Gather Around. We Must Call Forth EVIL For the Sake of Our Lives! “Seance” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

A practical joke in summoning a spirit sends one girl to die of mysterious circumstances at the isolated and elite all-girls boarding school of Edelvine Academy. At the top of the wait list is Camille Meadows who finds herself in mid-semester adversity with not only her studies but also the deceased girl’s group of browbeating friends as Camille replaces their friend’s now vacant opening. When another friend disappears and another dies in a freak accident, differences and quarrels are put aside before one of them becomes the next victim. The group conducts a seance to call their friend from beyond to discern whose taking them out one-by-one and the spirit’s cryptic response determined one thing evident, a killer, whether supernatural or real, will stop at nothing until every last one of them is dead.

In what feels like an extremely unquantifiable amount of time that has passed since the last high school teen slasher has graced our once beholding subgenre, “You’re Next” and “The Guest” screenwriter Simon Barrett ends up sneaking one into the fold before the grand fourth sequel release in the “Scream” series come mid-January 2022. “Seance” is the first feature length film directed by Barret who pens the supernatural slasher encrusted with snarky teenage melodrama agitated by a mysterious, unknown killer wreaking havoc upon the catfighting girls of Edelvine Academy. The adolescent cutthroat temperaments give way to actual throat cutting macabre in this whodunit thriller lessoned with a mix of the power of friendships and an attenuated lesbian aura presence throughout up until the very affirming finale in an allegorical show representing hiding in plain sight. The snowy and serene Manitoba-shot Canadian film is a production of HanWay Films (“The Guest”), Ingenious Media (“Unhinged”), and the Gothically-inclined Dark Castle Films (“Thirteen Ghosts”) with select producers Adam Wingard, who has a long his filmic history collaborating with Barret, Tomas Deckaj (“The Green Knight”), and Devan Towers (“Day of the Dead” television series).

For High School girls, all the actresses with the exception for Ella-Rae Smith are mid-to-late 20’s with lead actress Suki Waterhouse (“The Bad Batch,” “Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies”) tipping the pendulum nipping at her 30s. However, Waterhouse and the others defy their actual corporal ages portraying teenagers in the throes of adolescent social clique.  Waterhouse plays the cool as a cucumber newcomer Camille to Edelvine Academy, befriending right off the bat with her personal Academy introductory host, a solitary Xanax-popper Helena (Smith).   Immediately, new girl Camille becomes public enemy number one with Edelvine’s most smug impractical prankers led by Alice played by Inanna Sarkis. On paper, Alice might have been the group’s ringleader, but the character doesn’t throw around a lot of power or is admired by followers, albeit Sarkis role permanency as the uptight and sarcastic bully or rad bad gal. Following Alice are ancillary player pieces to the group’s effort as a whole to be a thorn in Camille’ side just for being the unfortunate replacement of their dear dead friend. Between the brainy Bethany (Madison Beaty, “The Clovehitch Killer”) and the more elegant Yvonne (Stephanie Sy, “Tales from the Hood 3”) vie the potential right hands of Alice deduced from the dialogue and screen time hierarchy of their roles but they are definitely more interesting than Alice with a punch of flavor in the personalities, especially in Bethany who is built to be a master-whiz in conjuring up devilish pranks to play on her friends and enemies. Furthermore, there’s also the hint of pizzaz that is shamefully cut short and slidden under the radar with the last two in the coterie with the playgirl subtilties of Lenora (Jade Michael, “Fatal Friend Request”) and the unexplored suggestions of Roselind’s (Djouliet Amara, “Tales from the Hood 3”) sexuality, leaving their arcs unfulfilled. “Seance” cast fills out with “Books of Blood’s” Seamus Patterson in the single speaking male role in the entire film, “Cult of Chucky’s” Marina Stephenson Kerr as Edelvine’s firm-handed headmaster, and Megan Best playing the narrative’s lamented backbone of mysterious tragic circumstances.

