EVIL Should Have Never Pissed Off One Uncontrollable, Raging Chick! “Jolt” reviewed! (Amazon Studios / Digital Screener)



Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  It’s an unstable condition Lindy Lewis has lived with her entire life where the little annoyance can set her into a murderous rage.  High levels of cortisone give her extra stamina, increased strength, and an endless stream of undaunted courage.  Mix all of that with her antisocial behavior and a variety of special, military grade, skillsets, Lindy can be one of the most deadliest humans if you happen to piss her off.  To control her temperament, an unorthodox psychiatrist designs an self-inducing electroshock harness that provides Lindy at jolt of electricity to snap her out of a potential bloodthirsty rampage, but when she finally finds a man pleasing in every way , a man who can keep the volatile emotions at bay, his sudden murder sends her into a vindictive slaughter of anyone involved with his death. 

“Shoot’em Up” meets “Crank” in Tanya Wexler’s unbridled tempest, “Jolt, that features an eclectically (and electrifying) international cast dropped into a graphic novel noir of femme fatales and organized crime.  The “Relative Evil,” aka “Ball in the House,” Wexler directs the 2021 released revenge narrative from a vivacious script penned by Scott Wascha as the writer’s debut feature length credit.  Filmed oversees in Bulgaria, “Jolt” is a melting pot of explosions, street fighting, and Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn under the production banner of Avi Lerner’s typically entertaining, yet hit-or-miss Millennium Films in collaboration with Busted Shark Productions, Eclectic Pictures, Nu Boyana Film Studios, and the “2001 Maniacs” series’ Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman company, Campbell-Grobman Films.

As if she never stopped playing the sleek vampiric werewolf huntress, Selene, of the “Underworld” franchise, Kate Beckinsale is stunning.  And I don’t just mean her timeless and ageless beauty as the English actress, who is living her best life at the latter half of her 40’s, proves that age is just a number in executing a physically demanding role with nearly every scene involving stunt work.  Unlike the gun-toting Selene, Lindy Lewis prefers her bareknuckle combat and a car battery alligator clipped to an old man’s genitals to get what she’s after.  Beckinsale plays the role beautifully equipped with a sharp, snarky tongue that’s pretty damn funny, well-timed, and consistently befitting to the Lindy’s personality.  “Jolt” has many colorful characters played by interestingly elected actors.  “Suicide Squad’s” Captain Boomerang himself, Jai Courtney, finds himself as the unlikely sedative lover, Justin, to counteract Lindy’s explosiveness.  The Australian actor, who is more than a decade junior to Beckinsale, fills in “Jolt’s” ranks alongside the gruffy-raspy voiced Argus Filtch, I mean David Bradley (“Harry Potter” franchise), as the top-tiered bad guy who stamp-approved the hit on Justin.  Along the way, a pair of tenacious detectives pursue the wrongly accused Lindy as a welcoming pair polarized on how to bring in their suspect that isn’t based off corruption with “Orange as the New Black’s” Laverne Cox as the by-the-book cop and “Snakes on a Plane’s” Bobby Cannavale as a cop with a softer side for the pursued.  “Jolt” rounds out with Ori Pfeffer (“Shallow Ground”), Sophie Sanderson, Susan Sarandon (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) in a minor role, and versatile Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) as the electroshock harness inventor and psychiatrist, Dr. Munchin.

