Expectations Lead to EVIL in “The Cool Lakes of Death” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

Set in the early 1900s, Hedwig’s childhood is filled with love, wealth, and innocence, but when her mother dies suddenly at the hands of typhoid, life turns complicated as death, draconian religious teachings, and an uncompassionate home clouds Hedwig’s mind on what exactly her relationship with men and with God should look like.  Punished for self-pleasure and scolded for her belief in fantasies, Hedwig enters adulthood as a conformist seeking to marry a well off man and have children in what was supposed to be the perfect union that reveals in sexuality the secret to marriage.  Prim and proper on the outside but a child on the inside, Hedwig misjudges her affairs with men and indulges in a pretense relationship with them.   When she finally finds happiness with a renowned pianist and the two have a child together, Hedwig’s hold on reality snaps as the child dies a few days later, sending the once elegant Hedwig into a tailspin of unhinged mental stability, drug addiction, and prostitution. 

“The Cool Lakes of Death” is the adapted film based off the Netherlands novel from the dual profession novelist and psychiatrist, Frederik van Eeden, entitled Van de koele meren des doods, which closely translates to “The Deeps of Deliverance,” a psychological period piece and melodrama with themes on the antiquated God-fearing expectations of a 19th century young woman, the solidity of marital unions, and a woman’s sexual liberation.  “The Cool Lakes of Death” is the follow up directorial from “A Woman Like Eve” director, Nouchka van Brakel,” off a screenplay written also by Brakel and co-written with Ton Vorstenbosch.  The exquisite tragedy of a woman submerged in societal misconceptions of love that can’t be forced and the mutuality of pleasures is yet another Dutch production from producer Matthijs van Heijningen and his company Sigma Film Productions, who have overseen a handful of Brakel films including “The Debut” and “A Woman Like Eve.”

Understanding the mixed emotions of a young girl in the throes of self-discovery, with a pinch for the dramatic flair, Renée Soutendijk gives a prismatic performance, glistened in a stringent social dogma, of hope and pity.  The Netherlands actress, who had the role of Miss Huller in the 2018 “Suspiria” remake, the inundated Hedwig, friends call her Hetty, who has inexhaustible amount of hope in her search for passion, but insurmountable roadblocks and obstacles corrupt Hetty’s mental processor.  Soutendijk’s elegance has a soft innocence to it, a naïve virtue that contrasts bleakly against the subtle and not so subtle influencers of Hetty’s life and Soutendijk really opens our eyes when Hetty’s full blown crazy in a clear and precise moment of snapping her rationality like a dried and brittle twig.  The performance digs at you and Brakel exploits the worst (good cinematically) parts of Hetty’s break that has her be a wild, naked woman thrashing, spitting, and puking in a locked room of a psyche ward, injecting needles into her arm night after night after selling her body to unscrupulous men, or even stuffing her newborn baby into a duffel bag and heads off to sea to search for her husband Gerard, a subdued, appearance concerned gay man that never cared physically for Hetty, played by Adriaan Olree in his debut performance.  Hetty comes across two other lovers; one a flyby and compassionate artist Johan (Erik van ‘t Wout), who would have matched her passion, but not her social status, and, eventually, she finds much of what she seeks in a renowned concert pianist Ritsaart (Derek de Lint, “When A Stranger Calls” remake), who refuses to admit their relationship in fear of scandal and ruin of his career.  Along the way, Hetty listens more to her blinded heart than she does her logical mind when intaking sound advice from advocates of her wellbeing as Ritsaart’s best friend Joop (Peter Faber, “A Woman Like Eve”), her best friend Leonora (Kristine de Both), and a hospital nun (Claire Wauthion) attempt to steer her toward a happier existence. 

I really can’t get enough of Hetty unable to secure her ideal happiness.  That might sound a little inconsiderate but what is a perfect relationship?  Brakel explores how an sought ideal can turn into a damaging expedition for the white whale.  Instead of being the ill-fated, hellbent Captain Ahab, Hetty’s land based monomaniacal drive of fairytale love becomes her ultimate downfall, sinking her deeper into the depths of despair, loneliness, and a cataclysmic separation from reality.  Gerard wasn’t perfect because he secretly longed for men, Johan didn’t have the right social stature for a lady of her status, and Ritsaart kept their love hidden below the public eye.  There’s a quite a bit of feminism loitering around in that last statement with a touch of selfishness to no fault of Hetty’s and all circulate back to some sort of suppression whether it’s sexually or emotionally umbrellaed by patriarchal doctrine, discourse, and discipline.  The culture toxicity is so severe that the older generation of women are beguiled by it’s power to be controlling others themselves under the thumb of a male-dictated society as we see in Hetty’s Governess in tattling on her pupil’s every move to her wimp of a widowed father.  “The Cool Lakes of Death” is a beautiful disaster in almost a sing-songy narrative delivered by director Nouchka van Brakel’s mighty delicate touch. 

