In 1978 Chile, a powerful political extremist exploits the Chilean army to conduct and carrier out the physical and sexual abuse against the people of Chile, including forcing his own son, Juan, to have sex with his tortured mother and executing her right in front of him while in the fornicating act. Juan’s father continues to further the abuse with fear, terror, and misogynistic berates until he’s finally fatally coup. Fast forward to 2011, Juan’s an unstoppable madman as he terrorizes the locals over the years without authoritative regulation and also four female outsiders on holiday for a girls’ weekend. Juan and his son force their way into their residence, tyrannizing, raping, and even killing one of them before leaving his cruel mark in his wake, but with the help of a local officer, the remaining three survivors seeks to make sure Juan, and his equally screwed up family, never harm anyone again. However, Juan is prepared, held up inside a compound subterfuge, well-armed and well-unhinged.
Perhaps based loosely off the atrocities of of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s, Artsploitation Films’ distributed “Trauma” goes to the unapologetic extreme, building upon an already unsavory narrative into the bred morbid disposition of the human psyche. Written and directed by “Zombie Dawn’s” Lucio A. Rojas, “Trauma” is a cold, blunt object with a razor sharp bite and has a penchant for the twisted. The Chilean director’s film isn’t the only game in the market of extreme movies, but does manage to create a motive of separation between most with the offending character experiencing traumatic corruption by someone close; in this case, Juan’s father 40-years earlier by oppressing the boy through physical pain and scrambling his son’s mental state by removing any humility, compassion, and reasoning that manufactures the perfect ruthless butcher. Pinochet used his military power to be a lethal strong hand when desired; Rojas spices it up by adding forced incest, rape-after-rape, and implementing a subconscious malevolency.
“Trauma” stars “To Kill A Man’s” Daniel Antivilo as the despicable Juan. Antivilo is patient and soft in his approach to a deranged character that doesn’t display that wild abandonment in psychotics. Juan goes on to slowly terrorize four lovely outsiders from the city in Andrea (Catalina Martin), Camila (Macarena Carrere), Julia (Ximena del Solar of “Perfidy,” another Rojas film), and Magdalena (Dominga Bofill). The four actresses offer up different character perspectives and personality that should divide the dynamic or, at least, complicate it; there’s a strong sense of lesbianism between them, even exhibiting traits in those who don’t identify as such. Antivilo macho savagery pitted against the four stunning, but strong women does create a black and white, stark-producing character placement. Outside that dynamic, one character has no dialogue and, yet, manages to high level physical role that’s barbaric, humiliating, and spacey and that role is inside of Juan’s schizoid son, Mario, is donned by Felipe Rios who has the strung out appearance of a long, drawn out face and muscularly thin. Eduardo Paxeco, Claudio Riveros, and Florencia Heredia round out the cast.
Rojas does a beautiful job in the juxtaposition department, paralleling the bleak, grimy, and yet agreeable life of Juan and his equally as certifiable family next to the full of life and vigor in the unsuspecting women that Rojas’ introduces off with Camila and Julia engaging in a steamy girl-on-girl love making scene that doesn’t leave much to the imagination and, then, slides into their instant road trip the day after. Rojas had built up Juan’s pain and suffering toward being molded into a monster whereas the women fly by the seat of their pants, churning out memorable moments in a flash whereas Juan’s unfortunate course was a slow burn throughout his long, hard life. The parallelism flips from Juan to the women up until the moment their lives intertwine and this is where things get messy with Roja’s script. Between Julia, Camila, Magda, and Andre, three of whom are related, tension builds as Julia plays the flirtatious and brazen field between hooking up with the cousins as stroppy Andrea steams in a passive stew on the sideline. This subplot never goes explored, going uncooked right in the middle of a hot flame where passions and couples’ plights evolve the story. The abrupt presence of Juan puts a cease and desist on any other subplot that ultimate funnels “Trauma” to be a rape-revenge flick with a graphic content.
