The EVILs of Slasherman! “Random Acts of Violence” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)

Comic book writer Todd has hit a writer’s block wall on the last issue of his one-shot, popular and extremely graphic series Slasherman based off the gruesome string of I-90 murders of the late 1980s where the killer murdered and mutilated his victims without ever being caught.  Looking for inspiration to conclude his life’s work, Todd, his girlfriend, investing publisher, and assistant head out on a road trip from Toronto to America, specially through the small town of McBain where the murders took place, but when recent mutilated bodies resemble the grisly deaths inside the colorful pages of his comics, the semi-fictional Slasherman story becomes full blown reality that places him and his friends in a maniacal killer’s path whose flipping through the pages of Todd’s murder-glorifying comic for inspiration of his own. 

Like many opinionated reviews before mine, I never imagined Jay Baruchel directing a horror movie.  The long time comedic actor with solid relationships working with other high profile comedians, such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride in some of the best notable comedies on the side of the century, has stepped into the shadows and professing his admiration for the genre we all love – horror. Baruchel cowrites and directs his first horror film, the big screen adaptation of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Random Acts of Violence” graphic novel. Fellow collaborator on the “Goon” movies, Jesse Chabot, branches out with Baruchel on the script and the two Canadian filmmakers yield an intense meta-gore picture focusing toward themes of lopsided public perspective and the glorifying of violence on other less physical mediums. Published in 2010 under Image Comics, the Gray and Palmiotti publication supplied a wealth of visceral material that unfolded faithfully in Baruchel’s Shudder distributed film as a stylish comicbook-esque narrative under the Toronto based Elevation Pictures, Wicked Big, and Manis Film production in association with Kickstart Comics and JoBro Productions. Palmiotti and Gray also serve as executive producers.



Struggling in the search for his perfect ending to Slasherman, Todd immerses himself in a cerebral fixation that envelops him more so then he would like to think.  Todd’s played by social activist and “Cabin in the Woods” actor Jesse Williams whose character is thrust into essentially making a choice, entertain his profession that earns blood money off the backbones of the I-90’s victims or subside his eagerness to finish his graphic novel and be team victim alongside his girlfriend Kathy (“The Faculty” and 2006’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’s” Jordana Brewster) researching a novel that gives the slain victims a voice over their killer.  Brewster hasn’t changed one bit in a role that resembles a mature version of her “The Faculty” Delilah Profitt character complete with glasses and a thirst for reporting.  As a couple, Williams and Brewster hit little on their unconditional love  that’s apparent in the film’s final scenes.  Aside from their opening segment in their Toronto flat, their road trip is filled with Kathy berates Todd at times or Todd never seeming interested in Kathy or her work that’s seen counteractive to his own.  Affection is thin between them and I’m wondering if that’s more of the script writing than a flaw on Williams and Brewster who are credibility solid in their roles.  Same can be said about Jay Baruchel’s Ezra, the indie publisher sponsoring Slasherman, as the writer-director plays little to a publisher’s position of pushing the sales and marketing envolope and appears more to just be a tagalong friend with moments of quietly hawking.  Without much competition surrounding him, Slasherman is the most interesting character of the bunch from prolific stuntman, Simon Northwood.  With a 1000 yard stare that’s more menacing inducing than stemmed by trauma, Northwood brings the graphic novel character to all his glory as an aspiring artist in a contemporary parallelism to Todd who both see one another as their muse.  Northwood’s Slasherman is silently frightening, even more scary when he has to psych himself up to kill, and brings the physical stature of an unstoppable slasher genre maniac.  No one is safe from the merciless Slasherman, including those rounding out the cast in Niamh Wilson (“Saw III”), Clark Backo, Eric Osborne (“Pyewacket”), Nia Roam (“Polar”), Aviva Mongillo, and Isaiah Rockcliffe.   

