In the small rural community of Devil’s Gate, Oregon, a boy and his mother disappear without a trace. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis spearheads the investigating to atone for a regretful previous child disappearance case. She’s accompanied by a local deputy, Colt Salter, to assist her. During her brief investigation upon arriving at Devil’s Gate, Agent Francis comes to the determination that Jackson Pritchard, the father and husband of the missing boy and mother, is directly involved in their sudden disappearance. The investigation turns from a seemingly straight forward, open and shut case to a colossal mystery that’s beyond their comprehension when arriving at the religious dogmatist’s boarded up and disturbing cladded farm house where unearthly forces lay claim to the Pritchard family home for sinister reasons. With one of the beings caged in his basement, the desperate Pritchard seeks an exchange with the creatures he labels as the fallen angels in attempt to regain his wife and son, but as the night falls, trapping Agent Francis and Deputy Salter with Prichard inside the residence, they become surrounded by the fire in the sky creatures aimed to reap not only the world, but their souls.
Like an enigmatic report straight from the non-redacted portions of a nail-biting X-Files case, “Devil’s Gate” is a we are not alone sci-fi horror film from 2017 under the apocalyptic eye of director Clay Staub and co-written by video game plot scriber, Peter Aperlo. The considerably financed project is the first feature film for both filmmakers in their respective roles with Staub having served as an assistant director on other paranormal plotted projects like Zack Snyder’s heavily praised remake of George Romero’s flesh-eating zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” and Matthijs van Heijningen’s underrated “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s film of the same title. One quality that we can all can be pleased about is that Staub carries over from his previous experience as a genre filmmaker participate is the use of gore in the “Devil’s Gate” because, honestly just by looking at the cover and reading the plot, the bloodletting expectation was low on the totem pole. Staub doesn’t unload a gratuitous splatterfest of alien and human entrails, but subtly sanctions the right amount of extrasensory chest bursting and finger snapping goo that plays an ill-fated role of circular or motivational circumstances for the characters.
Putting the pieces of the Pritchard mystery together is Agent Francis who is a to the point and tough national law enforcement officer with a bleeding heart complex after her very first assigned case went tragically sour that looms an unexplainable root cause cloud over her straight blonde hair. Desperate to cure her past, Agent Francis rushes into Devil’s Gate, bypassing the notable chicken fried steak meal offered by Deputy Salter upon her tarmac arrival and defying the local Sheriff’s heed to not interview husband Jackson Pritchard, that sorely causes her to land in the virtually the same predicament of just trying to get the right thing done no matter the unclear ancillary evidence. “12 Monkey’s” television star Amanda Schull spearheads the character with the characteristics aforementioned with drab appeal, lacking the emotion and the intensity her character is supposed to be exhibit when trying to solve a case of personal redemption as well as the fear from an higher ominous power that can shoot lightning down from the sky and flash velociraptor toe-claw sized fangs. Colt Salter might be a small time, Podunk deputy, but the born and raised Devil’s Gate officer can match wit with his FBI counterpart. Salter strikes me as a character who doesn’t stray far from home, mentioning various times, in various ways, his parallel path to high school friend Jackson Pritchard. Shawn Ashmore, from Joe Lynch’s “Frozen,” opposites his costar Schull like Mulder and Scully type as well as an all-around good guy who happens to stray from his protocol path once Agent Francis puts her federal fingers into his already investigated investigation. Like his performance in “Frozen,” “X-Men” franchise, and even in FOX’s television thriller “The Following,” Ashmore is a pretty solid actor, showing a range of emotion that transcends him from easygoing deputy to mortality fearing when mankind’s on the verge of extinction comes into the equation. An equally solid performance by Milo Ventimiglia, who recently starred in “Creed II,” really sells the crazy portray by Jackson Pritchard, a God-fearing man with a long lineage of misunderstood family heritage that leads him to the uncanny bombshell that has been bestowed upon his family farm. Ventimiglia, in his roughest, toughest country twang, creates such an anxiety-riddled and frantic character that unravelling his fate is not too clear which is refreshing to be able to retain mystery to a role as we can kind of figure out how Agent Francis and Deputy Salter when fair in the end game. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Regan (“John Wick”), Javier Botet (“Slender Man”), and “Star Trek: The Next Genergation’s” Jonathan Frakes, still sporting that iconic beard even if it has grayed, as the town Sheriff.