While it sounds like I’m singing high praises for Wexler’s film that does indeed have an amazing cast, quick wit performances, can be funny, and great action, I find “Jolt” to be lacking that little Je Ne Sais Quoi as the French would say.  Maybe the breakneck speed story that follows an illogical and nonsensical means of progression overloads the system to where you fry out your organic circuit boards trying to keep up with Lindy’s investigative warpath.  Aside from the fact that figuring out what happened to poor Justin is no mystery, an overexploited trope spanning from every era of cinema, our heroine also nonchalantly strolls right into the middle of crowded street fights, police stations, and in and out of explosions with every aspect of her hell hath no fury like a woman scorned purpose seeming too easy without anything rewarding stemming from difficulty that surrounded her, leaving no tension to salivating over or achieve relief from her impossible no way out scenarios.  Even when Lindy is easily captured, tied to a torture chair, and still mouthing off to her captor, the bad guys still let her go…on purpose!  (enter mind blowing up here)  Speaking of things going boom, the limited visual effects work renders like a cheaply made for television spectacular, especially with the explosive finale ofan inferior inferno ball of combustion and flames composited over top the endgame skyscraper locale.  I have never loved and hated a film as much as I do “Jolt” and will have to wait until the – assumed – pipelined sequel to break this torment of indecision.

What might be considered to be vague and entertaining euphemism for addiction, “Jolt’ is high powered narcotics injected right into the sensory nervous system.  The Millennium Films feature will broadband across Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service on July 23rd under the Amazon Studio’s banner.  “Krampus” director of photography, Jules O’Loughlin, brings a chic and symmetrical contemporary noir to the look, using a not so severe fisheye lens to emphasize centered characters while wrapping the fluorescently lit background ever so slightly around them. Best scene is the torch lit brawl, tinted in a blue-purple shade, that makes for a simple yet grander cockfight. The steadycam work anchors down more of the fast paced punch’em, kick’em fight sequences which is a credit to O’Loughlin in making the scenes work for the audiences instead of the audience working to make out the scenes. Dominic Lewis caters the soundtrack’s pulsing electro score that does the trick by keeping up with the whiplash pacing, but barely sneaks in there as Lindy’s anthem to clean house. “Jolt” leaves Lindy’s book entirely unfinished with a well-knowledgeable human wrangler in Susan Sarandon to segue audiences into a possible sequel that will start off looking not too promising for our asskickin’ heroine. While there are no post-credit scenes, there is a slightly humorous, slightly minor character fulfilling bonus scene to looking for mid-credits. “Jolt” needs a little jolt itself in some areas of considerable concern, but the fast paced action doesn’t bore, the clever wit has endless sardonic charm, and there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.

Watch “Jolt” on Prime Video coming July 23rd!  Dropping This Thursday!

Two Movies, One EVIL. “House of Cruel Dolls” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

A perverse gang of sex traffickers kidnap beautiful women to be prostitutes for a hidden away bordello, known as the House of the Lost Dolls.  Gaston, a bordello regular, falls for sex slave Yvette and together they make a great escape to free Yvette from the gang’s clutches.  Yvette’s harrowing ordeal is given to the police.  What ensues next is the dispatching of secret agent Sigma to track down and eliminate the ruthless gang, but finding their hideout won’t be that easy as espionage tactics and killer assassins lie in wait around every corner, but agent Sigma will do everything in his power to see an end to their depravity. 

What a wild mashup of manipulation to work in a spy thriller around a sordid exploitation!  That’s the only way to describe French filmmaker Pierre Chevalier’s sleazy action-action thriller “House of Cruel Dolls.”  Also known as “The House of the Lost Dolls,” “The Panther Squad” director and A.L. Mariaux, one of “The Sexual Story of O” Jesús Franco’s pseudo names, penned 1974 released screenplay fills in the blanks with archival footage from the 1967 espionage flick “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather,” starring “The Vampires Night Orgy’s” Jack Taylor.  Judging by the colorful, multi-national, grindhouse titles and the crew involved, you can bet on the “House of Cruel Dolls” to be a licentious and violence riddled romp, swanky in sexual severity and coarse with an untamed plot.  As a production of Eurociné, one shouldn’t be surprised of “House of Cruel Dolls’” shameless nature with the once legitimate Marius Lesqeur storytelling company that ventured into mass producing cheap, seedy classics, more around the uncomfortable context of Naziploitation or WIP (Women in Prison), with such films as “Angel of Death,” “Jailhouse Wardess,” “Hitler’s Last Train,” and “Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg,” as well as other European exploitations in “Diamonds of Kilimandjaro” and “Female Vampire” to capitalize on the rise of erotic in the 1970s through the 1980s. 

