An immigrant cabby named Luz stumbles dazed into a German police station, repeating a profane distortion of a religious prayer to a couple of baffled detectives. Meanwhile, in a nearby bar, a forwardly chatty woman is diving seductively into a spiel about her Catholic schoolgirl friend who just recently jumped out of her moving taxicab to a psychoanalysis specialist on the edge of his seat. Drunk enough to take advantage of, the Doctor falls for the woman’s alluring trap, beguiling him to do her bidding as an unwilling host. As the now possessed doctor arrives to evaluate Nora for the police, he instigates a hypnosis recreation of the details events leading up to Luz’s ravings and disillusions. What happens next goes beyond human comprehension and rational as the doctor desires more from the stupefied Luz than what meets the eye.
Undoubtedly a strong skiff of demonic peculiarity weathering forth against an unforgiving maelstrom of spiffy-glamourous and yacht-sized counterparts is Tilman Singer’s memorizing tale of demigod deception in “Luz.” As the German born filmmaker’s first written-and-directed full length feature film, a film school project shot entirely on 16mm color negative, Singer dazzles with a throwback grindhouse glow set ablaze with a neon flare that adds to the perilous seduction and violation of the mind and primal infatuation. “Luz’s” was filmed in Cologne, Germany, where Singer studied film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, during the production year of 2018 and saw success at various Germany festivals, including it’s debut at the Berlin Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Festival. The Academy of Media Arts Cologne also serves as the production company, as it was, after all, a school project, and listed as Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM).
“Luz” wouldn’t be what as staggering as it is if it wasn’t for the invested cast who brings Singer’s vision to the spectrum. Luana Velis’s seamless grasp of the editing has remarkable wealth when playing a disoriented cab driver coming in off the street and Velis as Luz, in the ebb and flow of reality when Dr. Rosinni (Jan Bluthardt) entrances her with a blend of hypnosis and psychoanalysis techniques, sustains character through various transitions present inside a large police board room, reality, and the subconscious recollection of places and events inside her mind that Singer constructions for visualization, not reality. Singer melds together places, people, and events, throwing audiences for loops and casting misleading signals and just where the hell our characters are gathered. Bluthardt is equally captivating post transformation, coming off like a calculated maniac, resolved in his wild role. Perhaps, my favorite of the cast list goes to Julia Riedler as Nora Vanderkurt, Luz’s icy former bedfellow from Catholic School who slithers into Dr. Rosinni’s ear like a bewitching asp while seeming like a normal bar patron, but Riedler’s spin on Vanderkurt breaks the construct beyond that of the sleazy barfly and into something more conniving, wicked, and alcohol infused while still steamy with sexual emissions. All three performances are keystones to “Luz” success while fellow cast mates Johannes Benecke, Lilli Lorenz, and Nadja Stubiger, offer some spot on support.
“Luz” summits fear with intrinsic performance art of hazy, but colorful, atmospherics and off-kilter shapes and lines, making the most routine settings feel unsettling. It’s a strong cinematography showcase by Paul Faltz who was able to frame and fright a scene from a sterile and fatigued, wood paneled office environment; essentially put, Faltz turned coal into a diamond while Singer brought a keg of European horror to the party. Unconventional, of course, with a profound arthouse quality about it, “Luz” is very much inspired by the European masters of horror, but pulls quite a bit from the vibrancy of American filmmaking too, pulling inspiration more noticeably from John Carpenter’s overwhelming sense of apocalyptic doom from such a scale down narrative and the terror looms like a chandelier hanging by a single thread just waiting from the startling crash of glass and metal. There are themes related Catholicism, homoeroticism, guilt, and obsession through the venomous innate nature of demon, as if unknowingly leaving an open invitation for evil by way of spiritual clairvoyance and Catholic defiance. Full of abstract visuals and melodious dialogue, “Luz” still burns the scary story lantern with a flickering of imminent existential combustion.