For the first time in North America and single in a trilogy of Nouchka van Brakel releases from Cult Epics, as well as in a trilogy boxset, the 1982 downcast drama “The Cook Lakes of Death,” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray home video.  The New 4k High-Def transfer is scanned from the original 35mm negative with an impeccable and nearly blemish-free restoration.  The film is presented in the European matted widescreen, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, with plenty of good looking natural grain and a softer image in the trashy romance first act then to a harsher, grittier quality during the time of her ruin under the eye of Theo van de Sande who ventured from the Netherlands to the U.S. later in his career and worked on Joe Dante’s “The Hole,” “Little Nicky,” and “Blade.”  A couple of whip pans into deep focus shots enrich the production, a technique that has served Sande in his later work.  The Dutch language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossy audio is as good as this title will ever see without an actiony framework.  Dialogue is completely discernible with well synched English subtitles.  A few pops in the span but no major damage to the audio to speak about in length.  Soundtrack has barrier moments of muffled penetration.  Not too many special features to touch upon with the theatrical trailer, a poster and sill gallery, a 1982 newsreel unearthed from the Polygoon Journal archive, and a reversible Blu-ray cover. “The Cool Lakes of Death” is young and naïve adolescence transitioning into womenhood only to be tripped up every step of the way; Hetty’s eager to blossom turns to withering as the underdog in life’s kennel and Brakel’s purificatory rite of passage beautifully disembowels hope and dreams in a dreamy fashion until finding faith in life come full circle, well almost, in commencing with both feet standing into adulthood.

“The Cool Lakes of Death” on Blu-ray Home Video at Amazon.com

The Myth. The Legend. The Evil…. “Leatherface” review!


Texas 1955 – the pride of the Sawyer family was not their tattered farm, but a bloodline taste for something else – callous murder and a penchant for human flesh. Verna Sawyer sought to instill that pride into her children, especially her youngest, Jed, but when Hal Hartman, hard nose local Sheriff, learns that his daughter becomes victim of the Sawyer’s suspect nefarious carnage, he executes the law to his advantage, deeming the Sawyer house unfit for children and removes Jed from his labeled degenerate mother Verna. Ten years later, a group of teenage patients escape a mental hospital, kidnap a young nurse, and reek bloody havoc in their voyage to Mexico in an attempt to elude the very same lawman who put them away, but this time, Hartman isn’t adhering to the law, straying off his moral compass to pursue a vengeance mission against unprincipled youth that’s personally driven by Jed and the Sawyer family. Once the embattled Hartman catches up with his prey, a series of gruesome events lead to the creation and the construction of one of the most notorious killers Texas will ever see.

I love a good origin story. There’s something to be said about understanding the commencement of character, to be in the shoes of a long running icon, and to be able to sympathize with their story no matter how atrocious. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2017 “Leatherface” does just that with the film’s own origin enlightenment on how the chainsaw wielding, human skin mask wearing psychopath came to fruition inside a home of unspeakable brutality and influenced externally by a unforgiving society. From a script penned by Seth M. Sherwood, “Leatherface,” serving as a direct prequel to Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” briefly touches upon the preteen years to setup the catalytic road trip from hell, birthing a monster in a time of adolescence and if part of a legacy spanning over forty decades inspired by Ed Gein, the real life human skin wearing and notorious serial killer, then you damn well know “Leatherface” has to be genetically predisposed to be ultra-violent drenched in blood splatter. The French filmmaking duo, who’ve helmed 2007’s “Inside” and had directed the “Xylophone” segment in “The ABCs of Death 2,” nail the dark and gritty tone that not only breathes a gassy and exhaust fumed life into a massive flesh-ripping chainsaw, but also inflicts heartlessness across the story board into a heartfelt homage to the characters and to the story fathered by Kim Henkel and the late Tobe Hooper, both of whom were attached as executive producers.