The hyper violence lands more with a firm hand making good on film title.  Baruchel doesn’t hold much, if anything, back when rectifying violence as the monolithic theme while hitting a few thought-provoking notes involving the public’s perspective on the infamous legacy of serial killers and the tragic, forgotten memory toward their victims.  Somewhere in the gutting-clutter is a message of meta-existentialism tearing between that thin line of a person’s cause and effect actions.  Without the I-90 killer, Todd would not been stimulated into creating the deeply grim anti-heroic antics of Slasherman and, visa-versa, Slasherman would not have returned, coming out from retirement, if it wasn’t for Todd’s life’s work and lack of series conclusion for the Slasherman character speaking to Slasherman’s sanguinary artistic side.  One aspect stiffly hard to place your finger on is Todd’s connection with the town of McBain.  Other than a brief voice over exchange with Ezra, who mentions Mcbain is Todd’s hometown area, not much more of that pivotal connective tissue seizes grounding Todd, but the graphic novelist experiences a multitude of images streaming through his far off gazes, thoughts, and dreams. A boy, the boy’s mother who we know to be one of Slasherman’s victims because of Kathy’s research book, and the collateral damage of some great magnitude of violence surrounding them carry little weight to Todd’s psyche when struggling to piece his visions and these people’s bloodshed moment together and one reasonable theory that might explain that disconnect on our part is partially racially motivated, a detail indicative of gross assumption but a detail that can easily deceive you if you’re not knowledgeable enough about the cast you’re watching. My two cents is not randomized at all on Jay Baruchel’s “Random Acts of Violence” as it’s a brazenly deep and vicious first attempt horror in his own manic words from the glossy, leafy pages of the same titular graphic novel to the tellies of terror now on home media release.

Classified 18 for strong bloody violence and gore, “Random Acts of Violence” hits Blu-ray media shelves courtesy of Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded single disc BD25 has a runtime of 81 minutes and is presented in a slightly cropped widescreen 2.38:1 aspect ratio. A diverse hue palette of neon extricates Baruchel’s off-brand, real-time comic layout, creating a gritty, yet vibrant world all his own in a near window-blinds noir fashion. The tinkering of tints reaches almost Italian giallo levels without playing much with lighting and fog, relying heavily on the different neon vibrancy as if a colorist was right there pigmenting each scene as it played out. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound discerns very well across the board with robust dialogue that even with Williams’ slight lisp, every single word can be hung on. I didn’t think there was a ton of opportunity for depth and range as much of the action is in staged front side of the camera, but for what little there was, those areas saw solid, identifiable outputs. Bonus features include a zoom interview with a very animated Jay Baruchel providing the in depth inner works of the conception of his film while sporting a retro Montreal Expos ballcap, a showreel-esque promo entitled More Than Just A Scary Movie offers brief opinions, thoughts, and highlights on the film edited from longer, on-set interviews, and a look inside how to make an action scene. An on-your-toes, gut-wrenching slasher with a juicy slice of meta proves Jay Baruchel can wander into any genre and come out on top, but “Random Acts of Violence” has kinks to straighten out in this young director’s sophomore feature.

Mar and Scar is EVIL’s Sullied Handiwork and is Also Its Undoing! “Hanger” reviewed (Blu-ray / Unearthed Films)

Pimp Leroy likes money.  He likes money so much he stop anything and anyone from coming in between him and cold hard cash.  When Rose, his star prostitute, becomes knocked up and she carries the baby into the later terms, Leroy sees that baby as just another obstacle keeping him from dollar signs and performs a back alley abortion on Rose that results in her death and the newborn mauled by the close hanger used to pull him out.   Fast forward 18 years later, the disfigured boy Hanger, named after tool used to extract him from the womb, falls under the wing of his supposed father, one of Rose’s more admirer, only known as The John, and together they seek revenge for Rose.  In the meantime, Hanger is secured a job at the local recycling center where he is befriend by fellow outcast Russell and as The John ignites war against Leroy that spills into every prostituted infested corner of the streets and into the recycler center.

First off…Man, do I miss Ryan Nicholson.  Secondly, “Hanger” is one of the most depraved films I’ve seen in a long time.  Probably the most depraved amongst the credits of the “Gutterballs” and “Collar” writer-director who has left his mark on the sometimes bland indie horror scene with the craziest content that has become the epitomizing taste of Unearthed Films.  Nicholson cowrote the vulgar comedy-exploitation with Patrick Coble in their second feature story collaboration following their 2004 work on the Nicholson brutal rape-and-revenge directed tale “Torched.”  Rape and revenge, plus a whole lot of sleazy, scuzzy, and sordidness, doesn’t buck the Canadian filmmaker into doing something more political correct as the auteur is too well versed into capturing the base layer muck under his Plotdigger Films production banner in Vancouver, British Columbia  “Hanger” is financially produced by Nicholson and Coble and along with Wolfgang Hinz, Stephanie Jennings, and Michelle Grady.

