Down in the relationship dumps, Carly and Rina struggle with sustaining the love between them. Carly recently dropped out of medical school to pursue a videography career, Rina, whose a battling bulimic, can’t secure a job, and, together, the financial strain and their respective personal issues is pushing them apart as they indolently work toward a seemingly futile plan for the future in a rundown motel recently purchased by a college friend named Wyatt. As if things can’t get any worse, an infectious pandemic turns the diseased into flesh hungry zombies and has quickly engulfed their area shortly after devouring Europe before anyone knew what hit them. With all communications down and surrounded by the infected, Carly and Rina rely on each other for survival, armed with only a couple of handheld cameras and a knife, but one Rina becomes sick, how far will Carly go to save the love of her life.
Love and zombies. Never has there been a more catalytic experience when the fate of an undead ravaged Earth becomes the tinder box for rekindling affection of a broken relationship. That’s the surmised premise of Michael Souder’s director debut, a found footage horror entitled “By Day’s End,” released onto DVD by the Philadelphian home video distributor, Breaking Glass Pictures. The LGBTQ aware zombie horror is based on Souder’s short marketing preview entitled “Hunger” that involved a man and woman couple rather than two women and was set at a motel site with Souder acting as narrator in explaining his vision. While “Hunger’s” financials didn’t gain footing through crowdfunding, Sounder was able rework his vision that incorporates a different breed of zombie that can learn at a rapid pace, shot his film in 2015, and finally hitting the retail markets in 2020. Sci-Fi-fantasy writer, Justin Calen-Chenn, co-writes the script with Sounder and serves as co-producer with the director along with another co-producer, Alicia Marie Agramonte, in her first feature produced production. Joe Wasem serves as executive producer for this complicated love story in the midst of a zombie Armageddon.
The rocky romance between Carly and Rina land praise for Lyndsey Lantz (“Lore”) and Andrea Nelson (“I Spit On Your Grave: Déjà vu”) in being a convincing complex couple with tons of baggage including relationship singeing secrets from one another and an underlying passion that has grown a little stale from a future strained of financial collapse. The chemistry between the blonde haired Carly and the dark browned Rina sizzles with tension that steams like when hot water hits a freezing cold surface. Lantz provides Carly’s bubbly optimism of a woman in love that finds climbing Rina’s colossally icy barrier a frustrating feat despite an immense amount of devout love and loyalism for her partner. The one character that isn’t very convincing is the former military turned motel host Wyatt Fremont played by Joshua Keller Katz. Katz’s rigid performance falls into the stereotype category of a bad script read, overplaying Wyatt’s previous life with a smug thinning effect on the whole zombie chaos and Wyatt sticking out of place like a giant sore thumb. Rounding out the cast is Diana Castrillion (“Godforsake”), Umberto Celisano (“First House on the Hill”), Devlin Wilder (“Grizzled”) and die-hard horror fixtures Maria Olsen (“Starry Eyes”) and Bill Oberst Jr. (“3 From Hell”) with the latter providing his voice only.
Rina’s unceasing eating disorder has staked a claim as one of the spurs affecting Carly and Rina’s declining relationship and, yet, when another eating disorder where mankind craves the taste of each other, the once quarreling lovers reignite the warmth that was once their bond in an amusing parallel of events. Character analogies are not the only nice touches provided by Souder who tweaks the zombie, extending upon George Romero’s evolutionary concept of a learning and pliant zombie while also creating a big world apocalyptic problem with small world capabilities, with the undead playing possum – how very “Resident Evil.” The 74 minute runtime offers ideal pace to not linger in exposition, which some horror love stories tend to do, balancing the backstory and the instantaneous chaos into a smooth transition of events. The camera POV style renders the same objective with also a bit of tranquility that’s like a calm before the storm rather, as some ambience is muted by security cameras. The effect results a frightening, breath holding silence which is a nice, eerie touch of cinematography and uncluttered audio.