The Eurociné played the popular casting game of hiring American actors to star in their oversees produced films, but for “House of Cruel Dolls,” the hiring of an America actor doesn’t go as typical as you would have thought.  Instead of signing Oregon born Jack Taylor to be the leading man stopping a ring of evil sex traffickers, Chevalier, along with “Nude for Satan” editor, “Luigi Batzella,” spliced together Jack Taylor’s Italian-made spy thriller “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather  fit into the extremely graphic and perverse scenes of rape, gang rape, and perversion narrative of the barely sticky adhesive “House of Cruel Dolls.  There’s actually one scene where Taylor’s character and partner run down a flight of stairs on a boat, but topside is definitely Taylor, but down the stairs inside the boat is a different actor with an extremely bad wig.  Co-starring, more or less, with Taylor are a blend of Italian and French actors from both stories that not necessarily share the same screen with their leading man.  The French actress Silvia Solar (“Cannibal Terror”) does share actual screen time with Taylor as the infiltrating villain in the cloak-and-dagger film whereas Sandra Julien (“The Shiver of the Vampires”) mingles deep undercover in the lion’s den of the sex trafficking master of ceremonies, Rasly, played by “Blue Rita’s” Olivier Mathot staged in actual “Cruel Dolls” territory.  Rounding out the patchwork cast is Magda Mundari, Raymond Schettino, Gillian Gill, and “Shining Sex’s” Claude Boisson (credited as Yul Sanders) who can’t seem to scratch his inch for lusting over helpless dames. 

I’ve seen worse cut and paste fuses of different 35mm reels and some not so terrible, yet oblivious a stretch at the seam, “Caligula” comes to mind with the inserted hardcore snippets, but “House of Cruel Dolls” flows and flows pretty well considering the rough segue cuts that blend the 1967 film with the 1974 film without much era style or stock degradation differences.  However, what Chevalier, and also most likely Franco, accomplished with their film had more attributes toward being a hardcore adult movie than being an action packed espionage thriller with prolonged and gratuitous sex scenes.  For example, Gaston rescues Yvette from sex slavery horror after a short-lived shoot out during the opening segment, the pair drive their way to the police station but stop along the way to cool down under the forest trees, lay out a blanket like they’re having a picknick, and have sex before going back to rushing to the authorities.  Plus, also experiencing Claude Boisson uncontrollably salivate over tied up and drugged women and easily make them look feeble as he ravages them is a trope norm of that character in the adult industry.  Plenty of skin makes “House of Cruel Dolls” a surefire sexploitation attraction, but much of the nudity is one-sided with the women baring everything while every man, except for one, keeping his clothes while committing the sleazy act and cinematographer, Gérard Brisseau, remains tight on focusing on two parts:  the clothed humping rear of the misogynistic rapist and the women’s bare nipples being forcibly suckled on. This makes the scenes not pungently powerful but more monotonously dull stuck on loop.  The latter is really laid on thick for the first act, saturating the skin-laden setup with Yvette’s escape and her flashback of how she become a lost doll in the lost doll brothel, but once Jack Taylor makes the scene, the action really starts with solid fight sequences that could rival the Sean Connery era James Bond.  However, you really receive a good chuckle when the big boss dies and story cuts-to Gaston and Yvette, hanging around Gaston’s pool, hugging and smiling that the gang has been wiped out in a drop off, that’s-a-wrap ending that table any coda gratification. 