Portions of where “Seance” flourishes are within the parameters of the teen slasher, a subgenre that lingers on into severe tedium much like the zombie films of the early 2010 decade. The late 90’s and well into the 2000s saw a slew (pun intended) of killer adolescent atrocities in film. Moviegoers were intrigued by the allusive masked killer that, for most of the time, had a palpable-to-satisfying twist ending after roughly 90 minutes of frantic chases, dooming nudity clauses, merciless kills, and one stupid decision to go back into that ominous house after another. Then, when 2010 came along – poof – teen slashers were now a thing of the past, literally. Attempts were poor renditions of previous successes, rehashes of the once was, and didn’t quite tickle the right places. Slowly and surely, the wheels are turning on a rejuvenation of a new generation and Simon Barrett’s “Seance” serves a prime candidate for admittance. Isolated in the stillness of a snow-covered all girl school sets the intended mood for a campus killer, the girls have a warring dynamic mended by a need to survival commonality, and the what or the who that is slaying them is well kept out of sight with misdirection cues to make audiences think they have it all figured out. Plus, the climatic finale has not one twist, but two in its full of blood and surprise double twist spectacular. “Seance’s” character development is one annoyingly flawed aspect that bends the elbow at the wrong angle at times is how characters wonder off alone having just filled their youthful, spongy minds with knowledge that something or someone malevolent is after them. “One friend is missing. My other friend has mysteriously died in an accident. The Ouija board spells out certain doom and gloom. Yet, I’m going to practice my recital routine alone on a dimlit stage with my noise cancelling headphones on,” says nobody ever. “Seance:” “hold my beer!

“Seance” is more than a teen slasher, it’s Simon Barrett’s genre-bending good time and this Shudder-streaming 93-minute horror from Edelvine Academy is coming to Blu-ray home video courtesy of Acorn Media International come January 17th. The Region B UK release, PAL encoded, BD25 is certified 18 for strong bloody violence and presents “Seance” in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Many of the scenes circulate through repeatedly – the snow-covered school, the drab hallways, the quaint rooms, and the bleak storage room – that don’t offer a ton of vivid aesthetics within a limited range, but quality-wise, there’s a dour, shadowy coating accompanying the coarsely, unpretentious realism. However, the fishbowl lens on certain scenes poorly captured smaller spaces, leaving already thin actresses looking anorexic, and for some reason, the decision to position the actresses shoulder-to-shoulder does antagonize that realism as those, who were mischievous back in the day and sent to the principal’s office, never sat right up against a fellow classmate. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has favorable qualities with a well diverse mix of ambience, a strong dialogue track, and a Sicker Man aka Tobias Vethake laying down a spectrum from brooding synth string pops, piano, and cello bass that stands out with profound poignancy to a lo-fi hip-hop beat and EDM noise of embroiled sounds. Special features include a commentary with Simon Barrett, a behind-the-scenes with select cast, minor outtakes, deleted scenes, a crude pre-production setup for the VFX decapitation scene, and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. “Seance” isn’t all Ouija boards and flickering candles as there’s more obscurity to the slasher than what meets the eye with its mania-driven motives and orientational undertones making this little-known film worth a look.

Let EVIL Free You! “Jakob’s Wife” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



Anne is a minister’s wife living in a dying small town where the only thing left for the residents is their faith.  Once inspired to travel and do something meaningful with her life, Anne has found that the last 30 years of marriage to Jakob has robbed her of her self-empowerment, diminishing her as nothing more as than just Jakob’s wife.  When the opportunity to impress an old fling during a business trip turns into a nightmare with an attack by a shrouded figure in a rundown, vacant mill, the disorienting days after having provided Anne with a sense of expressive freedom, a chance to be bold, and to feel more alive than she has felt in years.  Her new lease on life comes with a ghastly cost, a severe hunger for blood.  With the help of Jakob, they realize the dark forces of a vampire has infected Anne and their road back to normal life, a life where Anne is dull and drab, will the paved in blood. 

