The End of Days Runs on EVIL Fuel! “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” reviewed! (101 Films / Blu-ray)

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

In a zombie apocalypse wasteland, the gaseous belching undead are used as the primary energy source, but the sight for a cure is still the goal for survival.  At least that is for boots-on-the-ground foot solder Rhys who lives in an isolated camp surrounded by the dead and ventures out to retrieve uninfected humans to bring them to the bunker-dwelling Surgeon General in hopes in discovering a cure.  After snagging a hybrid female named Grace who can control her turning by drinking single vial of blood, Rhys quickly learns that the Surgeon General and his armed entourage are experimenting to death the people he’s delivering to the bunker for their own selfish objectives.  Teamed up with Grace’s people – Grace’s sister Maxi, Barry, and Barry’s sister Brooke who is also a hybrid – Rhys is determined to no longer retrieve people but rather retrieve his soul from a group of well-armed maniacs while trying to not get eaten by the zombie hordes.

For someone like me, a film reviewer, whose fairly anal about watching a series, franchises, sequels, etc., in sequential order, I am stepping outside my comfort zone and out of my own convictions and into unknown territory by watching “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse,” the direct sequel to Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner’s 2014 Australian bloody zombie comedy-romp, “Wyrmwood” aka “Wyrmwood:  Road of the Dead”, before the first film.  While typically a no-no in my book, and very much likely in the rest of the filmic community, I like to live dangerously.  Any who, Kiah Roache-Turner sits once again in the director chair with the direct, follow-up sequel that picks up immediately where the other film left off or, I at least think so.  In reading the ending to the 2014 film, I see no mention of a couple of characters that are present at the beginning of “Apocalypse” and so I’ll be interested to watch “Road of the Dead” to see for myself how both films tie together.  The script is penned by Kiah and brother Tristan after fan support of the first film urged the filmmakers to do a sequel to their brainchild inspired by the blood-soaked and vaudeville slapstick horror of New Zealand and Australia – such as Peter Jackon’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead” and the Spierig brother’s “Undead.”   “Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” is a Bronte Pictures production (“Out of the Shadows”) in association with Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films and backed by the executive producer team of Todd Brown, Tim Nagle, Rhys William Nicolson, Sam Gain-Emery, Clement Dunn, and Maxime Cottray.

To make matters more confusing for someone like myself who hasn’t seen the first film, Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan, nor their badass sisterhood characters Grace and Maxi, are listed in the cast of the first film nor are they in the short-lived teaser episodic series from 2017, causing a bit of disconnect for a nobody like myself who knows absolutely nothing of Wyrmwood universe when beginning the Roache-Turner series will the latest production. The “Uninhabited” Zalar and the “Frostbite” Barnes-Cowan quickly establish themselves as survivors devoted to each other by blood as their introduced rather quickly, harshly, and without background in the company of returning actors Jay Gallagher as Barry, described in the first film as a talented mechanic, and Bianca Bradley as the zombie hybrid Brooke who can control the regular horde of gas-chucking dead heads. Of course, being that a direct sequel, at least that’s how the Roache-Turner plays it, follows up 8-years later, some of the characters don’t quite look the same as when we first left them. For instance, Barry’s a little rounder and beefier and Brooke is, well, blonder. However, the bond between brother-sister is still strong and is even reinforced by Grace and Maxi’s relationship that blood trumps all. Another actor returns for the sequel but not toward the same character as Luke McKenzie adds to the theme of family by playing the avenge-longing brother of the first film’s antagonist known only as The Captain. Rhys (McKenzie) has more of a pure heart in contrast to his brother, or so we’re informed by returning characters, and becomes the unintended principal character amongst an ensemble cast by being the retriever, the deceived, and the reclaimer of his soul when he discovers the paramilitary survivors – The Doctor (Goran D. Kleut, “Alien: Convent”), The Colonel (Jake Ryan, “Out of the Shadows”), and the Surgeon General (Nicholas Boshier_) – are experimenting and killing captives for their own survival and grinding their corpses to make into anti-viral pills. There’s nothing bland about the Roache-Turner brothers’ character diversity and charisma as they each stick to a persona throughout the unfolding that quickly established who-is-who in the bad and good category.

“Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is dieselpunk coated dead and delirium. With a definite George Miller approach and a zany-zombie gift of gore and gags, I can see where fans of the zombie genre can feel freer and more relaxed outside the confines of the somber-and-serious toned oeuvre of zombie films of the last two decades that has literally been beaten like a dead horse with a stick at every angle. The gonzo-gearhead carpet definitely matches the drapes in an outlandish universe where zombies are the Duracell and Diehard batteries of the future and while the story engrains a kindred theme and blood splatter fun, one element still guts me more than the multiple eviscerated entrails in the movie. Being a zombie movie of the flesh-eating kind, one would hope scenes of flesh-eating would be apparently present. Unfortunately, “Apocalypse” has zilch on zombie feasts. Though close in one scene where a big toe might be become an appetizer, in the end, there isn’t one bite of rotting teeth be pressed and puncturing flesh or viscera. What “Apocalypse” offers quite the opposite in where the dead are the exploited, utilized as a fuel source by feeding them beef and harnessing their oral gasses to drive vehicles and run high-powered miniguns or be under-the-influence of control by telepathic hybrids to do their bidding, aka suicide bombers or take the hits so the living can stroll in without garner so much as a scratch in a skirmish.

The final conclusion about “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is this, watch “Road of the Dead” first. Then, enjoy the rip-roaring and violent horror-action zomedy now available on an UK Blu-ray from 101 Films. The hard region B locked, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in 1080p, high definition, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. “Apocalypse” has the look of the early comic-book era style of pre-“300” Zack Snyder that hovers around the practical properties of “Tank Girl” in what’s fashioned together by the director of photography, and co-producer, Tim Nagle to appeal to a tactile of cold and grimy steel, sweet, and blood. The film uses very little visual effects which is mostly on the blood splatter, and you can tell the splatter is a bit off in having a waxy look to it. The decoding runs efficiently well to provide a clean picture through an edit heavy story. The English language audio mixes come in two options: a Dolby stereo PCM and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. While there’s nothing wrong with the stereo PCM track that offers a clean and lossless recording, the 5.1 audio mix is a robust beast that channels every engine roar and isolates a zombie belch to be more inclusive for a viewer. If you’re in the mood for a longer sitting and bonus content, perhaps this 101 Films release is not for you as the runtime hits just above an hour at approx. 70 minutes long and just contains the feature and a scene selection. However, there is reversible front cover art. Easily, continuing the journey by working backwards in the Wyrmwood universe is worth the time as “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” catapults the zombie into a new and unexplored rancid category of reverse exploitation in parallel with carnage, mayhem, and all of the anarchical above.

“Wyrmwood:  Apocalypse” – Z-Nation on Steroids!  Available at Amazon.

One Man Takes on the EVIL Australian Crime Syndicate! “The Man from Hong Kong” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

“The Man From Hong Kong” on the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

A newly formed Australian narcotics unit busts up a major drug deal that lands a crime syndicate pusher into the custody of the authorities.  The pusher, low on the totem pole of a larger drug organization, speaks no English and with the inexperience of the Australian unit, Hong Kong special branch inspector, Fang Sing-Leng, is requested for interrogation interpretation and be the escort of extradition back to the pusher’s native Hong Kong residence, but while in custody, the pusher is gunned down by an assassin.  Sing-Leng thrusts himself into Sydney’s criminal underworld the Hong Kong way, leaving a trail of destruction in his solo-takedown of formidable drug kingpin, Jack Wilton.

For film loving youngsters, would they know what cinema was like before green screens, motion capturing technology, and other computer imagery devices to create alien worlds and improbable fight sequences?  Would comprehending the idea that before the pre-implementation of these technological advances in film there was a just-do-it fortitude toward the physical and raw aspects of special effects and stunt work?  Those wee moviegoers’ heads would explode into itty-bitty chunks of brain matter by the very slight thought of a man jump kicking another man off a high-speed dirt bike without even one ounce of a tethered harness or helmet for safety.  Hazard upon dangerous hazard is what writer-director Brian Trenchard-Smith offers on the table from his debut martial arts film “The Man from Hong Kong,” the first martial arts film of its kind hailing out of Australia.  Trenchard-Smith’s working title “Yellow Peril” sought to sprinkle in between the high kicks and hyahs an amusingly intended, but greatly nearsighted, prejudice of the subtle racism in how Australian people viewed East Asia; however, Raymond Chow, the Hong Kong-side producer for this two-country co-production, ozploitation actioner, didn’t quite see the humor in “Yellow Peril” (and we don’t blame him).  Thus, “The Man from Hong Kong” title was born with some minor contentious distaste for its generic branding.  Trenchard-Smith’s The Movie Company Pty. Ltd (“Stunt Rock”) and Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest Company (“Sex and Zen”) served as co-productions, releasing the joint venture in 1975 with variable success across the globe.

