After the untimely death of her mother, Linda returns from her university studies to reacquaint herself with the inherited Montclare, a home for the elderly her mother owned and operated through the decades as a family business. As she internally debates about whether to sell the grand, yet antiquated estate, 24-year-old Linda shuffles through her mother’s left behind things that rekindle Linda’s faded memories of her youth and add a sense of melancholy about her mother’s mental condition. A seemingly quiet, if not quirky, home for the elderly quickly becomes shrouded with mystery after the discovery of one of the residents found dead in a bathtub. Soon after, Linda feels as if she’s being watched and toyed with inside the corridors of Montclare: candles found lit, bathroom fixtures overflowing and cascading with water, mysterious figures looming from inside her room’s window, and her mother’s belongings sprawled out about the room. Paranoia sets into Linda as she suspects the resident caretaker and doctor of a lethal plot against her inside an old, foreboding manor that troubled her mother into deathly consequences and she searches for answers inside her mother’s extensive diaries that reveal the ominous dread that overwhelmed her inside an evil house.
“Next of Kin” is Australian’s answer to Dario Argento’s hauntingly apprehensive and vividly hued classic, “Suspiria.” Directed by Tony Williams and co-written with Michael Heath (“Death Warmed Over”), “Next of Kin” embodies monolithic brooding merits of a gracefully shaped horror and palpitating anxiety unlike any other Australian horror film we’ve ever seen before. In fact, Williams 1982 film doesn’t feel very Australian at all that’s set chiefly in and around Montclar, a lavishly gothic estate with expensive fountains and floral garnishes. Aside from native accent and barely a dusty road to drive down, the country of origin could be anywhere, punching home the aspect that the incident at Montclar is universal. Looking into a couple of their techniques, Williams and cinematographer Gary Hansen (“Image of Death”) utilize slow motion and interlaced scenes to convey a surreal dread that transcends from film to senses, also involving disruptive audio cues and visual jump scares, to culminate every scene, ever moment, into a well thought out result on how to effectively reach out and affect that scared little boy or girl in all of us.
Primarily a television and mini-series actress, Jacki Kerin sets foot into the main actress Linda. Kerin’s able to flip emotions from emitting a passive quality while she seemingly annoyed by her mother’s death while switching gears into a hyper-tensive defender. The small screen actress translate well onto the big screen, accompanying well versed thespians in “Picnic at Hanging Rock’s” John Jarratt, who went onto to more notably the “Wolf Creek” franchise. There’s also Alex Scott (“The Abominable Dr. Phibes”) and Tasmanian-born actress Gerda Nicholson. Scott and Nicholson do a fine job of portraying un-trust worthy snoops with underlining knowledge yet to be exposed and with Kerin, the fear goes unopposed and spreads like wild fire. the remaining cast includes Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Vince Deltito, and Debra Lawrence.
Practical effects are minimal in “Next of Kin,” but are well integrated with a meticulous purpose. Williams maintains the gore to an infancy amount, but the New Zealand born director doesn’t nickel-and-dime the macabre. Much of the death displayed comes in at post-humorous, visually positioning the cold and blue hued, more at times ripped life from, bodies to vessel the story forward toward a shocking, what-the-hell, and oh glorious climax. Then, when all the proverbial cards on the table, Linda finds herself ensnared in a cat-and-mouse game where Chris Murray’s practical effects come to the forefront. Special effects maestro, Chris Murray, had the George Miller experience while working on “Max Max” in 1979, prepping him to be the adequate effects artist to create surreal and, also, brutal Giallo-like murder.
Umbrella Entertainment presents Tony Williams’ “Next of Kin” onto a region free, full HD 1080p Blu-ray home video. An Ozploitation classic in itself, Umbrella Entertainment puts the film on a home media pedestal with a remastered 4k transfer from the original 35mm interpostive and presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio. Beyond gorgeous with lush grim colors and able to keep the natural grain of the 35mm nitrate, “Next of Kin” sees one hell of an upgrade that shows no wear in the transfer and no compression issues or edging enhancements. Even with the heavy blue tint at time, the amount and the use is appropriate alongside Gary Hansen’s vision. The new English DTS-HD master audio emphasizes the heavy synthesized score by German electronic music composer Klaus Schulze that meshes fine with the creepy house ambiance. Dialogue is properly forefront and crystal clear. Special features run amok with audio commentaries with director Tony Williams, producer Tom White, and with cast members John Jarrett, Jackie Kerin, Robert Rattie. Also on the release is a “Return to Montclar – Next of Kin” shooting locations revisited, extended interviews from “Not Quite Hollywood” director Mark Hartley, deleted scenes, original and VHS trailer, German opening credits and trailer, an image gallery, and a couple of Tony Williams’ short films: “The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe” and “Getting Together.” “Next of Kin” has a brawny Italian Giallo flavor with a gritty, distinctive core of Australian horror filmmaking; sheerly beautiful and indisputably morbid, director Tony Williams has garnished a choice horror favorite that’s been sorely passed over through the years.
