Don’t Let Evil Give You The Shaft! “Down” review!


One of New York City’s popular skyscrapers, the Millennial Building, is a modern marvel with 102 floors sought to be visited by national and international tourists, looking to reach the zenith and take a once-in-a-lifetime, awe inspiring gander across the Big Apple’s urban jungle landscape or seeking to be a working stiff inside the immaculate bones of the building’s historical foundation. Every day, thousands of visitors and employees ride the Millennial Building’s 73 elevators, assuming the safest ride possible to the touch the bottom of the sky, but when a deranged scientist implements a controversial biomedical computer into the building’s elevator vascular network, one tragic accident after another compiles fatal consequences within the vertical box that draws negative national attention. Elevator mechanic Mark Newman teams up with a rebellious newspaper reporter Jennifer Evans to investigate and uncover the a larger-than-life conspiracy behind a killer elevator organism.

Over three decades ago, Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas wrote, directed, and released the killer elevator film, simply titled “De Lift,” in the Netherlands. About 18 years later after his commercial success for “De Lift,” Mass spawned an American remake of the film entitled “Down,” also known as “The Shaft,” that transformed into the forgotten bastard when compared to Maas’ 1983 feature. To be frankly, “Down’s” terror-comedy knack with spunky characters and zany deaths put the 2001 remake right smack dab at the top of the repeat value charts and despite the lack of rigorous plausibility, the refreshingly no-holds barred, fun zone horror film doesn’t think twice, charging forward with gun blazing in an elevator ride to cinematic hell that shows no mercy and gives not one single care with each surpassing floor level. Be damned the backstory with meager exposition! Be damned the underdeveloped characters who are pivotal to the plot! Be damned the complexities of how the biomedical elevator system is able to live, breath, and reproduce through murder and mayhem! “Down” has a black and white, up and down glory that’s considered b-horror good that’s very reminiscent of the early films of Peter Jackson.

If you’re going to remake a killer elevator film, go big with the cast and Mass surely pulled through by signing cult genre stars of the time. Naomi Watts was just coming into the mainstream scene as she tackled well-received projects around that same time frame between David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” and “The Ring” a year later, but the “Tank Girl” actress showed more than just her aesthetic assets, more than just shrieking horrific screams, and more than just displaying her big guns. In “Down,” she proved to be a gung-ho, rough-it-with-the-boys portrayer of a feisty reporter whose hot on the trail of a conspiracy helmed by surreptitious characters played Michael Ironside, who did not lose an arm in this film like he does in “Total Recall,” “Starship Troopers,” and “The Machinist,” and Ron Pearlman (“Hellboy,” “Cronos”). However, James Marshall, in the lead as the elevator mechanic, couldn’t ratchet tight a performance that called for concern and durability; instead, Marshall, known for playing James Hurley in “Twin Peaks,” schlepped clumsily on screen compared to the aggressively hungry Watts. Eric Thal (“The Puppet Masters”), Dan Hedaya (“Alien: Resurrection”), Edward Herrmann (“The Lost Boys”), and Kathryn Meisle (“Basket Case 2”) round out the remaining cast.

“Down’s” commercial success was plunging disaster. Reasons ranging from a flimsy premise to being an unconventional horror to the genre were, more than likely, not the major players in “Down’s” inability to elevate an audience. More so, the reasons stem solely between one or two factors, if not both. For one, Maas writes New Yorkers as belligerent morons, cocky, greedy, and deranged. Many of the characters are like this and if there was any that embodied any sliver of rationality or humanitarian attributes, there screen time was quick and fruitless. Secondly, though “Down” released in the spring of 2001, a film set in a New York City high rise with multiple mentions of terrorists and even verbally conveying a foiled plot to take down the twin towers probably hurt the film’s home entertainment value to the point where a DVD release didn’t surface until a good two years after the theatrical premiere.

Aside from all the delays, harsh reviews, and a shoddily cropped Artisan DVD release, Blue Underground delivers a godsend presenting “Down” on Blu-ray/DVD combo. The 1080 HD on a BD 50 dual layer disc has a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and radiates with clarity; so clear, that I had a hard time placing the year as the image certainly outshines most turn of the century products. An immense amount of detail just exemplifies the extraordinary content without appearing as a discount deal for special effects. Audio options include an English and French 5.1 DTS-HD and an English and French Dolby Digital stereo with both including optional English SDH subtitles and Spanish subtitles. The amount of range is leaps and bounds beyond the Artisan’s par quality with the 5.1 channelling maximized quality and clarity. Dialogue track is clear and free from obstructions with the only stain being the horrendously dubbed diner jerk that punches James Marshall in the face, but that’s not necessary a make or break blemish. Bonus materials include audio commentary with writer-director Dick Maas and stunt coordinator Willem de Beukelaer, the making of “Down,” behind-the-scenes footage that’s exclusive to the Blu-ray, theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, and teaser trailers of upcoming releases. The casing itself harnesses a collectible booklet with new essays by Michael Gingold. “Down” finally shines through with a stellar release from Blue Underground, a leader in restoring and releasing cult films. If in the mood for a story without much thought while desiring to choke on out of this world terror-comedy then “Down” is a must on the upcoming marquee!