In spite of some really cool visuals, especially of the man underneath the mask, Javier Botet, inside a ghoulishly white extraterrestrial suit that only his elongated and thin body (and perhaps also Doug Jones’) could snuggly fit into, “Devil’s Gate” tells a narrative that hails from a lot of re-spun material. Whether intentional or not, viewers more than likely won’t be able to help themselves as they’ll eagerly point to the television screen and say, ““Independence Day” did that first,” or exclaim, “didn’t Donald Sutherland star in the same kind of thing???” I know I did. However, Staub and Aperlo don’t completely ape the concepts that surely haven’t inspiring them, making the effort more endearing, and visually crafted a well-blended plot into an enjoyable and captivating story; a story that has been mostly devoid of underlining messages and symbolism other than the themes of religious zealots are extremely bad for the world and living with past regrets can be hazardous for your health if not properly accessed. “Devil’s Gate” focuses more directly on just entertaining another version of visitors from another world and how those no-so-little-green-men play an assimilating role into humanity.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Devil’s Gate” onto a region 4 DVD presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The vast Midwestern landscape with the foreboding rolling clouds stretches from top to bottom with an exact sharpness and crisp from the digital picture. The textures in the broad, yet barren-esque fields look especially detailed, more so with the wind and brownish-yellow color. Speaking of color, the hue is a filter of shadowed purple and on a sepia side that works the dread atmosphere. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has ample range and depth. Lightning strikes boom equally from the five channels, alien shrieks trembles through, and the dialogue is not obstructed. Surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release as the Stateside counterpart even has a trailer in the extras. There isn’t a static menu either as the film goes right into play feature mode. c
A small Australian town experiences a small, yet devastating portion of a world invasion by a hostile alien race during a night of carnival festivities and a rugby football game. A small group of locals band together to form a resistance against the alien occupation that seeks to turn mankind’s world into their own, using captured humans as slave labor for their own agricultural harvesters. After each liberation of prisoners, the resistance fighters train others as rebels to strike back, and strike back hard, against their oppressors while they continuously search for their missing loved ones, but for some, at the cost of their own humanity and compassion when only killing becomes the most instantaneous gratification toward taking back their home planet. A select few of rebels try to find common ground in peace with a homeless alien race that desperately seeks an inhabitable world, but red and green blood must be shed on both sides before amity ever becomes a realistic ideal between two humanoid races.
“Occupation” is the 2018 alien invasion action-thriller and the sophomore feature film from Australian director Luke Sparke. Sparke, who also wrote the script, shares additional dialogue credits with Felix Williamson of “Nekrotronic.” What could be considered as “Red Dawn” meets “Independence Day,” “Occupation” has wealthy production value breadth that kisses the line of being something constructed from the flashy and gleam-laden Michael Bay with grand scale visual effects that blend fairly seamlessly with ground level practical makeup. Explosions, weapons fire, and spray patterns of alien blood put a significant dent into the storyline that follows the nearly-a-year course of the ragtag team of human resistance fighters, firmly solidifying “Occupation’s” action status and large pocket budget on a this foreign science fiction film.