Charlie, the daughter of a famed pro-wrestler named Daddy Bison, witnesses the tragic and accidental decapitation death of her masked father while in the ring. Years later, Charlie labors for a video game corporation with underhanded values, but she still feels the call to wrestling, secretly competing and honoring her father’s memory in moonlight matches despite her lover’s wishes. When her corrupt employer illegal obtains Nano byte technology to engineer into their latest wrestling video game entitled ‘From Parts Unknown’ in order to financially steal from gamers, Charlie accidently becomes more involved than just being an innocent bystander. A side effect to the Nano bytes turns people into a horde of flesh hungry monsters on the cusp of being let loose and only Charlie can pile drive a stop to the infected corporate white-collar workers and vicious female wrestlers from embarking on a worldwide takeover.
It’s Bloggin’ Evil is familiar with director Daniel Armstrong’s work, reviewing the Australian born director’s 2013 roller derby slasher “MurderDrome” on the Camp Motion Picture’s home entertainment label. Armstrong’s latest horror installment, 2015 released “From Parts Unknown: Fight Like a Girl,” blends a healthy dose of wrestling into the terror folds. However, this body slamming, drop kicking horror film was produced and completed by 2009, years before “MurderDrome” hit the market, and was shelved in a period of postponement because of post-production reasons, but the Strongman Pictures team bouts with more than half a decade of delays to eventually release “From Parts Unknown: Fight Like a Girl,” a complete horror-comedy battle royal!
With a DIY façade, a talented actor pool dedicates themselves to undertake the high flying, death defying professional wrestling moves of PCW, Professional Championship Wrestling, in Australia and, I must confess, the actors looked legit. There’s an indescribable amount of pleasure and respect that goes into actors braving the chance of injury and accomplishing their own stunt work. Kudos to lead actress Jenna Dwyer for her stunt work to which in an example of her character, Charlie, is air-flung across the square ring and into a metal cage and she falls behind the ropes, landing hard on the mat below. The stunt looked fantastic. To coincide with the physical performances, Armstrong’s script uses slapstick comedy that’s heavy on the satirical undertones. Ross Ditcham’s a good character to spotlight as his role of Frank is the story’s buffoon, branded as being the best friend who doesn’t get the heroine girl of his dreams while running wildly whenever danger, or a brazen female supervisor, is hanging on his coattails.
The combination of performance and wit does hunker slightly from being overshadowed by the wonky cinematography. Every applied color of the rainbow saturates various scenes to, perhaps, wash away the dull gray and white tones of the minimalistic warehouse location or to attempt to upscale production value, but the extreme use of this method conflicts with sharp image details, leaving an opaque and blotchy picture. There’s also some odd framing from either the production or postproduction distribution that’s disrupts the clarity of the actions in the scenes. On the plus side, a solid, passable effort was put forth for the gory special effects, especially when Josh Futcher’s Misha violently implodes the head in of one of the henchwomen with a fire extinguisher, splattering upward a healthy amount of blood while Misha quoting, many times, Ash from “Army of the Darkness.” Tack on superimposed electric current superpowers, a tactical high-powered Uzi, and a little person donning a luchador mask and tights and “From Parts Unknown” tickles all the right parts of your delinquent, shameless senses.
Story wise, a loose introduction semi-torpedoes the backend of Charlie’s growth and embattlements, albeit the killer effects and various degrees of solid acting. The convoluted scenes of stealing the Nano bytes and sprinkled in segments of the Bison Daddy’s fate attempt to set up two simultaneous merging narratives that end up not meshing well or delivering the intended message. After the progression surpasses the Nano Byte mishap, the story starts to take shape, forming more coherently and appropriately to pit our lovely Charlie against an apocalyptic foe, setting up define characters, and setting the stage for an all out slobber-knocker! When Charlie and her mortal allies have the odds against them when rivaled against superhuman opponents, a clear indication that’s just more than good versus evil. Under the surface, Charlie is faced with life adversaries: her unethical boss, an advantage taking supervisor, and other female wrestlers. All of which become flesh eating maniacs and want to rip Charlie apart.
“From Parts Unknown: Fight Like a Girl” has pinned a DVD distributor with the indie label Camp Motion Pictures. The not rated DVD contains a short film “Post-Apocalyptic Chic,” “Fight Like A Girl” music video, Haunted by Humans Music Video, Demented music video, and a trailer vault. Like previously mentioned, the posterized video quality is noticeable within the confines of darker color hues and, especially, in the blacks. The LCPM 2.0 mix audio quality goes in and out with rocky levels of dialogue and ambiance. Graced with an ozploitation with great collaged cover art, Daniel Armstrong’s “From Parts Unknown” and Camp Motion Pictures are a wrestling match made in a hell in a cell! The best wrestling horror film since Mexico’s El Santo films!