For the first time released in North America and on Blu-ray home video, Pierre Chevalier’s “House of Cruel Dolls” comes uncut and remastered in Hi-Def, 1080p from the original 35mm transfer by our friends over at Full Moon Features as part of their Eurociné Collection.  Presented in a matted 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the pristine transfer really comes through without really a hint of damage or over the years degradation.  The color palette dices through the natural grain copiously vivid where needed to be character garments, hair, and vehicles.  Contrast has a whispery air about, heavenly almost, throughout without squashing too much of the textures.  The forced Dub English language audio tracks come in two formats – Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound.  Prepare to have side-splitting, cringe-worthy reactions to the incredible horrendous dubbing of baritone grumbling through the lossy audio tracks.  Even the Jack Taylor impersonator has a different dub than the actual Jack Taylor. Bonus features include trailers of other Euro cult titles. Considering being the only release in North America, “House of Cruel Dolls” is a rubbernecking sight to behold as the Eurotrash epitome of the Eurociné scene of the 1970’s, worth the price of admission just for that.

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One Man Tries to Reclaim his Life When EVIL Suddenly Invades! “The Unthinkable” reviewed (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

Out in the country of Vånga, Sweden, Alex endures his ex-military Father’s demanding and verbally abusive posture.  His only relief is spending time with Anna who is in a similar circumstances with her mother.  The two spend many of their days together amusing themselves on the church piano until Anna is forced to move away to Stockholm, leaving Alex to face his father’s wrath alone.  Alex runs away for his childhood home and, years later, becomes a popular piano recording artist influenced by his time with Anna.  When he returns to Vånga during a time of countrywide unrest to purchase that same church piano of his fond memories, Sweden comes under attack by an unknown force as major roadways out of the country have been blown to smithereens, every power station is the target for destruction, and the rain is contaminated with an airborne chemical that makes people lose their memories and become disoriented.  Alex has to reconnect with his father in order to save Anna, the love of his youth, to survive the unthinkable. 

An invasion on the scale that you’ve never seen blitzes with explosive stunt work and stunning visual effects.  Victor Danell’s action-drama “The Unthinkable” comes out of nowhere with a hard stop pivot of a love story turned survive at any cost as the film’s country of origin becomes warzone raided without mercy.  Under the original title “Den blomstertid nu kommer” in the native tongue, Danell directs and writes “The Unthinkable” along with co-writer and star Christoffer Nordenrot, though credited as their collective production group, as the two team up again after nearly a decade after working on the comedy “Soundcheck,” directed by Danell.  What started as a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaigned ended up being a multi-million dollar production and with such growing fascination amongst eager fans, the 2018 found more financial backing from the former Swedish cinema chain company, SF Bio AB, now known as Filmstaden and is presented as the first feature film of a filmic collective known as Crazy Pictures in co-production with CO_Made and Film I Väst.

As mentioned, writer Christoffer Nordenrot finds himself at the center of the story as Alex, a passionate pianist fighting back against well-armed, well-supplied unknown militant forces all the while processing a dam breaking flood from the rebuilding of shattered emotions when returning to his quaint hometown after abruptly escaping his overbearing father (Jesper Barkselius).  Socially awkward with an obsessive proclivity, but wielding an intellectual thought pattern, Alex appears to be a person likely on the spectrum, but bottles much of his emotions internally, biting his lip at every moment his father disparages him or his absconding mother. When his only friend in the world, a girl named Anna (Lisa Henni, “Haunted Evil Dead”) whose roughly the same age, is being pulled away from Vånga to live in Stockholm with her mother, Alex undergoes a rapid descension of one heart ache to another that leads to him able to flourish and exceed on his own as a new wave pianist, engineering a combination of electronic beats of sound machines with the simplicity of soul from the piano to arouse his repressed emotions for an grandstand audience. Alex finds his way back Vånga for personal gain, a childhood piano him and Anna shared making music over, and to attend the sudden death of his mother from a previous, individual attack in Sweden, but what he stumbles into is avoiding his father at all costs, being swept into a returned Anna’s radial allure, and, oh yea, a massive proclamation of war by an aggressive, chemical warfare and shoot-on-sight enemy of the Swedish people. This is where I find Alex to have a chip-on-his-shoulder complex unhealthy for everyone around him as he doesn’t look past the past and punitively causes discord with his father, who is trying to save not only the last standing power station in all of Sweden himself, but essentially trying to save his entire country, and Anna when Alex finds out she has a husband and child after an afternoon of rollicking in the hay and sharing various moments around town. Performance wise, Nordenrot might not be the action star of tomorrow in his character’s one note of early on narcissism and bad judgement, but challenges himself in the role by losing and gaining weight to accomplish years of age appearances from teenage boy to mid-30’s man and is good enough to swashbuckle against relentless military helicopters and a slew of men capping of M60 machine guns in his direction. Pia Holverson, Krister Kern, Alexej Manvelov, Magnus Sundberg, and Ulrika Bäckström round out “The Unthinkable’s” cast.