Over the years, many actors have held the mammoth power-drive cutting tool in their hand that’s ready to chip away at flesh such as Andrew Bryniarski (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 2003 remake), Bill Johnson (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”) and, most famously, Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface. However, I’m not going to divulge who the pubescent Leatherface is in the story because the film plays out as a who out of the group of degenerate teens is the son of Verna Sawyer, even though you can easily obtain the information in a simple click and search on Google. Instead, Sam Strike, James Bloor, and Sam Coleman portray the three escapees who are accompanied by an equally insane sociopath in Jessica Madsen and an eagerly novice kidnapped nurse by Vanessa Grasse. Amongst a sea of English actors are a pair of vets to shepherd the young cast and be the embattled bookends to the dawn of an icon. Lili Taylor (“The Haunting”) and Stephen Dorff (“Blade”) face off as Leatherface’s mother, Verna Sawyer, who butts horns with a longstanding sheriff, Hal Hartman, with a steadfast vendetta against the Sawyer family. Christopher Adamson (“Razor Blade Smile”), Nathan Cooper (“Day of the Dead: Bloodline”), and Finn Jones (“Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines”) co-star.

Usually with a pair of directors, two different styles spawn to an end result. With Bustillo and Maury, styles merge into a seamless effort of elegant wonders. Each shot emerges a purpose to the story whether it’s painting an image of the Sawyer’s death house to pulling a one-eighty with characters, the filmmakers ability to combine each element into a single story, that has such a close knit cult following, and still manage to cinematically pull off the atmosphere, the grit, and the gory carnage of a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film is impressive. Cinematographer Antoine Sainer, whose worked previously with the directing duo on the “The ABCs of Death 2’s” segment “X,” has the ever so poised eye that’s able to well-round and solidify Leatherface’s terror tenor, particular exampled in a foot chase scene through a moonlit forest, smoke bellowing out of a growling chainsaw, and a tattered young girl bawling, screaming, and fleeing for her life from a deranged masked killer whose huffing, snarling, and growling during the pursuit.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment presents the Millennium Films produced “Leatherface” onto Blu-ray + Ultra-violet combo disc, a MPEG-4 AVC encoded disc with a 1080p resolution and presented in a widescreen, 2.38:1, aspect ratio that displays the Bulgaria landscape in a yellowish-brown, Texas-like backdrop. Details are noticeably fine that exquisitely reveal the death and destruction of the Sawyers and those who unfortunately surround the family. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track evenly distributes and consistently a range of engrossing fidelity, ambient, and dialogue layers. Bonus material includes a play feature with an alternate ending that’s less superior in contrast to the final product, deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes making of that includes brief interviews with directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, actors Sam Strike, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, and others, and goes behind the scenes in creating the tone and style of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” while implementing their own vision. “Leatherface” forces the unsavory and unpleasant down the throats of TCM fans, jamming an attempt to exposition a futile chance to a destined maniac of cannibalistic proportions and manages to mix up the Tobe Hooper’s weathered franchise with a barbaric bruiser of a tale.

“Leatherface” on Blu-ray! Buy it here, today!

A Nightclub Owner is One Evil Bloodthirsty Bootlegger! “Bloodrunners” review!

