Fear is Evil. “A Taste of Phobia” review!


“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!

Buy Artsploitation Films’ “A Taste of Phobia”

Roe v. Wade? More like Dee Wallace v. Evil Cletus! “Red Christmas” review!


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!

Get “Red Christmas” gift for the holidays!

Can’t Spell Devil Without Evil. “The Devil Lives Here” review!

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“The Devil Lives Here” is at Amazon! Click here to buy!

Takes Evil to Know Evil. “The Anatomy of Monsters” review!

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Timid sociopath Andrew patrons alone at a low-end bar, sipping delicately on straight whiskey and waiting for the perfect opportune moment to approach the right lonely woman. Andrew is not looking for a one night stand. Andrew is on the hunt for a victim, but when the night’s odds don’t seem to be in Andrew’s favor, a lovely young woman approaches him at the tail end of the night and begins to make small talk. After a night of coincided flirting, the woman seductively invites Andrew back to her motel room for some provocative foreplay, but before Andrew can move in for the kill, he suddenly realizes that the woman might just be as more of a sociopath than he could ever imagine by turning Andrew’s moment of a gratifying kill into her tragic tale of a more experienced and assured killer.
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Suspense thriller “The Anatomy of Monsters” is the sophomore film from the multitalented writer-director Byron C. Miller and stars Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, and Connor Marx in a twisted narrative involving love, death, and the struggle between the two. Miller, unfortunately, wrestles to keep buoyant the scope of his story contained as scenes teeter when holding an airtight structure as Bastien’s character, Sarah, asserts her mortal coil. Her plight doesn’t grasp the attention needed to draw in an audience; instead, the back and forth between her present plea with Andrew and her past of leading a double life of affliction with whether to act on her killer instinct with the love of her life or not either passively regresses or just stands completely in place, not moving a motivational inch to take the much needed mile in making us believe in Sarah’s tragic love story and the story is actually, well, tragic by not building the passion between Sarah and Nick, played coyly by Connor Marx, as they just hunker inside Nick’s quaint apartment, affixed to his bed or couch while contemplating their instantaneous love for each other.
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A part of the film’s indelicate sting comes from Tabitha Bastien’s performance. Sarah, in the very definition of the character’s persona, is a sociopath which denotes a monotonous person to be without empathy, to have an ice cold demeanor, and to be calculating in their actions. While Bastien epitomizes a sizable amount of emotionlessness, her presentation leans a bit more toward being ingeniously staged, emitting a phoniness that doesn’t naturally crossover. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed Bastien was a T-100 cybernetic organism underneath a flesh and blood outer layer from “The Terminator’s” apocalyptic bleak future. What Bastien does attribute very well to “The Anatomy of Monsters,” aside from her mechanical display, is a pair of piercingly bright eyes set upon a unique belle face akin to that of the nice looking girl next door you peeping tom on through the cracks of your window shades. Jesse Lee Keeter opposites Bastien with a more genuine approach that favors a Michael C. Hall similarity complete with a kill kit. Keeter’s Andrew is an example of well-written hesitation, exhibiting more of a killer’s struggle to maintain a low profile whereas Sarah leaves nothing to the imagination, baring it all out on the proverbial table with the extreme potency of egocentric cockiness.
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Along with Miller’s stationary script, the industrial rocker’s sporadic editing technique can be best described having a short-sighted attention span and his shaky handheld camera visually impairs the viewing pleasure of one monster’s monstrous thirst for death. “The Anatomy of Monsters” feature does play the role of being the quintessential independent product, but without stability and patience, Miller’s artistic craftsmanship suffers heavily from the technical aspects with really the only exception stemming from the minor gore scene during Andrew’s brief description of past murders, committing to a solid neck piece mock-up that realistically seeps blood in order to get the good throat slit shot.
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A fond blend of John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” “The Anatomy of Monsters” is slated for a DVD and Video on Demand release on November 15th from the Philadelphian distributor Artsploitation Films. Certainly a film that’s an attestant to an American-horror, Byron C. Miller explores the corners of the dark and deranged minds associated with serial killers while meddling through the conventional intimate affairs of the masses, spurring an atomically explosive situation from a slowly, simmering boil. Though technically unattractive with arguably underwhelming and sulky performances, suggestions of a greater notion leaves behind an everlasting scar tissue from the necessary urges and the unquenchable desires of a killer can be appreciated.

Watch The Anatomy of Monsters on Amazon Video!

Being Tailored to be President of the United States ist sehr Böse! “Der Bunker” review!