The first choice Brian Trenchard-Smith had in mind for the role of Fang Sing-Leng was mega-martial arts superstar Bruce Lee hot off the success of 1972’s “Fist of Fury,” 1972’s “The Way of the Dragon,” and 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.”  “The Man from Hong Kong” seemed to be a perfect segue into Lee’s next martial arts box-office hit that may have also reclaimed cinematic stardom for his soon-to-be co-star George Lazenby who fell into a blacklist slump after declining to reprise his 007 James Bond role from “Of his Majesty’s Secret Service.”  Unfortunately, and tragically, Bruce Lee suddenly died at the age of 32, leaving a void to fill not only Trenchard-Smith’s first film but also in the martial arts entertainment world.  In comes Jimmy Wang Yu, China’s former #1-turned-#2 after the quick rise of Bruce Lee.  The “One Armed Swordsman” series Wang Yu not only entrenches himself into the titular role at the behest of producer Raymond Chow as a suitable replacement, but Wang Yu also became Trenchard-Smith’s directorial counterpart of the Hong Kong shot scenes and the fight sequences, the latter being superbly thrilling by Wang Yu and his stunt team’s dedicated skillset to make the showmanship look authentic and bruising.  The extended chase through the streets of Sydney and into a no holds kitchen brawl with legendary stunt man Grant Page (“Stunt Rock”) is one of the best one-on-one rundown combat arrangements of its era.  Lazenby’s an effective villain with his towering height, broad build, and Tom Sellick mustache and has the ability to choreography not-so-half-assed kung fu, meeting and matching Wang Yu’s on screen moves without looking dopey or forced.   Australia’s film industry was so small at the time, there are number of recognizable actors mostly from the “Mad Max” series with the likes of Hugh Keays-Byrne (“Mad Max,” “Mad Max:  Fury Road”), Frank Thring (“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”), Roger Ward (“Mad Max”) in key or notable performance roles along with Bill Hunter (“Mad Dog Morgan”) and a pair of titular character love interests in Rebecca Gilling and Rosalind Speirs.

When judging a martial arts film, one critiques the hand-to-hand or melee weapon play contests, scrutinizing every punch thrown and kick taken, for complexity and believability.  If it looks real, it sure as hell feels real when conveyed from off the screen and to the audience.  Though “The Man from Hong Kong’s” scenes feel a little airy, pulling punches slightly too perceptibly, the choreography is quick and exhibits naturally enough through a variety of action and locations, including on top of Australia’s famous tourist attractions Ayers Rock for a wham-bam, drug sting and bust opening with a great-looking and thrilling car explosion shot that nearly takes the camera man’s head off with an unplanned, detonation jettison of a spinning car door toward the camera crew.  Those sorts of risky stunts are prevalent throughout that lends to “The Man from Hong Kong’s” enthralling physicality tone with Trenchard-Smith and his team’s wiliness to learn as they go in their death-defying acts.  The film is a tour de force of stunts, ranging from car chases, glider flights, skyscraper plunges, and an unforgettable kitchen skirmish with real melee weapons kneaded into its very fabric, with a Dirty Harry hero whose more of an anti-hero lawbreaker than the villains he’s up against by specializing in China’s miscreant brand of investigative police work. 

