The Dying Baltic Traditions Live in the Ashes of EVIL. “Cult Girls” (Umbrella Entertainment / DVD)

The pagan Cult, the Golden Path, remains nearly all that is left of the ancient practice as Lithuania becomes one of the last countries to be converted to Christianity in the late 14th century.  Led by an archaic, yet powerful, goddess named Ragana, the Golden Path promises to flourish once again with the power of death, reincarnation, and control through sordid misdeeds.  When Dalia and her two young sisters become prepped for a ritual of an important role in the cult, potentially leading them down the path of sex and sacrifice, a traitorous follower helps the sisters attempt to escape their emmeshing fate as the police raid the Golden Path compound ensuing a firefight that leads to the death Ragana and Dalia’s getaway, but her sisters are kidnapped and held captive by the remaining cult members.  Years later and riddled with guilt, Dalia must know what happened to her sisters and she tracks down a death metal cultist, Moloch, who seemingly has a connection to Golden Path, with the help of Samoth, a black metal fanatic, but Moloch forestry hermit lifestyle cuts off Dalia and Samoth from the rest of the world and the convicted arsonist against all things Christianity may have more up his sleeve than what meets the eye.

With a title that sounds like an all-girl goth band from the grunge era of the 1990’s, or maybe even more so from the “Scooby Doo” franchise (Hex Girls anyone?), “Cult Girls” summons the actuality of being an acute quasi-historical and dark fantasy thriller hailing from the Ozploitation capital of the world, Australia.  “Cult girls” is the second, non-documentary film from “The Matrix’ inspired “Narcosys” director, Mark Bakaitis, who directed, wrote, and edited his the multi-location sophomore film that has on location scenes from not only in Australia, but also in Lithuania, at the notable Hill of Crosses landmark, and in the indiscernible urban locations of Germany.  Bakaitis serves as producer alongside executive producer Douglas Kaplan of the diverse arts platform production company, All Edge Entertainment, based in Santa Monica, California. 

The Australian production casts an American to star as Ragana, the brood matriarch destined to rejuvenate Golden Path’s permanence, with “V’s” very own Jane Badler.  Badler brings an international presence to the feature and isn’t a stranger to films from the down under.  With the actress’s soul-seducing cutting eyes and demonic empress allure, the New York born Badler exacts Ragana’s clutching strength as an underground Pagan seeking unlimited decadent power.  However, Badler is overshadowed by the timorousness of Dalia whose polar opposite presence is granted a more favorable chunk of screen time.  Finnish born Saara Lamberg plays the humbled Dalia, living her life out of a covenant while searching out the cult that once almost stitched her into the sew of sleazy affairs to unearth the whereabouts of her younger sisters.  Dalia’s a bit of a dull principle with no substantiated efforts in finding her siblings and it isn’t until Samoth stalks her one night, recognizing the Golden Path’s symbol tattooed on her wrist and offering his manhunt services to find the expelled Moloch, an exaggerated black metal anti-Christianity anarchist in a saturating performance by Albert Goikhman.  In the middle, masked brutes, half naked women, and, fallen by the waist side, Dalia’s sisters in standalone plot point narratives that, as far as story structure goes, does nothing to motivate the narrative other than be an ostentatious aesthetic of locations and debauchery.  “Cult Girls” rounds out the cast with Tony Markulin (“MurderDrome”), Algias Karazija, Dean Kirkright, a handful of Bakaitis’s family, and Simay Argento, a distant relative to Dario Argeno playing a Cult Auntie in the film.

“Cult Girls” borders being avant-garde of an unfiltered auteur’s will in a mesh of artistic polishes and prose dialogue, but the film slides into being more of an 83 minute music video over staying it’s welcome and drudges through a repetitive stylistic cycle to an almost nearly unwatchable extent.  Yet, “Cult Girls” somehow manages to retain attention despite the chewy acting and it’s ambling story that hits a dam wall of uncertainly of where the script should head. Bakaitis shoulders the story for modern Gothicism tapped with half naked occultist, sometimes bathing in blood, and a plague of nightmare imagery that director of photography Trent Schneider tunes into well with noir vitality despite being the cinematographer’s debut feature film, but through the shiny exterior of a handful of solid mise-en-scene work, “Cult Girls” numbs the impact of the soul corrupting Pagan syndicate, that may or may not be shrouded with supernatural foundations, and the anti-Christian propaganda with half-baked violence from geriatric men, masked with Dia de los Muertos style masks, able to be kingpins of an untouchable prostitution ring façade for their occult sacrifices in broad public without a bat of an eyelash.  Granted, prostitution is likely legal in Germany and Lithuania so authorities might turn a blind eye, but brothels are a convenient opportunity for police investigations. “Cult Girls” treasures the fact of Lithuania’s languishing heritage without being overly filmic heresy by blending in shaded sleaze and death, but there lies no story in Dalia’s unenthusiastic search for her sisters in a much more preacherly themed death metal horror that confuses cult with religion.