Own “Down” on Blu-ray!

In a Seemingly Fresh Corpose Lies a Legendary Evil.  “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” Review!


An unknown corpse of a young woman, found naked and half-buried in the basement of a home involved in a gruesome crime scene, is strolled into a small town family morgue and crematorium by a puzzled local sheriff.  Without any idea who this woman is and how to explain the her presence at the scene, the sheriff wants a cause of death on his Jane Doe as soon as possible and it’s up to Tommy and his son, Austin, to investigate what caused her demise and to determine her involvement in the grand scheme of the grisly events.  When the medical examiners begin to peel back the layers, each segment of the autopsy reveals impossible and unspeakable horrors underneath her cold flesh that go against their combined years of medical experience and the deeper they dig into her body, the more the autopsy room becomes a spine-tingling area as strange occurrences begin to happen to the father and son. Their only hope in stopping the ominous terrorizing presence and surviving the hell-bent stormy night is to continue the examination in order to unravel the enigma that surrounds Jane Doe.

“Troll Hunter” director André Øvredal helms a contemporary horror masterpiece with the Americana horror film,”The Autopsy of Jane Doe, that can be described as American folklore lit ablaze with modern day macabre that plays like a gruesome adult version of the children’s game Operation. Øvredal pulls inspiration from present day classical horror, including such films as the widely popular James Wan franchise, “The Conjuring,” by not embarking on an overkill journey of heavy duty effects or relying on gallons upon gallons of fake blood to sell his film. Instead, André Øvredal’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is patient, subtle, and massively creepy, utilizing the dated morgue and crematorium basement setting to construct a dreadful, despairing dungeon atmosphere and focus on being very particular with every scene having a function to take advantage of the overwhelming brooding aurora and pop scare moments that can scare the pants off a mannequin. Øvredal heightens moments of complete pin-drop silence to amplify the terror and plays with camera angles that linger longer to leave an unsettling residue pooled in a spine-tingled soul.

Not only is the Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing script palm-sweaty frightening, tack on A-list actors like Brian Cox (“Manhunter”) and Emile Hirsch (“Killer Joe”) as a father and son team pitted against a dead body and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” jumps up by tenfold as a must-see. Brian Cox is masterful as the widowed mortician whose numb to the pain of life and shock of work, making him a dedicated professional at uncovering the truth inside corpses, and he’s well companioned with Emile Hirsch, the mortician’s eagerly loving son and apprentice to the family business. The only problem is Austin doesn’t want to be a part of the family legacy, but is rooted by his continuously cloaked grieving father and you can see the struggle in Hirsch’s wish-washy character. The pair of veteran actors play off each other well being a medical super duo by conducting examination procedures and digging right into the corpse of dead, disfigured bodies like it’s just another day at the office. The gorgeous Olwen Catherine Kelly is dead on being a dead body. Though Kelly literally doesn’t move an inch for the entire runtime, her slim frame and blank facial expressions are truly haunting, if not also alluring to behold.

Immediately, my first impression of André Øvredal’s film had me stroll back to the past, nearly a decade a go to 2008, with the Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel thriller “Deadgirl.” The premise of the film told the story of two high school aged boys discovering a seemingly near dead young woman in an abandoned asylum; the dead girl being played by Jenny Spain.  Whereas each film have their separate horrific identities, their end games bare supernatural similarities. What also separates André Øvredal’s film from Sarmiento and Harel’s “Deadgirl” are the two protagonists; instead of two teen boys pulling hormonal hijinks on a motionless attractive female body, Tommy and Austin are strictly professional, focused on their task to answer the riddle lying inside the very fabric and bones of Jane Doe. The only gripe I can bottom barrel scrape out is how Tommy and Austin had this big ‘what if’ epiphany that becomes the very basis of the entire film and, in my opinion, felt that scene was extremely chintzy and a cop out.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment delivers “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” from production companies 42, Impostor Pictures, and IM Global onto UK DVD and Blu-ray.  Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was sent to me, resulting in no true examination of the audio and video qualities and the only extra on the disc was a Q&A with directorAndré Øvredal. Even if viewers might be able to guess the nature of the corpse – I did about halfway through – “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is still way ahead of it’s genre brethren in being the best horror film of 2017 with an unlimited amount of sinister wretchedness that tugs at your soul strings and weighs heavy in your mind’s cache as soon as the lights go out for bedtime. I would recommend this title to anyone seeking an unadulterated horror experience.