Needing no stamp of approval, “Hanger” would not have been as unpleasantly intoxicating if it wasn’t for the cast.  Each and every character beneath “Dick Tracy”-like prosthetics come to life with their own identifiable quirks and putrid personalities with perhaps the headliner in the tamest role being played by genre icon and scream queen Debbie Rochon (“Tromeo and Juliet,” “Model Hunger”).  Troma’s most famous gal isn’t the only Troma-head to be in Nicholson’s film with a guest appearance by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman as Melvina the Tranny who has her willy kissed the stove-top burner.  I know what you’re thinking – Rochon and Kaufman is in anything is a must-see film!  I couldn’t agree more, but “Hanger” really lives and breathes on the more prosthetic-heavy performances of Nathan Dashwood, Wade Gibb, Dan Ellis, and, especially, Alastair Gamble as Phil.  Also known as Philthy, Phil is also a recycler on the look out for unemptied beer bottles for any kind of alcohol fix he can get his filthy hands on and Gamble really develops the ins-and-outs of the character’s mannerism and style and the “Gutterballs” actor does the role so well that Phil will forever be imprinted into your cerebral character catalogue for the rest of time.  I also couldn’t get enough of Wade Gibb’s Russell who gives the ethnic Chinese man a high-pitched voice and an insatiable hankering for porn and bad jokes.  Russel also has a penchant for trashed picked used tampons the administrative secretary at his job bins when she’s cycling through and after her late night self-pleasures, Russell can’t help but to blather on and on about her to his new friend Hanger, play with domicile explosiveness like TNT by “They Came From the Attic’s” Nathan Dashwood.  Candice Le (who is an uncanny Laura Prepon lookalike), Nadia Grey, Stephanie Walker, Rochelle Lynn-Jones, Susan Arum, Michelle Grady, and Dan Ellis who stars as Rose’s revenger-advocate, The John.

Ryan Nicholson passed away come two years ago come October due to brain cancer. From that condemned mind came some of the most vividly depraved characters, gratuitous gravities, and sweet, lip-smacking gore that just rolls into the place. “Hanger” is no exception; in fact, “Hanger” is probably Nicholson’s magnum opus considering all of the aforementioned descriptors. Obviously, pleasantries is not in Nicholson’s vocabulary with a storyboard progression rock hard on revenge, sex, and a recycling center full of a variety of perversions. Nicholson had a knack for obtaining real locations without having to build sets, one of his more cost-efficiency attributes to appreciate, and the recycling center where Russel, Hanger, and Phil worked was an actual true business, but the way Nicholson shoots the scenes, and with the other exteriors, is masterful in only allowing the audience to see what he wants you to see. Background details are tenebrously obscured as he highlights the basic necessities to convey what to focus on in relation to the characters. These characters are terribly invasive to the point where you can almost smell how they look and the need for a shower after some of their atrocities is well justified as this fetish theme of unsolicited bodily insertions goes over and beyond the borders of comfort. I still can’t get Alastair Gamble’s Phil out of my head. Rubber dicks, fart jokes, racist obscenities, trannies, voyeurism, masturbations, mutilation -“Hanger” has a lot of sin to be unapologetic for as it reeks lowlife war to the max. If desiring a little extra something-something, the Unearthed Films release comes complete with a second version of the film, XXX-rated cut, that’s not available on previous North American releases, such as with Vicious Circle unrated release. Where “Hanger” stumbles is with the narrative that divides like a cell into two rather different narratives after the initial coat hanger botched abortion. Though The John talks a good game and amps Hanger up for vengeance, the ex-military prostitute connoisseur goes for Leroy alone while Hanger and Russell burgeon their unusual friendship with trash-picking tampon diving and just hanging out. With the narrative more so focused on the latter, don’t expect “Hanger” to be round-the-clock carnage from start to finish.

