Out With the Old EVIL. In With the New! “Modern Vampires” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

Blacklisted for not killing the vampire nemesis Dr. Van Helsing, Dallas is shunned by most of the underground Los Angeles vampire scene now presided over by Count Dracula himself, but as he returns to the city after decades of being gone and gathers with old – very old – dear friends, Dracula threatens him with being burned alive if he overstays his begrudged welcome.  When a newly turned rogue vampire under the pretense of a corner prostitute starts ripping the throats out of unsuspecting Johns, Count Dracula doesn’t want the potential public attention drawn on his species.  Taking a shine to this mysterious woman’s insubordinate nature, Dallas finds her, cleans her up, and introduces her to his inclusive friends, but little do any of the bloodsuckers know is that the Van Helsing is in town and has recruited local Crips to be the holy servants of God in wasting away the vampiric filth that plagues humanity.

Here I thought Casper Van Dien’s only good film was 1997’s galactic war with the extraterrestrial bug species in “Starship Troopers!”  Nope, one year later, Dien follows up his iconic global militant-nationalism and gory-filled sci-fi blockbuster with the little-known American comedy-horror “Modern Vampires.”  Better known around the world as “The Revenant” to not confused American audiences with a highly ingrained British term, “Modern Vampires” is directed by a principal one-half of the 80’s American new wave band Oingo Boingo in Richard Elfman.  The other half of that duo is Richard’s brother, who we all know and love in his unmistakable musical scores of “Batman” ’89 and “Edward Scissorhands,” Danny Elfman who also scores the opening theme to “Modern Vampires” with recognizable and trademark notes from those previously stated Tim Burton pictures.  The script was also penned by a fellow Oingo Boingo original member and the Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon “Freeway” film, and its sequel, screenwriter Matthew Bright.  Bright and Richard Elfman had previously collaborated on the comedy-musical “Forbidden Zone” surrounding sixth dimensions and damsels in distress as well as the Charles Band produced “Shrunken Heads.”  “Modern Vampires” is produced by Elfman, Brad Wyman (“Barb Wire”), and Chris Hanley (“American Psycho”) under the Storm Entertainment and Muse/Wyman productions.

Ladies, if you thought you’ve seen the last of Casper Van Dien’s backside in “Starship Troopers,” then worry not! As the hunky, cigar-smoking, former World War II pilot Dallas, Van Dien, once again, shows off his hind parts in a steamy sex scene one top of Dallas’s car with costar Natasha Gregson Wagner (“Vampires: Los Muertos,” “Urban Legend”). As the indifferent vampire Nico under the pretense of a prostitute who seduces men into vulnerability before gashing open their necks, Wagner adds a bloodthirsty ferocity to her uncouth, undead character’s tremendous and tragic depth surrounding a trailer park trash childhood of sexual abuse and a grandstand mother. As a pair, Dallas and Nico are essentially made for each other or, rather, Dallas turned Nico because under all that pretty boy veneer, Dallas still has a beating heart for compassion and friendship as noted with Dr. Frederick Van Helsing’s crippled son, Hans, and the choice made between the two young men before the whole debacle of nixing to the fearless and relentless vampire killer of all time. Rob Stieger plays that character beautifully manically. “The Amityville Horror” and “End of Days” actor graces the production with seasoned vitality while also trying something new himself, a slightly fascist German vampire hunter who hires L.A. gangsters to help him do his dirty work and has to be the butt of the joke at times at the hands of Count Dracula (“Striking Distance”) as well as Dallas. Stieger does his scenes with great earnest yet great fun that puts the legendary actor into a new perspective. “Modern Vampires'” star-studded cast doesn’t end there was Dallas’s friends include performances from Kim Cattrall (“Big Trouble in Little China”), comedian Greg Furgeson, Natasha Lyonne (“Slums of Beverely Hills”), and the legendary Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s “Dracula”) as well as a cast round out with Natalya Andreychenko, Gabriel Casseus, Peter Lucas, Victor Togunde, Cedric Terrell, Flex Alexander, and Conchata Ferrell.