Not one actor headlines “Occupation,” but, rather, follows the subjective motives from each of the motley crew of survivors. If had to choose, the pill addicted and rugged rugby footballer Matt Simmons, played by “Beast No More’s” Dan Ewing, is shown some favoritism as he becomes the naturally unspoken for leader of the resistance team that includes his girlfriend, Amelia, played by Stephany Jacobsen. “The Devil’s Tomb” actress doesn’t quite mesh well with Ewing; her forced performance is uncomfortably ungraceful during action and melodramatic scenes of her perspectives on the alien culture and Matt’s audacious bravery. Temuera Morrison is a familiar face amongst the mix; the “Speed 2” and regular “Star Wars” mythology actor across many platforms is the passionately driven father, Peter, who desperately searches for his son and wife from whom he was separated during the invasion and Morrison does what the accomplished actor has always done best, being the aggressor and the muscle behind his character, especially when Peter mercilessly caves in alien craniums with scrap piping. When Peter is bashing skulls, he’s being an overprotective daughter to Izzy Stevens, a young actress from Sydney, who provides the teenage angst and, in a rather bizarre move, goes down a road of fixation with the local, older looking bum, played by Zac Garred. The chemistry only sparks here and there until their tunnel of love sequence; by then, they’re full throttle, ripping off clothes like cotton is contagious. Rhiannon Fish, Charles Terrier, Felix Williamson, Jacqueline McKenzie (“Deep Blue Sea”), Trystan Go, and Sci-fi genre vet Bruce Spence (“The Road Warrior”) make up the remaining cast.
Much of “Occupation’s” hefty flaws come from simply being forced. From the acting to the storyline, the pace doesn’t convey authenticity and where the characters should be within the stages of a post-invasion Earth. Oppressive occupation desolate inhabitants and landscape, but the majority of the human race remain not weathered by the conflict and Sparke doesn’t necessarily express that well with still very much clean shaven, well-kept, and strength-retaining displaced survivors with fat bellies and no sign of disease or starvation. In 8 months, the resistance is able to completely organize against an advanced alien race despite being taken by complete surprise. Dynamics are a bit off as well as many motivations abruptly change; for example, Amelia’s brother, Marcus, has a crush fixation with Izzy Stevens’ character during invading period, but the interaction between them go un-nurtured and wither to where a sudden connection between her and the bum form at a rapid pace without so much of a flicker of jealousy Marcus, losing any hope for an internal, tangent subplot. Same can be said between Matt and Amelia; they’re hot and cold relationship teeters on psychotic behavior and bi-polar tendencies that result in questioning where exactly their position lies in this conflict that’s nudges them to wedge apart but pulls them together again like nonchalant magnets without really tackling head-on their own issues.
Lionsgate and Saban Films release “Occupation” on Blu-ray home video. The transfer is in 1080p hi-definition with a 2.39.1 widescreen presentation. Nothing really to note here about the image quality other than the cleanliness of the digital video that sheds many landscape and personal details in the day and the night sequences. The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has copious qualities for an explosive-laden borderline A/B movie from Australia. Dialogue is prominent and the LFE is quiet sparse though explosion heavy; ships whizzing through the air maintain on a level playing field audio track shared with human’s scampering frantically for their very lives. Spanish subtitles and English SDH are also available. For a two-hour runtime flick, surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release. Luke Sparke’s “Occupation” is masterfully formulaic as we’ve all experienced this movie before whether be “Red Dawn” or “Independence Day.” Nothing under the satisfactory visual effects is awesome enough to rattle or challenge the mind with the venture of a militia of Australian resistance fighters pitted against ghastly, rubber looking extraterrestrials and that’s the ultimate and fateful bullet in Sparke’s sci-fi action film.
Six months after a tragic climbing accident that left his wife dead and him crippled and bound to a wheel chair, Preston Rogers has been ordered by his doctor to return home, near the site of accident, with the assistance of a nurse to unify Preston’s shattered psyche. Next door, five, young party girls check in for an all-girls party weekend. However, they’re not alone. In the woods, lurks a monstrous living legend, blood thirsty, and ready to feast on the flesh and bone of animal and human alike. As Preston witnesses one death after another from a perched view while sitting in his wheel cheer, he becomes desperate to reach the survivors’ attentions and no one, from police to his uncouth nurse assistant, believe his story of a vicious, hairy creature skulking in the woods, leaving Preston by himself to save others as well as himself.
They don’t make monster movies like this anymore! “Abominable” is the 2006 blood splattering creature feature from writer-director Ryan Schifrin. The director’s freshman film is a wallop of entertainment with ton of homage and a plenty of gruesome kills that you can revisit over and over again on some kind of morbid repeat in this high caliber, independent, coal-coated gem that’s “Read Window” meets a whole hell of a messed up version of “Harry and the Hendersons.” You don’t want this ginormous meat eater breaking in your couch or raiding your fridge! The tightly knit set locations that might usually stagnant a story are easily compensated with a graphic and bloody violence that stems from the many full frontal visuals on the towering, practical effects monster. “Abominable” also looks and feels really expensive and not a slapped together, last minute production.