Cherry Skye and her all girl roller derby team, The Alamos, find themselves gravely threatened by a summoned vengeful demon named Mamma Skate, the best and brutalist skater from the MurderDrome rink 20 years ago who was viciously murdered ritualistically by a Satanic-obsessed rival. Called back from Hell by a mystical charm necklace once in her possession, Mamma Skate rollerblades through the night, cleaving her way through the roughest of roller derby girls, and seeking to possess the soul of charm’s current owner, Cherry Skye, so she may live once again!
In 2013, Australian director Daniel Armstrong had a vision. A vision that includes skimpy-cladded, brazenly jagged roller derby girls, a resurrected she-demon wielding a butcher’s cleaver, and a helluva lot of rock-n-roll! A joint effort between Strongman Pictures and a slow drip of miscellaneous funding constructs that very exact vision, originally not conceived to have been a feature length film. Writing along side Trent Schwarz and Louise Monnington, who also had a co-starring role, Armstrong’s rockabilly ozploitation is a blood diamond in the Australian under bush with kangaroo pouches full of ocker comedy and skater mayhem. However, Armstrong’s terrorizing roller-demon imagery sat on the edge of being nonexistent and his film suffers the associated consequences of financial hardships and production problems. “MurderDrome” has a vibe more akin to a music video with interjections of storyline in between various psychobilly laid tracks that’s perhaps a pure result of the film’s financial inability to fill the void, but the style’s unique outline contends strongly in independent or abstract cinema outlets. Aside from the atypical structure, “MurderDrome,” granted, has some sloppy and choppy editing that disrupt not only the opening credits, but also waters down a death scene or two and affects character motivations.
Australian accents are thick coming from an indigenous talent of actors led by Amber Sajben, a downright heaven-sent leading lady starring as Cherry Skye. With her cutesy pig tails, high-knee fish stockings, and an acute fascination with always popping bits of food in her mouth, her contrast with the dialogue-stricken antagonist and steel, chain, and blade attired roller-demon badass Momma Skate, portrayed by Be-On The-Rocks (Yes, you read that right), redefines the old phrase a game of cat-and-mouse that doesn’t quite fit the overall artistic style. When a group of rough and tough roller derby girls who elbow check others for the fun of the sport, some fight should commence without being said; instead, the characters who proudly carry the names Cherry Skye, Psych, Thrusty, Trans Em, Princess Bitchface, and Hell Grazer option to scurry without giving a second thought to bucking up to a sole skating murderess. Armstrong subsides more toward a comedy route peppered with a resilience attitude toward the situation with co-writer Louise Monnington leading the charge in her character’s crude humor, especially having Pysch, her character, note descriptively what exactly is ‘duck butter.’ Urban Dictionary has you covered if you care to look up the term. The cast rounds out with Kat Anderson, Rachael Blackwood, Jake Brown, Anthony Cincotta, Gerry Mahoney, Max Marchione, Daisy Mastermann, Dayna Seville, and Laura Soall.
Plot integrity is flimsy at best striking influentially at the development of certain characters, most importantly with villain Momma Skate. Her conjuring doesn’t go through the comprehensive ringer as the demoness just appears without establishing a connection with the charm necklace bringing her demonic lankiness above ground. Max Marchione’s The Janitor bares some importance that whizzes like air out of a rapidly deflating balloon as we learn less-by-less about this character throughout the duration of the film. The Janitor’s key mentoring role wavers, resulting in just one more confusion aspect into the blend. Remaining character developments are fairly cut and dry sans forgetting their eclectic attire, electrifying neon makeup, radical hairstyles, and overall lifestyles, but expansions upon the roles could have been more favorable for the Aussie production.
Camp Motion Pictures and Alternative Cinema skate the “MurderDrome” DVD right onto the North American market rink, providing the film’s first region one release. Extras are abundant with music videos from The Dark Shadows and other bands, a gag-reel, and a behind-the-scenes special effects featurette. The 72-minute feature is presented in a widescreen 16×9 aspect ratio that’s a bit hazy at times on the grayscale, but adds charm to the bargain bin brimstone fire and smoke computerized effects that truly defines Armstrong’s slasher as a campy ozploitation with Italian Giallo undertones and a supernatural core. “MurderDrome” rocks, literally, with great pyschobilly tracks from The Jacks, The Sin & Tonics, and The Dark Shadows to name a few of the head banging headliners on the soundtrack in the confines of a cavity heavy plot for a film more suitable as a music video than a feature flick. In the end, “MurderDrome” provides an endearing look upon horror even with all the obvious flaws, but renders some nice moments of searing barbarity overshadowing, just slightly, some of the misfires. Lastly, if you like girls in skates, who never take them off at any point, then “MurderDrome” is right for you!
