A Mother and Her Lovecraftian Evil Baby! “The Creature Below” review!

Hellbent on being the first to discover something big between 1000-feet, talented marine biologist and ecologist, Olive Crown, constructs a convincing case in a video hiring application to test a deep sea diving suit invented by Dr. Fletcher, but a harrowing encounter with monstrous creature at 2500 feet nearly claims Olive’s life. Blamed for a botch dive and unable to remember the incident, Olive has been fired from her dream position, but when she double checks the dive suit for evidence of what might have happened, she discovers an alien substance, an egg-like object, attached to the outer layer and smuggles it home. The egg hatches to birth a blood thirsty, Cthulhu being that has marked Olive as in a symbiotic relationship as protector and mother. Olive senses everything the creature does, even it’s hunger, and caves in to her discovery’s need to feed with those who antagonize Olive and her creature baby, but at an alarming rate, the life form grows into a mammoth creature and Olive might be losing the perspective of who is really in control.

“The Creature Below” puts a spin on a popularly wild H.P. Lovecraft tale and adds a notch into the belt of the Cthulhu mythos. From director Stewart Sparke in his first feature film comes one woman’s tragically macabre endowment that runs amok through the uninteresting confines of her own life and obliterate it from within. Co-written by Paul Butler, the British Cthulhu feature, “The Creature Below,” melds together a very grand unearthly story into the restrictive walls of an unwanted love triangle Olive’s involved in while dipping toes into also being a pre-Romero zombie film with the automata slave. Though very modest in story and budget, “The Creature Below” is an itsy-bitsy speck in a bigger mythological genre and that’s usually the case for indie Cthulhu flicks, as they should be, because giving a little mystery to Lovecraft’s myth tends to build worlds later, sparks the imagination aflame, and leaves a lasting impression long after the movie is over.

Anna Dawson stars as Olive Crown, creature’s foster parent, and Dawson’s first impression of Olive emits a fierce, go-getter ecologist, looking to make a name for herself in the deep dive exploration field. That egotistical drive tapers off a bit once she’s canned for botched dive, delivering a more humble and reserved Olive Crown, but Dawson puts on the sunken-eyed, icy-cold skin that’s clammy and deadlike in order to fulfill the infant Cthulhu’s bidding. Daniel Thrace embraces the lovably sweet boyfriend, Matthew, whose sensible, charming, and overall nice guy. The pair are complete oil and water, a welcoming dynamic, when Olive’s rationality goes off track. Olive and Matthew are really the only two developed characters as, disappointingly, three considerable major characters don’t build too much of a reputation to warrant their value, especially with Olive’s sister, Ellie, played by Michaela Longden. There’s something more between Ellie and Matthew that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head and there’s also more to her staying with her sister, Olive, that the audience is not aware of and the scenes where Olive comments on her sister’s freeloading just loses all it’s credibility. The other two actors, roles awarded to Johnny Vivash and Zacharee Lee, are more involved in Olive’s deep sea dive and bring more of a well rounded antagonistic or betrayal personality to the table.

Sparke doesn’t linger too long on the creature, shielding it mostly behind a plastic tarp with a nude façade and that’s, perhaps, more in line with the micro budget constraints. In any case, Sparke focuses the story around Olive’s paranoia and obsession with the creature and with her boyfriend and the bitterness between him and her Sister, Ellie, seemingly toward Olive. Dave Walter has composed from start to finish a low and slow synth soundtrack, that’s familiar to a slowly anticipating heartbeat, and really heightens Olive’s spiraling paranoia similar to that of Ennio Morricone’s work on John Carpenter’s 1982 remake entitled “The Thing” where the eerily sounds of a personified isolation breaches every corner of your body, mind, and the dark room you’re in and all you can hear is that thump…thump…thump in a chest vibrating synchronicity of tones. While the soundtrack is riveting throughout, the story becomes a bit sluggish around the midsection in the sense that space and time don’t exists and Olive’s encounters with Dr. Fletcher, Dara, and various others, are halted to develop any kind of affluence amongst each other or with the audience. Even the ending, which I do adore on a certain level, bares the mark of being incomplete and devoid of substantiating that monolithic ending. There is some post-view satisfaction with the blend of practical and computer generated special effects and as I reflect on the film as a whole, to display a species from birth to adulthood, Sparke and his special effects team had amazing results that are fanned out well enough to leave a lasting impression of the unearthed creature’s visceral and intelligible girth.