 

Apocalyptic reincarnations and traditional folklores collide in Mark Bakaitis’s “Cult Girls” on DVD now from Umbrella Entertainment. The Australian release is a single layer DVD with region 4, PAL encoded format, presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Trent Schneider’s keen eye captures a grim fairytale surface of black magic masochism and, at the same time, breathtaking in the pure nature scenes, but the imagery is mostly in devoid of richer color that lingers around a bluish-gray monochrome tone and struggles with hazy details, especially around facial features, that smoothly fuzz over. The English, German, and Lithuanian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix battens down with shiplap genres of traditional Lithuania folk and modern metal from composing sound designer Erin McKimm, implementing the traditional songs of Lithuania sung by the Melbourne-Lithuania community singers, The Lost Clogs. Industrial action fills in every nook and cranny of the remaining score with decent range and depth of ambiance. While the dialogue is prominent and clear, there are spelling errors and tiny text issues with the English subtitles when the narrative lands in Germany and Lithuania. The DVD’s bonus features includes audio commentary, making of featurettes with cast and crew interviews, Bakaitis’s short film, “Mercy Kill” that serves one of the founding themes for “Cult Girls,” and music videos directed by Mark Bakaitis. For an Australian film, “Cult Girls” will feel more worldly, unlike anything else that comes out of Australia, and have partisan propaganda against Christianity, but in the end, the insidious Pagan evil, on the precipice of resurrecting, wearies on, like a tireless sermon of doom.

The Dead Don’t Stay Dead in EVIL Burial Grounds! “Pet Sematary Two” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)


After the accidental and traumatizing death of his beautiful actress mother, happening right before his eyes, Jeff Matthews and his veterinarian father move from Los Angeles to his mother’s quaint hometown of Ludlow, Maine to start over. The father and son are met with small town hostility from an arrogant, abusive Sheriff and the high school bully, but the ease of settling into their new surroundings with a new veterinarian business going well and Jeff gaining friendship with the Sheriff’s stepson, Drew, provides some inkling of comfort after their loss. When the Sheriff’s hot-headed temper murders Drew’s dog, the disconsolate Drew, along with Jeff, buries his beloved best friend in a sacred Indian burial ground with a smidgen of hope of the dog’s return, as the town’s urban legends suggest, but the dog becomes the first to return in a series of deaths and catastrophic returns that stagger to a family reuniting climax Jeff and his father won’t ever forget.

With Stephen King removing his name and separating himself from the overall project, the sequel to the 1989 “Pet Sematary” raised a few eye brows from the general public, and I’m sure some anxious investors, of how just would a non-adapted sequel to one of Stephen King popular novels would pan out come release. “Pet Sematary Two,” released three years after first film, would follow the predeceasing story a few years later with an entirely new cast of characters while still evoking the presence of the first film to linger about with director Mary Lambert to return to the director’s chair and helm a script by a relatively unknown writer, Richard Outten. Yet, Lambert’s return didn’t necessary equate to the reimplementing a broody, ominous, darkness facade as the well versed music video and television director flipped the script on a film she might not have any control over albeit financial backers did. Instead, “Pet Sematary Two” garnishes a scoffing rock’n’roll polarity that’s a raiper-like obverse approach of merriment morbidity doused with flammable fun and demented delight.

Hot off the presses of his first major role as a young John Connor fighting man-killing machines from the future in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Edward Furlong stars as the scathingly broody Jeff Matthews. While Jeff Matthews isn’t as punk, off the street, as the delinquent turned hero John Connor, Furlong is about to turn Jeff back into being a kid with real life problems such as bullying, father-son quarrels, and dealing with the death of a parent. That screeching cry, those sunken eyes, and that bad boy attitude from “T2: Judgement Day” convinced thousands of young teenage girls that Edward Furlong was a desired heartthrob and “Pet Sematary Two” continued to showcase those attributes even further. However, in my humble opinion, Clancy Brown is the real heartthrob of the sequel with his over-the-top performance in the abrasive Sheriff Gus. The New England twang instantly sells Gus’s malignancy and crimson temper without even lifting one ill-fitting moral finger. From another King adaptation in “Shawshank Redemption” to being a bug hunter Commander Zim in “Starship Troopers,” Brown’s distinguishable deep and resonating voice, square jaw, and tall with broad shoulders has made the veteran actor the picture of law enforcement and military type and while “Pet Sematary Two” played into that typecast, Brown, who didn’t want to venture into horror, saw the laughter in the darkness and came out on top with a stellar exaggerated and unforgettable Sheriff Gus as a full blown undead maniac. Furlong and Brown stands out immensely over the rest but the remainder of the roles are just a grand with performances from “Revenge of the Nerds'” Anthony Edwards, Jared Rushton, Darlene Fluegel (“Freeway”), Jason McGuire, and Sarah Trigger.