With a runtime of 129 minutes, “The Unthinkable” has a lot of story to tell with an ample amount, practically divided in evenly, imparted into two stories – one forgotten romance and family squabbles rekindled and the other a bombardment of annexing Sweden from the country’s own residents by deadly force. The pivot also never feels gradual as act one is all about teenage Alex and Anna growing more than just accustomed together despite lingering family troubles. Once completing the transition from boyhood to successful music man, an irksome sensation still nags in the back of Alex’s mind as he can’t find happiness in all of the boo-koo-bucks his albums and concerts afford him. This leads “The Unthinkable” into a territory of complete selfishness by waterlogging a Red Dawn offshoot concoction, teetering on speculation of Russian invaders eroding the memories in some aspect of chemical weathering, with Alex being one hell of a selfish guy and he’s the supposed hero of the story, but for the sake of me can’t explain his inabilities look past his father’s conspiratorial obsessions and anger issues, his muse’s moving on her with her life with a family after he fled his hometown, and he definitive choice of unable to live with the fact that she’ll never be with him despite all the adversity raining down upon him at the same moment he internally crumbles at his pent up emotions. Cynicism drives the story to a tainted sham ending that’s supposed to be touching and full of heartfelt sacrifice on the part of the hero, yet how can a hero commit himself to an irreversible without an inkling of danger against those he’s doing this for? I, personally, feel cheated by “The Unthinkable’s” character arc, but one thing is for sure is the seamless practical and visual effects action of top shelf quality. Between the great stunt work of remote control tractor-trailers to the computer generated helicopter crashes, reality and fantasy blur to the point where your brain can’t tell the difference. “The Unthinkable” excels in heart-racing action and thrills with narrow escapes from disasters.

An assault on not only the soul of the country of Sweden, but also on it’s people’s memory banks as Crazy Pictures’ spins Russian meddling into an extreme aggression with an epic imperious campaign in “The Unthinkable” that attacks the visual cortex with jaw-dropping affray. Magnet Releasing, a subsidiary of Magnolia pictures, presents “The Unthinkable” in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and has made boots on the ground showings in theaters and on-demand this month on May 7th. Hannas Krantz, another member of the Crazy Pictures collective group, delivers the war at home on Swedish soil with hard lighting, greyly somber moments of confusion and fleeing, and yellow gunfire illuminated nights after an airy love story, basking in warm, inviting yellows and pleasing in comfortable locales, crumbles to harden our narrative hero. Krantz leaves just enough negative space for the VFX team to implement their movie magic in the makings of a clandestine assault. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Becoming lost in “The Unthinkable’s” high powered effects can become enthralling when climbing the latter of every scene being just as intense and bigger than the last; however, Alex’s arc of a lovesick boy never fully exits from the grown up version of himself, thwarting any kind redemption and respect because of very unlikable and intense egomania.