Horror is such a versatile and malleable medium to convey allegorical messages, drawing audiences into the writer’s or director’s world of the fantastic and the horrific while laying down a subfloor of real world truth most passionate to them in a social, religious, or political context.  To point out a few examples (most of us already know), George Romero was renowned for his multiple social commentaries throughout his “Living Dead” series and a slew of vampire films construct the bloodsuckers as metaphors for an addict going through the ugly turmoil of addiction.  “Jakob’s Wife” is a different kind of vampiric allegory film that bites into feminism values.  The “Girl on the Third Floor” writer and director Travis Stevens follows up his introductory haunted house film with an inverted Nosferatu-esque dark comedy co-written alongside “The Special” screenwriter, Mark Steensland, and the “Castle Freak” remake’s Kathy Charles.  The Canton, Mississippi location evokes the dried up, small Southern town aimed to build a depression enclosure around the titular character.  Barbara Crampton’s Alliance Media Partners, whose spearheaded creative and imaginative films such as Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Sci-Fi cult looper, “The Endless,” and the Romola Garai demonizing guilt film, “Amulet,” presents “Jakob’s Wife” in association with executive producer Rick Moore’s Eyevox Entertainment (“Purgatory Road”) at one of the banner’s production studio locations in Canton, Mississippi.

In concurrence as a producer of “Jakob’s Wife,” scream queen of horror legend, Barbara Crampton (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” and most recently, “Sacrifice”), steps into the torn role of the titular character.  In Stevens’ direction, as well as Crampton’s portrayal, Anne is so diminutively overlooked in the first act, you’ll hardly notice her even though Anne is practically in every scene.  Between Jakob’s interruptions, meek output, and overall quiet behavior, Crampton’s able to exact the very essence of the idiomatic phrase the calm before the storm.  Also, I must mention, just like I’m sure others have already pointed out, the early 60s Barbara Crampton looks smokin’.  She must have been bitten by an actual vampire in order to seemingly de-age right before our eyes.   Larry Fessenden, who does age accordingly but also very handsomely in his genre characters, is the God-fearing minister playing opposite Crampton.  The “Habit” and “Jug Face” actor has always been quite the character actor and as husband Jakob, that beneficial streak continues as an old ways man of God with an innately built-in chauvinistic ritual of keeping everything the same day in and day out.  Jakob’s absentminded blinders suppresses Anne into a depressive submissive state until she comes across The Master, the sorely underutilized and shamefully absent from more screen time chieftain vampire played superbly by Bonnie Aarons in an unexpected female version of Nosferatu.  Aarons gives her best Max Schreck performance while commanding a distinctive mentorship that’s unusual for the vampire race; The Master is greatly highlighted in the most subtle of ways as being a repressed liberator and Aarons understood that compulsion to educate, revitalize, and blossom others by offering a new kind of death, the burgeoning power and desires of a vampire, from their previous one, a rather dull life stuck in a no-win circumstance.  “Jakob’s Wife” rounds out the cast with Jay DeVon Johnson, Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks (“Girl on the Third Floor”), Robert Rusler (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:  Freddy’s Revenge”), Angelie Simone, Mark Kelly (“Dead & Breakfast”), Sarah Lind (“The Exorcism of Molly Hartley”), Omar Salazar, and Nyisha Bell.

“Jakob’s Wife” is a treasure trove of feminism and lesbianism undertones that stands on higher ground without pulverizing masculism to a pulp.  There’s seemingly little-to-no ill will against the minister Jakob Fredder previous inattentive and subservient expectations of his wife Anne.  Anne even becomes conflicted by her newfound self, a rebirth of life that sheds the shackles of monotony and, as it were, it’s overstepping masculinity, and she questions the power, she questions her choices, and she maintains the unity of marriage despite a little taste of tantalizing freedom from it all.  The Master becomes the allegorical test of faithfulness to another in a bored housewife scenario and I’m not talking about Anne’s old high school fling Tow Low, played by Robert Rusler.  I’m speaking of the lesbian undertones involving The Master, a female vampire who stood in Anne’s shoes and was turned, in more ways than one, toward a new path.   The Master sparks a long-lost fire in what is now only a shell of an unhappy woman and Travis’ scenes of Anne touching herself, mimicking The Master’s moves, plays into theme of fantasizing about that other woman and what secret they share, being perhaps symbolically the intimate nature of the attack that puts Anne into The Master’s craving sites.  The innuendo is rich and robust and coupled with fire hose sprays and gallons upon gallons of an unquantifiable amount of blood and gratuitous violence, “Jakob’s Wife” is the vital vampire film of 2021. 