Dead Parents Create Good and Evil Children. “The Orphan Killer” review!

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Audrey Miller is your borderline, but overall good, Catholic woman, but the Saint Michael’s Orphanage dance teacher withholds a dark secret from her past. Audrey, herself, is an orphan along with her estranged brother, Marcus. At the age of 6-years old, Marcus took the brutal death of their parents the hardest, transforming a young innocent boy into an emotionless and destructive shell of his former self and while they attended the orphanage where Audrey currently teaches, Marcus suffered at the hands of wrathful Nuns hellbent on forcing Marcus to repent for the sins he’s committed. Years have gone by and Marcus, donning the Nuns’ gifted mask to frighten other children away from him, has been confined to a neglected psych ward, but, now, Marcus has found an escape and seeks to hunt down his beloved sister, trapping her inside Saint Michael’s, to relay a message that blood never abandons blood unless it’s fatally punctured with a blade.
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Matt Farnsworth’s 2011 “The Orphan Killer” is a cold-hearted, slaugtherfest, aiming to reap the Catholic church of sinners by committing the ultimate sin. Serial killer, Marcus Miller, becomes this generation’s misunderstood maniac, being the right hand of God and smiting blasphemous individuals in a one-night stint of blood drenched dirty work. Being the sophomore feature from writer-director Farnsworth, there’s plenty to be impressed with here from the setting up victim characters and the killing-ground stage to quickly canonizing Marcus after learning the atrocities his victims; Marcus blurs into the realm of anti-hero in a twisted sense of the slasher genre with religious undertones – such as Audrey wearing a barbed wire crown of thorns. He’s very familiar to that of iconic genre staples such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, yet Marcus Miller’s unique origins background and murderous methodology doesn’t share with the already established grisliness. If Farnsworth is willing, this serial killer could be expanded upon with such a rich backstory.
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Story wise, there are familiarities toward that of Michael Myers’ background with the bloodlines. Instead of Laurie Strobe being related to her coupled murderer, Audrey, played by stunning beauty Diane Foster, has, unbeknownst to her good fortune, to her still breathing psychopathic brother, Marcus, portrayed by David Backus. Both Foster and Backus have previously worked together on another Matt Farnsworth written-directed feature, his breakout indie film, “Iowa” in 2005 that also starred Rosanna Arquette {David Cronenberg’s “Crash”) and Muse Watson (“From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money”) and have great cat-and-mouse chemistry through love-and-hate sibling rivalry. Farnsworth also co-stars his own flick as Audrey’s cop boyfriend who becomes mixed up in the mess when Audrey doesn’t come home next morning. Unlike Audrey and Marcus, Officer Mike Hunt – yes, Mike Hunt – lacks substance and is portrayed a bit of a wild card when Audrey goes into dire stress. The cast rounds out with Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Charlotte Maier, Spencer List, Dana DeVestern, and John Savage.
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The realistic, sometimes over the top, practical effects make the scene in a welcoming glorified shower of gore splatter. Marcus Miller’s killer tactics vary from victim-to-victim, whereas some slashers maintain one particular kill setting, making “The Orphan Killer” eye-catching and extremely engaging. The unbelievable production value for an offbeat slasher that’s so profane to religion temples and other holy aspect shouldn’t go unnoticed and I’m not just speaking highly solely of the special effects. The structural bones of a cathedral church setting and the amount of extras used in well choreographed dance recital and Miller kids’ flashback scenes show the committed financial backing put to work in Farnsworth’s film. Farnsworth edits his own work that’s slightly erratic at times, but overall successful with the action that’s involved and the displaying the severity of splicing together great practical kill scenes. I’d say his style is certainly earthy and sometimes there are glimpses of channelling iconic directors.
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Produced mainly by Farnsworth’s company, entitled simply enough Matt Farnsworth Films, in association with Full Fathom 5, “The Orphan Killer” has rightfully found a friend at the Reel Gore Releasing home distribution label with a Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray and DVD combo release. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation sharply defines details, especially in the blacks, and does well with desaturating the hues to give it a gritty, dirty appearance that compliments the abandoned sections of Saint Michael’s. Two audio options are available, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2 channel; the 5.1 delivers a heart pounding score, but the soundtrack by Bullet Tooth releasing, featuring a slew of hardcore metal bands, oversteps into some dialogue sequences. However, Ventana’s cover of “Cry Little Sister” kicks off right after the opening credits; an early sure sign of good things to ahead. Bonus features include a “behind the Murder:” an exclusive video diary, teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, music clip, and a slideshow. “The Orphan Killer” has religious metaphors under a sacrilege of brutality and unleashes a retroesque Renaissance slasher for modern day terror.

Buy “The Orphan Killer” at Amazon.