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EVIL is Out For Blood! “Attack of the Unknown” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

A Los Angeles SWAT team raids a syndicate congregating big narcotics deal that leads to the arrest of the local high profile drug lord named Hades.  In transporting Hades into federal custody, massive alien ships suddenly loom over the city, beginning a merciless extraterrestrial invasion that forces the close knit SWAT team, Hades, and a handful of low on the totem poll federal agents to take shelter at an inmate detention center housing dangerous criminals as everyone outside, fighting for their very lives on the streets of an ablaze metropolis, are swarmed and killed by tentacle spearing, blood sucking aliens.  Running low on ammo, cut off from any kind of rescue, and aware that an attack on them is imminent, the survivors must band together to plan their continuous survival and understand what the aliens want from them before being raided for their blood.

“Independence Day” meets “Assault on Precinct 13” in the blood marauding mayhem of the alien invasion action film “Attack of the Unknown” from writer-director Brandon Slagle (“House on Manson,” “The Dawn”) based off a story by producers Michael and Sonny Mahal of the Mahal Empire production company. The American made, Los Angeles and Las Vegas shot Sci-Fi embattled entanglement labors an intensive visual effects heavy bombardment that bares an unbiblical similarity of the David versus Goliath parable.  Instead of using stones and a slingshot to bring the formidable giant down, gunfire and hand-to-hand combat serve as the nearly useless weaponry of choice against these spacemen, with a slight inspiration of H.R. Giger’s biochemical flare, searching for the junkie’s high of medicinal hemoglobin.  Alongside the Mahal Empire, the company behind the artistry of supernatural-sins, “Art of the Dead,” Spicy Ramen Productions (“Murder Van”), FilmCore (“Clownado”), and Blain-Y-Bootleg Films also stick their producing tentacles into the narrative that entails expropriation of human blood by otherworldly beings.

“Attack of the Unknown” reunites “Art of the Dead’s” Richard Grieco and Tara Reid once again in a non-scene sharing feature, but, this time around, Grieco lands the lead role of Vernon, a long-in-the-tooth cop going through a brutal divorce, going through cancer, and must be the person to save during the invasion…wait, what? Yes, forget the women, children, and possible any other last hope for mankind, Vernon, through the eyes of his SWAT brethren, becomes early on the favorite for survival, but only later into the story does the fact of Vernon’s fatalistic, cancerous blood is the cure for dominion dominance, something that should have been noted when Vernon is labeled as must live. Grieco’s austere soul for Vernon disposes a man without a care or is unpredictable and while the role is overall solid, Grieco is a bit theatrical with the performance. On the short end of the stick is Tara Reid whose barely in a folklore tale told by Hades as a severely brief conclusion on why these malevolent space invaders have landed on planet Earth. Former “Hellraiser: Revelations'” cenobite, Jolene Andersen, and typecast bad guy, “Strangeland’s” Robert LaSardo, without an alternative, had the most intrigue without having a lick of depth with their characters. Andersen is the only female SWAT member, Hannah, with an unexplained connection between her and Vernon other than being colleagues, but Hannah is a bit of a Jane of all trades able to hold her own in a humbling kind of way, making her more likable. On the other hand, the mysterious temperament challenges us to figure out what LaSardo kind of person is Hades; obviously named after the lord of Hell, the drug kingpin isn’t devilish in the least and has the tendency to be more of a stubborn and angst tween. The cast list is huge but the main players involved rounding out the cast list is Douglas Tait, Robert Donovan, Paul Gunn, Mouine Omari, Clay Trimble, Gerardo de Pablos, King Jeff, and, not forgetting to mention as Featured Dancer #1, adult actress Tasha Reign.