Artsploitation Films continues to distribute internationally provocative films that always delight as well as disgust (in a good way). With Lucio A. Roja’s 2017 film, “Trauma”, casualties pile high and damage control is non-existent, fitting the Philadelphian-based company’s axiom that presents the film onto a high-definition Blu-ray. With a widescreen, aspect ratio 2.35:1, the image quality is quite good. Details are very promising here and really need to be with the gore. The face explosion and the jaw unhinging deaths are certainly not stodgy as the scene on these moments linger more than most would, soaking up the full effect of the viscous covered chunks out from the face crater by a high caliber handgun is a thing of beauty. The Spanish 5.1 surround sound syncs up well in all aspects from dialogue to ambiance. English subtitles are available and line up well enough though speedy at times. Dialogue is clear and present, Ignacio Redard score is heard, and no signs of any kind of distortions or other issues. Bonus features are limited to just the theatrical trailer. “Trauma” might have vastly skewed the actual events the film is based off of to pen a story, but what a gorgeously gory-filled and exploitively-charged narrative that can be a tell all for the cause and effect of political extremism at it’s worse. Director Lucio A. Rojas puts Chile on the controversial and extreme horror map.
Molly is a loner scavenger in a post-apocalyptic badlands. She’s hunted down by a separate faction of scavengers to be a champion in their sadistic one-on-one bouts as Supplikants, ruthless and mindless killing machines produced by a synthetic drug. With food being scarce and peoples’ humanity on the edge of total extinction, Molly’s on the run on barren land until she happens upon Bailey, a young girl held up in a makeshift tent and waiting for her departed parents to return with food. When the scavengers track down Molly, Bailey becomes a bargaining chip, used as bait to lure sought after Molly to the scavenger offshore compound where the odds are in their favor, but Molly knows how to fight when she forgoes using her pulsating supernatural power. She will stop at nothing to save and protect Bailey, one of the last good and innocent humans left amongst desolation and savagery.
One part mad science, one part cyberpunk, “Molly” is all post-apocaplytic kickass from Netherlands’ director Colinda Bongers and co-directed with screenwriter Thijs Meuwese. “Molly” is this generations “Mad Max,” a vibrant gauntlet of darkness with a speck of illuminating hope, with the very first scene being a brief glimpse of the past, a fun-in-the-sun holiday at the beach, but in a split second, the cut-to abruptly cuts out the chirping of seagulls, the jovial laughter of children, and the familiar hum of all beach goers. The story literally cuts to the chase with Molly running for her very survival from three armed scavengers, setting up the story from the get go that Molly’s guard would always be tested. “Molly,” without a doubt, resembles a George Miller first film concoction of noticeable low-budget quality with high caliber, high-octane action.
Julia Batelaan tackles the namesake role. The then 20-year-old Batelaan musters up enough physicality to compete with a highly demanding character despite her slender, unlikely heroine frame. Batelaan is no Gal Gadot, but she gives the performance all she can and, then, gives some more in a role that requires a lot of gear to be worn, numerous fight sequences, extended physical scenes, and brief nudity whilst in battle. Batelaan clearly overshadows a cohort of onscreen antagonists, including even her best possible match as a rival by Annelies Appelhof who displays a different kind of tough; one that’s more henchman centric and mechanically advanced. Appelhof’s taller, broader, and equally as tender as Batelaan that dictates her character, Kimmy, the ideal barrier to best if Molly wants to succeed. Yeah, of course, there’s also a clear cut boss in actor Joose Bolt. In the role of Deacon, a maniacal scavenger leader hellbent on winning the world’s bullet currency through the mortal combat of Supplikants by proxy, Boost supplements a harlequin character to fold. “Molly” also includes Emma de Paauw, Tamara Brinkman, and Andre Dongelmans in the cast.