Continuing their distribution of all Nicholson’s Plotdigger Films, Inc. catalogue, Unearthed Films 2-disc collector’s edition Blu-ray of “Hanger” is a must own and a must see for any fans of Unearthed Films’ gory longstanding pedigree and of Ryan Nicholson.  A warning about ghosting and compression artefacts precedes the film that is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, informing views of the unstable picture quality due to the nature of the recording equipment, but for the most part, the worst ghosting and compression issues are in the first scenes of the motel with Debbie Rochon and Lloyd Kaufman.  The controlled contrasting, comprised of limited lighting, a reduction in color, and perfect shadow placement, adds another flavor to “Hanger’s” squalid and vulgar character exteriors by accenting scenes with a post-apocalypse or slum living discomfort.  Details can get a very graphic, explicit, and fleshy as prosthetic organs ride that ambiguous seesaw and the prosthetics overall are extremely unique and memorable under the creative eye of Life to Death FX artist Michelle Grady.  The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix has ample fidelity despite the self-manipulation of voices and appropriations of cultural accents.  Dialogue is clean and prominently lucid.  Personally, the soundtrack is not particularly my favorite of a compilation of heavy rock and hardcore bands, such as Bison, Nomeansno, Spread Eagle, and Grass City and The Invasives, but do fit right into Nicholson’s scheme and personality.  The 2-disc set comes jampacked with over 16-hours of extras including a commentary with director Ryan Nicholson, Behind the Stoma:  The Making and Taking of Hanger with cast and crew interviews, a video diary-esque of Lloyd Kaufman’s single-day shoot entitled Enough Dope to Hang Yourself With:  On the Set with Lloyd Kaufman, a blooper reel, deleted and additional scenes, photo galley, Debbie “Rose” Rochon’s simulated sex tape “Black on White Bred” with pimp Ronald Patrick “Leroy” Thompson, the Colostomy Bag Edition aka the XXX-rated version of the film, trailer, and a second disc that’s nothing but outtakes.  The scene in the Colostomy Bag Edition, I believe, is just a minor penetrating cut-in scene more than likely not related to any of the actresses in the cast.  The Unearthed Films release is not rated and clocks in at 90 minutes (regular edition) and 91 minutes (Colostomy Bag Edition). The characters alone are worth “Hanger’s” price of admission but Unearthed Films delivers a sweet, comprehensive 2-disc collector’s set for this gore-soaked and grotesque little film.

A Must Own 2-Disc Collector’s Edition of Ryan Nicholson’s “Hanger” Available at Amazon

They Went To Look For Their Parents. They Found EVIL Instead. “Feed the Gods” reviewed (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)



Brothers Will and Kris just lost their foster mother to a sudden stroke but the bereaving moment between their clashing personalities only lasts a minute of solace before they’re back at each other’s throats.  When Will finds a strange VHS tape in their foster mother’s last will and testament belongings, recorded in a remote mountain town, they witness their parents on the tape.  The brothers, along with the encouragement and accompaniment of Kris’s girlfriend Brit, travel to the small tourist-sparse town that seems to have been all but forgotten and abandoned by the local residents.  Instead of locating their parents, the strange, remaining locals hoodwink them in believing their quaint backwoods town is quiet and unsuspecting as they chain the brothers and Brit to a sacrificial pole then waiting until a town-terrorizing beast that craves an offering for the townsfolk’s freedom feasts upon them. 

Always on the hunt for a good, or at this point even a mediocre, bigfoot horror, coming across Braden Croft’s “Feed the Gods” seemed like an stimulating option that dabbled in quasi-bigfoot lore rather than a full blown assault of Sasquatch bombardment.  The 2014 Canadian film is written and directed by the “Hemorrhage” filmmaker as Croft stays steadfast in the thrills and chills genre.  The elusive bigfoot is not only hard to capture sight of in the deep forest undergrowth, but also difficult to find sight of in a coherent, well-made film without an inglorious narrative that doesn’t respect Bigfoot’s towering eternal myth and legend.  Hard to believe, I know, but the hairy humanoid has crumbled down to nearly a gutless pelt of its former big screen self.  Every rare blood red moon, a fiercely gory 2006 “Abominable” or a kid-friendly and effects driven “Harry and the Hendersons” comes to our salivating attention and scratches the itch until the next dumpster fire Sasquatchsploitation crapper.  Keep reading for how Croft’s “Feed the Gods” fairs amongst the fray on the Bleiberg Entertainment subdivision, Compound B (“Dahmer,” “Monster Man”), presented Random Bench (“Sisters of the Plague”) production.

