EVIL Packaged Fresh, Never Frozen. “Raw” reviewed! (Second Sight / Blu-ray)

Brought up on a strict vegetarian diet by her parents, Justine became conscious that one swallow of meat down her gullet might start a chain reaction of life-threatening allergies. Her legacy acceptance into the prestigious Saint-Exupéry Veterinary School would have a set of challenges toward retaining that diet but her older sister, Alexia, who is still studying at the school and is also a vegetarian, would protect her from the intense hazing brought down upon the freshman class. When it turns out that Alexia gave into the temptations of peer pressure and egged her own to digest meat in a hazing ritual, Justine learns that her sister’s shielding won’t stand up against the forces of elder student pranks. From then on, a primordial animalistic behavior slowly transforms Justine from a quiet, awkward, and studious teenage girl into a party animal, an explorer of sexual awakening, and a herbivore whose slipping from her regime. Justine’s craving for raw meat digs deeper into the bone as the overwhelming need to consume human flesh spirals her down into an uncontrollable descent, turning the school’s exuberant hazing knaveries all the more dangerous.

Having been a meat eater all my life, the transition to vegetarian would be a hard-fought war that would likely shed years off my life just as much as eating a thick, juicy cut of a steak seasoned to perfection and medium cooked. After all, the human race is born with tapered canines that rip through the tough flesh and meat first and then pass along the now tendered feed to our molars, our mashers, that would handle the soft, chewy substance for an easy ride down toward our stomach. “Raw” takes that approach one step further, or maybe two or three steps further, by coupling the sudden discourse from meatless to meaty meals that expands into cannibalism with a coming of age and finding one’s place in life story that can be relatable to us all. The French film is written-and-directed by Julia Ducournau, who reprised herself with another body horror sensation with last year’s acclaimed “Titane,” and was shot at an actual veterinary school in Belgium, the University of Liège. Originally titled “Grave” before being upgraded to “Raw,” the film is a production from a conglomeration of studio labels, including the first horror production for Petit Film. Rouge International (“Murder Me, Monster”), Frakas Productions (“Sea Fever”), Ezekiel Film Production and Wild Bunch (“Martyr”) serve as a few of the film’s other coproduction companies with Jean des Forêts, Julie Gayet, Jean-Yves Roubin, Nadia Turincev, and Cassandre Warnauts as producers.

“Raw” is not your typical girl journeying through the trials and tribulations of normal self-discovery.  For this, you need not your typical girl to play centric character Justine.  Enters 16-17 year-old Garance Marillier, the Paris-born actress with an established bond on and off screen with director Julia Ducournau having debut her acting in Ducournau’s 2011 short film “Junior” as a tomboy going through a strange corporeal transformation.  Fun fact:  Marillier has been cast as a different Justine in all three of her collaborations with Julia Ducournau – “Junior,” “Raw,” and “Titane” since 2011.  Marillier soaks into “Raw’s” Justine with not only a transcending behavior pattern performance that takes the freshman from stifled to uninhibited, but the young actress also overhauls a complete body language transformation that sheds Justine’s meek skin, literally displayed on screen, for a more confident and abrasive veneer.  Ella Rumpf (“Tiger Girl”) receives Justine’s inexperienced blossom-hood with an the older, already initiated, sibling having been fostered by rambunctious peers to break the sheltering chains her parents had shackled with and just like true to life sisters, there’s contention.  The vehemence venom between them when they’re on bad terms on screen can stop one’s breath, you can hear a pin drop, yet you still understand their sisterly connection and love no matter how messed up a situation might be, especially when involving boys, such as the pansexual fluidity of Justine’s freshman roommate Adrien, played by Rabah Nait Oufella.  “Raw” rounds out the small cast surrounded by a slew of extras with Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss as mom and dad.