Gory, sexy, and overflowing with politically incorrect humor, Richard Elfman’s “Modern Vampires” more than likely would not be a film made today, but definitely suits the 90’s scene.  There are stereotypes and jokes radically exaggerated for comical effect and land with such insouciant ease that the entire production felt at peace with the humor, emitting “Modern Vampires” as an enjoyable, blood-soaked, outrageous vampire comedy unearthed from over 20-years ago and landing onto a new Blu-ray release where the Elfman film deserved an upgraded treatment.  Los Angeles in ’98 didn’t look extremely different than what’s depicted in the film – late night clubs with half-naked patrons doing all sorts of weird and bloodletting fetishes, leeching prostitution on the delinquency riddled streets, and unsavory, unwilling gang bangs but, in “Modern Vampires’ case, the one tied to the bed is a female vamp fully-transformed into a human-sized bat and those who have sex with her, turn into a vampire themselves.  See the humor and symbolism in that?  Almost as if having unprotected sex with a creature of night is akin to contracting a sexually transmitted disease.  Despite the waggishness, “Modern Vampires” holds other staid themes as well with an arteria one being reflective in the title.  The genesis of the species emerged from Count Dracula who had moved from his old Germanic country to the hip and upcoming L.A. area. With each generation of vampire, the loyalty gap becomes wider until the turned from the 20th century are fully unmanageable by the Count’s supreme power. Nico, the youngest turned is in her vampiric infancy often noted throughout the film, can’t be contained and won’t be told what to do, much like teenagers butting heads with their parents on every little subject. Traditions are broken, heads are severed, bodies are burned, and the “Modern Vampires” is a wildly funny and gruesomely gnarly.

“Modern Vampires” is now the vintage vampires that hit the silver screen some 24 years ago and is now basking with the great 90’s flair of special effects, clothes, and hair on a new Blu-ray release from Ronin Flix in association with Quiver Distribution (“To Your Last Death”). Newly scanned in 2K of the Richard Elfman’s personal film print, the picture retains an unsullied quality with impeccable detail delineation for a story that’s mainly set/shot at night. There’s quite an overlay of purple flush that I’m fairly positive is not intended that pulls away, at times, from clearcut contrasting and blend the objects in the scene together. The film is presented in full high definition1080p in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 stereo that retains the amplitude of every categorical track. Dialogue track provides a clean depth and clarity that doesn’t swerve into boxy territory like many indie productions do. Ambient and foley range is quite limited for a bunch of different locational shots and in a crowded location full of extras but the extent of the quality is good enough. The 91-minute film comes not rated and has an exclusive extra with an introduction by director Richard Elfman plus archival features, such as audio commentary with Richard Elfman and star Casper Van Dien, a behind-the-scenes featurette with on set mini-interviews with the cast and crew. and the theatrical trailer. “Modern Vampires” might now be long in the tooth (get it?) but has the classic campy escapades of an unpretentious good time and, that my friends, is timeless.

“Modern Vampires” available for purchase on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

EVIL’s on the Shallow End of “Deep Space” reviewed! (Scorpion Releasing / Blu-ray)

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

A government funded space craft containing a monstrous biological weapon crashes to Earth.  The organic creature is genetically coded to be a killing machine with a craving for eating it’s enemy and, now, it’s loose in the city and not responding to the scientists’ command self-destruct codes.  Tough and obstinate cop Ian McLemore and his partner, Jerry Merris, are ordered ot investigate the crash site before government agents take control of the case, even removing a pair of strange organic pods with them for further examination.  When a couple of close colleagues are shred to pieces at the hands of the creature, McLemore will stop at nothing to figure out what’s wreaking havoc in his city and blow it away.  

1988 – a weird, yet greatly satisfying transitional period of fading 80’s horror into nipping at the insanity of 90’s brazen prosthetic creature effects right before the turn of the computer generated decade.  Granted, Fred Olen Ray’s Sci-Fi horror “Deep Space,” which is ironically set on Earth, is very much an enamored 1980’s horror, but the Olen Ray film is where you can kind of see the turning of change on the horizon when the story’s ideas become too grandiose for tangibility alone, no matter how much us fans love to see practical effects over CGI.  The script, cowritten between Olen Ray and T.L. Lankford (“Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” “Fatal Passion”), is massive more expensive than anything the filmmaker’s had previously done and with a $2 million budget, “Deep Space” gets a giant explosion, high speed car scenes and wreckage, the iconic face and voice of Charles Napier, a Xenomorph-like creature, and a ultra-bloody chainsaw scene that could give “Evil Dead’s” Ash Williams a run for his money.  “Deep Space” is a production of Trans World Entertainment (no, not the same monikered company that sunk money into the bleeding financially physical media brick and mortar outlets like FYE, Camelot Music, or Suncoast) and shot in Los Angeles under producers Olen Ray, Alan Amiel (“Inner Sanctum”), and Herb Linsey (“Neon Maniacs”) with Yoram Pelman (“Commando Squad”) as executive producer.