While Molly’s a beautifully visual film with moments to be excited about, Bongers and Meuwese’s post-apocaplytic tale has a hard time being a great film to revisit over and over again. For one, the fight choreography is a slow and robotically rehearsed and doesn’t strike as completely natural. In fairness, this flaw should be given a pass as the last shot is just over a half-hour long of an uncut take of Molly doing her best Tony Jaa impersonation with extended fight takes from room-to-room, up to the top boss level, as if you’re nostalgically playing Streets of Rage 2 (ya know?! On the Sega Genesis!). Yet, there’s still something off about “Molly” and one could say that that the focus of storyline uneasiness surrounds Molly herself: Who is Molly? Why does she have super powers? Where did she come from? Why does she really care for this child? All good questions that don’t really come to fruition in the film, but have promise to be answered by the open-to-a-sequel ending.
Artsploitation Films presents “Molly” on a high definition 1080p Blu-ray home video in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio format. Bongers and Meuwese deliver such rich coloring while not over-saturating the 2017 film to the point of obnoxiousness; Molly herself is a hue enriched character, with all her gear, trekking through a desolate oceanside landscape that’s mainly white sand and brown foliage, especially with the marauders who also sport ragged, dark colors, and leaving such an impacting visual aesthetic to digest while concreting a heroine. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound is full of range from a slew of kick-punches from the numerous fight sequences to the juicy stitching of her own profusely bleeding wound. Even though this is a Dutch film, the casts’ English is quite good and well prevalent. Bonus features include a 30-minute featurette entitled “Making of Molly,” directors’ commentary with Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese, and Artsploitation Films trailers. Bordering self-explosion with a barely hinged story, “Molly” eeks out an entertaining, post-apocalyptic, retribution narrative on the opposite side of the spectrum and the palette punctuating visuals and an extremely long take finale make this film a science fiction worth scavenging for!
“A Taste of Phobia” brings together 14 international directors to the fold, executing their creative version of terror of various fears. From the fear of the dark to the fear of feces, each short compiled into this feature length film delves into what it means to be afraid of something that an average person regularly encounters on a daily basis. No ghouls, no monsters, and no ghosts stories here; “A Taste of Phobia,” or otherwise known as “Phobia,” explores the inherit human element, the everlasting internal struggle, and the mental conjuring of demons and the anxiety of the unknown that fabricates by and into fear itself. The psychological terror of phobias plagues each and every one of us and is never exclusive to a particular group or race of people, and that’s a haunting reality, especially in an time and age where suppressed personal emotions and issues lead to unfortunate suicidal circumstances. Some of the directors include Lorenzo Zanoni, Alessandro Sisti, Alessandro Redaelli, Alessandro Giordani, Rob Ulitski, Sam Mason Bell, and Davide Pesca.
A number of these filmmakers I’m not familiar with, but I do recognize a few names from the bunch by examining their previous work. Somniphobia is a sleep anxiety disorder which is the basis for the short written by Sophia Cacciola and directed by Michael J. Epstein, who also steps into the lead. “Blood of the Tribabes,” a vampiric melodrama, was my last experience with the Cacciola and Epstein duo, who have a passionate dynamic and chemistry when it comes to horror. Somniphobia is a whole different animal that’s more on a compact scale in comparison to their vampire feature and doesn’t necessarily tackle the perpetual fear of sleep; instead, Epstein portrays a contractor pushed to the limits, practically threatened by an employer, to finish coding a project to the point where he hasn’t slept in days. The lack of sleep and the various methods to try and stay awake by the power of suggestion have fried his brain to the point of self-inflicted harm. The writings good and the dark humor direction is a nice touch. Another recognizable filmmaker that stands out to me is Domiziano Christopharo. The “House of Flesh Mannequins” and “Red Krokodil” director has always exhibited a thirst for body horror and the Italian director places his talents in the kitchen with Mageirocophobia, aka the fear of cooking. Christopharo continues his brand of body-manipulation motif by telling a story of a woman, whose seemingly very good at putting together a tasty and savory fish dish, into a deeply disturbed woman who contemplates and nightmarishly fantasizes herself being the sliced, diced, and cooked to a crisp main dish.