Darker powers answered the call of Anne’s internalized prayers. I don’t even think Jakob’s God even picked up the receiver. In any case, pick up your copy of the RLJE Films and Shudder exclusive, “Jakob’s Wife,” on a full high-definition Blu-ray releasing next year, January 17th, 2022, courtesy of Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded, region 2 BD25 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Compression issues have never really been a problem for the Acorn Media releases that detail and texture greatly under “Jakob’s Wife’s” austere color palette that favors more of a nature fixture than a stylish one. Darker color tones, such as the blood, are viscosity rich looking and, perhaps, the most color the film plays to its strength. The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track bares no complaints either in the distinctive and effective channels that isolate each output neatly, cleanly, and blemish free. Prominent is the discernible dialogue, that in due course becomes more pivotal to the story, while giving way to an original score from Tara Bush. Special features include the making of the film with clip interviews with the film’s stars – Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, and Bonnie Aarons – and deleted scenes that provide more insight and background on the finished cut’s bit characters. The Blu-ray is rated UK 15 for strong bloody violence, sex, and language (there’s also brief nudity for all you puritans in the U.S.). With the duo of Crampton and Fessenden in the middle of matrimony-macabre, “Jakob’s Wife” is a no-brainer success.

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



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

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

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

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

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

Own “Violation” on Blu-ray Home Video!

Next Gen to Regain What EVIL Took. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Ten years after the sky fell and the undead walked the Earthed, a new generation of survivors live comfortably behind gated walls at the Nebraska University campus.  Sisters Iris and Hope sometimes counteract each other’s position on campus hardly see eye-to-eye and, especially when dealing with the clandestine Civic Republic Military who has recruited their scientific father to do research in New York, but when secret messages about their father’s safety in potential jeopardy, Iris and Hope come together, along with campus outcasts Elton and Silas, to trek East on foot through the hordes of undead and the dangerous obstacles that separate them from their father.  The first generation to grow up in the apocalypse must learn to survive in the ravaged world of today and battle not only the dead and evad the mighty Civic Republic Military but also confront their individual haunting pasts. 

“The Walking Dead” executive showrunners Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Brian Bockrath, Matthew Negrete and David Alpert envision a vast Walking Dead universe filled with endless storylines searing with undead mayhem on the precipice a human emotional depth charge explosion.  In 2020, a new and limited two-season spinoff series of AMC’s “The Walked Dead” lumbered forward with “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” that aimed to explore the untapped emotive locomotive with teenagers having grown up naïve of usual adolescent behavior while also learning how to survive the outside world having been safe behind guarded walls most of their young lives living inside a smaller-scale social structure and guidelines like pre-apocalypse.  While “The Walked Dead” focused on the mid-Atlantic, stretching from George to West Virginia, and “Fear of the Walking Dead” went to the West Coast in Cali, down the border to Mexico, and finally landing near the Gulf coast, “World Beyond” takes the Pacific Northwest beginning inside Nebraska then stretching our main character’s journey to New York state, through the upper areas of what’s left of the country, but filming is actually shot in yours truly home state of Virginia surrounding the capital Richmond area.  Based not off the popular graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, albeit with a few minor connections, “World Beyond” is a production of AMC, Idiot Box, Skybound Entertainment, Circle of Confusion, and Valhalla Entertainment.

