about as the shroud lives and breathes on screen, moving in an agile manner, and becomes a physical presence that can gore a man through. Sleight of hand scene reversals bestows the shroud with a life of its own, creating a slithering dolman of death that looks great in the humble presentation. That kind of DIY special effects translates the same across the slender 76-minute with practical gore gags that rest above mediocracy, and I can say that with a straight face. “The Shroud” will have very few claims to cult fame with a slew of sloppiness that takes the zero-dollar expenditure and makes it appear even cheaper than pocket change. There’s even a scene where the director is clearly reflected into the frame, not even an attempt to hide or review for need to reshoot.

“The Shroud” is warm and cozy when it’s not trying to kill you! SRS Cinema, a leading purveying of underground cinema, releases Fabrizio Spurio’s “The Shroud” on DVD as part of the company’s extreme and unrated nightmare fuel label. Distributed through MVD Visual, the region free DVD5 is presented in an unmatted widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a commercial grade quality of a standard definition camcorder that maxes out on the higher side of output of a 720p resolution and so the final result looks fairly okay for DVD. For much of the natural lighting, the high contrast works extremely well, creating deep shadows that make the film feel richer than its actual value, but the details and textures are often soft and bleary, washing out any kind of tactile material. Luminescence of green and blue gels as well as double overlays are used to symbolize nightmares and shroud vision are more headache inducing than a stylish solution when mingled with an industrial engine rumble or high-pitched and stretched vocal score with some piano keys tossed in to mix it up. The Italian language dual-channel stereo is a lossy, unbridled catchall. As much as the audio is purely soundtrack, there is still an insurmountable of sounds being captured by the camcorder mic that softens the desired prominent audiles, such as dialogue which becomes trapped in a cavernous state of echos and various levels of pitch inconsistences. The subtitles on the SRS DVD appear to be translated by a person with English as not their primary language as a tone of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and absolutely zero capitalization tarnish an already low-rent feature. If you can work your way through the strangely designed menu options to the bonus features, you’ll find included raw take bloopers, photo gallery, music videos starring Chiara Povani and Francesco Lagonigro, and SRS trailers. The physical package is perhaps the best part of “The Shroud” with a true-to-form beautifully dark illustration of the most memorable character faces to exhibit in the film, crafted and designed by Avery Guerro. “The Shroud” is an estimable underground piece of the extreme horror art pie but slacks in unnecessary places and becomes an exemplar of a shoddy and careless production that ultimately hurts the overall value of its genus.

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

Everything is EVILLER in Texas. “The Hoot Owl” reviewed! (Brink Vision / Blu-ray)

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

Blind buying a house is never good idea.  Blind buying a murder house in the middle of nowhere should be on the list of if you bought it, you deserve what’s coming to you.  Scott and April do just that as the recently troubled couple start afresh with a purchase of a fixer upper after suffering a late term miscarriage.  Deciding to not have Chip and Joanna Gains to rehab the dilapidated new residence set deep in the woods, the couple invite a small group of friends and family to assist in the much-needed repair and cleanup.  Interrupting their pass-the-doobie high and their positive high spirits while renewing an old house into a home, death and destruction erupts as a pair of demented squatters don’t take too kindly to the new homeowners. 

As far as debut feature films go, “The Hoot Owl” is a gory practical effect driven, true-to-form independent slasher film born and bred out of the great state of Texas.  The co-directing, co-writing Jasons, Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, are the masterminds behind the cow head-boned masked killer and the very pregnant and very inbred wild woman lying in wait for the naive trespassers to drop their guard and thin out before the slaughter.  Having worked together for years making short films together, the 2022 released slasher was setup by Rader and Godi as a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but out of the filmmakers’ flexible 20K goal, “The Howl Owl” concept received a measly $275 from four backers.  That roadblock was only temporary and didn’t stop the aspiring retro-slasher artists to complete their foot-in to the passion project that took over 9 years to complete from pre-production-to-post-production under their co-created company banner, Vanishing Twin Productions, in association with Rise Above Productions and producer Raymond Carter Cantrell.