Now, Ryan Schifrin might not agree with me here and the director might say that it was his passion that attracted some of the genre’s biggest names to have small roles in first time feature, but I’m pretty confident that his well-known composer father, Lalo Schifrin whose composed for movies “The Amityville Horror” and “The Class of 1984”, had some influential help other than also being the orchestrating composer for his son’s film. In leading with “Abominable’s” main star, I remember this actor from his charismatic boyfriend material character in “Deep Star Six;” Matt McCoy plays the crippled Preston Rogers who must rely on his smarts rather than his physical strength. McCoy’s piecing blue eyes and solid acting chops has him being a believable character in an unbelievable movie. McCoy’s character and his at odds dynamic with skeezy male nurse Otis Wilhelm, dedicatedly played in a first time performance by special effects artist Christien Tinlsey, is probably one of the better shallow pissing matches around. The five party girls are Karin Anna Cheung, Natalie Compagno, Ashley Hartman, genre scream queen Tiffany Shepis, who has one of the best death scenes ever, and rounding off with Haley Joel in the female lead. Hold onto to your hats, because we’re not done yet with the star-studded cast list that includes Rex Linn (“Cliffhanger”), Phil Morris (“Dark Planet”), Dee Wallace Stone (“E.T.”), Lance Henriksen (“Aliens”), Jeffrey Combs (“Reanimator”), and Paul Gleason (“Breakfast Club”). Dialogue between Henriksen and Combs is pure magic and just adds that cherry on top of something already pretty sweet.
Schifrin’s “Abominable” is a down to Earth horror. Practical, small, and a straight shooter that doesn’t try to gimmick a way to fame and cult fandom. Schifrin, with the help of the late “Blairwitch Project” director Neal Fredericks, was able to capture the atmosphere and the creature without having to burden themselves with computer generated imagery or relying heavily on camera tricks or crafty edits to progress the story that certainly needed to be blunt. Fredericks cinematography creates the allusion of a bigger world, a world where Schifrin’s creature lives, breathes, and hunts as the urban legend of the Flatwoods Monster. McCoy sells his role of a challenged individual; one whose on the cusp of giving up with he realizes there’s hope in saving these young girls when he could not save his wife or the use of his legs. Auxiliary cast members are not two-bit nobodies with lifeless personalities of backwoods piss ants; instead, Jeffrey “The Frighteners” Combs and Lance “Pumpkinhead” Henrikson are the best backwoods creeps with shotguns and oxygens canisters to act the roles. The monster’s absolutely and gratifying heinous with the Frito-razor teeth, the dingy string hair, and the mouth that opens up a foot wide.
“Abominable” reclaims a home on the MVD Rewind Collection label with a brand new 2K definition transfer 2-disc, DVD (Standard Definition) and Blu-ray (1080p) combo set, presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio; however the ratio is stretched to fit the entire screen. The image quality is rather clean, but has a fuzzy, soft overlay that’s true to form with a film originally shot in 35mm coming into contact with some electrical interference. The version of “Abominable” is also a all new cut of the film with improved CGI-effects, which there were some, and were overseen by director Ryan Schifrin and editor Chris Conlee. The release continues with a forthright note about enhancing the color timing and correction to further the experience which epitomizes more clearly in a scene where the blue eyes of Matt McCoy and Haley Joel are depicted overly brilliant when staring at each other in the darkness or in the lighted room or, in fact, anything that’s blue, i.e. Joel’s blue jeans or Otis’s nurses getup is indistinguishable being any other hue. This edition comes with an English 5.1 surround audio, uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray, and the balance is remarkable. Dialogue is poignant and punctual with the beast’s belly deep roars echoing through with such range and depth that it heightens the monstrous terror. Lalo Schifrin’s score comes out clean enough despite slightly schlocky in comparison to his son’s material. New extras include a new introduction from director Ryan Schifrin and bonus material from other releases become rebranded on this combo release with an audio commentary by Schifrin, Jeffrey Combs, and Matt McCoy, a making of featurette, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and bloopers, “Shadows” – short film by Ryan Schifrin at USC Student Film school, “Basil & Mobius: No Reast for the Wicked” short by Schifrin that features a score composed by Lalo Schifrin, the original theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, stoyboard gallery, and a collectible mini poster insert! Whew! MVD Rewind Collection went big and landed huge with Ryan Schifrin’s “Abominable.” The mammoth release will surely be a definitive cut for the scarcely heard of creature feature that’s made with deep reverence for the classic monster movie and denotes a sincere and unwavering passion for the genre, making “Abominable” a lovable tribute of beast slaughtering stowed with paralyzing anxiety and symbiotic with pure, addictive joy.