A younger, fresher cast of faces grace “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” with an innocence facade and juvenile decision making that lifts the series into that rite of passage in adolescent-hood where the children of the apocalypse must explore their own needs and desires as if the evolutionary behavior of growing up has never changed.  Only this time, someone’s trying to bite your face off or actually steal everything you possess off your back.  Aliyah Royale and “Unfriended: Dark Web’s” Alexa Mansour play the contrasting adopted sisters Iris and Hope with an underlining bond that’ll blossom sluggishly forward to season one’s conclusion.  Iris has always conformed to safe living behind the campus walls, but takes a page out of Hope’s book of radical ideas to venture out against policy to find their CRM recruited, and possibly distressed, father.  Through the series, I found Royale to be slightly unauthentically preachy in her delivery that never fastens an emotional connection to her saintly-turned-intrepid persona.  Hope has more complexity turmoil tinned up inside of her pulled and worked very delicately by Mansour in becoming the wild card amongst the group.  “Nine Perfect Strangers’s” Hal Cumpston and voice actor Nicolas Cantu join Iris and Hope as the reserved Silas and the ever hopeful pessimistic Elton, searching for a fresh start and answers to their philosophical questions.  Silas and Elton add more dramatic complications than friendly assistance on the journey with personal violent demons resurging out form Silas’s past to the death of Elton’s mother in which Hope hesitant disclosure of her involvement in the killing of his mother back during the first days of apocalypse sets the tension for a good portion of their travels.  As supporting characters, Silas and Elton also provide sub-storylines “The Walking Dead” thrives on along with two more characters, a pair of campus security details in Nico Tortorella (“Scream 4”) and Annet Mahendru (“The Americans”) playing close friends and colleagues Felix and Huck venturing out to rescue the four inexperienced youngsters from a fate far worse than being a gnawed on scrap of undead jerky. Mahendru’s pulled up hair, facial scar, and widely inflated draw is quite a far cry from her dolled up and partial nudity espionage performance in “The Americans,” a performance that makes her nearly unrecognizable, while Tortorella shoulders a lot of personal baggage in self worth and difficult promises to his makeshift family built on friendship – a regular theme throughout not just with Felix but with the youth group searching for answers.  “World Beyond” rounds out the cast with Ted Sutherland (“Fear Street:  Part Two” and “Part Three”), Natalie Gold (“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”)), Joe Holt, Jelani Alladin, and Julia Ormond (“Inland Empire”) as the CRM spearheading a covert operation.

The enormity of the “TWD” universe and with end in sight of the undead not working the Earth would inevitably bring up the question of how young children would grow up and face old world teenager issues.  Their not-so-normal childhood forged when the sky fell, as phrase that use to describe the day the dead risen, has ultimately molded who they are when we meet the characters 10 years after that doomed day, but the series dives into backstories on the regular with flashes back, turning every episode of the 10 episode series into a non-linear segment, something that strays, but is not completely foreign, to the “TWD” universe.  Another aspect that’s different, and is terribly detrimental, is the lack of graphic bloody violence, especially against the living.  “World Beyond” tries very hard to shield the viewers from gruesome dispatching of the undead by offscreen kills to implied deaths and not until the latter half of the season does “World Beyond” begin to ooze out of it’s conservative shell as the story becomes more complicated and into more adult themes from lies and betrayals to violence and loss, a parallel of the passage from childhood to adulthood when reality of the real world hits you in the face.  What does stay true to it’s origins us the same is the overgrown sets, the detailed decay, and same beautiful morbid imagery that really compliments to effort in production value and budget.  My only gripe is that many of the actors look fresh out of the shower with perfect hair and loads of makeup in a scenario that would harried and haggard any individual. The story also connects to it’s more fierce bigger brothers with a broader introduction of the Civic Republic Military whose symbol shows up in “The Walking Dead” when whisking Rick Grimes away in one of their helicopters and also in “Fear of the Walking Dead” in the troops who were the bite impervious suits, sleek black helmets, and the assault rifles with dual piercing bayonets. “World Beyond” builds upon their mysterious nature by giving an wider, longer look into their enigmatic, cavillation building window.