Julia Ducournau has the body horror genre down to the molecular level.  It’s as if the filmmaker studied every film and playbook of David Cronenberg just from researching her various work credits that target to restructure and regress the human condition into something far worse and watching “Raw” unravel a symbiotic relationship between natural and unnatural human development blurs that line of what is considered to be normal so disturbingly good.  Exteriorly, we notice the changes and can almost set a clock to way our bodies react and change over time, biologically and socially, within the context of our environment.  Internally, a whole unexplored set of conditions apply to the unpredictable mindset of transfiguration and that’s where Justine paves an unfounded roadmap for her sudden kick from being a veggie lover to a flesh craver. “Raw’s” undoubtedly an allegory of a young girl’s pubescence and coming of age into her own from, essentially, being on her own exploring her sexuality and exploring new interests as is such with going into university. Ducournau casually strolls through Justine’s drama and tension as much of the body horror overwhelms our morbid curiosity but her angsty complications, still very much underlined even being overshadows, retain a constant line of parallelism in a symbolic reality. Delicate touches of indelicate gore really spice up “Raw’s” entrenching story not for the faint of heart as well as vegetarians.

Hot off the heels of their now out of print limited edition release of “Raw,” Second Sight Films offers a second, standard release on Blu-ray home video. The UK label offers a single disc packaged, region B encoded, BD-50 of a 1080p, high-definition, 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation, listed at running an average frame bitrate of ~24Mbps. Highly accurate on its bitrate average, the image is well diverse in discerning details without an ambiguous scene or spot in sight. The color often feels muted, dreary, like one long continuous overclouded day that presents an everlasting feeling of dismay. Yet, that isn’t all cinematographer Ruben Impens has to offer with arthouse framing of disturbing imagery and an opening freshman party scene that takes us through the cramp pockets of sweaty, half-naked partygoers in one lengthy, single shot that expels just about everything Justine will face at her time in veterinary school. The French DTS-HD 5.1 master audio superbly distributes the audio tracks with just right levels to accommodate each scene. If there’s a noisy, bass blaring party, the score rightly takes over and the dialogue takes a muted backseat but still clear and intelligible – or so I believe since I don’t understand French, but I can make out the syllables and inflections. Otherwise, dialogue is king and clear alongside an eclectic soundtrack of English indie rock and experimental tracks as well as Jim Williams guitar and industrial synth trek across that’s beautiful and, simultaneously, disconcerting disharmonic. If you missed out on the limited edition, don’t bite yourself as the standard edition as plenty of extra features, including an interview with actress Garance Marillier The Girl Can’t Help It, an interview with producer Jean des Forêts Making Ends Meat, an audio commentary by film critic Alexander West, an audio commentary with director Julia Ducournau and critic Emma Westwood, an interview with Ducournau A Family Affair, the featurette Raw A Votre Gout with Ducournau and Emma Westwood, a conversation between Ducournau and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas Quick Bites, a genre matters panel discussion, an Australian premier introduction and post screen Q&A with Ducournau and Kier-La Janise, and a handful of deleted scenes. The film runs at 99 minutes, comes with well synced English subtitles, and is certified 18 for strong gory images and injury detail. Taste “Raw’s” unseasoned, unadulterated, pure and simple line of hidden truths and manifesting urges that once crossed there’s no turning back as the person you once were, is no longer akin to an impossible burger but a fully tendered hunk of mouthwatering meat freshly cut and ready to sink your teeth into.

EVIL Hoodooism is No Mumbo-Jumbo! “Spell” reviewed! (Paramount Pictures / Digital Screener)

Marquis E. Woods is a powerful defensive attorney good at his job, attaining wealth and position to the likes he’s never had as young boy raised by a fervent and abusive father in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky; a life now he always wanted he can now share with wife, Veora, and pass to their children, Samsara and Tydon.  The news of the death of his father sends him and family on a flying to the rural part of Kentucky to pay their respects in Marquis’ personal small aircraft.  A terrible storm forces down the plane down in a remote wooded valley and an injured Marquis wakes up in attic on a farm ran by a proclaimed rootwork old woman, Ms. Eloise, with her husband and oxen-strong farm hand.  Trapped and concerned for his missing family, Ms. Eloise slowly nurses him back to health with a Boogity, a Hoodoo figured representation of Marquis comprised of his flesh, blood, and other DNA elements, but her Southern hospitality isn’t for good intentions as she mends and prepares his wounded body, brewing a sinister spell upon his soul, for the forthcoming blood moon that lies days ahead.