Then, there are many filmmakers I’m not familiar with at all, but did enjoy their short entries. Sunny King’s Nyctophobia, aka fear of the dark, is hands down one of the best entries despite the slight ghost-like manifestation, but the Nigerian director fosters a tangible evil constructed by fear and his version of Nyctophobia is classic, very timeless, sans blood and shock to the point where the story plays out like a simple spook film. Very enjoyable, subtly powerful, and basically classic in tone, King reigns “A Taste of Phobia.” Now, that doesn’t mean Nyctophobia stands alone; UK’s Jackson Batchelor and his fear of politics, Politicophobia, has to be one of the more honest entries and, certainly, one of the more timely. The political undercurrent of two-faced politician is a phobia we can all get behind with their scummy, repetitive, and subliminal messaging campaign ads. Batchelor polar extreme sheds light on what a fear invoked person might experience when viewing just one of the hard-hitting, lying through the teeth campaigning juggernauts. The previous examples pinpoint heighten the emotional aspect of fear, but what if fear perpetuated madness, such as in Poison Rough’s Mysophobia, or fear of germs. The idea of bugs, dirt, or even microbes, crawling in the hair or on the skin gives one very particular man the creepy-crawlies to the breaking point where he’s forced to self-remove his own skin in order cease the sensation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some shorts didn’t make muster. Fear of feces, or Coprophobia, was just bizarre, daft, and, well, not even that gross for the titular phobia. The approach by churning schlock director Jason Impey was more juvenile than expected with a feces covered stuff animal rising out of the depths of a shit covered toilet and have actor Martin Payne portray a fight of physicality in a small bathroom that ends with Payne naked stabbing the metaphorical stuff animal. Dustin Ferguson’s Mazeophobia, fear of mazes, was another that flared out with a hispanic man driving around lost in America’s unforgiving conservative countryside. He eventually winds up in the hands of a pair of Trumpian wing nuts and the climax becomes a little fuzzy from there into editing shambles that hesitates to make sense of how the series of events play out.
Artsploitation Films, a Philadelphian based distributor seeking the dark and desolate corners of the world to bring to light international entertainment, releases horror-anthology “A Taste of Phobia” onto DVD home video. The anthology is presented in various ratio formats due to the different styles of filmmaking and, thus, a range of image qualities stand out to some that’s suffer from aliasing and blotching atrocities to others that surprising peak in picture value. The 2.0 stereo audio track, mostly English with some Italian and Spanish, have varied ranges, depths and balances as well. Bonus features include a bonus fear mini-movie entitled Achluophobia from director Jason Impey, a behind the scenes look at Michael J. Epstein’s Somniphobia and Chris Milewski’s Pharmacophobia, an interview with producer and one of the 14 fear directors Domiziano Christopharo, a little inside on the special effects for Pharmacophobia and Mageirocophobia, and a theatrical trailer. “A Taste of Phobia” pushes the limits to extremely visualize the niche fears in us all by packing 14 deadly phobias up into an anxiety-riddled anthology released by the good, but probably psychologically insane, people at Artsploitation Films!
On Christmas day, Diane, a widowed mother, has her dysfunctional children and their families over to celebrate the festive holiday at the remote family home set in the countryside Outback. When a black cloaked stranger with a face wrapped in white cloth strips arrives at her doorstep, Diane’s good heart and generosity invites the peculiar man inside in order to not celebrate Christmas alone, but when the religiously zealot stranger reveals a letter and begins to read from it out loud, the mother of four is shocked and angered by the content and violently has him thrown out of the house, threatening him to never return. As night falls and all is calm considering the families offbeat relationship, the stranger lurks outside, waiting to seek deadly vengeance upon a family that houses dark secrets; secrets written on the pages of the stranger’s letter that connect him to Diane and her four children and he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth, to get the answers he desires, from Diane, even if that means slaughtering them all to pieces to get it!