If you’re going all out to make a slasher film, then you’re going to need victims to slash! Most indie slashers nowadays have a synopsis that begins something like this, “a group of teens go into the woods…,” and just by those few key introductory words, we know perfectly well what to expect as the drinking, smoking, and sex-crazed youth meet the homicidal maniac with a bloody machete in one hand and a decapitated head in the other. There’s a rhythmic comfort in that classic symbiosis. The downside to the structure always boils down to the shot in the dark cast and cast of characters that can make or break a slasher film’s success. Scott (Jason Skeen, “By the Devil’s Hands”) and wife April (Augustine Frizzell) bring along Scott’s longtime good friend Drew (J.D. Brown, “Cross Bearer”) and April’s estranged sister Suzy (Katharine Franco, “The Inflicted”) offer a little bit of everything in a hodgepodge of backstories that don’t quite become reinforced in the end with the exception of April whose miscarriage and loss transcends into twisted maternal madness. Frizzell’s glow for the first two acts doesn’t really yell grief but when the ardency takes over, stemmed by her vivid gruesome dreams of her miscarriage, the Texas-born actress steps up to the plate of a psychotic break. Suzy’s also interesting enough character to spark curiosity with the enigmatic contentiousness in a heartfelt scene of two sisters rekindling their bond while actually actioning those same emotions on screen; instead, Franco enjoys the blithe nature of Suzy’s indecisiveness about school and about her family but discovers a quick and sudden fascination with Drew, the least interesting principal that hires two colorful buddies: Hank (Carl Bailey, “A Ship of Human Skin”), a father of two who a penchant for sexual harassment, and an obvious long hair wig-wearing oddball Bugs (Roger Schwermer Jr.). Bailey resembles pure Texan posture but is stiff as a board in his sleazy contractor role. “The Hoot Owl” rounds out the cast with Joshua Ian Steinburg playing the boned-face killer and Johnny Wright reaching inside to extract his inner Neanderthal-like wild woman ready to emulate a putridly picturesque birth.

“The Hoot Owl” is a by-the-numbers man-in-a-mask slasher riddled with familiar tropes and conventional clichés.  Baseline fact is that the film is not breaking any molds here and won’t be a contender for horror picture of the year.  With that said, and as harsh as that may sound, what “The Hoot Owl” represents is pure spirit and appreciation for what the film ultimately represents – a love for the heyday horror. Rader and Godi firmly believe in their film with a sincere attempt at a feature and pulling all the material together during a near decade-long process to get the film released out into the world. Far from perfect, “The Hoot Owl” relies heavily on the gruesome practical effects and there are some good gory terminations with a piledriving beartrap, a split-head decapitation with a large chain, and a long, rusty drill bit through the eye socket that ends in a spurting splatter of blood. The expo is an impressive effort from Allan David Caroll in his first go-round with the effects trade that could rival the early works of Tom Savini or Greg Nicotero. What breaks up the story most of all are the secondary shoots used to swell and cut into the first-round material shots to beef up a feature production. For instance, the opening credit chase sequence of a maniac cop (at least I think it was a cop) hunting down a man and his pregnant wife is a moment that is never clearly referred backed to, but the assumption is that the pregnant woman is the encountered savage later on in the unveiling climatic and the bone-head killer is her child from the rundown who then impregnates his own heathenized mother…? Connectively, it’s all unclear in unfused ends, causing a break in the signal from the lead-in to the trunk of the story, and that underdevelopment pursues throughout with loops never coming to a close.