Experiencing Hoodoo dark magic horror back on a bigger production scale is on the same extraordinary gamut in discovering the lost city of Atlantis.  Well, maybe not as profoundly archeological as discovering Atlantis, but still immensely impactful. Films like the Mark Tonderai directed “Spell” hit like a ton of brick-shaped talismans, fettering the imagination with hexes that bewitch fascination and captivation, and roots through an endless torrential fountain of ancient beliefs to scour the dark side of the practices for celluloid terror. “The House at the End of the Street” director Tonderai moves away from restraints of PG-13 horror before heading into a stint of helming television episodes only to make a glorious return back to features with the R-rated black magic action-thriller, “Spell,” penned by Kurt Wimmer who knows a thing or two about action-thrillers as the writer of the gun-toting, martial arts dystopian, “Equilibrium,” and bloodily vindictive thriller, “Law Abiding Citizen”.  Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa that, through the slight of hand of movie magic, turns South Africa into rural Kentucky, “Spell” is a co-production of Paramount Pictures, LINK Entertainment, and MC8 Entertainment as well as being a product of puncturing the rarely topical social class and racism division within the same race.

To play a determined and savvy father and husband on the ropes of survival, “Power’s” Omari Hardwick steps into the detained role of Marquis E. Woods, surely prepping himself against Ms. Eloise’s wicked dark magic before battling the flesh hungry undead in the upcoming Zack Snyder zombie-geddon horror, “Army of the Dead.” Hardwick is the ideal actor for a role that, at times, can be physical; his athletic build suits also Woods’ affluence though not required as scene with the brawny farm hand that introduces South Africa’s very own fitness entrepreneur, Steve Mululu.  Woods is pitted not only against formidable muscle, but also has to outwit the four or five lifetime smarts of an old root woman, Ms. Eloise, diabolically portrayed with a legendary entrenched Southern vernacular by the “Urban Legend” actress, Loretta Devine.  On the downside of the character, Ms. Eloise is rich with historical saturation that goes unchecked and unexplored and she seems a little more slapdash with her rituals and her captives.  In what really is a mind game of wit and Podunk wizardry between Hardwick’s Marquis E Woods and Devine’s Ms. Eloise, the remaining cast for “Spell” shoulders only little to annex more substance toward the tensions between the two principles, including performances from Lorraine Burroughs, John Beasley, Andrew Jacobs, Tumisho Masha, RJ-Karlo Handy, Hannah Gonera, and Kalifa Burton.

Aforementioned, “Spell,” between the domestic xenophobia opulence dividing the Woods family, the quaint, yet tangible body horror, and the abhorrent mysticism surrounding Hoodooism, teeters on loose ground with not only Ms. Eloise’s foundation, but also with main character, Marquis E. Woods, who suffers continuously from trauma-induced nightmares of his abusive father. Through flashbacks, Marquis is beaten with verbal assaults and even, seemingly, being stabbed or mutilated by his father. Yet, that’s about as far as the flashback dynamic progresses the thread bare bond until a minor moment at the climax is when Marquis then embraces his father’s aggressive nature, tuning more into a theme of stative stance that Marquis and father might not have seen eye-to-eye, but the son learns to survive through amplified evil by way of his father’s tough, tortuous care. The relationship circles backs with Marquis’ entitled children, whose piggyback wealth has molded them indifferent against the benefits given to them and partisan toward the backwoods people of color, and “Spell” becomes an insidious allegory creeping into the fold with a little tough love from your parents, in this case father, will go a long way. “Spell” also rarely pulls any punches with a welcoming cringe of ghastly violations of the human body (that pulling, inserting, and then re-pulling out the spike in the bottom of the foot gag will make you actually gag!) and inside the rustic and isolating confines of Ms. Eloise’s Kentucky farm compound, there’s a rough-hewn atmosphere that elevates the subgenre, shaking it to the core at times.