At the center of the chaos is Ian McLemore, a hardnose and stubborn, harmlessly sarcastic detective who goes against the authoritative grain and cuts through bureaucratic tape to get the job done.  Playing McLemore is the unmistakable Charles Napier.  The “Rambo:  First Blood Part II” and “The Silence of the Lambs” actor, who is about as legendary as they come in supporting roles, lands his own lead man role with his own buxom beauty romantic leading lady in Ann Turkel {“Humanoids from the Deep”), as a new, but experienced, cop, Carla Sandbourn, on the L.A. force.  Experiencing Napier as an attractive male lead was a little more off-putting that initially thought.  The veteran actor, who began a career in the movie picture industry in his early 30s which was later than most of his counterparts, is hovering around early 50s in this role, middle of the ground with his physical appearance, and has a masculine square chin akin to Ron Pearlman with matching hair color to the “Hellboy” actor.  At an age gap of approx. 10 years between them at the time of filming, Napier and Turkel make their courtship appear easy; in fact, almost too easy as Turkel’s drops her shirt at the mere sight of McLemore dressed as a Scotsman blowing away at bagpipes for a gag effect in sleeping with him.  Both Napier and Sandbourn are charming enough to pull off a love affair without causing too much of a they’re so old stir.  “Serenity’s” Ron Glass plays the casual with the flow Partner Jerry Merris, “The Inglorious Bastards’” Bo Svenson is full of patience as the McLemore insubordination absorbing Captain Robertson, and the original Catwoman herself, from the Adam West “Batman” television series, Julie Newmar as a psychic who can clairvoyantly see the creature’s murderous mayhem.

The fact that “Deep Space” doesn’t take place at all in space is innately tongue in cheek to begin with, but that brand of flippancy courses through the film’s veins despite the blood splattering and semi-serious veneer, weaving between an action-horror and a horror-comedy during the entire 90-minutes.  Some of the comedy is intention, such as McLemore’s husky wit and sarcasm, but there’s also the extremely foggy campy side to this gem.  Some of these elements include the creature being hinted as a genetically mutated cockroach or the left field use of Julie Newmar’s psychic abilities that are randomly injected the storyline for the sole purpose of forewarning McLemore over the telephone rather being an intrinsic piece to stopping the creature.  The creature carnage would undoubtedly be investigated and exterminated without the psychic’s help, making her character farcical in futility.  “Deep Space” also pulls a little inspiration from “Alien,” maybe even the sequel, “Aliens,” with a toothy, long-headed, and eyeless black organism that resembles much like a Xenomorph or the Xenomorph queen and there’s also a near shot-for-shot sequence of a security guard whistling to and trying to persuade a cat to come to him while the monster rises from behind and strikes a fatal blow.  The scene is very reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton’s death in “Alien.”  Being campy has it’s highlights but never can fully overshadow scenes that erect suspense or are saturated with gore which “Deep Space” has both with a combination of editing and piercingly sharp sound design and a rip-roaring, blood-splattering chainsaw kill that’s leaves that good metallic taste in your mouth.