Having a hand in producing “Feed the Gods” as well as having a lead role is Albert Wesker himself, Shawn Roberts (“Resident Evil” franchise), playing the half-wit older brother, Will.  Roberts’s simpleton performance can be amusing, even when dangling nonsense like his bad German swashbuckler accent, as he runs around half the film with barely any clothes on which I’m sure will give some audience a thrill that’s not horror related.  I prefer Roberts when he’s “Tucker & Dale-ing” bad guys left and coolly wriggles his way through the forest and cabins to save his more common sensed younger brother, Kris, played by Tyler Johnston.  Will and Kris constantly butt heads and Roberts and Johnston make good on the sibling rivalry effectively communicating verbally and in body language their characters’ unsatisfactory levels with each other.  Some character developments, for example Kris medicating to relieve stress, never properly fleshes out after Will and Brit discover the medicine bottle, bringing no turmoil to his relationship with the obviously pissed Brit (“Kingdom Hospital’s” Emily Tennant).  In fact, neither character grows beyond their already initially established selves, leaving a lot on the table to be desired.  Characters are interesting enough, the plight is there, the need for growth is there, actors have unearthed the personalities with an X-Acto knife and yet the narrative executive fails them, revving us up only to hit the brakes right when the light turns green.  We definitely gain more out of townsfolk in Emma (Britt Irvin, “She Who Must Burn”), Hank (Lane Edwards, “Mortal Remains”), Curtis (Edward Witzke, “The Predator”), and Pete (Aleks Paunovic, “Snowpiercer” television series) who have either root themselves as they are or struggle with a change of heart that innately arc the character completely.  Rounding out the cast is Tara Wilson, Christine Willes, Garry Chalk, Robin Nielson, and Bill Croft.

Well, my search continues for exceptional bigfoot tales of terror after my viewing of “Feed the Gods” raised a mountain of questions without sating the curiosity.  The story itself is interesting of a dilapidated and antiquated town, on the cusp of timeless ruin, are hostage to a wilderness beast that requires a human meal and for each sacrifice, a ticket is granted to a local to decamp the town, but who physically grants the ticket?  Who are the people enforcing the barrier around the town?  These are just a couple of examples that go unanswered against the backstory of the wild forest creature who was fed small animals by the natives long ago, but when the white settlers purged the land of the red plague, the beast starting devour the white man ever since.  “Feed the Gods” becomes a that classic tale of lifelong consequence where the sins of ancestors becomes the sins of their children, but there had to be this covert group, who we never meet aside from a mean ole rifle-toting farmer at the preface scene, that kept the townspeople in check for generations.  Death special effects are routine but soluble to digest and are well done, though too dark at times the locations are aplenty between cabins, caves, and forests, and, as said, the acting holds its own, but Croft’s story feels terribly unfinished with an acute cut to credits.  As soon as creature presents itself, a man in full furball suit complete with passable prosthetics and teeth, standing face-to-face with our heroes for the first time ever, the protagonists run away in separate directions and that is where the practically ends.  After you pick your jaw up off the ground in disbelief, you’re quickly try to piece together what, where, when, why and how of how Croft that this route was plausible enough to properly finish a film.  After scoping out the bonus content’s behind-the-scenes, even the creature designer Travis Shewchuk was taken aback by Croft’s sudden alterations to have a shadowy monster, silhouetted mostly in the dark, become brilliantly lit up in day sequences at the last minute and had to scramble to figure out how to make it work.  Adding another noticeable layer is the heroes and the revealed creature obviously never share the same scene with slapdash editing to make the appearance as such. 