Perfectly suited as number 9 on the spine of the Umbrella Entertainment’s Ozploitation Classics banner is Brian Trenchard-Smith’s “The Man from Hong Kong,” now released on a region free, 2-disc AVC encoded Blu-ray.  Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with full 1080p, high-definition resolution, Umbrella has pulled out all the stops to release the best transfer to drool over.  Subtle vertical scratches here and there have no standing impact on viewing and the distinguished color palette is quite good and natural-looking for a film from nearly five decades ago.  There is a healthy amount of positive grain from the 35mm film stock, but the compression never comes into an issuance of sacrificing the quality, leaving darker scenes appearing bright and visible without the effect of enhancement or zealous contrasting.  My only substantiated gripe is with the subtitle cards that, in a way to not have to redo the English subtitles for the Mandarin dialect, the original frames were seemingly kept in and the image reverts back to a lesser quality degree.  Two audio options are available, an English-Mandarin language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and a lossy DTS-HD dual channel.  Umbrella’s kbps output erratically fluctuations between 2400-3400 but even with the rollercoaster ups-and-downs, “The Man from Hong Kong” still had a robust action track and the dialogue came through discernibly clear.  Only goofy aspect about the audio is “Game of Death” and “Bloodsport’s” Roy Chiao’s English dubbing of Jimmy Yang Yu who obviously knew English or knew how to act like he knew English by watching his mouth articulate the native vernacular.  Umbrella also pulls out all the stops for the special features department in this limited to 3000 copies 2-disc set with the second disc a CD soundtrack arranged with Noel Quinlan funk-rock score and the main Billboard topping opening theme “Sky High” by the band Jigsaw.  Also included is a 2001 audio commentary from director Brain Trenchard-Smith, actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, and stunt director Grant Page, an all-new(ish) interview with Grant Page from 2008 entitled Real!Quick! pulled from Mark Hartley’s ozploitation documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” extended interviews with the director, executive producer David Hannay, cast members George Lazenby, Roger Ward, and Rebecca Gilling, cinematographer Russell Boyd, 2nd unit cameraman John Seal, and first assistant director Hal McElroy from the same Hartley documentary, Trenchard-Smith’s 50-minute documentary “The Stuntmen,” a 75-minute “Kung Fu Killers” TV special directed by Trenchard-Smith and featuring Grant Page and George Lazenby, behind the scenes footage, opening night press conference footage, various and alternate  trailers and promos including a HD theatrical trailer, a cardboard slipcover with new illustrated design, and a reversible Blu-ray case cover art that also lists all 23-tracks on the CD.  The special features runtime outshines the 106-minute feature with a slew of interviews; however, much of the interviews really harp over-and-over upon George Lazenby’s set-on-fire coat mishap scene and Jimmy Wang Yu before the camera rolls catching and eating dragon flies ahead of a kissing scene with Rebecca Gilling.  “The Man from Hong Kong” isn’t notable because it’s Australia’s first martial arts film.  It isn’t notable for the attempt of resurgence of a former James Bond actor or because of its robbed promise of the late Bruce Lee.  What makes “The Man from Hong Kong” important to the film industry as a whole is its precursor value for being the example of a cast and crew to put life and limb on the line for the sake of motion picture art and be damn good at it.

“The Man From Hong Kong” on the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

A Stuntman and Rock-n-Roll Magicians Have EVIL Under Control! “Stuck Rock” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

The MUST OWN version of “Stunt Rock” Now on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Grant Page is a world-famous veteran stunt man from Australia and his new big project, a high octane, thrilling action move feature packed with car chases, fire sequences, and death-defying falls set in Hollywood, California.   When he arrives, his cousin Curtis picks up from the airport and shows him around, ending up at the recording studio where Curtis’s band Sorcery is lays down tracks for their upcoming album.  Between Grant’s thrilling high flying, quick burning stuntman work and the band’s theatrical heavy rock and magic trick performances, a showcase of entertainment energizes the soul as well as entertains it.  Before long, a column journalist Lois Willis aims to get Grant’s story on occupational health and lifestyles.  They’re joined by Grant’s costar of the film, leading lady Monique van de Ven, and together they rock out and enjoy the daredevil antics like one big life party. 

Unique in format and content, “Stunt Rock” reflects upon the ostentatious career of director Brian Trenchard-Smith. Before immersing himself in straight-to-video sequels of “The Omega Code,” “Night of the Demons,” and “Leprechaun,” Trenchard-Smith had a talent for being unabashed and taking risks in making something different. Thus, an 86-minute one-part showcasing demo reel, one-part fictional story, and one-part heavy rock music video was born from a slew of Trenchard-Smith shot achieve footage highlighting the impressive physicality resume of the one and only Grant Page. In 1978, “Stunt Rock’s” short theatrical run assumed the picture too radical for the general public with a motley crew of characters and a get-to-know Grant Page storyline that interjected the heavy rock, or borderline glam rock, of Sorcery, a five-piece band accompanied by two magicians whose illusions and pyrotechnics were performed live on stage as the musicians rocked out. Only recently has “Stunt Rock” re-emerged onto home video due in part to the advocating acolytes of the now defunct by not forgotten band and has become a wonderous and enriching blast from the past of reliving decades old history, contrasting artistry cooperating under one umbrella, and a deluge of rock and master class stunts. Also known as “Crash” or “Sorcery,” Martin Fink produces the quasi-action docu-musical with Trenchard filming under his own banner, Trenchard Films.