“Pet Sematary Two” might have been profane against all that is (un)holy from the Stephen King’s novel and Lambert’s first film, but truth be told, the sequel is a whole lot of fun, a shell of the name worth watching, and provides substantial brutality with gory leftovers including skinning stark white rabbits, shredding the face off a young punk with the back wheel of a motocross bike, and an electrocution that ends with a head eruption. The Steven Johnson effects had range and bite, but unfortunately, the full brunt of the “Videodrome” and “Night of the Demons” effects artist’s work was perhaps not entirely showcased with some hard cuts to obtain a R rating, even unfortunately keeping the age-old rating with the new collector’s edition from Scream Factory that’s also the feature’s Blu-ray debut. Lambert certainly wanted the sequel to bask in a different kind of darkness that’s more comedic than gloomy and the schism between the two gulfs compares like a night and day, but the core principles of what makes “Pet Sematary” “Pet Sematary” remains faithfully intact. In hindsight, the sequel should have been labeled something else other than “Pet Sematary.”

Back from the physical media graveyard comes Paramount Pictures’ “Pet Sematary Two” onto a full 1080p, High Definition, collector’s edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, hitting retailers February 25th. The release sports a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative and presented in the original aspect ratio, 1.85:1 widescreen. The fact the source material remains unblemished becomes a plus that renders the newly scanned transfer with complementary darker shades of Autumn foliage and outerwear, delineating the burial ground and town nicely, and offering a range over hues that amplifying the perilous circumstances ahead. Still leaving some natural grain, the scan chisels through the softer portions and really does offer some nice details toward facial finishes, even in the dog’s mangy and matted blood stained fur. A few select poor edit choices, such as slow motion techniques, counteract against the detail naturally by disrupting the frames per second and causing a bit of a smoother finish than desired. If the English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio could be described as one thing, that would be a menagerie of ambient gratification. The crinkling of leaves and the subtle cries of wildlife really set the primal and augury atmosphere. Dialogue clearly comes through and Mark Governor’s score shutters as a gothic western, an oddity for sure, mixed with wolf howls and Native American percussions, that fits the in the film’s black argyle pattern. All new special features accompany the single disc release, sheathed in an Laz Marquez illustrated cardboard cover, including a new audio commentary by director Mary Lambert, new interviews with Edward Furlong, Clancy Brown, Jason McGuire, special effectors advisor Steven Johnson, and composer Mark Governor, and a standard edition theatrical trailer. While not a fully uncut, “Pet Sematary Two” for the first time on Blu-ray is paramount to the genre the feature serves, swerving far from the antecedent, and evolving into a promising guilty pleasure.

Zowie Wowie! Check Out Pet Sematary Two on Blu-ray come Feb. 25th!

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.

Evil All Dolled Up! “Dollface” review!

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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Evil Does a Body Good! “Milk the Maid” review!

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Ruriko’s family is on steep decline: Ruriko’s fooing around with other men, her husband has no job, and their son Koichi may or may not be accepted to Tokyo University. Money is tight, tensions are high, and then it all changes when Ruriko brings home Milk, a self-declared baby angel looking to get back to Heaven. Koichi and his dad believes Milk is annoying and needs to be committed, but when Milk is presented to live with the Tokyo family, nobody can resist her innocent sex appeal and mystical charm.
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Oh my goodness. Tia is an absolute beautiful AV model who has only been in the Japanese porn business for 3 years. Her exotic red hair, massive succulent H cup, and slender tight body creates Tia to be the center of gravity in “Milk the Maid.” Her innocent act as a baby angel looking to make her way back to Heaven from God’s approval, but first she much help those around her “reach heaven” first. You can imagine the troubles the male characters, Koichi and his father, go through are quickly extinguished and they see their fateful path to enlightenment. Supporting female cast members Mirei Yokoyama, another tight big breasted Japanese AV wonderment, and Ayum, a lesser known AV model but none-the-less still cute, round out this zany erotic comedy. The film opens with Mirei Yokoyama working it on a man; her absolutely gorgeous body had me convinced that she was the “star” of the film until I saw Tia. The exotic red hair and light skin and the cutesy fantasy-like appeal certainly outshines the rest of the cast.
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Though “Milk the Maid” ignites into a pretty common, yet spectacular, Japanese wacky erotic comedy – still quite hilarious at points – the characters do go through a rough patch and work through Milk’s heavenly-body ways in order to rekindle the lost spark back into the family and help them rediscover love. Another point to love this film is the sex scenes. Most pink films I’ve seen conjoin two people who seem to be contending on who can over sex the other. That’s not the case here as the sensual scenes are more, well, normal for lack of a better word. They’re still very sexy without creating an awkward viewing experience.
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“Milk the Maid” is another great hit and recent release for the pinkusploitation empire Pink Eiga. Long time pink film director Motosugu Watanabe strikes panty wet gold! Being one of the most revealing pink films that I’ve ever seen, I’m glad Tia had honed onto my radar and is now a object of my dreams. Catch this DVD either at your local video store’s back room or, and a much easier more convenient way, purchase it directly at Pink Eiga.com!