“By Day’s End” is the motel mayhem zombie movie you’ve been hungry for and comes to you on a DVD home video being released March 17 courteously from Breaking Glass Pictures. The DVD9, region 1 release is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, that splices together handheld camera and security cam footage. The image quality respectively shares the diverse filming tactics used to interlace a story. Handheld footage features a bright, natural appeal whereas the security footage purposefully instills as ashen approach and softer, fuzzier details with the horizontal lines created by direct light The English language 2.0 stereo mix has clean and forefront dialogue; the creature gutturals cast a more over-the-top and tawdry vocal disappointment that wasn’t fear invoking. Ambient depth and range are sizable and balanced. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, a quaint blooper reel, and Souder’s short film “Hunger.” “By Day’s End” marks the first indie horror success story of a 2020 release with a delicately modeled blend of romance and horror and a surge of lasting captivation on both of those fronts.
A bullet-riddled shootout with police left Baby Firefly, Otis Driftwood, and Captain Spaulding full lead, but not dead! The trio barely survives despite getting shelled by 20 gunshot wounds a piece and are tried and incarcerated for over a decade in maximum security prisons. After Captain Spaulding’s wears out his welcome on death row and becomes the first one executed, a merciless escape carried out by Otis’ half-brother, Winslow Foxworth Coltrane aka The Midnight Wolf, leaves a trail of blood and violence in their wake up to freeing Baby Firefly who can’t wait to play and unleash her uncontrollable crazy cyanide upon the world. However, there’s only one itsy-bitsy problem – they’re faces are about as dangerous to themselves as they are dangerous to others. The three from hell vamoose to a dumpy Mexico town to start afresh, but little do they know, no place is safe for long.
Over the span of 16 years and 14 years since “The Devil’s Rejects,” shock rock and rockabilly, metal rocker Rob Zombie returns to write and direct the third and highly anticipated sequel film in the Firefly trilogy with “3 From Hell.” The 2019 continuation of the Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding rejuvenates interesting in returning hellions that’ll undoubtedly wreak havoc across the midwest plains, splatter some brains, remove some flesh, and, well, you get the gist of their unholy hobbies. “3 From Hell” had to literally dig out these characters from the grave since being shot to shreds at the end of,***spoiler alert***, “The Devil’s Rejects” and Zombie was able to sell Lionsgate and Saban Films on the story divergent from the last film, much like “House of a 1000 Corpses” horror show went straight into exploitation extravaganza with “The Devil’s Rejects.” “3 From Hell” is a whole new animal, an anti-hero’s indulgent fantasy of crime, action, and still barely kickin’ to kick ass through the rampaging blood.
The three in “3 from Hell,” Baby Firefly, Otis Driftwood, and Captain Spaulding, return for one more three amigo misadventure through hell and brimstone and the original cast, respectively include Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig, suit up to be a depraved family once again. Sadly, Sid Haig’s health rapidly deteriorates in the midst of filming, leaving Zombie no other choice other than to write him quickly from the script and introduce a new character, a transgression tyrant to pass the torch to, with Winslow Coltrane played fittingly by “31’s” Richard Brake. As though like never missing a backwoods bumpkin beat, Richard Brake embraces the Midnight Wolf and breaks in the character with such ease and fortitude that the question never arises if the Midnight Wolf should be a part of the sacred Firefly pack. Sheri Moon Zombie steps out of a time machine and right into Baby Firefly, despite being a little aged around the eyes. The quirky and unpredictable Baby doesn’t reinvent the wheel, which should please the fandom, and is a wonderful sadistic mecha with Sheri Moon at the helm. The same can be said about Bill Moseley who, goes without saying, has a unique voice that’s been rebranded as Otis Driftwood. Every other movie, old or new, with Bill Moseley starring, or not starring, will forever be tainted by Otis Driftwood for when Moseley monologues or even just speaking one or two words of dialogue, the spine starts to twinge and tingle, the hairs shoots straight up, and that stepping on your grave feeling of cold desolation swallows you in an instant. The “3 From Hell,” plus Coltrane, face the world with a big knife and lots of guns and those who stand in their way are played by co-stars Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Jeff Daniel Phillips (“31”), Emilio Rivera (“Sons of Anarchy”), Richard Edson (“Super Mario Bros.”), Pancho Molar (“Candy Corn”), Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Sean Whale (“The People Under the Stairs”), Clint Howard (“Evilspeak”) and Bill Oberst Jr. (“Dis”).