Serve up “Feed the Gods” as your main course plated with Sasquatch mystery and with a side dish of buff Shawn Roberts in his underwear coming to you as a MVD Visual Blu-ray release on the distributor’s Marquee Collection sublabel.  The region free BD25 is presented in HD, 1080p, of a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For a 2014 film, the contrast between day and night scenes are, frankly, day and night with the darker framed action less than desirable discernibility. You really have to have every single light source completely turned off to spy the faint silhouettes. Day scenes settle for better but the high definition in the detail personally feels a little soft, feeding into more of upper tier standard levels of resolution experience with lush foliage surrounding. Picture is not bad, but it’s not great is the end message here. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix bare little to separate itself from the other audio option, a 2.0 LPCM stereo. You hear the difference in a more vivacious, if not voracious, soundtrack, but the hike never extends beyond that to the dialogue or ambient tracks. Aside from the soundtrack that oversteps at times, dialogue is rather clean and clear. No apparent damage to either audio or visual aspects but that’s fairly expected with any digital playback. Special features include writer-director Braden Croft and associate producer-creature designer Travis Shewchuk on a feature overlay commentary track, a “Feed the Gods” behind the scenes featurette in HD which plays out reminiscently between Croft and Shewchuk, the original theatrical trailer, and reversible Blu-ray cover art. Call me jaded by my previous down in the dumpster Bigfoot film reviews, but “Feed the Gods” has none of that deity staying power to rise the Sasquatch game out of the pits of despair; in fact, “Feed the Gods” only adds more fuel to the fire in another pernicious hit to our mean and nasty, rarely lovable, man-thing, Bigfoot.

“Feed the Gods” on Blu-ray.  Click here to purchase at Amazon.com!

Don’t Be Fooled By the EVILs of Your Mind! “Open Your Eyes” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)



Screenwriter Jason is on a deadline.  The producer is looking for his next script and soon.  The writer finds himself in a funk in not only fleshing out his script but also with his memories as a lingering sensation clings to him as flashes of moments that don’t seem quite right haunt his reality.  As he plugs along with his writing, other strange occurrences happen all around him:  a portion of his apartment wall is deteriorating from a leak in an adjacent upstairs unit, a cat has seemingly made it’s way into AC ducts, and objects disappear and reappear.  His dormant apartment complex is frustrating and lonely when he can’t reach the upstairs neighbor or the building manager about the leak that’s destroying his wall, but when he runs into Lisa, a neighbor from down the hall, many of his concerns fade away with her striking beauty and the two start up the beginnings of a possible relationship.  Yet, there’s still something amiss he can’t put his finger on and his newfound friend Lisa might just be the key to his awakening.   

Modest psychological horror has always been a tough one to pull off.  Instead of a straight forward zombie apocalypse or a killer behind a creepy mask slashing to bits half-naked teenagers, the psychological horror subgenre has to develop disintegration details and piece together fragmentations in a whirlwind character study that hopefully materializes into logical sense.  Writer-director Greg A. Sager tackles such threadbare cognizance with the filmmaker’s latest feature, “Open Your Eyes,” a Canadian psychological horror-thriller released this month.  Sager remains firmly in the horror realm with his fourth feature film behind 2012’s demon-seeding “The Devil in Me,” 2014’s supernatural penancing “Kingdom Come,” and 2018’s extraterrestrial thriller “Gray Matter.”  Continue the trend with all his independent productions, Sager self-produces alongside his co-founding Matchbox Pictures Inc., partner, Gary Elmer, who is also the cinematographer on the project.

“Open Your Eyes” is also modest in casting with two backbone characters keeping Sager’s narrative from being an bodiless work of art.  Doing much of the heavy lifting is the Toronto based Ry Barrett and with his close connection with filmmaker Chad Archibald, Barrett has had, in many different capacities, a role in a string of B-horror, including such films as “The Drownsman,” “Antisocial,” and “Neverlost” which are all tied to the Ontario director.  “Open Your Eyes” serves only as the second time Barrett and Sager team up following the release of “Kingdom Come.”   Barrett exudes an unconscious performance in Jason’s unravelling from crunch-time screenwriter to an unglued madman living in Jason’s version of a tenantable matrix.  Jason is almost sleepwalking through a lonely existence even before meeting his neighbor Lisa, a role played by Joanna Saul in her commencing feature film act, and the struggling to keep structural integrity writer hardly suspects and worries about strange manifestations that are happening all around him.  I don’t think Sager captures Jason’s full autonomy awareness that leaves the character more blank than bothered.  Barrett and Saul have adequate enough chemistry to make their barely a courtship romance intriguing, but her character’s implementation into restoring Jason’s vital grip on reality just kind of falls into his lap without a pinky being lifted on Jason’s part to assist in his own deliverance.   Heather May and Julianna Suzanne Bailey round out the small cast.