Grant Page, a man you may never recognize in name or face but probably have seen his broad list of service work at least a dozen times or more. “Mad Dog Morgan.” Yup, Page did the stunts. “No Escape.” Yup, that too. “Mad Max.” That as well! Between performing the stunts and a stunt coordinator, Grant Page has achieved over 100 credits to his name, but not until receiving the lead role in “Stunt Rock” is where he actually got to be himself…literally. Trenchard-Smith’s goal was to put Grant Page on a platform having worked with the stuntman on previous films, such as “Deathcheaters” and “The Man from Hong Kong,” putting his career, and life, on the line numerous times. Page is charming and collected under his rugged facial hair and glasses atop a muscular physique as he’s paired to cohabitate with the latter half of two-word title. Grant Page is stunt whereas Sorcery is rock. Consisting of, at the time, members of the Americna rock group were front man Greg Magie, bass Ritchie King, guitarist Smokey Huff, drummer Perry Morris, and Keyboardist Doug Loch who always wore a glitzy or colorful stocking mask with had his vocals adjusted to a higher pitch. There were also two highly skillful stage performing magicians in Paul Haynes as the bearded King of all Wizards, Merlin, and Curtis James Hyde as Haynes on stage villainous counterpart, the Prince of Darkness aka Satan. In between the two rip-and-roaring personas is a reporter working on a column piece and Grant becomes her angled subject. Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wife of 40+ years is Margaret Gerard in the role of Lois Wills, a love interest who doesn’t quite understand Grant’s obsession with intentional self-destruction as a profession but quickly falls for the big hunk despite any real tangible flirtation. Across the aisle at the other end of female perspective is Monique van de Ven playing as herself. The Netherlands actress, who mastered the art being in a catch-22 love triangle between her longtime husband and her adventurous and new female lover in “A Woman Like Eve,” is positioned in “Stunt Rock” as certifier of the fake movie Grant is there to stunt for being the leading actress eager to do what Grant does, the stunt work, at the chagrin of her asset protecting agent.

“Stunt Rock” may not be our bread-and-butter material for review, containing a severe lack of ghastly horror, creature horror, sleazy exploitation, gore and shock, phantasmagoria schlock, etc.  Instead, what “Stunt Rock” is is a pure, 100%, grade A cult classic title that goes beyond the baseline criteria for critique, as if the film even needed our insignificant stamp of world cinema approval.  Absolutely not, as “Stunt Rock” speaks for itself, literally so in the very title, delivering essentially what the film is selling, documenting, exhibiting, and entertaining along with the caveat to be a career booster and an endearing tribute for director Trenchard-Smith’s much adored and highly respected Grant Page. The way Trenchard-Smith fashions his own shot stock footage of Page’s exhilarating and adrenaline junky spectacles into flashbacks, split screens, and just a reel of collected examples whenever Page goes into specific memories of stunts, a montage of similar acts, or even how he feels before or during the performance never bogs down into arrogant gray area on the part of feature’s star. Only the director behind the one-two punch “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” could pull of “Stunt Rock’s” insanity on celluloid, rock on reel, and a cloud nine high on a combination of both.

“Stunt Rock” is more than just assemblage of electrifying stunts as it also brings down, as well as breaks down, stunt work as not this grandiloquent behavior but more about precision, planning, and self-care with some mild levels of egomania to do things bigger, better, and more dangerous. All of this great content is now on coming at you on a Blu-ray home video from Umbrella Entertainment as the 8th spine on their Ozploitation Classics label. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 in full high definition, 1080p, the region free Australian release is a fury of packed goodness, in all sense of the term. Rated PG, “Stunt Rock” is about as wholesome as a PG film came come that even comes with an opening disclaimer about not trying these stunts at home, so parents open your children’s eyes to “Stunt Rock!” As far as image quality is concerned, Umbrella’s release perfects the natural-looking colorization by adding a pop of robust color, unintrusive grain, and baring miniscule blemishes. Most of the film is shot in 35mm, but some of the older footage Trenchard-Smith shot on Grant Page is in 16mm and the varying levels of difference in the details can play tricks on the mind with the stark contrast. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is a solid track. Dubbing can tilt an audio imbalance in the depth around certain dialogued moments, but for the most part, no compression issues leave a clean and clear outcome with even an array of well-recording Sorcery tracks and capturing all the fine details in their pyrotechnic and smoke and mirror shows in front of a live high school audience. This Blu-ray is packed with special features beginning with an exclusive virtual interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith and his wife/leading lady Margaret Gerard at their home in Oregon going over every facet in the genesis and aftermath of “Stunt Rock,” plus 2008 interviews with Grant Page and the director from Not Quite Hollywood segment, 2008 audio commentary from Page and Trenchard-Smith, 2009 audio commentary from the director, producer Marty Fink, and actor Richard Blackburn, a 2009 introduction to the film, extended interviews with Sorcery guitarist Smokey Huff and Marty Fink, 2009 audio interview with the band’s drummer Perry Morris, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Alamo Drafthouse Appearance, Cannes Promo Reel, a HD theatrical trailer, an exclusive new Trenchard-Smith approved trailer reel, and more audio commentary from the director in Trailers from Hell. And that’s not all! Beyond the colorfully retro-esque slipcover and snapper cast with reversible cover art with the film’s posters on the inside is a 14-page collectible comic book with the abridged illustrated version of the film. “Stunt Rock” is an amazing, one-of-a-kind film with now a one-of-a-kind Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment sure to be a must-own for any fans of Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page, or Sorcery!