“Red Christmas” is the Craig Anderson written and directed holiday classic that spills a lot of blood and sucks out completely the christmas spirit. Under the cloak of a prevalent hot and debatable topic, the social commentary aspect of “Red Christmas” blends an unapologetic slasher with turbulent subject matter that can strike chords with just about everybody, especially parents with special needs children. However, Anderson owns a black horror comedy wrought hard in exhibiting a family with unintentional aspirations to be the worst family in the world with eclectic characters ranging from religious fanatics, to closeted perverts, to pot smoking stoners, and putting them all in one house seems to bring the worst out in all of them on a day where sharing is caring and to pit them against a deadly stranger that forces them to build a malfunctioning opposing defense that works as well as a football bat.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo” star Dee Wallace headlines as the mother of three, Diane, and the recently awarded lifetime achievement winning actress’s exuberant strong will and determination of being a badass, kickass mother remarkably unearths Wallace’s natural killer instinct to be an on-screen protective den mother of her children played by Australian actresses Sarah Bishop as the acolyte daughter to Janis McGavin as a inconsiderate pregnant stoner. The relatively unknown Deelia Meriel played the third sister as a free-spirited artist with a dark personality. The fourth child is a key player to the plot so one of the most important roles to the story was awarded to Gerard O’Dwyer, a humanitarian actor who brings encouragement and awareness about Down Syndrome, and the actor uses “Red Christmas” as an appropriate platform to continue his ongoing fight against societal stereotypes while showing off his talent for the theatrics. “Rogue’s” Geoff Mortell and David Collins are hilarious when undertaking their respective roles of a likable laid back uncle with a penchant for the pot and a curiosity sheathed Catholic pastor unsure how to find faith in a faithless house. Rounding out the bunch is Bjorn Stewart, Anthony Jensen, Robert Anderson, and an masked Sam Campbell as the cloaked villain Cletus.
When noting the technical portions of “Red Christmas,” the practical special effects, under the Craigfx team helmed by Craig Anderson and Doug Bayne, implemented to create a mixed bag of horrible deaths is one particular aspect worth mentioning. Just enough to tease the tip of the gore hounds’ testicles while not being submersed in the super-soaked overkill that indie slashers take route now-a-days. Instead, AFI award winner Craig Anderson kept his moments of axing off characters very clean, superbly neat, and visually attractive, honing in on the maniacal killer aspirations in order to create kills worthy of more established Renaissance slasher icons and when the killing begins, Anderson makes certain heighten the tension by importing a vary of vibrantly hued filters that light up scenes like retro-colored Christmas light bulbs. When considering the character development, Cletus, visually, is jarring, like seeing the Grim Reaper in the flesh (or is it bones?), but the character’s written erratically enigmatic in a sense that most of Cletus’ brief backstory is quickly explained through flashbacks in the opening credits, leaving not enough to explain the amount of how deranged and how creepy a bloke like him is and while “Red Christmas” puts Cletus’ motivations right upfront, right on the Christmas Turkey, a subsequent question mark still lies hanging over our noggins about the full and complete story of Cletus and his ill-advised demeanor.
Artsploitation Films proudly presents Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas” that’s currently playing in select theaters near and far and soon to be on home video come October 17th! For now, a DVD-R screener was provided for this particular review and so I am unable to comment on the audio and video quality. There were also no extras available on the screener. “Red Christmas” harnesses inspiration from other cult Christmas classics, horror and comedy alike, while tackling head-on today’s tough fiery topics like women’s rights, abortion, Down Syndrome, and how people deal with regrets in their present and past. As genre fans, October will always the Christmas month for horror and after thoroughly enjoying the dementedness of Bob Clack’s “Black Christmas” to start the night of mischief off right, make sure to pop in Craig Anderson’s psycho-cinematic “Red Christmas” to totally ring in the complete holiday fear!