Slagle has to reign over and rein in the slew of competing talents and the story’s first act of an indeterminate direction. When the narrative finally settles upon the alien encircled detention center with the survivors’ back against the wall, a harried subplot with two, nearly off the clock San Fernando cops encountering a crashed ship in the desert on the outskirts of town is pushed aside; instead of a smaller, parallel story alongside the SWAT’s predicament, the two cop encounter becomes a bookend story that feels sorely out of place and sheepishly wrapped up. Another out of place aspect, an unfillable character arc within the core story, is with an out of element survivor, a vlogger from Texas, who is the only unqualified defender against an attack and supposed to be on this tangent of earning his “got your back” badge (anyone from Texas, the Alamo state, should know a thing or two about a last stand), but by the time the vlogger musters the courage to shoot back at the bloodsucking tentacles during an elevator escape, the moment is way too late and way too underwhelming to make an impact, leaving his presence wasted amongst a motley crew of rough and tough officers and criminals. Luckily, the Mahal production has plenty of capital to go around to render a bolstering blend of practical and visual effects that tags “Attack of the Unknown” as Slagle’s Michael Bay attempt of a Sci-Fi action film. The visual effect composites are verisimilar in comparison to big budget Hollywood and the practical work, whether be with the fleeting gruesome deaths (ripping off the crown of the head scene was pretty nasty), the alien spacesuits, and the alien’s classic bug eyes and small mouth, harped back on a throwback science fiction alien attack sans the ray gun trope.

For an indie production, “Attack of the Unknown” has a palpable core story with promising visuals that has invaded all major VOD platforms this past August courtesy of Gravitas Ventures. The A/V qualities will not be reviewed due to the digital screener provided, but just to comment on the rigors of budget films, the depth perception issues in the composited effects and the sounds effects not always necessarily syncing properly with the action (i.e. explosions), cold cocks us back down a peg that “Attack of the Unknown” is an indie film. The music score is provided by Scott Glasgow (“Hatchet III”) and the shots are provided by Michael Su, who I thought garnished really neat scenes with smoke and brilliant light. Bottom line, “Attack of the Unknown” just ekes out being entertaining enough but the space vampire’s ground assault traverses a rocky road of dry performances and unfocused bearings that cultivates earnest dramatics progressing into one ginormous space ship-sized cliché.

Available to Rent on Amazon!

Flesh Combustible EVIL Ore in “Primal Scream” reviewed! (Dark Force and Code Red / Blu-ray)


In the future of 1993, a privatized and powerful mining corporation is extracting a newfangled element cleaner and more abundant than any other energy source known to mankind, but the element, known as Hellfire, is also the most dangerous as it causing the human body to spontaneously ignite the internal organs in a heap of electro-combustion, searing the body from the inside out. A private detective is hired under the pretense of an affair scandal but becomes intertwined in a power struggle to harness complete control of Hellfire that leads from explosive skirmishes on a mining station on Saturn to the many charred bodies scorched by the unforgiving Hellfire on Earth and the investigator is caught in the middle behind a veil of cloak and dagger criminal conduct, searching for answers and the truth.

A gumshoe narrative with a caustic boost of flesh destroying flair, “Primal Scream” is the 1987 independent science fiction action epic from first time filmmaker William J. Murray and an equally tenderfoot crew buckling down for their inaugural ignition into full-length feature film space. More recently familiar with Murray’s work on the Jersey shore thriller, “Exit 0,” as the director of photography, the writer-director got his big start helming “Primal Scream,” also known originally as “Hellfire,” a planetary, melodramatic perusal also set in New Jersey, shot primarily on location in Atlantic City. The title change from “Hellfire” was the brainchild of the distributor who bought the rights to the film, claiming “Primal Scream” as a more marketable title, but with a name like “Hellfire,” the spaceship models, web of lies, and evil corporations detective story would have garnered an audience. “Primal Scream” is a production financed by a movie theater concession stand franchisee, Howard Foulkrod, looking to be a part of movie-making team.