Rob Zombie has mentioned in a behind the scenes featurette that he didn’t want to recapture the magic of the previous Firefly cruelty and the rocker-filmmaker has done that just, straying away from the horror of “House of the 1000 Corpses” and the exploitation vehemence of “The Devil’s Rejects,” which the fans groveled for, and going bravely, or blindly, into crime action with the “3 From Hell” that still’s beholden to Rob Zombie’s hillbilly swank. Rob Zombie risks a new path and also gambling on more of Lionsgate’s capital with showing off more visual effects than in the former films. Bullets tearing through flesh and flying straight toward the camera lend to example of the computer imagery effects that, from a fan’s perspective, dilute Rob Zombie’s adoration for horror who takes less and less chances with this film that not only feels rather ordinary and just another piece of maize in the field, but “3 For Hell” also doesn’t feel to have substance to all the madness. Baby, Otis, and Coltrane go from point-to-point, aimlessly pondering what’s next, and just happen to fall into a barrage of bullets and blood, rather than being the epitome of evil bring vile upon mankind. Just being a Rob Zombie film that resurrects his beloved and beguiling modern iconic characters, “3 From Hell” coopers the longing with a fierce show of violence that opens the door for one more installment.
Lionsgate and Saban Films, along with Spookshow International, proudly presents Rob Zombie’s “3 From Hell” onto a R rated DVD and an unrated, 1080p Blu-ray sheathed inside a slipcover. The two disc, dual format release are both presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the image is about as sleek as they come with an ARRIRAW formatted 2.8k ARRI camera that shoots 48fps. Zombie reins back on the color palette and hones onto more natural coloring. The details are delineating, as aforesaid with Sheri Moon Zombie’s crows feet. The English language 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is lossless with a crisp dialogue and ambient mix. The range and depth are robust with explosions and gunfire. The release comes with Spanish subtitles and English SDH subtitles. In accompaniment with the 115 runtime, bonus features include To Hell and Back: the Making of 3 From Hell which is a 4-part documentary on the Blu-ray only and both formats include an audio commentary from writer-director Rob Zombie. Also included is a digital copy to instantly stream and download onto personal devices. The horror element might be gone, but the inexplicable chaos surges through death row to desperado Mexico in Rob Zombie’s “# From Hell!”
Ariel Konk, A former soldier fleeing from his regrettable past, seeks refuge in an isolate cabin located deep in the forest, adjacent to a lagoon. Struggling to live off the land and coping with loneliness, the soldier marches on, exploring his new, secluded surroundings. His loneliness comes to an end when investigating the ruins of a dilapidating building structure, spotting a masked half naked female and as he pursues her, Ariel witnesses her voluntarily jump from the highest level of the opened air building. Wrought with anguish, Ariel attempts suicide only to be knocked out before he could pull the trigger on his rifle. He wakes up being chained to the wall with a mute, mask figure drugging him and extracting his blood and semen fluids as necessary nutrients for a nearby Mandrake garden. A practice that has been executed many times before Ariel’s arrival.