With the series finale, aka season two, in full swing this fall at AMC, Acorn Media International concurrently delivers the first season onto an UK 2-disc Blu-ray. The region 2, PAL encoded, BD50s are presented in a televised widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a total runtime of 453 minutes. Not discernable issues with the digital image that renders virtually the same veracious tone as the other two “Walking Dead” series with “World Beyond” being a tinge bit more colorful as if the saturation provided more youthful characteristics. There really is some nice imagery happening in certain episodes, such as in episodes “Brave” and “The Blaze of Gory,” that work the dead into being connected with the surrounded elements as if the dead are now the more natural bond with Earth. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio channels with clarity and equally amongst the five points. Dialogue is clean and unobstructed with a balanced breadth of depth and range amongst the various scenarios of death and deception they stumble into. English subtitles are also optional. Bonus features include A Look at the Series that dives into what “World Beyond” aims to accomplish with a fresh young cast, A Meet the Character segment that, obliviously, dives into the actors going over their character profiles, and the Making of Season 1, split into two parts with one on each disc, with the cast and creators provided a deeper understanding of character headspaces. “World Beyond” is rated 15 for the violence, some language, and some gore. Diluted decimation of the dead with a softer complexion in an overall comparison, “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is the naïve little brother of two juggernauting series macheting a path of blood and guts for the less traumatic to have a spot in the world. Yet, the sluggish first few episodes clears out for a much more palatable and gripping series that we’ve come to expect from a universe built on rotting corpses and collective violence.

Catch Up on “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” season 1.  Purchase the Blu-ray/DVD here!

The Most EVIL Being in the Galaxy Doesn’t Stand A Chance Against Little Mimi. “Psycho Goreman” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Brother and Sister, Luke and Mimi, discover a gem that unimprisons a dark alien warlord destined to destroy worlds.  The gem and the being are one, connected by the ancient forces powering the talisman, and whoever wields it can control the evil one.  Fortunately for now, the gem is in young Mimi’s possession.  The bossy and sassy preteen sees the alien, dubbed Psycho Goreman, as a new friend and toy, gallivanting around town catering to every Mimi whims.  Lightyears away on a distant planet, a council comprised with the forces of good, who banished Psycho Goreman to eternal banishment and imprisonment, learn of their once terrorizing tormentor having escaped his confines.  Leader of the council, an elysian warrior named Pandora, vows to track down their adversary and put an end to his existence, bringing a destructive showdown of good versus evil in Mimi and Luke’s small-town. 

The anomalous mind of filmmaker Steven Kostanski is vacillatingly distinctive and churning adulation for the late 1980’s to early 1990’s high camp, metal-infused horror films that heavily inspired him.  His latest written and directed Sci-Fi horror-comedy, “Psycho Goreman,” fits perfectly into Kostanski’s brand of stupidity, nonsensical, animation-saturated, bizarro reality horror that has made us, or at least me, fall heads over heels for his previous credits, such as “Manborg” and the “W is for Wish” segment of “The ABCs of Death 2.”  Kostanski is also a special effects guru having worked delivering gruesome terror and insane imagination skills to the big and small screen, but makeup FX artist takes a backseat to his employer, the Ontario-based MastersFX managed by Todd Masters, and they grab the reins by providing a slew of mixed bag practical and visual effects and animation styles that is a time warp back to the tangibly ridiculous and forged every follicle freakshow horror and science fiction celluloid from 30 some odd years ago.  “Psycho Gorman,” or “PG” for short, is a production of the pseudonym Crazy Ball Productions, as in the Crazy Ball game Mimi and Luke play, and Raven Banner, presented as an exclusive acquisition by RLJ Entertainment and Shudder.