“Spell” is terrific urban horror tinged with “Misery” but driven by historical oppression stemmed Hoodoo, releasing just before Halloween on October 30th distributed by Paramount Players, a division of Paramount Pictures that’s still very much in it’s infancy. Jacques Jouffret (“The Purge” franchise) has a tight knit and jarring cinematography that puts the audience in the front, debilitating seat, empathizing the mind-warping effects that Marquis faces with a violent plane crash, nerve seizing torture, and banding Hoodoo hallucinations. Plus, there is fancy crane camerawork that marvels to capture multiple actions between characters. The score from Ben Onono fulfills the tension-riddle need with incessant zest, complimenting the narrative tenfold. Since “Spell” is a brand new release, there were no bonus material included and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t belittle the Boogity in this year’s most unique and contending horror movie that casts a “Spell” over the rest of the competition.

Pre-order “Spell” on Prime Video

 

No Aloe Cream Can Soothe This Evil! “Bite” review!

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Costa Rica’s beauty attracts tourists with it’s crystal clear ocean beaches, idyllic and serene island surroundings, and being a luxurious phenomenal getaway for last hurrah bachelor or bachelorette parties. Costa Rica also conceals Casey’s, the bride-to-be, dark and drunken affair and a deadly murky water dwelling insect inhabiting the depths of a secret sublime pool far off the beaten tourist path. When Casey sustains a bite from the unseen bug, she brushes off the injury as nothing more than a little bug bite, but as Casey recovers from her alcohol-fueled trip back home in the States, she notices strange open sores along her skin, she can’t hold down any food, and her hearing enhances by tenfold. Scared beyond all else, Casey alienates herself from her friends and fiancé as she slowly mutates into a nightmare creature, spawning eggs from her mouth throughout her small apartment and supplying fresh bodies for her millions of offspring as soon as they walk through her door.
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Body horror is alive and well and in your face as Chad Archibald’s 2015 film “Bite” is living proof that the human form is completely, and biologically, mutable. Elma Begovic stars as Casey, recently engaged to a financial investor named Jared living in the same building that’s owned by her soon-to-be mother-in-law, and as her personal troubles mount after a night of alcohol induced memory loss in Costa Rica, Casey’s outlook on her future with Jared diminishes as she second guesses long term commitment and the situation doesn’t help itself when you’re biology transform into an acid bile spewing fiend. The film also stars Jordan Gray as Jared, Annette Wozniak and Denise Yuen as Casey’s bachelorette party friends Jill and Kirsten, and Lawrene Denkers as Jared’s overprotective mother whose a real nasty crone and is written by Jayme Laforest.
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Secreted with an absolute nod of respect by attributing a creature that’s familiar to David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake, “Bite” also has an individual personality about it with an extreme Jekyll and Hyde complex containing stark contrasts of smooth, clean structures, such as the apartment building Casey and Jared reside, and with conventional presence in the characters themselves. Reality is then turned on it’s head with visually foul and putrid mucus and a slew of glistening caviar covering the walls and the floor, transforming Casey’s apartment into an eerie swamp of terror and vomit green. A metamorphosed Casey, who resembles a blend of creatures from “Species” and “Splice,” is now the proud owner of a home of horror where every room reeks of death and slick with organic discharge.
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Archibald visually and audibly charges “Bite,” getting up close and personal with Casey’s rancid, boil-infested bite and we’re also subjected to external factors such as extreme outside light, in-and-out screeches, and a clear and positive sensitivity to water to help the audience transition better along with Casey and to not be too much in show when the final result comes to fruition. Elma Begovic’s human Casey constantly feels uncertain. From the first moments of the handheld cam during the bachelorette party, Casey wavers about her relationship with Jared. Back home, she continues to float through the situation and through life. We’re continuously exposed to Casey’s extreme discomfort with marriage, with no having kids, with her displeasure with Jared’s mother, and she also doesn’t even seem to have a job except for walking a neighbor’s dog everyday, which looking back on those scenes seem fairly irrelevant to the story. Only when Casey’s fully transitioned does she firm up her place in life, oozing with confidence and animal instinct, and cozy’s up in a lime green, soft yellow glow comfortable habitat for her new, arguably improved, surroundings. Elma’s glowing bug-eyes are a bit campy, but add to the transforming effect.
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Her apparent plight is a synonymous exaggeration of her tremendous guilt and shame for not being truly committed to Jared and for her blackout one night stand in Costa Rica. Her body horror represents sustaining the physical manifestation of a sexually transmitted disease while, at the same time, discovering she’s pregnant. There’s is so much shame in Casey that even when she can’t confront the problem to her fiance, she can’t even go see a doctor face-to-face and reduces her interactions with a physician by using an ineffective tele-doc instead. Stir her shame and guilt with an abrasive landlord/future mother-in-law and it’s not wonder Casey seeks escape from a hell that dominates her normal life.
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Sometimes the success of a movie is in the details and while “Bite” has great horror house detail, a few aspects bother me and are more about the consistencies than the facts or production goofs. For instance, the bug bite Casey endures in the Costa Rican pool has a much higher location, just above the line of her bikini bottoms, but changes to just under the bikini bottoms, a shade above the middle of the side of her thigh. A stronger case lies with Characters’, other than Casey, perception of the transform apartment. Neither Jared, Kirsten, and Jill react to the extreme odor emitting from Casey’s apartment that was so clear to the landlord who came knocking to confront with former neighbor complaints about the strong odor and neither of the above characters truly reacted with sheer trepidation upon entering a dilapidated apartment owned by this person they know. The indifference the characters displayed didn’t invoke fear, hindering audiences fear to fully enjoy the film.