“DIS” is a bordering arthouse horror film from writer-director Adrian Corona (“Nariz Ioca”). A blend from a horror influenced literary poem and a mythological folkore, Corona crafts a lurid, hyperbolic story that pulls, as Cornoa describes as a prefix of sorts, from Dante Alighieri’s epic journey through hell told in Dante’s Inferno, using the City of Dis that’s described as a lower hell for sinners who’ve committed violent and fraudulent transgressions, and interlocks that inspiration with the archaic lore surrounding the Mandrake plant that involves superstitiously condemning those to hell after reaping the intensely narcotic plant with the human shaped root and that would, also superstitiously, scream when pulled. “DIS” is full of interpretative terror through the 61 minute runtime that’s virtually expressive. Corona provides little dialogue to his script, keeping most of the dialect scribal incased within flashback confines, and let his actors’ raw emotions and visceral eloquence provide the tale that’s peppered with moments of visual shock and cathartic abhorrence.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bill Oberst Jr. is one hell of an actor. The upcoming Rob Zombie “3 from Hell” actor has become a prominent staple professional in the indie horror film circuit, tackling the bizarre, the inexplicable, and the most difficult of roles with such vigor and passion that his motivation is seemingly inhuman. Right up there with “Deadly Revisions,” “DIS’ tops or equals being one of the best performances of his career, from the perspective of this reviewers’ cache of Bill Oberst Jr films. There’s quite a bit of difficulty catching up to the man who roughly does, whether as a lead or as support, 10 films a year! As Ariel Konk, Oberst captures the essence of pain and anger that saturates the character’s own personal delirium and hell with his past mistake catching up to his self-battered soul. The faceless figure who opposites Ariel feeds off the ex-soldiers repugnant and guilt-riddled past actions in a seemingly perverse mission that’s actually mandated by the suspected demon’s Mandrake lot. The plants are held in a nursery for engendering creatures, but what kind of creatures exactly? Other demons from the seed of murdered vehement people?
Remaining cast include Peter Gonzales Falcon, “Prison Heat’s” Lori Jo Hendrix, Manuel Dominguez, and Anne Voitsekhova.
The casual viewer will inherently disavow the hour spent watching “DIS” due to a number of reasons, whether it’s Ariel wandering the forest for more than half the film, or dialogue is fairly infrequent, or the chaptered sequence of events don’t perfectly describe just what the hell is going, or, just perhaps, the motif of genital masturbation and mutilation is just too much to stomach. Either way, “DIS’s” traction will slip and only a few are willing to get dirty and push the story forward with open mindedness and artistic appreciation. Speaking of artistic appreciation, Rocco Rodriguez’s cinematography is a character upon itself. The top of a Cofre de Perote volcano in Perote, Veracruz, Mexico during principal photography has breathtaking visuals that Rodriguez captures exquisitely and becomes a backdrop against the coarse material. Outside is vivid, bright, full of life, but when in the belly of the rundown structure, the manmade confines are claustrophobic and crummy, infernally ablaze for ritual, much to the akin of Dante’s Inferno. Rodriguez, again, depicts lustrous imagery that assists in telling Corona’s nightmarish story and that’s a skill all can recognize.
MVD Visual and Unearthed Films present Adrian Corona’s enigmatic and surreal “DIS” from 1922 Films onto high definition Blu-ray. The region A release is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and has the near epitome of perfect with, again, Rocco Rodriguez stunning photography. The lighting really comes to the fold that upheaves the brilliancy in the textures, such as in the building’s illustrious graffiti, and dares to switch to black and white when appropriate. Skin tones are fresh looking and natural in colored scenes. Only a minor aliasing issue around Obsert flared up momentarily, but ceased going forward. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has forefront dialogue, but not a bit soft, especially with Peter Gonzales, that made following difficult. There was not enough examples of range or depth to necessarily comment as Oberst was essentially alone for much of the film. Bonus features include an explanation introduction by writer-director Adrian Corona, a behind-the-scenes featurette that exhibits three takes of two scenes, a wonky static menu Q&A formatted interview with Bill Oberst Jr., a short film entitled “Portrait,” still gallery, and Unearthed Films trailers. Bill Oberst Jr. is, basically, a one man show knitted into an Adrian Corona allegory of unknown terror through conduits of literary works and medieval folklore, making “DIS” prime real estate for viewers seeking a film as an open book toward abstract gardening.