Every nine months, the vengeful spirit of an atrocity dealing plantation slave owner, known as the Honey Baron, seeps from a cursed slumber to reclaim his once profitable Brazilian manor home. Also, every nine months, caretakers of the manor home resurrect Bento, the once voodoo practicing slave to the malicious Honey Baron, to fortify the longstanding damnation. Until four friends gather to invoke the myth in jest, lightly treading over the forsaken manor home, and getting themselves unwittingly involved in the releasing of Hell on Earth. Caught in the middle between the Honey Baron and Bento, there’s nowhere to escape, nowhere to hide, and noway to distant themselves from an ancient wickedness.
Directors Dante Vescio and Rodrigo Gasparini’s “The Devil Lives Here” is sorely what the horror community needs and desires, an original vision of spine-tingling Brazilian folklore horror. It’s a damn good story that’s engrossingly rich with captivating characters, virtuous and villainous, simultaneously breeding a delectable devil in São Paulo actor Ivo Müller. From the opening scenes of Müller’s sadist applications upon a humble whimpering slave to the highly climactic and unforgettable shocking end, Vescio and Gasparini details every inch of reel with patience, organization, realism, and a sense of admiration for one of a kind antecedent horror films and concocts a molotov cocktail spiced with numerous Brazilian folklore.
Folklore envelopes “The Devil Lives Here.” Ivo Müller portrays a blend of two distinctive mythological beings, the Anhangüera and an Encantado. Anhangüera, basically, is a version of the devil while Encantado paints a more vivid image of the Honey Baron as a man, whose so ruthlessly evil, that he becomes ensnared in limbo by voodoo, in this case the voodoo of African slaves during the colonial era, and lives a vain life for his atrocities. On the other end of the spectrum, Bento, once a young slave boy, seeks to endure the curse, reestablishing it’s constraints around the Honey Baron’s Anhangüera ways. Bento resembles more closely to the story of Negrinho, a slave boy fatally punished for his loose bindings on responsibilities to his master. Negrinho died on an anthill, in which ants later feasted on his flesh, and returns to help others. In the 2015 film, ants and bees are clear motif before Bento’s horrible demise and Bento also returns from the grave like an original African or Caribbean dirty working zombie, the kind of mindless zombie before George A. Romero took the undead head to new flesh eating heights. “The Devil Lives Here” embellishes upon each lore to up the ante and deliver a shock to the system.
Alongside Ivo Müller is a young, but a formidable cast. Pedro Carvalho, Mariana Cortines, Diego Goullart, and Clara Verdier have performance that are simply enjoyable to absorb and are just wonderful being the unexpected catalyst. With a slight twist in one of the four’s well-kept motivations, the brilliancy of Rafael Baliú’s script, based off the story by co-writers Guilherme Aranha and M.M. Izidoro, comes to a head by not following the conventional tropes of hapless pranksters unwittingly hitting the bees nest. Instead, the characters are grossly flawed by one of their own; however, I did hope there was a little more exposition toward Mariana Cortines’ Alexandra clairvoyant ability between the world of the living and the spirit realm as I thought the relevancy was too important to leave open. Pedro Caetano and Felipe Frazão master their roles of being caretaker descendants to Bento. Caetano and Frazão tackle multiple personas with a well armed cache of emotional ranges that split their dutiful commonality and define their positions amongst the story. The cast couldn’t have worked well enough any better making “The Devil Lives Here” a film adorned with God-mode proportions.
Artsploitation Films has become a prominent label in providing provocative and outstanding domestic and global cinema and “The Devil Lives Here” only solidifies their true power amongst other home entertainment distributors. The film is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with slight blotchiness in darker tones, but the image is still very sharp with a filter blanket of a warm yellowish glaze. The stereo 2.0 audio with optional English and English SDH subtitles is fine coming through the dual channels. The subtitles are a bit quick, but so is the portuguese language. The DVD cover art is nightmarishly inviting, just like the film itself. “The Devil Lives Here” will completely suck you into the original narrative and curse you with screen glued eyeballs to deliver an inspired and indigenous film that shouldn’t be missed by any horror fan.