There’s no escaping the blood-hungry tentacles of the “Deep Space” monster coming at you in a brand new 2018 high-definition master Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing, leased from MGM, and distributed by Ronin Flix and MVD Visual. The hard-locked region A Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is rated R. Fred Olen Ray knew how to develop an eerie, twirling fog and wind atmosphere and this master crisps up that iconic trope image. Textural details and natural-appearing skin colors are delineated nicely throughout as you can make out every little blemish and hair on a shirtless Charles Napier as well as really getting into the slimy orifices of the creature and having a sense of its viscosity with a decisive sheen. Black areas are inky and dense with the right amount of grain in the overall picture and no obvious signs of image posterization, retaining the natural shadowing, along with no cropping or border enhancements. The English language DTS-HD master audio stereo finds common quality ground with a tidy dialogue track that does Napier’s resonating and recognizable jest justice. However, there is some hissing early on into the film, especially in the lab scenes in the contentious dialogue between the military general and the lead scientist. Omar Tal’s sound design proves vital to the story that relies on the screeching, the scuttling, the whooshing of tentacles, and the booming roars of the creatures, coinciding appropriately with Alan Oldfield and Robert O. Ragland’s rather run of the mill serrated and discordant electronic score. What “Deep Space” Blu-ray lacks is robust extras with only an audio commentary with director Fred Olen Ray and a scene selection index. “Deep Space” ages about as well as you expect over the last 35 years, but this Fred Olen Ray creature feature relic becomes rightfully preserved for being quintessential B-movie verve that no longer seems to exist in today’s age and also the fact that Charles Napier wears a kilt.

***Stills do not represent or were captured from the Blu-ray release

“Deep Space” Invades Blu-ray on Amazon.com!

After Death is When Things Get Really EVIL! “One Dark Night” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

Good girl Julie wants to join a The Sisters, a small high school club ran by three girls, one of who is the ex of Julie’s boyfriend.  Out to prove to herself and to The Sisters she’s willing to go the distance being fun and reckless, Julie subjects herself to The Sisters’ initiations, even the more cruel ones set by her boyfriend’s spiteful ex.  When the last initiation involves staying locked in overnight at a mausoleum, The Sisters will go beyond the limits in trying to scare her out of pledging, but the death of a bio-energy telekinetic practitioner with a cryptic occult past is freshly stowed away in one of the mausoleum’s coffin crypts and in death, he is more powerful and dangerous than when alive.  Trapped, Julie and The Sisters are terrorized by his power as he seeks to transfer his malevolent energy into one their bodily vessels. 

A PG rating back in the pre-1990 was also an abstract concept.  “Clash of the Titans.” “It’s Alive.”  “Jaws. “ “Prophecy” (the one with the spirit bear, not the Christopher Walken film).  These are a handful of titles that were MPAA rated PG approved, but contained nudity, bloody kills, and not to forget to mention some terrifying visuals that’d make anyone piss their pants.  “One Dark Knight” also fits into that category as the 1982 teen horror from “Friday the 13th Part VI:  Jason Lives!” director Tom McLoughlin set his sights toward a R-rating with the mindset that his detailed scenes of decay and rotting corpses and a face blistering the flesh to the skull would surely be slapped with the 17 years or older rating.  Low and behold, the ratings board thought otherwise, surprising McLoughlin and his co-writer Michael Hawes (“Family Reunion”) with a parental guidance rating that my 7 and 4 year old could sit in on without me fearing theater security or, even worse, the mind control hypnosis and repetitive nurturing elements of today’s movies and shows that don’t make a lick of common sense or brandish any artistic heart. McLoughlin’s ‘One Dark Night” has plenty of heart and plenty of floating dead bodies in this Comworld International Pictures production with “Out of the Dark” director Michael Schroeder producing and Thomas P. Johnson as executive producer.