While the theatrical release has been officially canceled, “Luz” will still live on through the digital world, being released by Sharp Teeth Films, who released the POV slasher horror “You Are Not Alone,” on June 1st in the United Kingdom. With this being now a digital release, critiquing the audio and video quality will be limited to the artistic direction. Video-wise, Singer sought the use of a 16mm film stock with the speckle and grain texture of that beloved, yet enveloping imperfection and shooting in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, using an Arri Alexa and RED cameras that supported an anamorphic lenses. The result is phenomenal to digest with some serious depth when considering how small the sets are, turning mere pockets of space into the likes of grand ball rooms. The German, Spanish, and very little English dialogue tracks are clear and prominently abutted against a well adjusted ambience mix; in all, the audio package has good depth and range. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener. “Luz” is weird, mystifying, and can wriggle into your favor with a chilling essence taking a leisurely stroll along your back, propping up the hairs one strand at a time. Highly recommended.
Ariel Konk, A former soldier fleeing from his regrettable past, seeks refuge in an isolate cabin located deep in the forest, adjacent to a lagoon. Struggling to live off the land and coping with loneliness, the soldier marches on, exploring his new, secluded surroundings. His loneliness comes to an end when investigating the ruins of a dilapidating building structure, spotting a masked half naked female and as he pursues her, Ariel witnesses her voluntarily jump from the highest level of the opened air building. Wrought with anguish, Ariel attempts suicide only to be knocked out before he could pull the trigger on his rifle. He wakes up being chained to the wall with a mute, mask figure drugging him and extracting his blood and semen fluids as necessary nutrients for a nearby Mandrake garden. A practice that has been executed many times before Ariel’s arrival.
“DIS” is a bordering arthouse horror film from writer-director Adrian Corona (“Nariz Ioca”). A blend from a horror influenced literary poem and a mythological folkore, Corona crafts a lurid, hyperbolic story that pulls, as Cornoa describes as a prefix of sorts, from Dante Alighieri’s epic journey through hell told in Dante’s Inferno, using the City of Dis that’s described as a lower hell for sinners who’ve committed violent and fraudulent transgressions, and interlocks that inspiration with the archaic lore surrounding the Mandrake plant that involves superstitiously condemning those to hell after reaping the intensely narcotic plant with the human shaped root and that would, also superstitiously, scream when pulled. “DIS” is full of interpretative terror through the 61 minute runtime that’s virtually expressive. Corona provides little dialogue to his script, keeping most of the dialect scribal incased within flashback confines, and let his actors’ raw emotions and visceral eloquence provide the tale that’s peppered with moments of visual shock and cathartic abhorrence.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bill Oberst Jr. is one hell of an actor. The upcoming Rob Zombie “3 from Hell” actor has become a prominent staple professional in the indie horror film circuit, tackling the bizarre, the inexplicable, and the most difficult of roles with such vigor and passion that his motivation is seemingly inhuman. Right up there with “Deadly Revisions,” “DIS’ tops or equals being one of the best performances of his career, from the perspective of this reviewers’ cache of Bill Oberst Jr films. There’s quite a bit of difficulty catching up to the man who roughly does, whether as a lead or as support, 10 films a year! As Ariel Konk, Oberst captures the essence of pain and anger that saturates the character’s own personal delirium and hell with his past mistake catching up to his self-battered soul. The faceless figure who opposites Ariel feeds off the ex-soldiers repugnant and guilt-riddled past actions in a seemingly perverse mission that’s actually mandated by the suspected demon’s Mandrake lot. The plants are held in a nursery for engendering creatures, but what kind of creatures exactly? Other demons from the seed of murdered vehement people?
Remaining cast include Peter Gonzales Falcon, “Prison Heat’s” Lori Jo Hendrix, Manuel Dominguez, and Anne Voitsekhova.