Breaking Glass Pictures with Dark Rift Films in association with High Octane Pictures release “The Creature Below” onto DVD. The 16:9 widescreen presentation of this sci-fi horror thriller explores a sleek and clean, with a hint of being just a little hazy, picture that puts forth the appropriate dark grey and blue tone for an underwater or above water creature feature. The English Dolby 5.1 sound’s slightly muffled, but solid. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, “Rats” a short film, and a Frightfest Q&A. Stewart Sparke’s “The Creature Below” is not perfect and does have appalling, laughable moments, but underneath the surface is a UK film that’s budget-busting bold and aims to be a goliath in an indie market.

If You’re Going to Kill Evil, Make Sure You…”Crush the Skull” review!

vlcsnap-00011Master thieves Blair and Ollie have known heists for most of their young lives but promise themselves one more job before a long overdue retirement with their stashed earnings. When the job goes South and Ollie gets pinched by the police, Blair has to use all of their savings and borrow on top from a ruthless crime boss to utilize his connections for Ollie be released from jail. With the first payment due in a week, Ollie and Blair have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of Blair’s brother Connor, a two-bit thief with a seemingly full-proof plan of scoring big at a vacant vacation home. The only problem is is that the home is a murder den for a deranged serial killer and with being trapped from the inside, Blair, Ollie, Connor, and their crew are being separated in a maze of murder with no way out.
“Crush the Skull” is a cleverly scribed 2015 horror-comedy from writer-director Viet Nguyen and co-star, co-writer Chris Dinh that was molded from the brimstone and fire of two successful short films, “Crush the Skull 1” and “Crush the Skull 2,” and a modest crowd funded financial backing that brought this witty and terrorizing film to fruition. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been entertained and jumpy with a film, especially one that’s working with a little more than a $75,000 budget. The superb character development and dialogue produces lively characters built upon an established dynamic group of tight knit actors whose on screen chemistry is beyond just a spark. Much of the character interactions are comical with a wrap around horror story and the mixture is purely potent and damn good that’s trying to pinpoint whether “Crush the Skull” is a dark-comedy or a flat out thriller.
The unconventional lead man Chris Dinh is Ollie, the quintessential good guy despite his lawbreaking thievery profession and Dinh provides a semi-serious, semi-standup comedian performance that makes Ollie likable. What also makes Ollie likable is the character’s main concern ultimately lies with concerning for the love of his life Blair, casted by the gorgeously talented Katie Savoy. Savoy’s Blair has fathomless compassion for Ollie and the Boston-bred, actress can imitate that affection, stating she would do anything for her lover. Both characters connect well within the context of the roles played by Dinh and Savoy, but connect them with actors Chris Riedell and Tim Chiou and you have a fearsome foursome of hilarity. The merciless jabs, the daunting quips, the pleasantly bad jokes, and the utter goofiness somehow manages to be experienced very naturally from the hapless heist team of Connor (Riedell) and his simple-minded, light-hearted crew Riley (Chiou). Though Connor is far more bright than Riley, their additions add colorful farce to production, causing more mayhem than mending to Ollie and Blair’s predicament.
“Crush the Skull” doesn’t strike as a very effective horror title at first glance with a slight vapidness about it. Yet, the title works as an appreciation to the series of events leading up the final moments when reformed do-gooders combat a demented and unspeakable evil and only then does the title reach out, grip tightly your neck, and slap you right in fat part of your cheek. Now, that’s a horror title! The horror portion inside this genre blend is an effective outer hull providing a superstructure of motivation and to stimulation. “Crush the Skull” doesn’t splinter at the first sight of blood, keeping the bones intact to scare the pants off edgy audiences when the diabolical game begins between naive robbers and a calculated killer until the instant of truth serves a fracturing blow that’s hard to reset. Nguyen and Dinh’s script isn’t overly gory; in fact, with a few blood splatters and a brief moment of a decapitated body, gore shouldn’t even be in the film’s glossary, but their script works diligently and brilliant along side amazingly gritty production design of the maze-like torture dungeon from Eloise Ayala to produce traumatic moments of gut-wrenching terror that’s hard to forget.
Breaking Glass Pictures absolutely crushes it distributing “Crush the Skull” on a not rated DVD. The 80 minute film is presented on a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio DVD9 MPEG-2 disc with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. No issues with video and audio qualities with balanced color hues and audible tracks though the David Frank Long score was generically clunky at times as I swear I’ve heard that particular score before in other microbudget films. A small band of powerfully punching bonus features include both shorts that I’ve mentioned prior to and an informative behind-the-scnes with the cast and crew speaking about their experiences of the 18 day shoot. “Crush the Skull” is one part “The Bone Collector” and two parts “Silver Streak” with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor – an entertaining cult inspiring horror-comedy that’s shamefully too far under the radar.