To make something as ridiculous as PG to work, you need a colorful, wildcard cast to pull off every microfiber of manic personalities you can muster and sticking out with the wildest personality is not the titular character who is neither the brightest highlight nor the leader of the pack.  That spot was filled far before PG makes an unearthing introduction by the film’s smallest, youngest, and most delightfully sarcastic and ostentation lead in newcomer Nita-Josee Hanna as Mimi, who’s roughhouse and snarky sassiness goes unparalleled even up against the Arch Duke of Nightmares.  The dynamic plays on that whimsical idea of little girls with big personalities can be the center of attention.  In this case, Mimi requires the world, no, the universe to revolve around her ultra-spoiled nurturing.  Her possession of the gem gives her unlimited power with her possession of PG, played by undoubtedly hot and bothered by the latex suit, but otherwise good sport, Matthew Ninaber (“Transference”).  Hanna and Ninaber are an absolute joy to watch together with their contrasting comedic deliveries:  Hanna’s aggressive flamboyance compared to Ninaber’s subtle and solemn stewing.  Then there’s Mimi’s brother Luke, played by Owen Myre, who will have a role in the upcoming “Terrifier” sequel and one of the film’s running jokes is PG can never remember Luke’s name.  That lack of standout presence for Myre’s character is quite literal and not because Myre’s performance is forgettable and a complete wash (in fact, Myre is fantastic is the meek, submissive older brother), but between Mimi and PG, those overwhelming characters totally consume much of the attention.  Adam Brooks (“Manborg,” “Father’s Day”) and Alexis Kara Hancey fill in as Mimi and Luke’s lackadaisical father and frustrated mother while Kristen MacCulloch (“Motherly) suits up as the PG’s holier-than-thou arch nemesis, Pandora, in Templar species form while Roxine Latoya Plummer blends in with the rest of the population with Pandora’s human form.  “Pscyho Goreman” rounds out with Alex Chung, Scout Flint, Robert Homer, Conor Sweeney, Matthew Kennedy, Asuka Kurosawaw, and Scott Flint.

“Psycho Goreman” necessarily fills a pivotal void.  Most genre films aim to pass along a message, sometimes important to the filmmakers, to convey a lesson, an idea, a political or social protest, or to spark awareness on an issue, but with Steven Kostanski, watching his work is like taking a vacation with an immense clearing of any and all undercurrents and obvious messages for pure, unadulterated, frequently mindless entertainment that just looks cool.  Underneath the composited animation and practical effect layers is an anything goes, no strings attached, brutally-caked, dopamine drip that causes glossy-eyes and a warm wash over of all the senses.  Side effects I can definitely live with and be refreshed by when needing a break from reality.  The amount of space medieval practical effects alone makes “Psycho Goreman” feel like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and while that Gary Goddard 1987 science-fiction fantasy starring Dolph Lundgren, perhaps, heavily inspires Kostanski’s intergalactic battle-royale on Earth, the story mirrors much to the tune of “Suburban Commando” with Hulk Hogan.  Hear me out.  Rogue-vigilante, played by Hogan, crashes into Earth where he winds up with the unsuspecting Wilcox family who melts the big, bad commando’s heart and simultaneously fix, mostly unwittingly, what’s broken with the family while alien bounty hunters track him down.  “Psycho Goreman” is the same storyline with less gore; hell, “PG” is even kid dialogue friendly.  If you know “Suburban Commando,” you know, and now you can’t unsee it! 

As part of Acorn Media International’s RLJ Entertainment and Shudder exclusive line, “Psycho Goreman” is destined for darkness onto Blu-ray home video with over 2 hours of special feature content.  The UK region 2, PAL encoded, BD50 is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a runtime of 96 minutes.  Nothing noteworthy to terribly point out from the digital picture shot on an ARRI Alexa Mini with Angenieux Optimo Lens that produces a spherical image you’ll optically notice that seemingly has a rounded surface to bring wide framed objects closer together.  Kostanski utilizes a blend of stop-motion and green screen with seamless results and even though slightly on the caricature side of alien landscape and creature production, everything befits “Psycho Goreman’s” extensive universe.  The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 has excellent acoustical output in a vast array of vocal timbres and epic ambiance on and off of Earth.  Dialogue is clean and prominent on both the actors and voice actors with the latter sometimes, unfortunately, masked by the voice manipulator.  The Blu-ray release packs a punch with over 2 hours of special features including a director’s commentary, interviews with cast and crew including Steven Kostanski, Nina-Josee Hanna, Owne Myre, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancy and Matthew Ninabar, different fight chirography records from location and in practice at a martial arts studio, behind the scenes featurettes with character backstories, a trading card gallery, concept art, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and the animation creation.  “Psycho Goreman” is rated 15 for strong bloody violence, gore, and injury detail.  Sit back, relax, and let Steven Kostanski speak to your childhood senses with his adult antihero, “Psycho Goreman.” 

Own “Psycho Goreman” on UK Blu-ray (Region 2)