The casual viewer will inherently disavow the hour spent watching “DIS” due to a number of reasons, whether it’s Ariel wandering the forest for more than half the film, or dialogue is fairly infrequent, or the chaptered sequence of events don’t perfectly describe just what the hell is going, or, just perhaps, the motif of genital masturbation and mutilation is just too much to stomach. Either way, “DIS’s” traction will slip and only a few are willing to get dirty and push the story forward with open mindedness and artistic appreciation. Speaking of artistic appreciation, Rocco Rodriguez’s cinematography is a character upon itself. The top of a Cofre de Perote volcano in Perote, Veracruz, Mexico during principal photography has breathtaking visuals that Rodriguez captures exquisitely and becomes a backdrop against the coarse material. Outside is vivid, bright, full of life, but when in the belly of the rundown structure, the manmade confines are claustrophobic and crummy, infernally ablaze for ritual, much to the akin of Dante’s Inferno. Rodriguez, again, depicts lustrous imagery that assists in telling Corona’s nightmarish story and that’s a skill all can recognize.
MVD Visual and Unearthed Films present Adrian Corona’s enigmatic and surreal “DIS” from 1922 Films onto high definition Blu-ray. The region A release is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and has the near epitome of perfect with, again, Rocco Rodriguez stunning photography. The lighting really comes to the fold that upheaves the brilliancy in the textures, such as in the building’s illustrious graffiti, and dares to switch to black and white when appropriate. Skin tones are fresh looking and natural in colored scenes. Only a minor aliasing issue around Obsert flared up momentarily, but ceased going forward. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has forefront dialogue, but not a bit soft, especially with Peter Gonzales, that made following difficult. There was not enough examples of range or depth to necessarily comment as Oberst was essentially alone for much of the film. Bonus features include an explanation introduction by writer-director Adrian Corona, a behind-the-scenes featurette that exhibits three takes of two scenes, a wonky static menu Q&A formatted interview with Bill Oberst Jr., a short film entitled “Portrait,” still gallery, and Unearthed Films trailers. Bill Oberst Jr. is, basically, a one man show knitted into an Adrian Corona allegory of unknown terror through conduits of literary works and medieval folklore, making “DIS” prime real estate for viewers seeking a film as an open book toward abstract gardening.
Cult Epic founder Nico B. wants to spread the joy of cult cinema to not only the television sets at home, but to the world! The Dutch filmmaker and passionate cult cinema lover has employed me, and other social media coordinators and bloggers, as a servant of his word, delivering the following message to all fans of erotica, horror, and arthouse films!
“We are in our last week, and this is the week that counts. Some of you have contributed to our campaign, thank you so much! and we would ask all who are fans of our label or releases and want to secure its future in the new year, please pick a Perk to your liking and support us in our endeavor bringing you new releases in the years to come. One of the titles we have secured the rights as well for is the most interesting giallo DEATH LAID AN EGG, so there is much work to do, and for such we need funding, which current distributors no longer provide.
Also please give the campaign one more push on your social media:
CULT EPICS INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN Cult Epics presents controversial art films with a cult following on DVD and Blu-ray. At its 25th Anniversary year Cult Epics needs your support to continue bringing you new releases. Find out more here: https://igg.me/at/cultepics
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Please show your support! Every little bit matters and you may get a little something in return if you donate $20 or more! I got my eye on that Nekromantik T-shirt! Only 1 MORE WEEK TO GO!
Recently engaged lovers Daniel and Mina take a trip to visit Daniel’s brother. When they stop to take in one of California’s breathtaking beaches, two vicious bikers, looking for kicks, intrude on the lovebird’s romantic getaway, looking to rape Mina but ending up mercilessly murdering Daniel. Mina’s grief turns the distraught lover into a vengeful bitch, taking the lives of all salacious and beastly men who wish to exploit Mina’s virginal beauty. Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother, a praised police detective, personally takes on the case despite his Captain’s insistence of not getting to close due to his personal connection. The detective tracks down the drug dealer Black Pepper, the head of a notorious biker gang connected to the slaying of his brother, that results in an all out war!