The MUST OWN version of “Stunt Rock” Now on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

A Saltwater Croc is Pure EVIL in “Black Water” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)



On a two week holiday, Grace, her husband Adam, and her younger sister Lee, embark on a road trip through Northern Australia, stopping at the local bars and roadside attractions all along the way.  Their next ad hoc destination is to fish at the rurally located and rinkadink river tour and fishing guide, Backwater Barry’s.  With Barry himself already out with another tour group, his assistant happily agrees to take them fishing out on a small, metal Jon boat along the mangrove tree dense distributaries.  When their boat is flipped by a large, aggressive crocodile and their guide dead, the water-protruding trees become a lifeline for temporary safety, but being fully encircled by murky water leaves them with no escape route and hidden from the river mainstem where help would like cross.  With a hungry croc lurking below, the only means of survivor is to reach the flipped Jon boat that’s stuck stranded in the middle of water. 

Aside from my personal favorite subgenre, Sharksploitation, the next best would the reptiliansploitation!  If there is even such a scaly subgenre about cold-blooded killers, especially involving the waterproofed skin of alligators and crocodiles lurking and wriggling in murky waters.  I’m a child of the 80’s and grew up on such classics as “Eaten Alive” (technically the late 70’s), “Alligator” and “Alligator 2, and the Australian ozploitation thriller, “Dark Age.”  Even the more modern reptilian ravagers, “Lake Placid” series and Alexandra Aja’s “Crawl,” are hugely exciting, entertaining, and come with a lot of bite!  Another ozploitation crocodile themed film came across my viewing pleasure just recently is the Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich co-written, co-directed “Black Water.”  The 2007 independent production is filmed across multiple locations in the Northern Territories and New South Wales of Australia where much of the butt-clenching terror is filmed in the crocodile-less mangroves of the Georges River.  “Black Water” is presented by The Australian Film Commission and Territorial Film Developments and developed by Michael Robertson’s ProdigyMovies who cater to low-budget ozploitation genre pictures that usually pit man versus nature to the death!

The concise cast provides “Black Water” with an intimacy you wouldn’t get with a bigger, cast-saturated production.  Three principles and two supporters imbues the characters’ fears, tensions, and their rush of adrenaline into the viewers without having to dilute into offshoots with an extensive list of throwaway and expendable roles.  Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, and Andy Rodoreda turn from touting tourist to terrorized tenderloins for one of nature’s most ruthless hunters. The dynamic between the three is one that is high on the relationship status; a family consisting of a wife and husband and sisters, leaving zero room for apathy between the characters themselves and between the viewers and the characters as their importance of loss is greater to each other and that extends beyond the screen.  Traucki and Nerlich give little-to-no wiggle room for escape, forcing the survivors to wade the ominous waters.  The fear is prevalent more so in the eyes of Grace (Glenn) who is not only worried about her husband and sister, but also her motherly instinct to protect her newly learned pregnancy.  Lee (Dermody) and Adam (Andy) lack that hesitation, that trembling moment of dipping their toes back into water, in a seemingly inability to feign being affected by the force of flesh-ripping nature lurking just below the surface.  Even with subsequent failed survival attempts, I found difficulty relating to Lee’s fear who, in the latter half of the story, calmly breaststrokes approx. ten yards to reach the boat in a moderate attempt at heart-racing desperation.  Fiona Press (“Out of the Shadows”) and Ben Oxenbould (“Caught Inside”) round out the cast.