Aside from the nuisances with the character development, the sterilized comforts of Jason’s living conditions alone provide an unconventional chill.  Though living in an apartment complex is normally assumed chockablock with tenants living their lives, Jason’s apartment building is virtually vacant, void of the hustle and bustle of occupants, with not as much as a whisper from the exterior of Jason’s top-to-bottom, side-to-side walls.   What seems to be an idyllic environment for a concentrating writer becomes an oppressive variable that yet doesn’t seem to slow down or question Jason’s momentum or leave any kind of sense of threat along the way, leaving his what should be an ominous place of mind-bending confinement hanging out to whither and dry up .  I thought the plot twist to be shrouded enough to warrant a semi pleasantly surprised and unexpected ending that connects topically to today’s real-world climate.  Not to be riding a one trick themed pony, Sager also plays upon the themes of grief over loss and how the mind compensates with overactivity and gap fillers to avoid a complete mental system overload while also subtly adding a static charge of illusory sensations to make unsettling disturbances.  “Open Your Eyes” will not scare your socks off as it’s not that kind of film; instead, expect a slow-burn mystery more puzzling than panicky as the walls begin to crumble…literally. 

Okay, puzzlers.  Get puzzling on the new mystery horror-thriller, “Open Your Eyes,” that was distributed this past June by Gravitas Ventures on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital.  Producer Gary Elmer, as director of photography, paints the dark corners with softer figures that provides a really good shadowy contrast between character and background.  Elmer’s small use of the blue tint, his over-the-shoulder hallway delph, and shallow focus add tidbits of appeal without just “Open Your Eyes” seeming like another flat indie production.  Since I was provided with a digital screener, I can’t comment to confidently on the audio and video qualities of a physical release, but presented 2.35:1 widescreen was digitally shot on a CineAlta series Sony Venice camera that effectively provides a smoother grain, especially in the inky shadows, that transmit a really rich data scheme for post-production and offers that flexibility in producing range.  Another byproduct of the Venice camera is the natural looking skin tones seen with Elmer’s film when not under a tinted lens.  No bonus material offered with the digital screener and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Perhaps with a runtime a little longer than necessary, clocking in a 99 minutes, “Open Your Eyes” is a quaint terror touching the tattered strings of a mind, body, and soul pushed over the edge and into a falsehood bred by fear and loss.

Own “Open Your Eyes” on DVD or Watch on Prime Video!

Nab’em, Chop’em, and Feed’em to the EVIL Ox! “Butchers” reviewed! (Breaking Glass Pictures / Digital Screener)

After the death of their firm handed, elderly mother, brothers Owen and Oswald Watson remain isolated in the boondocks, off the beaten path to nowhere, to live in their rundown family home, like the generations before them, to do the one thing they desire and born to do – abduct stranded motorists, kill the men, and imprison away the women for their sadistic and misogynistic pleasures.  After breaking down passing through on a rural bypass, four young friends find themselves fighting for their very lives against a pair of siblings with a deep rooted heritage of experienced violence to show for it, but when one of the brothers starts to become even more unhinged than normal, the remaining survivors seek to take advantage of the situation to escape, but their captors know the woods inside and out.

Everyone believes Canadians are overly nice and well-mannered.  Our considerate neighbors of the North withstand the plethora of static noise from the turbulent South, willing to forget and forgive in a moments notice with nothing more than a smile and slap across the back, but has anyone ever bare witness to Adrian Langley’s dog-gonna-hunt, exploitation film, “Butchers,” hailing from Ottawa, Ontario?  The 2020 survival horror thriller displays the unseen dark side of Canadian’s grinning and friendly façade and, boy, does it familiarize and rival some of the similar backwoods doggedness we’ve seen in the last quarter century.  The film is written and directed by Langley and co-written with Daniel Weissenberger (“Come True”) in the intent of being a gritty, hillbilly-gone-wild hoedown with butcher blade sharpness.  Langley’s cinematic shiplap usually provides hard to swallow and violent themed content set to put one on tenterhooks established from his string of unflinching crime dramas (“A Violent State,” “Crook”) when the director is not moonlighting as a made-for-television PG-rated filmmaker for the holidays (“Candy Cane Christmas,” “Homemade Christmas”).  Christmas is long gone and a long way off and no amount of jovial spirit can guarantee a happy ending in “Butchers,” a production of Langley’s Unit XIX Films and Nicolás Onetti, producer and filmmaker behind retro-manufactured giallo horror “Abrakadabra” and “Francesca,” attached under his production banner, Black Mandala.” 