“Dangerous Men” is an action film you hate to love, being so bad it’s good. The film was the non-aborted child of Iranian born, U.S. bound director John Rad, a pseudo name, who had a life-long vision from way back in 1979 to put an eternal awesomeness on the big silver screen and, in one way or another, completed that feat no matter how long the creative process. Only 26 years stood in between John Rad and his masterpiece “Dangerous Men” from being completed and theatrically released to the public, but, low and behold, “Dangerous Men” didn’t succeed into billions or even millions of box office dollars; instead, Rad’s film gained popularity in its notoriety, gaining almost instantly cult status through a niche group of garbage cinema aficionados. By the grace of the provocative arthouse film brew masters at Drafthouse Films and their continuous begging toward Rad’s daughter, “Dangerous Men” redefines the term guilty pleasure.
But what makes “Dangerous Men” so irresistibly appealing? Is it that fact that Iranian born Peter Palian from “Samurai Cop” fame is the most experienced crew member on John Rad’s amateurish, if not solo performing, team? To properly answer that conundrum-filled riddle, looking at what makes “Dangerous Men” so standardly terrible would ultimately lead to the answer. For one, a prominent lead character doesn’t exist in a plot that can’t focus due in part of the two decades the film was shot that resulted in the actors or actresses not being available or unwilling to complete Rad’s work. Various characters, like Mina (Melody Wiggins) or the cop brother (Dutch Van Delsem), come and go in their respective, decade housed plot paths and like one of Drafthouse Films’s bonus features makes light, the film ends on a still frame of characters who have had less than half an hour of screen time. Secondly, the amateur acting in exposition, the cut and dry editing, and the cartoonish foley, by the also writer-director John Rad, hones straight toward gut-punching you to explode into outrageous, painful laughter. “Dangerous Men” is a serious film that’s full of wacky action and some great moments of exploitation, especially scenes involving women knees, but when all the punching and exasperating is of the identical sound bite, like in a “Street Fighter” video game, taking Rad’s film seriously is hard to fathom. Thirdly, the longevity of filming created many production goofs that mistakenly implied the decade. From props, to haircuts, and to clothes, hints of years were obvious to the naked eye. Lastly, a title like “Dangerous Men” should end on an detonative high note; instead, falls just short of a chuckle and a “WTF.”
“Dangerous Men” snuggly finds a spot within the realm of other bad movies not to be missed. “Troll 2,” “Silent Night, Deadly NIght 2” with the infamous garbage day line, “Leonard Part 6,” and “Jaws: The Revenge” would gladly welcome “Dangerous Men” with open arms as a peer in preposterousness. With a little over a measly $2,300 in ticket sales on opening weekend from a film that probably cost John Rad thousands upon thousands of dollars to produce and a whole hell of a lot of time to construct, “Dangerous Men” is most likely an action-packed feature you’ve never, ever heard of before. One positive remark is the soundtrack, which is also composed by John Rad, was, in my humble opinion, swanky and, well, rad – a true testament to the era and the best effort for such bad film. Unfortunately, John Rad never saw his film blossom as he died soon after the release of his masterpiece, sometime mysteriously between 2005 and 2007.
Drafthouse Films, in association with MVDVisual distribution, courteously releases “Dangerous Men” on a sleek not rated two-disc, 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray and DVD set which has a region free presentation that still manages to hold in the cigarette burns and the faded coloring in a sort of time capsule from the 80’s and 90’s. The original print looks to have been kept in good condition for an easy upgradeable and cleanable transfer. The Dolby Digital mono stereo mix is fairly clean aside from some misaligned dialogue tracks with the video and the prevalence of background noise in certain scenes of poor record quality such as the Daniel and Mina restaurant scene. Drafthouse Films doesn’t discriminate amongst the quality of their releases when considering the bonus features. A 16 page booklet featuring documented full-length interviews with director John Rad, audio commentary featuring “Destroy All Movies” authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, “That’s So Rad,” an epigram stemmed from this film, is an original documentary about the film and its initial 2005 release, an interview with cinematographer Peter Palian, Rare footage of John Rad’s appearance on local access television, and the original theatrical trailer. Quite the laundry list of extras! “Dangerous Men” is so spectacularly unspeakable and trashy it shouldn’t go unseen for absolutely anything, not even for the birth of your first born child!