Before hitting the sequel and remake circuit with “Psycho II” and “Body Snatchers,” Meg Tilly broke onto the scene as “One Dark Night’s” leading lady as the amiable Julie whose looking to shake her good girl image. The little sister of “Seed of Chucky” and “Bound” star Jennifer Tilly takes the role by the reins by undulating her fear and determination to do what The Sisters initiate her into completing. The Sisters is comprised of renowned voice actress and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” costar Elizabeth Daily, Leslie Speights, and lead by Robin Evans as Carol, the spiteful and venomous ex-girlfriend of Julie’s now jock boyfriend (and Christopher Reeves lookalike in my opinion) in David Mason Daniels. You know what they say about love triangles they? They always lead to psychopathic, telekinetic psychics reeking havoc in a mortuary. Luckily for Tilly, Speight, Daily, Evans, and Daniels, psychopathic, telekinetic psychics are not real and neither is the person who plays the Karl Rhamarevich aka Raymar character! You see, the opening is the post-death scene of Raymar whose lying dead under a coroner’s white sheet along with six beautiful women stuffed into a corner closet in his oddly tatterdemalion apartment. The next time we see Raymar is in his casket, wide open, wide eyed with blue lightning summoning to animate the dead from the mortuary crypts; yet, Raymar is played by a dummy in the film created by Tom and Ellis Burman (“Star Trek” franchise in various capacity and “Scrooged”) and Bob Williams (“The Terminator”) who mold Raymar after the contours of Christopher Walken – second time Walken has popped up in this review! The more interesting casted parts, whose characters don’t do diddly squat in the film, is Adam West (“Batman”) as Raymar’s daughter (Melissa Newman) level-headed husband and The Predator himself, the late Kevin Peter Hall, in a minor appearance before becoming the man behind that one ugly son of a bitch mandible mask. You also actually get to see how tall Hall was in his prime.

“One Dark Night” flirts with being this strange horror that blends teen suspense and shenanigans with gothic horror with pseudo-science deviltry sushi wrapped into a Euro-horror roll. I kind of love it. I’m one of those horror fans who avoid trailers like the plague and try not to read synopses on the back cover, going into every viewing with complete ignorance, total unbias, and good attitude. I didn’t even know Meg Tilly was in “One Dark Night” for Christ sake! As the 90 minute runtime ticks down, I’m curious to where McLoughlin starts to take this film that doesn’t seem to quite get into the horror portion of Raymar’s show-stopping comeback. McLoughlin and Hawes hype up the love triangle with Carol’s bitter acrimony and Julie’s adolescent need to not be a one-note complexion all the while Steve desperately needs Carol to cease and desist any and all torturous hazing attempts, but there’s still this itty-bitty connection still tethered between the two that also causes Steve to two-time his new, more benevolent, girlfriend. In the end, I can confidently say that Steve is a good dude, a guy who double downs on a girl like Julie who can’t seem to get it through her thick skull that she doesn’t need to prove anything to three dimwits with sheeny club bomber jackets. I can tell you who isn’t a stand up guy – Raymar. Kudos to McLoughlin and his crew for creating one evil son of a bitch villain without there ever being a palpable proverbial man behind the mask to bounce off a projection of fear and contention. The evil Raymar practice was so intensely evil it was beyond our dimensional comprehension and broke the mold of death with the abilities to animating the dead among other things. “One Dark Night’s” slow start leads to a not to be forgotten survival terror against an army of the harnessed dead.

Raymar isn’t the only thing brought back from the dead, but also “One Dark Night” as MVD Visual, under the MVD Rewind Collection, strike a deal with Code Red to utilize their OOP transfer and bonus materials for a new re-release Blu-ray hitting retail shelves this Tuesday, August 24th! The 1080p high definition transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio speckled nicely with natural, pleasant looking reel grain. Like the Code Red special edition release, plenty of details shine through the delicate rendering that can be image wispy at times. Loads of superficial damage – frame scratches, edge flare ups, rough editing cuts, smudges – can’t go unnoticed, but these blemishes don’t hinder much as the scenes are more transitional during the setup to the big mortuary finale. What differs from Code Red’s DTS-HD 2.0 mix is thee English language LPCM 2.0 mono mix that still lightly treads with subdued effect, much like the Code Red release. Dialogue can sound muffled with popping landing just under the surface and bubbling up during dialogue scenes. Still, the audio track stands it’s ground by clearly rendering every dialogue, effect, and soundtrack without question. English subtitles are also available. You want bonus features? You got’em! Interviews with director Tom McLoughlin, actress Elizabeth Daily, actress Nancy Mott, cinematographer Hal Trussell, production designer Craig Stearns, producer Michael Schroeder, and special effects crew member Paul Clemens are all individualized for maximum recollection tidbits and factoids. There’s also audio commentaries by McLoughlin and Schroeder as well as McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. Plus, we also graced with McLoughlin’s director’s cut, a standard definition, unfinished, work print version in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that shows the director’s true take on the narrative before producers ultimately decided to go another route…behind his back nonetheless. Behind-the-scenes footage, Paul Clemens photo gallery, and original theatrical trailer round out the disc bonus content while the physical release comes with a retro-take card board slipcover, reversible cover art, and a collectible mini poster inside the case liner. If you’re a fan of Euro-horror, “One Dark Night” embodies the very soul of the Lucio Fulci and Michele Saovi supernatural archetype sewn seamlessly into an inescapable and hopeless dance with the gnarly energies of the stoic dead.