On the space shuttle Nautilus, three astronauts are returning home after one year in deep space. Their outbound transmissions to Earth are not being returned nor are they being received and as their ship draws closer to Earth, the only option for reentry is to take a risky crash landing into the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California, hoping someone, anyone, would see their shuttle coursing downward from the sky. Only two survive the crash and swim to shore where no boats, no planes, nor onlookers were around to receive them. They soon find out why. World War III had engulfed much of the Earth during their time in space, reaping the land of the urban jungles and making food and living conditions scare. Germ warfare had mutated much of the population to cannibalistic creatures and when torrentially raining, acid rain pours from the war torn atmosphere from ferociously brilliant and deadly clouds. Only a small band of good people remain and the two astronauts seek to keep them safe from the harsh elements, even against a merciless gang of thugs.
In the early 1980s, an ambitious and visionary filmmaker sought to produce, write, direct, and star in his very own modest budget feature film that would rival Hollywood’s glamourous and expensive effects while still maintaining a down-to-Earth independent production. That filmmaker was none other than Steve Barkett, creating his debut film, the 1982 science fiction post-war catastrophe, “The Aftermath.” “The Aftermath” is like if the “Planet of the Apes” met “The Walking Dead,” a sheer blunt for trauma of returning to your home to discover the world in shambles with different factions of hard nose killers ready to plunder all that you own and all that you will ever have. Barkett, with assistance from the brothers Dennis and Robert Skotak, who’ve went on to work on major studio films such as “Aliens” and did the matte work for John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” create a destroyed Los Angeles landscape through the power of some serious movie magic considering the time period and the budget.
Steve Barkett is Newman, one of the three astronauts with no first name, and the tough hombre’s hard disposition comes from his background exposition where he lost his wife and child before going up into space. Newman’s cold, but not heartless, and Barkett taps into that fairly well despite some robotic and formulaic performances. However, Christopher Barkett, Steve’s son, was a complete first generation cyborg, a regular toaster oven with teeth and eyeballs that monotones through all the lines and actions. The most interesting casting here is Lynne Margulies, who at the time of this release, was or was not yet the late Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend. Margulies, who previous worked on an adult film entitled “Young, Hot ‘n Nasty Teenage Cruisers,” continued the racy trend with a shirt-pokey role in Sarah, Newman’s quick-to-sack love interest with a briefly, well-endowed nude scene. Yet, Sig Haig manages to steal the Barkett’s film from right under his nose. The young and ruggedly muscular “The Devil’s Rejects” star sports his trademark shaved head and thick, dark goatee, labeling him the perfect casting choice in gang leader Cutter. Alfie Martin, Forrest J. Ackerman (“Dead Alive”), Larry Latham, Linda Stiegler, and Steve’s young daughter, Laura Anne Barkett costar.
One aspect that’s really appreciated in Barkett’s enterprising venture through post-war commentary and morally righteous themes is the special effects matte work from the Skotak brothers. Detailed paintings, such as exampled in the war-ravaged metropolis that was formerly L.A. embodying the once towering buildings, are now destructively cut short in a mangled heap in a matte effect with live actors. Practical effects work wonders for Barkett’s large scale premise despite the small scale performances, except from Sid Haig. The detail in the violence dawns a newly restored faith in early 1980’s sci-fi films; violence that was more prevalent in the genre later in the decade, in such films as “Aliens” or “Robocop,” making Barkett’s film a trail blazer that paved the way to deliver more sensational savagery and lots of blood of a high body count to a already fantastic genre.
MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment release Steve Barkett’s “The Aftermath” onto a dual format, DVD and Blu-ray, combo pack. Presented in 1080p on a MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-50, the post apocalypse never looked so good in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio from a 2K remastered transfer of the original 35mm negative. VCI has bested the rest with colorfully enriched scenes and untouched framing. Slight grain more so over the matte special effects that optically contrasts between the two different layers where a little touchup could have smoothed out the indifferences, but other than that, the details are quite stark. The clean and untarnished English LCPM 2.0 mono track is also vastly well constructed that contains minuscule hissing and the occasion pop, clearly making the dialogue a prevalent force. Composer John Morgan’s traumatically dramatic score is full-bodied and robust that coinciding renders well with the action sequences and tranquil moments. The extras offer the original laserdisc bonus material that provide snippets of interviews from cast and crew, Steve Barkett’s short film “Night Caller,” over an hours’ worth of John Morgan’s soundtrack complete with title information, VCI promo announcement for Barkett’s other director “Empire of the Dark, and the original theatrical trailer. A retrospective journey to the early 1980’s science fiction indie sector is also a visually stunning resurrection of “The Aftermath” courtesy of VCI Entertainment and with impressive effects and a bigger-than-life concept despite an underwhelming performance as an actor, director Steve Barkett’s legacy as a filmmaker remains stronger than ever with this prominent and well-deserved upgrade of the lazer-gun and mutant inhibiting world reckoning.
Three documentary filmmakers and gold hunters hitchhike to the remote Superstition Mountains of Arizona. The Lost Dutchman mine is their destination goal and all the long the way they film their experience until they disappeared and only the footage remained. The mountain have claimed many before them, will the mountain claim more unsuspecting treasure seekers?
“Dark Mountain” claims to be a found footage experience that displays paranormal activities based on true events. Alien green lights, cave ghosts, and internal madness are all attributed to the Superstition Mountains. This is also the film’s downfall as too much is attributed to make Superstition Mountain a mystery all the way to the credits. The backstory about the Apache being the root cause of the disappearances would have been a more likely and just that more interesting because, really, when is the last time you’ve seen killer Apaches in modern times? Claustrophobia seems to be the new fad in the horror genre with films like “So Above, As Below,” “Day of the Mummy” (), and the upcoming Alexandre Aja produced film The Pyramid where a group of explorers become trapped, entombed and doomed by a supernatural force. These films are no cult hits like “The Descent” but the fear of the walls closing in and a force looming closer to you has taken charge and is on the rise of terror. “Dark Mountain” dabbles in that a little with the cave exploration sharing the terror that a night vision should ensue into the audience.
First time director Tara Anaise’s style is purely audible and that’s not a bad thing. The film progresses through sounds: locusts, thrash metal, and the sounds of the desert. The three hitchhikers played by Sage Howard, Andrew Simpson, and Shelby Stehlin do a fairly convincible job being lost, confused, and afraid tourists. However, the characters carry unrealistic characteristics which could also be contributed to the film crew’s inexperience. For one, if weird shit happens around one in the first instance, you get the hell out of dodge. Secondly, nobody’s cell phone and handheld camera has a battery life of five days and that is what happens here. Lastly, and this one is more bittersweet than the rest, Sage Howard scopes the land in her booty jorts amongst deadly rattle snakes and prickly surrounding cacti.
“Dark Mountain” from, uh, Dark Mountain Studios, Superstitious Films, and released by MVD can certainly be engaging and entertaining, but this story ends too abruptly leaving a sour taste. The accounts stay mysterious and the real knowledge of what malevolence goes untold. I’m sure that’s the film’s supposed charm, but even “Paranormal Activity” had a revelation, even “Blair Witch Project” had solid back story and so comes “Dark Mountain” whose heights has no limits.
No nudity. Just Sage Howard in her jean shorts!