Being Dismissed is EVIL That’s Hard to Choke Down. “Swallow” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / BD-R Screener)

Newly pregnant housewife, Hunter, putters around the house while her workaholic husband enjoys the fruits of success and friendship with colleagues.  When she’s not cleaning the house or preparing a meal for herself, Hunter stares into the oblivion of her isolating environment.  The country girl who really had nothing to her name has fortunately found an opportunity to never be worried about financial insecurities and with every material thing a person could want in their right at her fingertips.  All Hunter has to sacrifice is her control.  Feeling lonely, powerless, and trapped, Hunter discovers swallowing inedible, dangerous objects gives her great joy and something she can control.  As she goes deeper into this obsession and her perfect world begins to crumble, she’s confronted with reexamining her dark past that stems her unusual eating habit.

Sometimes it’s our strange quirks, our self-destruction behaviors, and our subconscious need to be noticed, or in control, or out of the pockets of others that can deliver horrid outcomes that, ironically enough, can be also our incognito liberator.  As such displayed in Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ written and directed introductory feature film, a blend of family melodrama and interior body horror, with “Swallow.”  The 2019 released psychological thriller is difficult to digest, literally, as the protagonist struggles coping with external control issues in a seemingly perfect life, a life that has never quite felt like her own, while also encouraging an alarming new physiological appetite for what is known in the eating disorder circles as Pica.  Set in upstate New York, shot around the idyllic Hudson Valley area, “Swallow” is produced by the award-winning “Nomadland’s” Mollye Asher and “Black Box’s” Mynette Louie, who have a long history in investing into bold and interesting emotional depth tales, and is a production of the France based companies, Charades and Logical Pictures.

Undertaking the daunting task of Pica emulating is Haley Bennett.  “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” and “Hardcore Henry” actress tethers a line to the core basis of her character Hunter who has to gradually chip away portions of her blank exterior of a person subconsciously suffering from similar symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome.  Hunter very much believes in the social saturation of wifely duties at an attempt to please her bread-winning husband Ritchie (Austin Stowell, “Colossal”), constantly gathering reassurances and happiness from him.  I also like the play on words with the husband name Ritchie that speaks to his haughty behavior.  Bennett, in great detail, captures Hunter’s disfigured, uncertain happiness and wholehearted attempts to join the ranks of a proud housewife, an area mirrored by silent authority from her mother-in-law Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel, “All the Little Things We Kill”).  As soon as Hunter swallows that very first foreign object, Bennett derives true delight from the bizarre action.  From then on, blistering is away is being a slave to Ritchie’s wealthy ties as that little object, that spherical inkling of hope, gets the marble rolling down the gullet of taking back what’s hers, her life.  Bennett and Stowell finesse their characters’ relationship with a teetertotter of genuine sympathy and ingenuine gratification in what’s a blurry line of compassion or a total fake façade for the allusion of appearances.  The weakest character, for me, is Luay, the Syrian expat who fled the turmoil of homeland war and has become something of a caretaker to Hunter.  Played by Laith Nakli, Luay’s sympathy for Hunter runs deeper than her psychological disorder, and Nakli can dish out awkward, slow burn compassion with the best of them, but that connection between Luay and Hunter misses the timely mark with a blank and acute switching of allegiances gone unspoken and with inaction.  Luna Lauren Velez (“Dexter”), David Rasche (“Cobra”), Babak Tafti, Nichole Kang (“Ten Minutes to Midnight”), Zabryna Guevara, and “American Horror Story’s” Denis O’Hare rounds out the cast.

Hunter’s fixation can be compared to the likes of any other vice and soul-swallowing addiction – gambling , drugs, sex – but the very fact that it’s Pica, and on a certain level of the OCD spectrum, makes Mirabella-Davis’ script somewhat of a curious oddity as the filmmaker builds a story around a dysfunctional family and one’s own personal grasp on destiny.  Though set in modern times, “Swallow” very much has a 1950s-1960s vibe with the dynamic of the working husband and the wife stays home to spruce up the house; there’s even a particular scene of Hunter vacuuming in a 50’s-ish tea length swing dress.  Despite the story’s curious and odd nature and the stuck in time antiquated gender inequality veneer, Mirabella-Davis utilizes these aspects to shape and shed light on the more diabolical of inner detriments with Hunter’s lack of confidence and autonomy stemmed from a difficult to swallow past and a financially affluent relationship that actually disallows personal freedom.  “Swallow” is oppressive in ways as Ritchie and his family and friends attempt to squeeze every ounce of value out of Hunter with value being the unborn child amongst other things.   The psychology of “Swallow” melds past and present together to form Hunter’s dangerous method of taking over the reigns of a life she never steered and Mirabella-Davis crafts an exquisite niche thriller to encourage us to gobble up.