While the unfortunate details nag at the back of my brain, “Bite” is undoubtedly icky-sticky effective body and creature feature from “The Drownsman” director. UK distributor Second Sight releases the Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Production film “Bite” onto DVD this October! If you’re a fan of Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Bite” is a simpler, thinner modern version sans teleportation machines and Jeff Goldbum. The DVD specs include a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen of the 85 runtime feature with two audio options including Dolby Digital Stereo and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. I was provided a DVD-R screener disc with no bonus material except a static menu with scene selection and can’t critique the audio or video quality, but the film dotes solid SFX and moderately palatable acting in this gunky-gross story stemmed from one little single bite.

An Evil Hangover is No Match Against…”Rotgut” review!

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Six patrons become trapped inside a dilapidating New Mexico drinking hole when tainted Mexican tequila infests an unlucky boozer, turning him into a host for flesh-eating larvae and into an unwilling hand against the rest in seeking desperately for more flesh to feast upon. With the back and front doors inoperable and the phone lines dead due to lack of payment, the bar regulars must use every ounce of their fleeting sobriety and every aspect of the small hole in the wall bar to keep hope carbonated and afloat if they want to escape alive.
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If you’re a fan of “Night of the Creeps,” “Slugs,” or “Slither,” this campy creepy-crawler will be your go-to session brew of choice because, finally, 2012’s “Rotgut” infests inside a home video distributor, courtesy of always delightful Camp Motion Picture. Director Billy Garberina helms the charge collaborating with another of Devin O’Leary’s scribed films involving a drinking establishment’s handful of thirsty-allured anti-heroes finding themselves literally fighting through their inebriated state against almost exactly the same intoxicating liquid they so desperately crave. Sure beats the hell out of an AA meeting.
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“Rotgut,” simply put, is just not another run-of-the-mill creature film, oozing a path toward lovers of the said genre while still managing to follow a familiar suit within a typical bar location that becomes the death ensnarement, but this time around, a congregation of alcoholics are the hapless victims that are pitted up against the odds, similar to that of Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk till Dawn” and John Gulager’s “Feast,” but with more enticing and gross body horror and less antagonizing vampires and monsters.
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Structurally, O’Leary individually sets up the players – Leon, Tom, Sloppy, Verna, Deena, Allen, and The Professor – to instill a developing persona or just provide an interesting backstory into each body that adds flavor to their character that would evidently punch you in the face when that character bites the fateful bullet and instead of creating good natured, outstanding personalities to fight a ghastly force, as if to underline good versus evil, the roster consists of deplorable and degenerative drunks embodied with past, present, and future hiccups and are on the cusp of not being redeemable toward being a part of society until faced with life and death choices to expose their true nature. Then, there is trio of ATF officers who are literal to each of the words of the acronym they represent; one officer smokes cigarettes, another drinks out of a flask, and the last official carries a sidearm. The dialogue-stricken characters need no exposition as they’re cleverly written into the story that’s already exchanges heavy in confabulation amongst the main roles mentioned above.