Since the age of ten years old, four lifelong friends, Quinn, Jen, Joey, and Ian, camp on the outlying coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Quinn’s girlfriend, Rachel, tags along for a trip filled of booze, drugs, and beach lounging. When at first the group of friends meet up with two gung-ho surfing Australians and a drunkard Brit, a night of relaxation and hallucinogenic tripping follows until one of the Aussie’s makes a fateful move on Jen that begins a series of unfortunate and murderous events turning the fun camping getaway into a unbelievable nightmare for all.
“Dark Cove” is a Canadian thriller from first time director Rob Willey that feasts upon the versatile and volatile nature that is aggressively human. The Vancouver Island beach backdrop is a serene, isolated stretch of sand, water, and forest rolled up into a coastal woodland. A perfect gathering point that serves suitably for “Dark Cove’s” remote needs and the aside from the roar of the surf, the tranquility becomes polluted by the wants of man that goes to prove the notion that one rotten apple can spoil the entire batch, including a peaceful beach, without needing to dump the likes of grisly viscera all over.
Whereas “Dark Cove” conveys the underlying human aggression ready to explode at any given gas-lit spark, the film also conveys a hefty amount of breathy hot air. When building up toward the momentum-turning event, one would first wonder if anything would ever go array with no sense of a violent storm upon the horizon. Before everything spirals out of control, the centric group of characters find themselves amongst an endless cavern of talking points about the woes and the joys of their young lives growing up and being adults. Quinn quickly dismisses his recently earned university degree because he can’t find a job in his liberal arts field and has to work as a server, Joey’s immature mission in life is to have sex with a girl of every nationality, and Jen departs from a two year relationship that quickly has her jumping into the arms of strangers. The latter being more relevant to the story than all the other campfire jawing with Jen’s encounter with one of two Australian surfers. Its as if “Dark Cove” tries to become more of a film trying to make a statement about the uselessness of a higher education and that one out of five will be successful.
From then on, the series of unfathomable events go from chill, a term Quinn constantly uses when he’s obviously not, to maximum carnage and confusion in a split second. The effect resembles the shock of going flat-out cold turkey, a sudden forced change that’s so terribly unbelievable it puts a wrench into the situational outlook afterwards. The backstory behind characters starts to quickly unravel to a point where they’re severely different characters than before. Quinn is somehow a master genius of hiding evidence, the professionally successful friend Ian snaps and goes bananas after the altercation between the Aussie and Jen, and Quinn’s girlfriend Rachel transforms into a cold person from a visibly warm and loving partner. Dean and Chase, the two Aussies, also suffer underdevelopment. Dean hints at their risky bohemian habits with their expired Canadian visas, but don’t exactly emit a bad vibe up until the moment of truth. Chase is the most interesting character with this most disappointing exposition about his history with a large Irezumi-like tattoo on nearly his entire back and his shows an enormous amount of aggressive power typical of hard life experiences.
Rob Willey committed to a one-man filmmaking machine. Willey proved he can tell a coherent story through writing and directing the story while serving as also the lead actor in Quinn, producer, editor, and providing some original scores. His surfer “brah” attitude for Quinn stood out his character from the rest of his childhood friends who deemed more down to Earth with their raunchy “American Pie” sex jokes and philosophical debates. Co-producer Rob Abbate saddled up as sex hound Joey and his performance was filled with over saturated sex comedy that overwhelms, but his timing and delivery was on point, kicking up some chuckles here and there. I can’t say too much about the rest of the cast as they felt just too flat. Ty Stokoe is a bi fella who I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, but when his character Chase removes his shirt in anger and starts to gorilla yell at the sky, the passion didn’t quite fit the scenario and felt out of sync with the tone. Moments like this are prevalent throughout and do affect the raw appeal of “Dark Cove.”
“Dark Cove” is a 2015 Hot Springs International Horror/Thriller film festival premier film that’s currently only available on iTunes, Digital HD, and Cable VOD. Also, the film is available on Canadian platforms Shaw, Bell, and MTS. I’m unable to critique the video and audio quality of the release since I was provided a DVD-R, but the 84 runtime feature stars Rob Willey, Rob Abbate, Ty Stokoe, Eliot Bayne, Cameron Crosby, Montanna McNalley, James Anderson, Jules Cotton, and Alexandra Brown. In conclusion, “Dark Cove” is an unimaginative, run-of-the-mill thriller we’ve seen before this time set on a Canadian sandy beach and accompanied with some jabs at their North American brethren. No offense taken, but “Dark Cove” is a tired premise done half-cocked.