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In 1933, the heart of prohibition-era regulation, a corrupt Southampton, New Jersey police department shakedown the illegal alcohol distilleries and bootleggers, forcing establishments to cough up payment for police protection. Chesterfields, the hip new brass club in the sleepy town, falls into the sights of enforcement officers, an alcoholic with post-war issues, Jack Malone and his partner Sam, who want the club owner, a ruthless black bandleader named Chester, to pay for his establishment’s booze sales and bootlegging, but Chester, and his conspicuously strange henchmen, are more than just bootlegging booze runners. The nightclub is a front for a vampire den that’s draining, bottling, and shipping the blood of Southampton residents and master vampire, Chester, operates the business with his human associate, Victor Renfield. An invasion of bloodsucking gangsters seep into the affairs of not only Jack Malone’s baffled police department, but also into the resident brothel that homes Jack’s longtime beloved lover, Rosie. Only Jack, the deranged town priest, and Willie, a boy caught in the middle, stand in between the corrupt, yet still innocent, souls of Southampton and the terrorizing dark forces that scratch at the town’s door.
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Hybrid genre film “Bloodrunners” blends a spin of classic tale vampirism with early 20th-century gangsters that concocts a bad batch of cinematic bamboozlement. Filmed in West Chester and Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, director Dan Lantz, who helmed adult film star Alexis Texas in “Bloodlust Zombies,” does construct a marvelous speakeasy, prohibition-era world out of the greater Philadelphia region’s most popular and historical locations. From the period piece costuming to the acquisition of an antique 1921 Ford Model A car, Lantz’s ability to build a story around such facets on pocket-sized finances that help bring 80 years past back to the present can certainly compete with settings of many big-budgeted Hollywood productions. Being a previous recent resident of West Chester, the landscape was convincingly alien to this reviewer. Co-star Michael McFadden co-wrote the script with Lantz and, together, they input a girth of 1920s to 1930s terminology and slang into a script that can’t quite coherently string along a narrative that works under cut and dry filmmaking involving anemic mains characters.
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Alongside McFadden, the “Law & Order: SVU,” or rather from one of my personal favorite films from 1994 entitled “Surviving the Game” co-starring Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer, star Ice-T takes on being a master, bootlegging vampire when he’s not busting heads of pedophiles on the streets of New York City. Ice-T maintains a hip hop persona that doesn’t translate well toward the 1930’s, but the legendary gangsta rapper has kept the hip hop schtick throughout this career and never in a hundred roles, eighty-seven credited roles to be exact, would I imagine Ice-T to break from a moneymaking image. Like his co-star, McFadden comforts himself in familiar roles that pigeonholes his career made up of authoritative figures such as cops or gangsters with examples including being a gangster in Fox’s hit television series, the Batman spinoff “Gotham” and also portraying the notorious real life gangster, Jimmy Hoffa, in the upcoming Tigre Hill film “American Zealot.” Then, there’s Philadelphia native Peter Patrikios. Patrikios’ phenomenal take on the iconic Renfield character is a break in the monotony highlight, reviving Renfield back to a sophisticated right hand man instead of a relapsing bumbling aid for his master’s whims of daylight chores and being more memorable than the “Bloodrunners'” main headliners. Airen DelaMater, Chris James Boylan, Julie Elk, Kerry McGann, Jack Hoffman, John Groody, and Dan McGlaughlin round up “Bloodrunners'” roster.
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When attempting to examine “Bloondrunners'” vampiric special effects, only this descriptive phrase comes to the forefront of my mind: “Bloodrunners” pits vampire gangsters against crooked cops in a “Matrix” styled, slow-motion action-horror. While that sounds rather exciting, selling these particular creatures of the night didn’t enlighten a firm stance that the modern vampire is alive (well, technically undead) and well. Instead, the Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden story stays the routine course that fills the overstuffed and out of control vampire barrel that desperately requires genre damage control from the first moment a scofflaw vamp enters the scene. Vampire action films haven’t been popular since “Blade,” unless adapted to television as in the case of FX’s “The Strain,” and “Bloodrunners” doesn’t fit the bill, boozing in as a blasphemous contemporary day vampire film.
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Paoli, PA based production company Impulse-FX delivers Dan Lantz’s latest schlock horror “Bloodrunners” with Speakeasy Films releasing the film out to the world and landing on retail shelves March 7th. The trailer held promise with vigorous action stamina, but, in the end, just turned out to be a well-edited trailer for an action-horror-thriller that needed a touch of stability in the story. Portions of the story are deemed absolutely unnecessary to motivate the characters or are place mats interjected to connect characters, such as Jack Malone’s encounter with a specific German vampire who just coincidently happens to be one of the henchmen in Ice-T’s vampire gang. The Speakeasy Films dual format 2-disc, Blu-ray and DVD combo, presents the film 1080p widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio in which the Blu-ray is on a AVC 26Mps disc. The image was a bit shaky under the compression, fizzing at times, more so during darker scenes, that outlined compression artifacts that remarked upon lighter shades of grey and black. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fine through the 95 minute runtime. Jack Malone’s raspy gangster voice doesn’t become muddled and Ice-T’s epic hip hop swag comes through without even a hitch. The soundtracks fades in and out quite a bit over the LFE, during the “Matrix” slow-motion, that leaves much unbalanced when the soundtrack becomes warranted. Bonus features are nice, including a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, filmmakers commentary, and an official trailer. In conclusion, “Bloodrunners” teeters on the edge of being a full bodied beverage that never really carbonates into a high-alcoholic contestant in being a good, modern day vampire thriller.

Watch “Bloodrunners” on Amazon Prime!

Decadent Evil Takes the Form of Two Blood-Sucking Lesbians! “Vampyres” review!