“Black Water” is the epitome of ingenuity when placing actors and crocodiles in the same space together.  Real people, real crocodiles.  Yes, the visual effects produced by Nerlich, Traucki, and their team, including of compositor Peter Jeffs, create a frightening cohabitation, stretching the limits of the VFX with the instinctual movements of in captivity crocodiles and laying them over the mangrove scenes that have the actors.  Whenever the croc pops up from the water with just his snout, eyes, and the few ridges of his back breaking the surface, the motionless stare from the beady Devil-eyes can make you hold your breath.  “Black Water” has killer anticipation with a death roll component that no one is safe from a maneater’s hunger. At some instances, the composites are not entirely seamless with the depth or the angles as which the croc moves through the water, but the overall effect is successful and potent. With limited escapes routes come limited plot devices. “Black Water’s” length felt almost painfully reliant on time spent in the mangrove trees with the characters mulling and weighing the options, the option to go for the boat became it’s own motif, and a short lull quickly stiffens the initial boat-flipping tumult. One second, the four fishers have lines in the water and the next second they’re in the water, “crocodile in the water” is being screamed at the very top of Adam’s lungs, and tour guide Jim has instantly disappeared from story in a blink of a crocodile’s snapping smile. No amount of backwater expertise assisted in Jim’s, or any of the patrons’, survival. After the commotion has subdued and the realization that a crocodile has come to feed, survivors stick the trees like monkeys a mere 7 to 10 feet from the surface water, stagnant still in shock and unable to muster a thought about what to do. After the lull, man versus nature gets right back outwitting one another with the croc having a big screening advantage.

Holidaying never looked so terrifying where a day in the office seems like an escape in “Black Water.” The story is a cautionary one of the increasing populations of both humans and crocodiles in Northern Australia and was based off true events as noted by director Andrew Traucki off the account of two teenagers stuck in a tree after the death of their friends by a croc in an interview with MovieWeb.com. A reemergence of the 2007 film, stemmed by the recent sequel, finds itself on a full HD, 1080p Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment. The Australian label’s region B release presents the 89 minute feature in a widescreen 1.85:1. More than most of the picture is shot in natural light without being too heavily under the guise of lens manipulation with the steady cam under “Primal’s” John Biggins cinematography. The composited recordings crocs and locations blend almost seamlessly, only rendering a smidge of smear glossiness around the croc’s edges in the tinted blue nighttime scenes. Whenever the croc pops up in the water with a human character sharing the scene, the frame unveils evident cropping but only to sell the effect of the two being in the same moment, removing the outer edges to avoid potential gaffes. The English language and ambiance audio tracks offer two options, a 5.1 and a 2.0, both congenially in a DTS-HD master audio mix. For this particular review, the 5.1 was explored and the dialogue, ambience, depth, range, and run of the mill soundtrack do sound clear, without a hinderance of muddles dialogue, and pertinent to the circumstances happing on screen. Special features include an audio commentary with the directors, a mixture of polished and rough deleted scenes, a making of segment that includes interviews with the directors, actors, and producer Michael Robertson about locations, special effects challenges, and the characters who sell the story, and the theatrical trailer. There’s no pretense with “Black Water” in it doesn’t hawk mutant crocodiles or a behemoth beast thought lost over time; instead, “Black Water” feasts on realism, capturing plausibility and instinctual fear that makes us never want to go into knee high water ever again.

“Black Water” is now available from Umbrella Entertainment on Blu-ray!

To EVIL, Just Another Slab of Meat for the Butchering. “The Slaughterhouse Killer” reviewed! (Breaking Glass Pictures / Digital Screener)



The local swine slaughterhouse perfectly suits the solitude of Box, barely sating the fervent urge of his killer spirit, but when a young ex-con, Nathan, who is trying to walk the straighten arrow with his girlfriend, falls under Box’s wing at work, keeping that urge at bay is proving more difficult with a likeminded companion.  When the workplace bully pushes Nathan too far, Box orchestrates a killer opportunity to murder the bully in his own home as a gift to the young parolee.  The death of their intimidating colleague solidifies an unique relationship between the men, opening Pandora’s box in their small town where no one is safe from their lust for blood.  As the bodies pile up and their corpses are ground up into chuck at the slaughterhouse, their relationship is tested when a child becomes the unintended next victim, severing the unspoken principles of their bond. 

“The Slaughterhouse Killer” is director Sam Curtain’s entry into the minds of bloodlust wolves living in sheepskin day-to-day amongst the clueless flock.  The senseless violence-laden thriller out of Tasmania, Australia is the sophomore feature from the “Blood Hunt” writer-director and is co-written with Benjamin Clarke.  The pair harness their continued onslaught for aggression from “Blood Hunt’s” human race cruelty with a rumbling storm brewing, waiting, for the right conditions when two very different people find a common interest by setting a little part of their world on fire.  The indie picture is streamlined through Curtain’s Stud Ranch Films entertainment banner and is backed by Black Mandala, a big and upcoming label showcasing an expertise in extreme low-cost horror, under the producer’s eye of Nicholas Onetti who has supported a number of genre fan favorites under his banner such as “The Barn,” “Aquaslash” and has even collaborated with brother, Luciano, on the 70’s giallo inspired  “Abrakadabra” and “Francesca.”  If Onetti is attached, prepare yourself for merciless and bloody circumstances in this particular ozploitation maniac thriller. 