Pre-order “One Dark Night” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Sharks? Who Gives A Sh*t About Sharks When EVIL Clowns Storm In! “Clownado” reviewed!


A sadistic carny ringmaster and his troupe of malicious clowns put on a traveling circus act through the America midwest. When an unfaithful lover challenges the powerful lout, he and his painted-face company exact a punitive act against her for all the crowd to see and enjoy and in bitter return, the scorned woman invokes a witch’s spell to summons evil forces to pluck the ringmaster and his clown lackeys up into an unordinary whirlwind. Trapped inside a super storm, the clowns use their newfound and unintentional given powers to funnel a tornado for spreading massive destruction through their cyclonic path of vengeance, terrifying a handful of ensemble midwestern survivors to fight back against the merciless and murderous clowns.

Clowns are so hot right now. From the success of Stephen King’s “It” remake and the subsequent sequel to the re-emergence of Batman’s notorious foe, “Joker”, in a controversial origin film, the carnivalesque buffoons are at the height of their inhuman malevolency since the late 1980’s saw Jack Nicholson donned the makeup as a crazed lunatic with a penchant for nerve gas and extraterrestrial clowns invaded Earth to harvest people and snack on their blood. Adding director Todd Sheets into this era of clown renaissance and outcomes the carny carnage gore fest, “Clownado,” straight from the big top. As an obvious pun on the “Sharknado” franchise, the “Dreaming Purple Neon” and “Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death” director pens and helms another blood drenched, apocalyptic, cine-schlock of callous proportions and unparalleled in content funded by Sheet’s production company, Extreme Entertainment. With a production company tagline of Movies with Guts, Sheets makes good on his delivery with an up close and personal spew of geysering blood sprays, severed gushing limbs, and guts, lots of guts, that’ll run any clown’s makeup red while dousing each feature with action and fun.

How do you hire a cast to garb themselves as maniacal clowns, have them portray being supernaturally charged with meteorological phenomena, and wreak havoc down from the heavens with a tornado vessel just to rip people to shreds all the while laughing their heads off? Easy. You employ the entourage familiar with your brand of Mccobb! John O’Hara, Antwoine Steele, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Rachel Lagen, Jeremy Todd, Millie Milan, Nate Karny Cole, Douglas Epps, and others have worked previously with Sheets in these flicks, but not limited to: “Sleepless Nights,” “Dreaming Purple Neon”,” “Bonehill Road,” and “House of Forbidden Secrets.” Mix to blend some well churned budget horror talent, such as “Return of the Living Dead’s” Linea Quigley as an angst-y bar/strip club owner and “Brainjacked’s” Joel D. Wynkoop as a fearless flyboy, an already colossal cast becomes an gargantuan cogency of tacit talent and to top it off, how about an former porn star amputee? Jeanne Silver, or better known in the industry as Long Jeanne Silver of “Debbie Does Dallas Part II”, bewitches the screen as the spellbound caster and she didn’t even have to penetrate anyone with your missing fibula of a leg. The one actor that really sought the affable nature in us all is Bobby Westrick with the charming redneck Hunter Fedelis. Westrick, who hasn’t been in a movie since Todd Sheets’ “Goblin” back in 1993, returns in 2019 to be one-time alcoholic lowlife to a world savior from clown devastation; Hunter’s an overall gentlemen despite his straggly, rough appearance and beat up old straw cowboy hat and doesn’t live one person behind while also befriend a black man impersonating Elvis Presley in town has unexpressed racial prejudice. The cast also includes Sierra Stodden, Eileen Dietz, and a Cayt Feinics who seemed to just love caressing her blood soused breasts more than the next woman.