A dense English forest surrounding a decaying manor house sets as the hunting playground for a pair of seductive female vampires, Fran and Miriam, who have reigned a disconcerting terror through the area’s local inhabitants. When Fran lures and imprisons a touristing male as her bloodletting sexual hostage, Miriam believes Fran is diverging into a dangerous game of simply playing with her food for too long. Miriam proves to be right when a trio of campers stumble upon the vampires’ manor lair, causing a fair amount of distraction when the three friends attempt to uncover the secrets of the area and the myths of the house that will expose the true and terrifying nature of the two vampires. A mistake the three may wish they never would have made.
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“Vampyres” is a Victor Matellano 2015 rendition of the 1974 José Ramón Larraz directed abundantly sensual, over sadomasochistic vampire film of the same title but also known as “Vampyres: Daughters of Darkness.” Matellano’s remake faithfully follows the original storyline and with the assistance of Larraz himself tacked on as a credited writer, Matellano was able to keenly hone in on the ambient tone and the graphic slaughtering display the story necessarily requires to quench it’s own thirst for blood. Let’s also not forget the sex, the sex, and the sex that absolutely sinks it’s teeth into of most scenes. Long time has passed since the rebirth of an erotic creature of the night; a plague of mindless ferocity has been the modern vampire. From “Blade” to “The Strain” to one of the more recent reviews of an independent film in “Black Water Vampire,” a dark cloud of a deformed and mutated species of bloodsuckers have been more popular with the masses. Matellano’s “Vampyres” is a love song to the erotic European vampire that’s powerfully seductive, classically gothic, and simply pure blooded with two fantastic femme fatales.
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Underneath the dark and ominous cloaks are the beautifully succulent Marta Flich and Almudena León as blood fiend lovers Fran and Miriam. Flich and León have a combined total of 5 feature length films between them, including “Vampyres,” but where the duo lack in experience, Flich and León thrive with their onscreen chemistry that delivers an piercing intensity with a dynamic blend of softcore porn and tantalizing terror as if they’re real life lovers with a real life knack for killing. León has previously worked with Victor Matellano under the Spanish director’s prior horror film, 2014’s “Wax,” and their relationship growth comes whole with the addition of Marta Flich, a buxom brunette willing to savor every moment and put forth every effort into some extremely difficult scenes. No two women can make gore sexier than Flich and León.
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Vampires Fran and Mirian heavily overshadow the remaining characters consisting of actors such as Verónica Polo, Anothony Rotsa, Victor Vidal, Christian Stamm, and Fele Martinez who, as a whole, do a fine job performing in this rekindled niche of horror. To add a bit of flare and to help “Vampyres” stick out from above other remakes involving an slew of unknown faces, “Dracula A.D. 1972” and Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’s” Caroline Munro and “Tombs of the Blind Dead’s” Lone Fleming have more than cameo appearances, providing familiar genre faces fans know and are attached to when riding along the reminiscing train from the era of which this film’s story is birthed. Munro and Fleming are also accompanied by other genre vets including “Zombie Lake’s” Antonio Mayans, Concrado San Martín from “The Awful Dr. Orlof,” and Hilda Fuchs and the late May Heatherly from 1980’s “Pieces.”
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Visually, “Vampyres” dotes as cinematography worthiness in being a European inspired film from a Spanish production by not being flashy but rather grim and simple. Using elementary special effect techniques, “Matellano” doesn’t cheapen an already intentional trashy vampire schlock film with story stiffening CGI; instead, buckets of blood and practical effects elevate the aspiration toward the resemblance of a 1970’s inspired story complete with broken English performances. Set locations are purposefully vanilla, including a plain small bedroom with white sheets overtop a simple bed frame, a bleak forest inhabited with thin trees, and an isolated manor with middle life bones standing lifeless in the woods, and with key shots staged with vivid conventional colors, such as the bathtub scene that’s feels very clean even with the amount of blood used, and the cellar finale that’s very subtle in it’s background even if it’s the root motivation for the vampires.
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“Vampyres” is one of the best remakes there is, there ever was, and there ever will be by staying faithful to the Larraz’s original film and Artsploitation Films should be basking in the fresh, warm blood of their latest and greatest release. José Ignacio Arrufat’s brooding score seizes to snare the soul from the well balanced Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound mix laid over a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. With a slight tilt toward a darker variation on the grayscale, the overall picture is clean and unhindered and even though stark colors don’t run throughout, the bland coloring provides richer qualities toward a excellent homage. One thing is for sure, blood red is the only vivid hue here. Bonus features include an Interview with Caroline Munro, a making of the “Vampyres,” and trailer reels of Artsploitation Films films. The modern masses can have their disease-ridden vampire genres for the very fact that director Victor Matellano’s “Vampyres” entices with an alluring butchery based on fundamental foundations of European horror values and endearment, resurrecting the erotic vampire once again!

Buy “Vampyres” on October 18th. Just in time for Halloween!