In my first brush with Brink Vision since reviewing their DVD release of the 2008 alien transmitted dead-resurrecting bacteria film, “Evilution,” a tinge of satisfaction embraces my little heart to see Brink Vision come back across with a Blu-ray release of their latest “The Hoot Owl,” distributed by MVD Visual. The quick-paced 72-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is not rated and is region free. Video quality doesn’t represent the best-of-the-best of the 1080p high-def resolution with a commercial standard definition equipment and know this mainly because compression that doesn’t display a myriad of issues. Details are not as sharp and there is banding more obvious in one scene of negative space, but the picture is otherwise free of artefacts and other data loss issues. The English Language 5.1 surround mix fairs much of the same albeit the electrostatic noise. While not overwhelming the dialogue to a point of murkiness, the steady shushing combined with the poor audio recordings can vary the quality and depth with a blunt flatness. Bonus features includes a commentary with directors Jason Rader and Jason Von Godi, a second commentary with Creepy Peepy Podcast, a featurette of Rader and Godi looking back at their 9-year pilgrimage to completion, Godi’s short film ‘The Voyeur,” trailer and still gallery. The physical release has beautiful artwork of the Hoot Owl killer in a throwback, almost Scream Factory-esque, illustration. The back cover is a little wonky with a composite that’s hard to read with deep purple lettering on the credits and bonus material listing almost invisible amongst the black background. “The Hoot Owl” endears the slasher fandom with a callback to the brute strength of a wanton villain and if only the script was smoothed over, this little indie film from Texas could have better laid a stronger foundation.

“The Hoot Owl” on Blu-ray is Slasher-iffic! Available at Amazon.com!

EVIL Worming Its Way into Your Body! “They Crawl Beneath” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“They Crawl Beneath” on Blu-ray Home Video from Well Go USA!

After a near-death experience, Danny finds himself living on his profligate uncle’s couch when his family-desiring girlfriend fears his occupation will emotionally destroy them if he dies in the line of fire. The turbulent relationship reaches a stalemate, frustrating Danny further into confiding into his imprudent uncle as they work to rehab an old car. When an earthquake takes his uncle’s life, pins his leg underneath the car, and traps him in a closed garage isolated from much of civilization, Danny has limited options for rescue and to make matters worse, the ground opening up has released an undiscovered wormlike creature from the fissures. The severely injured officer now must fight for survival against an enemy unlike any other and face the terrible truth that could possibly change his life forever…if he lives through the night.

“They Crawl Beneath” is subterranean-to-surface horror with large wormlike aggressors hungry for fleshy food. The 2022 creature feature is the screenplay brainchild of writer Tricia Aurand who pens her way through a career of shorts to features with her second full length screenplay, originally entitled “It Crawls Beneath,” developed with the crux of the story surrounding the struggling emotional arc of a couple’s embattled relationship growth while being besieged by the belowground bloodsuckers in a tussle of grit and determination that dually transposes a never give up, never say it’s over theme. “Area 407” and “Reed’s Point” director Dale Fabrigar helms the film in what’s the second collaborator effort between Tricia Aurand and the director that falls upon the complete opposite on the genre spectrum behind the feel-good holiday movie “Middleton Christmas,” cowritten and produced by Suzanne DeLaurentiis and, before your wheels start spinning, there’s no mention of her relation to famous television cook Giada De Laurentiis or Giada’s Italian film-centric father, Dino De Laurentiis. Like an effort to purge cathartically the holiday spirit, Suzanne DeLaurentiis, who wrorte-and-directed 1996’s “Mutant Man,” produces the film with Fabrigar and Aurant spearheading the project under her banner, Suzanne DeLaurentiis Productions,” and presented theatrically by Kevin and Noel Goetz of BBMG Entertainment and “Monstrous’s” Film Mode Entertainment.

“They Crawl Beneath” is essentially a one-man show, puncturing much of the same vein as “Stalled,” “Buried,” or “The Shallows” where a single protagonist much problem-solve to work out from a difficult and deadly situation. Now, “They Crawl Beneath” slightly differs from the examples aforementioned that provides a bit of setup with cop-on-leave Danny (Joseph Almani) down in the dumps and hanging with Uncle Bill (Michael Paré, “Village of the Damned”) as a direct result of having a fallen out with girlfriend Gwen (Karlee Elridge) over a near death experience in a shootout with a perp. Almani gives a wrought performance that’s raps a handful of times on the door of embarrassing ignominy with overzealous one-liners that squander the fervid weight the story works very tirelessly to setup for Danny and his pitfall of troubles. Yet, Danny also can’t grasp the heaviness of Gwen’s decision to leave him as if what matters to her is no matter at all and that’s where the script disproportionally downplays Danny’s pride by having him recoil into the arms of a cool uncle. Michael Paré is the better half of that relationship despite his uncle Bill’s stag behavior. Paré has one of those classic, Golden-Age-type, voices to the likes of Robert Mitchum and though that doesn’t necessary speak to the Gen-X youth as cool, there’s still a panache quality about the 40-year vet actor that makes him feel bigger than the film itself. Elridge’s Gwen undercuts much into Almani’s man versus underground grub with an attitude in scenes that are terribly forced. Elridge, who doesn’t fail on her own accord, falls into an uninspiring role with unimportant lines and scenes just so there can be a prominent love interest for Danny. Gar-Ye Lee, Christopher M. Dukes, Brian DeRozan, and Elena Sahagun co-star.