Second Sight Films, a label known for it’s substantial and lavish re-releases, snacks on another high profile film with their profound limited edition Blu-ray of Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ “Swallow.” The single disc, PAL encoded, region B BD-25 is presented in the original aspect ratio of a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Since a BD-R was provided for review purposes, I am unable to comment on the true characteristics and qualities of the audio and video, but do note Katelin Arizmendi’s stunning cinematography that’s full of palpable texture to every minute piece of inedible edibles Hunter puts down her throat and the gorgeous long shots of Hunter being engulfed by the depth with the isolating forest setting that looks to be lurking in the background. The limited edition release hit shelves this past Tuesday, the 22nd, and has a ton of features to check out, including a new audio commentary by director Mirabella-Davis and producers Moilye Asher and Mynette Louie, A Personal Story exclusive interview with the director that’s seriously in-depth and passionate about his work on “Swallow,” Something Bubbling Underneath exclusive interview with producer Moilye Asher, The Process exclusive interview with editor Joe Murphy, Metal and Glass exclusive interview with composer Nathan Halpern, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’s take on “Swallow” A Room of One’s Own, Mirabella-Davis’ short film “Knife Party,” and a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Haley Turnbull along with a soft cover booklet with an introduction by the director and containing essays by Anne Billson, Jordan Crucchiola, and Ella Kemp. Lastly, at the tail of the special features are 6 beautiful collectors’ art cards. “Swallow” is rated UK 18 and runs for 94 minutes. Bennett wins the prize for making “Swallow” a throat-clearing success and bravo to Mirabella-Davis for being brave enough with an unusual story set around an uncommon eating disorder and directing the hell out of it.

Limited Edition Blu-ray from Second Sight Films Available at Amazon.com

Mar and Scar is EVIL’s Sullied Handiwork and is Also Its Undoing! “Hanger” reviewed (Blu-ray / Unearthed Films)

Pimp Leroy likes money.  He likes money so much he stop anything and anyone from coming in between him and cold hard cash.  When Rose, his star prostitute, becomes knocked up and she carries the baby into the later terms, Leroy sees that baby as just another obstacle keeping him from dollar signs and performs a back alley abortion on Rose that results in her death and the newborn mauled by the close hanger used to pull him out.   Fast forward 18 years later, the disfigured boy Hanger, named after tool used to extract him from the womb, falls under the wing of his supposed father, one of Rose’s more admirer, only known as The John, and together they seek revenge for Rose.  In the meantime, Hanger is secured a job at the local recycling center where he is befriend by fellow outcast Russell and as The John ignites war against Leroy that spills into every prostituted infested corner of the streets and into the recycler center.

First off…Man, do I miss Ryan Nicholson.  Secondly, “Hanger” is one of the most depraved films I’ve seen in a long time.  Probably the most depraved amongst the credits of the “Gutterballs” and “Collar” writer-director who has left his mark on the sometimes bland indie horror scene with the craziest content that has become the epitomizing taste of Unearthed Films.  Nicholson cowrote the vulgar comedy-exploitation with Patrick Coble in their second feature story collaboration following their 2004 work on the Nicholson brutal rape-and-revenge directed tale “Torched.”  Rape and revenge, plus a whole lot of sleazy, scuzzy, and sordidness, doesn’t buck the Canadian filmmaker into doing something more political correct as the auteur is too well versed into capturing the base layer muck under his Plotdigger Films production banner in Vancouver, British Columbia  “Hanger” is financially produced by Nicholson and Coble and along with Wolfgang Hinz, Stephanie Jennings, and Michelle Grady.

Needing no stamp of approval, “Hanger” would not have been as unpleasantly intoxicating if it wasn’t for the cast.  Each and every character beneath “Dick Tracy”-like prosthetics come to life with their own identifiable quirks and putrid personalities with perhaps the headliner in the tamest role being played by genre icon and scream queen Debbie Rochon (“Tromeo and Juliet,” “Model Hunger”).  Troma’s most famous gal isn’t the only Troma-head to be in Nicholson’s film with a guest appearance by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman as Melvina the Tranny who has her willy kissed the stove-top burner.  I know what you’re thinking – Rochon and Kaufman is in anything is a must-see film!  I couldn’t agree more, but “Hanger” really lives and breathes on the more prosthetic-heavy performances of Nathan Dashwood, Wade Gibb, Dan Ellis, and, especially, Alastair Gamble as Phil.  Also known as Philthy, Phil is also a recycler on the look out for unemptied beer bottles for any kind of alcohol fix he can get his filthy hands on and Gamble really develops the ins-and-outs of the character’s mannerism and style and the “Gutterballs” actor does the role so well that Phil will forever be imprinted into your cerebral character catalogue for the rest of time.  I also couldn’t get enough of Wade Gibb’s Russell who gives the ethnic Chinese man a high-pitched voice and an insatiable hankering for porn and bad jokes.  Russel also has a penchant for trashed picked used tampons the administrative secretary at his job bins when she’s cycling through and after her late night self-pleasures, Russell can’t help but to blather on and on about her to his new friend Hanger, play with domicile explosiveness like TNT by “They Came From the Attic’s” Nathan Dashwood.  Candice Le (who is an uncanny Laura Prepon lookalike), Nadia Grey, Stephanie Walker, Rochelle Lynn-Jones, Susan Arum, Michelle Grady, and Dan Ellis who stars as Rose’s revenger-advocate, The John.