I get what Todd Sheets has erected here being the ringmaster of a dementedly dissension in the circus of blood. The capitalizing idea of clowns twirling and terrorizing through a maelstrom flash of fluorescent, like of SyFy sharks in that popular six installment franchise, is indie kitschiness at it’s finest and couldn’t be more perfectly timed after the release of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker.” “Clownado” is a fun windstorm of gore and carnival surrealism. Sheets continues to deliver as promised per his production company and is still able to sustain relationships with his usual clowns – such as my stoic favorite, Antwoine Steele, and his role dressed arbitrarily as the King of Rock and Roll – while providing chuckles, sparks, and bimbos galore and, no, I don’t mean clown names. With any Todd Sheets production, the practical effects are innovative and dastardly with highlights including breasts with teeth instead of nipples, heart replacement surgery with a block of ice, and head explosions!

MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing doesn’t clown around with Todd Sheets’ “Clownado” that lands onto DVD home video in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In light of microbudget limits, the digitally shot film has some issues, such as color banding, and then there’s also the visual effects that come straight out of the stock footage file and then matted over with assertion on the first run; however, Todd Sheets been doing this for decades and I’m sure if the director wanted his production and post-production to be first rate, he’d be like Picard and make it so. Yet, disappointments are a part of life and the biggest disappointment by far is the over saturation of purple tint to lay down an ominous killer vibe throughout the night scenes of the 99minute run and the tint completely dilutes the vivid face paint, or in the clowns’ case war paint, and also turns blood into a black and magenta farcical gas. The English language audio 2.0 stereo track, complete with closed captioning available, has great clarity and often doesn’t seem as tumultuous as would be expected. The mic had on point placement to hone in on every wisecrack and pun known to clown-kind. Bonus features include a commentary track with Todd Sheets, behind the scenes, a featurette entitled “The Human Hurricane, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. From a meteorologist standpoint, weathering through “Clownado” might be a downpour of rubbish, but for those who live vicariously through Todd Sheets’ repertoire of campy, no-budget, gore films, “Clownado” is a beautiful black-comedy day for a stroll.

Purchase Clownado on DVD!

Comic Book Vigilante Takes on Evil! “Robot Ninja” review!


The television adapted bastardization of his beloved illustrated Robot Ninja leaves comic book artist Lenny Miller with a bad taste in his mouth. His disgust with the direction angers him to part ways with the project, leaving the televised rights in the hands of a careless and uninspired studio crews and execs, but that won’t stop Miller’s creative juggernaut of the captivatedly violent, robot vigilante. Inspiration takes heart-rending form when Miller happens upon a roadside abduction and rape of a young couple where his attempt at a rescue ends tragic with the couple being brutally murdered and him severely injured, but with the help of his good inventor friend, Dr. Goodnight, the frustrated comic-book artist becomes the Robot Ninja, just as depicted in his comics, with a vengeful plan to hunt down the assailants and put a bloody end to their wrongdoing reign of terror. A good first night out ends with one thug dead and an ego boost for Miller, but Robot Ninja’s actions don’t deterrent crime and, in fact, crime hits back hard when not only Robot Ninja becomes the target, but also his friend Dr. Goodnight and innocent bystanders.

“Robot Ninja” is part one of an unintentional two part review segment about directors disowning their own cinematic handy work for X, Y, or Z reasons and while “Robot Ninja” was initially discarded by “Dead Next Door” writer-director J.R. Bookwalter due to poor post production that was essentially out of the filmmaker’s hands and a work print negative thought to have been lost for eternity, Tempe Entertainment foresaw the awesome potential for the late 80’s automaton avenger in an dual format ultimate edition after a unearthed work print surfaced and back into the Bookwalter’s hand to mend and correct his sophomore feature film! Forget Iron Man. Ignore Captain America. Incredible Hulk who? “Robot Ninja” is one of the only true comic book heroes from illustrations to to take a stand against crime passionately and not because if you have great power, there’s great responsibility.