You obviously can’t shoot a film titled “The Slaughterhouse Killer” without the slaughterhouse setting garnished with meathook strung up and process gutted livestock much in the same way the killer can’t fall into the average-looking joe category.  In steps Craig Ingham, a Sydney born 6’4” big fella with distinct facial features that includes a gleaming bald head and an angry sneer delineating fiercely from his bulbous, pink-as-a-pig cheeked face.  Ingham has an uncompromising maniacal approach of being large and in charge under a lame façade of a daft abattoir employee.  To balance out the oversized archetype antagonist, usually from one that lumbers around in slashers genre circles, hacking away at sex-crazed teens, James Mason buoys “The Slaughterhouse Killer” from capsizing in that humdrum trope of tasteless, flat water by adding a pretty face to the madness that is equally as ugly on the inside in character in what becomes the Laurel and Hardy of exploitation horror.  However, there’s nothing remotely funny about the performances of two men becoming unlikely best buds, drinking beer, and making hamburger out of the sheila from next door, but they do act like a pair of chuckleheads searching for motivation with their roles and instead come up empty handed in the arbitrary of Curtain and Clarke’s headway halting story.   “The Slaughterhouse Killer” is simply a two man show that aims to cycle through their unusual connection with Kristen Condon (“Sheborg”) as Nathan’s girlfriend, Tracey, and Dean Kirkright (“Cult Girls”) as the unfortunate workplace bully rounding out the small cast of collateral damage characters.

One of the biggest problems with “The Slaughterhouse Killer,” a tale that’s supposed to be driven by the characters’ dysfunctional ties to society and their knack for violence, is that very lack of purpose Box and Nathan get out from the random bloodlust.  Nathan, on parole for we don’t know what, easily falls bewitched by Box’s gore giddiness and willingness to let Nathan into his little big secret.  Without Nathan’s incarcerated backstory, a sentence served that proved nothing but his ability to still land a job, doesn’t age well as the film progresses and just seems to be there in a glint of development substance that never circles back.  Box falls onto the same static line of where the hell is his arc heading as the film opens with Box resting sweaty in his whitey-tighty inside his ramshackled shack.  There’s not much too Box’s creepy disposition other than keeping his squinty eyes glued to a rather attractive woman’s behind and taking abusive orders from the abattoir boss, but what he sees in his new guy to take him on a journey of bloodletting is something of a mystery that never pans out.  Even Box’s bound and blinded plaything in a padlock trunk transcends every act met, creating a glass ceiling of knowledge to the inner workings of his warped thinker.  Box and Nathan’s nihilism and madness unleashed is the purest part of Curtain’s film as the sensation is like a fat kid in a candy store where the two men can just go to town by butchering the residents of their own town by any means seen fit to them, but in the grand scheme of cinema, there are far superior violent films to consider.

As if it was destined to be, “The Slaughterhouse Killer” finds friendship with a kindred, malignant soul to carry out dark fantasies and Breaking Glass Pictures brings us this tale of two treacherous serial killers onto VOD and DVD this month of April. Digital platforms will include Vudu, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Fandango, and more. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ration, and recorded in 4K, cinematographer Leuke Marriott rejoins Curtain on the director’s second feature, providing 78 minutes worth of intimate imagery invasive on Box’s grimy lifestyle and Nathan’s furrowed brow by corralling much of the action directly in front of the camera. Marriott might not employ novel angles and techniques but makes up with holding tight and fast on the brutality and the meatgrinder of Box and Nathan’s vile run while also supplying a few bold filters, such as a rich blue and a light yellow, in more unsettlingly taut moments and capturing some of Tasmania’s landscape with aerial drone shots of Arthur’s Lake with the trees seemingly floating up out of the tenebrous water. “The Slaughterhouse Killer” has the title of a 80’s printed VHS SOV and leverages the ogre villain to the max, but can’t muster a rooted sense of purpose, not even a simple reason such as pure, unadulterated evil, to drive a span of violent behavior to be a worthwhile token to the viewer.

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