Ryan Nicholson passed away come two years ago come October due to brain cancer. From that condemned mind came some of the most vividly depraved characters, gratuitous gravities, and sweet, lip-smacking gore that just rolls into the place. “Hanger” is no exception; in fact, “Hanger” is probably Nicholson’s magnum opus considering all of the aforementioned descriptors. Obviously, pleasantries is not in Nicholson’s vocabulary with a storyboard progression rock hard on revenge, sex, and a recycling center full of a variety of perversions. Nicholson had a knack for obtaining real locations without having to build sets, one of his more cost-efficiency attributes to appreciate, and the recycling center where Russel, Hanger, and Phil worked was an actual true business, but the way Nicholson shoots the scenes, and with the other exteriors, is masterful in only allowing the audience to see what he wants you to see. Background details are tenebrously obscured as he highlights the basic necessities to convey what to focus on in relation to the characters. These characters are terribly invasive to the point where you can almost smell how they look and the need for a shower after some of their atrocities is well justified as this fetish theme of unsolicited bodily insertions goes over and beyond the borders of comfort. I still can’t get Alastair Gamble’s Phil out of my head. Rubber dicks, fart jokes, racist obscenities, trannies, voyeurism, masturbations, mutilation -“Hanger” has a lot of sin to be unapologetic for as it reeks lowlife war to the max. If desiring a little extra something-something, the Unearthed Films release comes complete with a second version of the film, XXX-rated cut, that’s not available on previous North American releases, such as with Vicious Circle unrated release. Where “Hanger” stumbles is with the narrative that divides like a cell into two rather different narratives after the initial coat hanger botched abortion. Though The John talks a good game and amps Hanger up for vengeance, the ex-military prostitute connoisseur goes for Leroy alone while Hanger and Russell burgeon their unusual friendship with trash-picking tampon diving and just hanging out. With the narrative more so focused on the latter, don’t expect “Hanger” to be round-the-clock carnage from start to finish.

Continuing their distribution of all Nicholson’s Plotdigger Films, Inc. catalogue, Unearthed Films 2-disc collector’s edition Blu-ray of “Hanger” is a must own and a must see for any fans of Unearthed Films’ gory longstanding pedigree and of Ryan Nicholson.  A warning about ghosting and compression artefacts precedes the film that is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, informing views of the unstable picture quality due to the nature of the recording equipment, but for the most part, the worst ghosting and compression issues are in the first scenes of the motel with Debbie Rochon and Lloyd Kaufman.  The controlled contrasting, comprised of limited lighting, a reduction in color, and perfect shadow placement, adds another flavor to “Hanger’s” squalid and vulgar character exteriors by accenting scenes with a post-apocalypse or slum living discomfort.  Details can get a very graphic, explicit, and fleshy as prosthetic organs ride that ambiguous seesaw and the prosthetics overall are extremely unique and memorable under the creative eye of Life to Death FX artist Michelle Grady.  The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix has ample fidelity despite the self-manipulation of voices and appropriations of cultural accents.  Dialogue is clean and prominently lucid.  Personally, the soundtrack is not particularly my favorite of a compilation of heavy rock and hardcore bands, such as Bison, Nomeansno, Spread Eagle, and Grass City and The Invasives, but do fit right into Nicholson’s scheme and personality.  The 2-disc set comes jampacked with over 16-hours of extras including a commentary with director Ryan Nicholson, Behind the Stoma:  The Making and Taking of Hanger with cast and crew interviews, a video diary-esque of Lloyd Kaufman’s single-day shoot entitled Enough Dope to Hang Yourself With:  On the Set with Lloyd Kaufman, a blooper reel, deleted and additional scenes, photo galley, Debbie “Rose” Rochon’s simulated sex tape “Black on White Bred” with pimp Ronald Patrick “Leroy” Thompson, the Colostomy Bag Edition aka the XXX-rated version of the film, trailer, and a second disc that’s nothing but outtakes.  The scene in the Colostomy Bag Edition, I believe, is just a minor penetrating cut-in scene more than likely not related to any of the actresses in the cast.  The Unearthed Films release is not rated and clocks in at 90 minutes (regular edition) and 91 minutes (Colostomy Bag Edition). The characters alone are worth “Hanger’s” price of admission but Unearthed Films delivers a sweet, comprehensive 2-disc collector’s set for this gore-soaked and grotesque little film.

A Must Own 2-Disc Collector’s Edition of Ryan Nicholson’s “Hanger” Available at Amazon

Roe v. Wade? More like Dee Wallace v. Evil Cletus! “Red Christmas” review!


On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!

“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.

When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.

Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!

Get “Red Christmas” gift for the holidays!