Buy “Crush the Skull” on DVD!

Watch “Crush the Skull” on Amazon Video!

Can Evil Be Thwarted From Plaguing Your Family? “The Hours Till Daylight” review!

Ever since he was a small child, Marco has been haunted by a malevolent presence inside his family home. The nighttime darkness has become Marco’s most feared adversary, staying up late and sleeping with the lights on has been molded into the normalcy of his life. While recollecting his childhood, a happy and tragic period in his life, Marco tracks downs and locates a Curandero, a Witch doctor of sorts, named Luis Ortiz, hoping for a resolution to the spirit’s relentless torture before Marco’s son becomes the spirit’s next target. The unorthodox Ortiz discloses a self-exorcising ritual that only Marco can perform to ultimately rid Marco’s family’s curse. Armed with ritualistic candles, a barrier of salt, the holiness of water, and a slither of courage, Marco transforms his childhood home into an evil eviction dwelling that will be the last stand.
Director Jon Garcia’s first step into the horror genre with “The Hours of Daylight,” a ghost film through-and-through, starring Quinn Allen as Marco. Set within the confines and on the outskirts of Corpus Christi, Texas, Garcia’s uses the industrial and river-ridden backdrop to contrast a stark outline between the metal and the nature qualities of the coastal city, a demarcation dividing the otherworldly evil versus the organic man. However, the diverse landscape is only a embellished blanket over a lingering underdeveloped story written by Garcia. Marco spends much of the time wandering the land, pondering the what ifs of his past, and doing a lot of soul searching in order to build courage against a lifelong and unknown force, but the story goes stagnant for a good portion of the first two acts doing nothing to motivate and build upon an established character from early into “The Hours Till Daylight.”
Interesting aspects of the film such as Curandero Luis Ortiz and the stricken girlfriend of Marco left a befuddled teaser in a Quinn-centered story. Dan Braverman (Dylan Dog: Dead of Night) portrayed the Curandero, a character whose disability, threatening protection, and greedy candor made a highlight when Marco comes calling for unconventional assistance. Braverman’s “gangster” charisma overpowers Quinn Allen’s timid and drab performance of a desperate man on a mission to do and try anything to end his family’s suffering. Marco’s girlfriend, credited to Sarah Jannett Parish, begin to experience the affects of Marco’s torment as the apparition clings onto her and their unborn son, pursuing a legacy of spirit attachment. Again, the scenes are brief and unexplored; these scene would heighten a clear and present danger that provokes Marco.
I previously read that the slow pace of “The Hours Till Daylight” was well worth the wait at the finale. I disagree. The finale was better with a blue tinted, “not-of-this-Earth” force, naming itself Hate, makes a confrontal appearance when Marco challenges it and though the ghost effect does the job, final bout lets the air whoosh out, deflating any kind of tension and excitement right out of moment. Technical details crash Garcia’s initial horror achievement and its the little things that create an atmosphere. Garcia has an eye for horror, but not the eye it needs to be more defined in it’s training to capture the tiniest of details that makes a scene, or a movie, truly scary. Whether or not Garcia’s intentions we’re to display a blatant ghost thriller or to exhibit Marco’s severe mental distress stemming from the tragic loss of his sister and his emotionless father doesn’t matter if the film isn’t technically and emotionally sound. Garcia’s film isn’t technically sound and borderlines being emotionally there, but falters through the inconsistencies.
Breaking Glass Pictures distributes the 84 minute not rated DVD of the Jon Garcia’s Lake Productions feature film presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio on a singer-layered disc and the video quality is solid sans some compression artefacts. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix could you some work leveling out of the LFE with the audio tracks. The special features include an in-depth look into the behind the scenes of “The Hours Till Daylight,” the film’s theatrical trailer, photo stills, and other BGP promotional trailers. Overall, “The Hours Till Daylight” atmospheric creepiness bleeds in the conformity of filmmaking, offering nothing new and unique to the psychological horror thrillers. Director Jon Garcia has talent and ambition that needs tweaking and more experience in order to accomplish horror at it’s scariest.