I’ve read a few threads and comments around the worldwide web comparing Fabrigar’s “They Crawl Beneath” to the creature feature-classic Kevin Bacon-starring film “Tremors.”  Those comments and comparisons are grossly ill-conceived.  Aside from the physical release cover art which displays a well-armed individual standing cool on cracked pavement in the desert while the foreground large fissure in the road exposes a menacing burrowing organism does echo Graboid parallelism, but that’s the extent of it. There’s no “Mad Max” man with a rifle and a handgun in this flick. There’s an outskirt L.A. desert, but much creepy-crawler action takes place in a four-walled and dark garage. And the only similarities between these creatures and the Graboids are the Graboid’s snake-like tongues. The pint-sized creatures with tri-mandible, razor sharp teethed, mouths appear similar but individuated and brandish a stinger to be lethal at both ends of its larva bulbous body. The puppetry is obvious but also fantastic in the same breath. I couldn’t see Fabrigar and the creature effects supervisor pulling off the task any other way that doesn’t grade A visual effects, such as the cast in James Gunn’s “Slither.” “They Crawl Beneath” enters more of a survival horror and less of a creature feature with the principal lead finding himself trapped inside a garage and pinned underneath a car. Typical of many low-cost and independent productions that take refuge in one single, inexpensive location, the setup, the lion’s share act two, and the escape pays off big time in deflection stagnation by keeping Danny occupied with options though more than likely the creatures would have bit off his face during numerous moments of vulnerability. Pacing like this is troubled throughout. As I mentioned, Karlee Elridge’s scenes often created a distraction from the story’s essence and her scenes were intrusively pointless. As Danny finally connects with Gwen on the phone and she proclaims she will get ahold of Officer Holden to send help, there’s a scene following of her driving and calling officer Holden and explaining the situation. The scene bears inane purpose and is repetitive and there are a handful of scenes like this to thicken out the role of Elridge.

Practical effects driven “They Crawl Beneath” is middle of the road magnitude survival creature feather that has squirmed its way onto a Blu-ray home video from Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated region A Blu-ray is presented in 1080, 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an impressive contrast with enriched negative space that demarcates the well-shot positive space. Picture quality doesn’t seem to suffer compressed on the BD25 as there is no banding in the blacks and there are plenty of darker scenes contained in the garage. Skin, human and Platyhelminth, appear textured aplenty and while typical arid landscapes can whitewash character details due to lack of diverse color and adjacent objects, that’s not the case here as the focus in exterior scenes is tight on the characters and less about what’s in the background. The English language DTS-HD master audio channels cleaning through the output with phonic clarity. Acoustically, the garage sequences can sound slightly isolating which works for the confined space meant to have no sound dampeners to start. Creature screeches are generic but effective and sync aptly to the action without degradation. Option English SDH subtitles are available. The Well Go USA Entertainment release is feature film only with no bonus material accompanying the 88-minute runtime. “The Crawl Beneath” returns to the midnight showings of the USA Network days where the schlock hits the fan with genre features playing at ungodly hours, but the Dale Fabrigar quaking-quagmire is quick to enclose one man trapped in a room full of man-eating slugs and, sometimes, that’s all we want in a film.

“They Crawl Beneath” on Blu-ray Home Video from Well Go USA!