Before working with Murray in “Exit 0” as a heedful bed and breakfast front desk attendant with a pervading cocksure attitude, New York born Kenneth McGregor first and foremost collaborated with the filmmaker on “Primal Scream” as a washed up police officer turned private dick Corby McHale that became McGregor’s debut lead role in the low-budget sci-fi feat. McGregor could carry the weight on such a profound role that required physicality from a browbeaten scoundrel that could attract young new love as well as re-attract his former affairs. However, I wasn’t especially sold on McHale’s love interest, Samantha Keller, who came off strong toting up a lip-giving and gritty female officer who has history with McHale. Sharon Mason dons the role with her lanky, on the gaunt side, appearance that could have elevated the role in a incongruous, yet positive, light, but Mason withers down to a lovestruck puppy besotted with McHale back in her life, losing that salt of the Earth edge that keeps her sharp in repelling the scum around her as a beat cop. Jon Maurice was a real presence on screen as a weary and angry captain on the force and maintains a mutual respect for his former office and friend, McHale, though doesn’t look it. In his only credited acting role, Maurice has the towering posture of “Dawn of the Dead’s” Ken Foree or “Candyman’s” Tony Todd with a resonating voice, a gospel actor, and compliments McHale’s unkept and insouciant façade. Rounding out the cast is Julie Miller, Stephen Caldwell, Edward N. Fallon, Joseph White, and timeless showman Mickey Shaughnessy in his last performance before death.

I find difficulty in thinking of one single aspect in where “Primal Scream” doesn’t deserve admiration. Do I think “Primal Scream” is a flawless attempt of a gargantuan dystopia of escapism? Not at the least, but for a pressurized, first time director, William Murray, his equally untried crew, and a cast of novice actors, the space ship model and pyrotechnics-laden gumshoe narrative palpitates wildly with tremendous heart for the amount of other intrinsic details that went into the feature, like the video phones and the ultramodern everyday vehicles, that didn’t produce a sensory overload of futuristic adornment and kept a practical milieu of face-to-face gambling bookies (location was set in Atlantic City after all) and ballistic projectile weapons despite a significant advancement in space travel. Hell, there’s even a sleek unrivaled-looking DeLorean in the first moments of the movie as a cherry on top. Granted, “Primal Scream” is set in 1993, nearly a decade outlook from production, and maybe undershot a realistic timeframe for interplanetary mining base construction. Another thing unclear is the story’s plasticity, murkily prefaced with a drop-in climax that is then refocused on the beginnings of Corby McHale’s seemingly diminutive hired involvement that leads to corruptive strife and dislodging of greed for the better of mankind. While trying to maintain a belief in the systemic universe the characters live in, the scenes are told through McHale as noted in the climatic introduction, but there are a few scenes outside that perspective box and don’t make filmic sense to the storytelling core. Ambitiously executed, “Primal Scream” dotes on films, such as “Blade Runner” or “Brazil,” of an Earth dystopian future and challenges us to totally recall our affection for the practical movie making magic.

In what I consider an odd release for Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red, I have to remind myself that William Murray’s “Primal Scream” is an oddity film with rich background and ludicrous-speed potential all around and makes a grand, high-definition Blu-ray debut distributed by MVDVisual. The region free release is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, from a rather preserved source. The picture maintains a stable course throughout with some flare ups of scratches, blemishes, cigarette burns, and omitted frame jumps that were nearly inherent with 35mm productions. Yet, the coloring is excellent and balance with no diluting edge enhancements or cropping. A forced English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix is a palpable mix that is clear and unfractured by distortions. There remains a constant, low-toned crackle and hum throughout the approx. 85 minute runtime, almost as if it’s electronic interference, but the mix maintains a par score that offers beveled depth and a resounding range of bombastic explosions and the snap, crackle, pop of skin being corroded and cooked by Hellfire. Special features include an audio a new commentary by director William Murray and crew as well as the same group in a Making of “Primal Scream” featurette “Made A Movie, Lived to Tell,” showcasing current interviews recollecting 30 years ago their experience in making, and surviving, their first movie. Also included is the “Hellfire” 1981 promo reel. “Primal Scream” is more down to Earth than it is pew-pewing in the inky expanse, paralleling the dangers of new and unexplored elements and mining procedures, such as fracking, with a sleuth story rigmarole to save man from not only destroying their corporeal selves, but also destroying their souls from corruption.

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