Robot Ninja is the epitome of the combo character that could sway into either hero from the 1980’s, like in Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop” and Amir Shervan’s “Samurai Cop,” or could even swerve straight up into the villain category though I have no examples floating around near the inner layers of my cerebral cortex, but the Robot Ninja bordered the very blurry gray lines of anti-hero status whether intentionally or not from the perspective you examine. The Robot Ninja character potentially could have set fire to the combo character direct-to-video cult underworld, but fell rather hard and flat on its face in the deadfall of the netherworld instead. None of film’s flaws or woes never sat its hampering weight upon the goldilocks graced shoulders of Michael Todd, who portrayed the clawed hand titular character. Todd’s enthusiasm for the role is beyond necessary, a real A for effort, into powering on Lenny Miller’s illustrated crime combatant. Lenny, aka Robot Ninja, vows to destroy, or rather disembowel, the local gang led by the ruthless Gody Sanchez, a she-devil aimed to please only one person – herself. Maria Markovic, another actor that’s in J.R. Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” circle, find herself in the antagonistic role in one of her sole two credits. Markovic’s acting chops are about as stiff as a board, but being surrounded by the right kind of thugs in James Edwards (“Bloodletting”), Bill Morrison (“Ozone”), Jon Killough (“Skinned Alive”), Rodney Shields, and Michael ‘D.O.C.’ Porter, Gody Sanchez is able to achieve par-level black heartedness. “Robot Ninja” round-kicks an uppercut class of actors such as Floyd Ewing Jr., Michael Kemper, the original Dick Grayson Burt Ward (“Batman” television series), the one and only Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), one of Sam Raimi’s entourage buddies Scott Spiegel, and Bogdan Pecic and the good Dr. Goodnight.

Without doubt, “Robot Ninja” was destined for the direct-to-video market and the quality of work obviously shows, but with flaws aside, the obscure 79 minute feature still manages to be a part of Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” universe full of gore, violence, and a distain for human nature despite briefly disavowing “Robot Ninja’s” mucked up existence for years. Subtempeco EFX, comprised of David Lange, Bill Morrison, and Joe Contracer, don’t exactly go cheap when Robot Ninja’s dual blades pierce and pop eye balls inside the skull of some punk or when Lenny’s patching up his injuries without as much flinching in pain, the open, surely is infected wound just pulsates with exploded flesh and blood. Bookwalter’s direction is hazy at times around the beginning with the dynamic between Lenny and his publisher that feels stagnant and irrelevant; however, the comic book scenes interwoven into the meatiest part of the story, the Robot Ninja action, is remarkably cool for a late 80’s budget gas.

Tempe Entertainment have outdone themselves with the region free ultimate edition DVD and Blu-ray combos set of “Robot Ninja” with a “painstakingly” restored 2k film scan from the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative and presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture is night and day compared to previous VHS and DVD releases that underwhelm director J.R. Bookwalter’s vision. The vast color palette of various lighting and color schemes during the dream sequences have been gracefully corrected and the contrast has been restored to lighten up the much of the darker, almost unwatchable scenes. Good looking and unobtrusive natural grain from the 16mm stock and the re-edit makes a difference that finally seems cuts together without causing some confusion. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound is entirely new construction from Bookwalter and the lossless tracks have ample range and depth, balanced nicely throughout, and have little-to-no distortion or other imperfections. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. A slew of bonus material on both formats include audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films, producer David DeCoteau, James L. Edwards, Scott Plummer, David Lange, David Barton, Doug Tilly and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmare. J.R. Bookwalter also has a 21 minute segment about the whole start-to-finish journey with restoring “Robot Ninja,” a Linnea Quigley retrospect on her small role experience in the film, an interview with Scott Spiegel, a location tour with Benjamin Bookwalter, “The Robot Ninja” fan film from 2013 with introduction by director Johnny Dickie, artwork and promotional material, behind the scenes gallery, production stills, “Robot Ninja” unmasked featurette, rough cut outtakes, TV show promo, newscast outtakes, the original VHS release trailer, and Tempe trailers, plus much more. Lets not also forget to mention the stunning cover art by Alex Sarabia, Carol Chable, and David Lange and a new title sequence also by David Lange. Tempe Entertainment’s ultimate edition of “Robot Ninja” is a thing of beauty that should be seen by all who love campy, Sci-Fi horror flicks with grisly skirmishes and intense tragedy in every corner. The restoration work “Robot Ninja” is founded on absolute love, a rare concept seen for direct-to-video features so you know this film must be something special – a true redemption story.

Restored "Robot Ninja" on DVD!