Buy “The House Till Daylight” at Amazon!

Evil Entraps With Many Questions. “Riddle Room” review!

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Associate professor Dr. Emily Burns is forced by two masked men into a small square shaped room, confined by four faux wood paneled walls and layered with a thin tattered carpet.  Oblivious to the reason behind her sudden captivity, Emily frantically searches the room, desperately searching for clues for a potential escape and potentially why she’s been locked away.  Emily also realizes she’s suffering from incapacitating headaches, fragmented memories, and she discovers has a musket size growth on the back of her neck.  Her masked captors visit her often, inquiring about the date January 11th and if she’s able to complete her mentor’s work, but Emily can’t put the pieces together; she has to puzzle together the clues she discovers in the bleak room that might be her only way to truly understand her situation.
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“Riddle Room” (also known as “Breakaway”) is a mystery thriller based on the clue finding, puzzle solving, race against the clock room escape concepts that are highly popular usually associated with team building exercises or a fun thing to do on any given night. Director Bryan Binder keeps the air enigmatic and unloads a blindside ending that’s a rare and unique quality for a director’s freshman feature film. The characters are with attributes of shapeshifting intrigues that aid in the mysteries or the riddles, if you will. The “Riddle Room” has everything a traditional live escape room would be fitted with: clues placed in all parts of the room, a sense of tremendous urgency, and even a countdown timer. Yet, the pressure isn’t necessarily transferred onto the captivated viewer; instead, Dr. Emily Burns puzzling predicament enthralls much of the story’s fascination.
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Marisa Stober is cast as the lead character Dr. Emily Burns, who majorly is the film’s lone wolf actress, and she attempts to put Emily in a completely complexing situation, but doesn’t quite sell her solitary performance as she leads Emily along with such ease through the room’s clues and is able to easily get the quick upper hand on her captors. However, the ease in both areas might be contributed to film’s surprising, if yet impractical, twist finale, which only makes for a good movie night and not a nonfictional masterpiece. Binder wrote the screenplay as well that’s needs some fine tune polishing. Between Emily’s fragmented memory moments and when Emily’s entire story comes together at the end, some questions about Emily’s status and her arrival to the situation still go unanswered.
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Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films distributes the first film under the Three Ring Entertainment produced credit onto DVD this February. The video quality is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio on a dual layer compressed disc, which is kind of odd since the film is roughly 80 minutes and not very effects heavy, and is fairly clean with vivid coloring and natural tones. There’s slight selective aliasing moments on the faux wood paneled room, but doesn’t hinder the film’s overall video quality. From an audio standpoint, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 is noticeably unbalanced with much of Stober’s dialogue, specifically whispering, going unheard or lost within the Henrik Åström soundtrack. The comprehensibility from Emily’s masked captor’s monotoned produced voice puts Stober’s dialogue tracks to shame. The special features are nicely abundant with cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes featurette, cast auditions, investor scene, a bonus trailer, and a making of the “Experiment.”
“Riddle Room” doesn’t have any thrill shortcomings, leaving the story’s beginning and end open to focus primarily on Emily’s high strung bewilderment. Even though the ending falls a bit flat, I suspect that Bryan Binder is an upcoming writer-director to keep an eye. I’d like to see a follow up sequel to “Riddle Room” under the same cast and crew to continue the development of Dr. Emily Burns, to get her status update, and to understand more of the plight. A companion piece would nicely complete Binder’s seemingly unfinished “Riddle Room” narrative, but as a standalone feature, satisfaction comes easy enough through what’s already written and recorded for this 2016 film.