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The impressiveness with Hank Carlson and teams’ practical effects don’t go unnoticed while, at the same time, the composite shots from visual effects artist Luke Fitch were just as effective. Both departments relayed the visceral consuming nature of the worms, splattering eye-popping blood everywhere, and transmitting their antibiosis organism through some fairly gnarly ways. Working with sluggishly minuscule organisms, whether digital, inanimately practically, or real, can be problematic, but Gaberina and team had the precision and the talent that made “Rotgut” outlandishly enjoyable with a half gallon handle of smeared blood slicked over the cast including Jeremy Owen, Aaron Worley, Megan Pribyl, Paul Alsing, Merritt Glover, Isreal Wright, and Whitney Moore.
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Four years have swiftly gone by since this film quietly made debut in 2012 and has finally landed onto DVD from the fine folks at Camp Motion Pictures! “Rotgut” has undeservingly gone under the radar, but it shall no more, gifting audiences with supreme worm mayhem and bloodshed. The not rated DVD is presented in a 16×9 widescreen format with bonus features including a trailer vault and a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette that displays the good times, and sometimes stressful times, of independent filmmaking. In the end, “Rotgut” come out on top with the gooiest, slimiest, and stickiest creature feature this side of the 2010.

You can BUY “Rotgut” at Amazon! Let it slither into your soul!

Evil Never Sleeps! “Coyote” review!

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Cult actor Bill Oberst Jr. plays a deranged struggling writer with insomniac.  Bill’s lack of sleep drives him to extremely hallucinate to the point of being dangerous to not only himself but to others.  His derangement wields a bowie knife, a rust colored hammer, and a sporting bow and arrow as the hallucinations get weirder, stranger, and more violent and everyone that Bill comes into contact with becomes a target of his severe breakdown into insanity.
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Who doesn’t love Bill Oberst Jr? The veteran actor has a unique look about him and his acting method brings stage and screen acting together into one great performance in Trevor Juenger’s “Coyote.” Without saying much through the entirety of the film, Oberst interpretation of one man’s sleepless delusions sports no talking head explanation. Rigorously and physically involved in the role, “Coyote” could not have been possible if it wasn’t for Oberst serious role indulgence.
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The film is described as a blend between “Taxi Driver” and “Videodrome.” That description is entirely accurate. Full of body horror and plenty of schizo to go around, the surrealism in the editing by Juenger is remarkable pitted against budgetary restraints. Hard to follow, lost in translation, yet somehow by the end of the movie you get it, you just get it. You might even feel lost for the first hour and by the time the last half hour comes around, you’re just as angry, confused, and disturbed as Bill. You might even want to take out a person or two with a bowie knife.
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“Coyote” won’t break much cinematic ground like “Taxi Driver” or “Videodrome,” but “Coyote” will be a great embarkment to a honorable homage and a surreal look into fresh art-house horror. If you like this type of material full of masochistic mutilation, visceral carnage, and a visual look into the mind of lunacy, then Wild Eye Releasing’s “Coyote” is for you.