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Seeking the luxuries of peace and quiet in order to fulfill the work of an important academic theory, a young student rents out the basement of an old bunker converted into a family home. Surrounded by the solitude of snow and trees, the bunker is the perfect place for the student to concentrate on his work. Until the couple renting the bunker basement decides the student must continue the unorthodox home-schooling of their eight-year-old son to put him on the path of becoming the President of the United States. The student becomes mixed up in a peculiar family’s ambitious affair twisted far from normalcy and teetering on the borderline on insanity.
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“Der Bunker” is the first feature film from writer-director Nikias Chryssos and Chryssos delivers an artistically abstract film about the modernistic conventional ways of growing up through childhood told through an obsolete perspective. Produced in Germany, the film makes light of how parents raise and shelter their children, especially their sole child. The home setting is literally a bunker, a fallout shelter from the age of war. “Der Bunker” particularly points out the American child raising culture with Klaus, the eight-year-old son of mother and father, going through semi-strict tutoring of memorizing the every nation’s capitals in efforts of becoming, one day, the President of the United States. Chryssos overkills the symbolism column with continuously displaying the staleness of a stuck-in-routine in over-parenting from the outdated 1950’s style of the clothes and retrofitted bunker to the eight-year-old Klaus being depicted by a 30-something actor Daniel Fripan.
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Fripan is one of four cast members to star in Chryssos film and the only actor portraying a named character with Klaus, leaving all others generically labeled with father, mother, and the student; however, Klaus and the Student are essentially the same person, a dual presence who start off polar opposites that are trapped inside the bunker and looking to break free from it’s buried confines when their individual identities begin to blur. Fripan’s key to “Der Bunker” working conceptually as the ‘man-child’ with Fripan’s attributed short stature, innocently mature face, and a well-performed immature persona that solidifies the Klaus role as nothing more than child forced to grow externally, but not internally. Pit Bukowski’s more of an automaton when we first meet him wondering through the snowy terrain in search of the bunker. His Student character starts to dwindle as he literally becomes a fixture of the bunker as Klaus starts to shine and thrive in not only his studies but in his maturity, confronting his Mother’s will. Bukowski’s internal switch goes dynamically well with Fripan even though their physical façades remains intact. Mother and Father are portrayed by Oona von Maydell, daughter of “Das Boot’s” Claude-Oliver Rudolph, and David Scheller and both compliment each other by donning an opposite reversal of roles where Mother is the stern, firm hand of the family and Father stays home to clean and be a teacher for Klaus.
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Chryssos’ telling of the family and the Student’s psychosexual relationship between the story’s bookends goes above and beyond the Oedipus complex. Oona von Maydell’s Mother has a power fastening all the male characters in an intriguing way despite her minor, yet undesirable, physical deformity plaguing as a patch on her right leg and also despite that her rational stemming from a grave voice, connected to her deformity, comes from beyond their world. As if destined to play the part, Maydell acts the lead as the family’s matriarch while also being subtly coy and provocative to bluntly upfront about her sexuality as a means of control; Maydell seemed very comfortable with her onscreen upper torso nudity in some awkward and uncomfortable scenes. Her onscreen husband, David Scheller, deems himself an academic, an educated man with knowledge more vast than that of the outside world because of this thirst for literature. Yet, Scheller plays a scattered Father whose torn between being a literal mentor, the punisher, and the glue to keep the bunker from being engulfed by giving into Mother’s symbiotic celestial being. Father copes with heavy medication that literally warps his mind when he can’t seem to control everything from the Student’s appetite to his convincing of the Student to take on the tutoring role for Klaus, even if it’s not plainly displayed. Scheller does a remarkable performance breaking down his character to a crumbling lame duck.
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“Der Bunker” and the bizarre go hand-in-hand. Only a unique mindset with skewed vision could have pulled together such a twisted dark comedy tale of the mortal coil in holding your children to your hopes and dreams for them. Colorfully unapologetic, “Der Bunker” canisters another world sluggishly revolving through multiple levels of layers of psychosexual and frustrating concepts that flaunts a conventional cinema defiance attitude to establish bold filmmaking possibilities. In short, director Nikias Chryssos shoots high and doesn’t miss with his first run. The Artsploitation Blu-ray release features a vividly clear anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 presentation of the Kataskop Film Production. Audio options include a Dolby Digital German 5.1 Surround sound with very detailed optional English subtitles. An abundant of bonus material is hard to pass up, especially with a director’s commentary and deleted scenes that expand more about the character’s traits and backgrounds. Rounding the extras are outtakes and trailers from Artsploitation film arsenal. This Blu-ray release is meticulously thought out to deliver a high caliber video and sound quality for such as odd German film concerning one youngish boy’s progressional path of self-reliance from a sheltered life style.

Buy “Der Bunker” on Amazon.com! A Psychosexual experience!