Evil All Dolled Up! “Dollface” review!

A pair of procrastinating college students decide to make an aged old legend of a local serial killer named Dorchester Stewart, aka Crinoline Head, into their final research project, knowing that their teacher, Professor Paul Donner, was traumatically to close to being one of Crinoline Head’s fatal victims. With other invited and uninvited students tagging along, the trip to the isolated Stewart lake house grounds turns into a booze and sex filled getaway for most with an irritable and lustful female grounds keeper maintaining an ever close eye on them. As those interested in the legend of the doll obsessed Crinoline Head become closer to whether the infamous murderer still exists, students are disappearing one by one solidifying Crinoline Head’s homicidal come back.
“Dollface” is the latest all-American slasher parody film from director Tommy Faircloth and is the long awaited sequel to Faircloth’s “Crinoline Head” in 1995. Now, I’ve never experienced the first “Crinoline Head” film myself and reviewing the sequel might be challenging to undertake. Any time when solely working with sequels, portions of the sequels go unexplained because they assume that audiences are all caught up on the original premise. Tommy Faircloth really tries to put an effort into catching viewers up on the 20-year-old story with a classroom monologue told by the first film’s surviving character Paul, who is now a college professor. A backstory introduction also recounts the reason on how young Dorchester Stewart becomes the monstrous murderer with the untimely death of his doll-making and over protecting mother, but the exposition becomes boggling and doesn’t necessarily feel like enough to warrant Stewart’s homicidal tendencies.
For a campy horror-comedy slasher flick, “Dollface” comes off slightly conservative with the death scenes, leaving much to the imagination with quick scene cuts and off screen kills. Practical effects are left in the dust while the use of blood splatter becomes a hot commodity and I’m not positive how much special effects and makeup supervisor Michael R. Smith was involved except for a obvious dummy head in a crab trap, a knife planted in someone’s chest, and a cocaine snorter stuck up a strangled one’s nostril. Crinoline Head, portrayed by former pro-wrestling body guard John Kap, appears minacious enough being a giant lumbering individual in a jumper suit while sporting the half broken porcelain doll mask and Faircloth’s kill scenes seemed interesting enough in concept, but why they’re not fully developed and executed to revel in shock value is beyond comprehension.
The horror-comedy does live up to being extremely campy and stars the one and only legendary B-horror movie scream queen Debbie Rochon to headline as the raunchy and bored grounds keeper held up in an old RV, propositioning the young male students. “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” star Jason Vail portrays Prof. Paul Donner and with alongside Debbie Rochon, the veteran actors are sprinkled into the story to offset their rather fresh faced co-stars. However, raw talent lies within the silver lining with lead male Christian James who brought strength aspects and an even keeled mentality to the lead character David and also with Jim, David’s friend played by the naturally funny man Gunner Wills, was another character that was a joy when on screen. Despite some solid performances, the cast comes and goes to make body count and are not able to expand and develop on their characters, leaving a teetering feeling about whether the character should be liked or disliked when finally receiving the ultimate axe.
Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films brings “Dollface” to DVD home video in a brilliant widescreen format, providing a clean picture with only a hint of aliasing during more action scenes and one off-colored scene that went completely into a blue tone as if to convey the twilight hour, but the next scene was bright daylight again. The audio is way unbalanced with the metal genre soundtrack goes overbearing the dialogue; LFE oppresses much of the other audio tracks, causing the dialogue to be nearly inaudible and moot to the story. “Dollface” has the basic slasher attitude and gets the slack and hack job bluntly done, but it’s not pretty nor perfect when considering prior slasher parodies. Once I experience Tommy Faircloth’s first film “Crinoline Head” and get the full effect of the fictional serial killer, maybe then this sequel of the doll-faced killer will bare more inauspicious teeth. If anything, Debbie Rochon screaming, “Can you pop a fucking squat!?!?” is well worth the viewing.