Principal characters are essentially the entire cast, small in size but pack a punch with their performances.  Starting off with the brothers, Owen and Oswald Watson, whose story begins during the snow and icy-filled heart of the winter months with them standing graveside, freshly filled with the remains of their mother, well before the hapless four protagonists breakdown in the summer’s heat.  The Watson boys story arc from second fiddle to top brass in a brief moment of background with the death of their mother as they quickly set to work pouncing on a young couple and exploiting the chained up and captive wife/girlfriend for carnal pleasure while abiding by a certain set of harshly punishable rules.  Television’s “Age of the Living Dead’s” Simon Phillips and Michael Swatton reteam in their respective roles of Owen and Oswald who are very much human characters with carefully planned and executed uncontrollable urges, callous whims, and fallible actions, sullied by a mixture of mental disease and rotten nurturing.  Philips is terrifying as in the intellectual brother, with his sophisticated word hole, very willing to get his hands dirty as the more perverse of the two brothers, but his relationship is on the rocks with his unstable brother, Oswald, as Swatton channels the internal family quibbling mindset of Leatherface from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise with the exception of the crossdressing obsession and the iconic, rip-roaring chainsaw.  Oswald instead wields a custom butcher’s knife with jagged shark life teeth as he manically runs through the forest hunting down the four youngsters played by Julie Mainville (“Ghastlies”), James Gerald Hicks (“Killer Mom”), and “The Nights Before Christmas’s Anne-Carolyne Binette and Frederik Storm.  With these lambs for the slaughter characters, this is where Adrian Langley succumbs to tropes that instill a misplaced sense of courage, uncontrollable and shallow horniness, and a turmoil amongst friends to be the divisive factor leading of their fate.  “Butchers” rounds out the cast with Jonathan Largy, Samantha De Benedet, Blake Canning, and Nick Allan as uncle Willard. 

“Butchers” does have blatant derivative bones underneath a body that echoes the frameworks of pioneered films from the aforementioned “Texas Chains Massacre” to more recently “Wrong Turn,” the original film series formed in 2003 about inbred, cannibalistic mountain people.  These powerhouse of unpretentious and bloodthirsty franchises inspired much of what you’ll experience in Langley’s homage of a cyclical subgenre; yet, the filmmaker’s tale of two brothers with a bloodletting scheme of their own doesn’t lend itself as being a hack work nor does the story render like an atrocious carbon copy but, rather, “Butchers” lives in a moment of simple, matter of fact craziness living in the dark corners of the seemingly innocuous world.  Owen paints a near perfect picture of the one in a million chance that people, like his hapless captives, fall into the position they’re in, sophisticatedly monologuing with intent to his bound prey in a pair of scenes that slice a thinly opened gap of possibility and that, right there, is scary.  “Butchers” builds no momentum, but, instead, goes right for the throat straight from the get-go as Langley reinforces the attitude that this can happen to anyone by not getting too familiar with characters in their backstories.  In order to establish a pattern of action and to lay foundations in who we should and shouldn’t root for when things go to hell, virtue-less unfaithfulness becomes a promising wedge that doesn’t necessarily cause descension in the ranks of survival, but paves a trope-laden path of who will ultimately perish.

Backcountry exploitation might have seem to have run it’s course. I mean, really, how many times can crazy deformed cannibals wreak gut-spilling havoc on the naïve outlanders to their idyllic provinces? For me, as many time as it damn well pleases, especially when fundamentally satisfying as Adrian Langley’s “Butchers,” distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures and now available streaming on Prime Video. “Butchers” will be available on DVD at a to be announced date. Langley, wearing multiple of hats in the spirit of indie productions, dons the director of photography bowler hat…well, I don’t really know what hat the DOP would wear, but we’ll represent the position with a bowler for now due to the deluxe sophistication the bowler implies while still sustaining a classic touch and that’s how I see Langley’s clean and competent cinematography style whose able to frame scenes that force audiences to be a part of the action . As soon as a character turns to speak to another character or when a car hood slams, an effective rush of adrenaline courses through the veins when out of nowhere one of the brothers pop onto the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio presented screen. “Butchers” come with no bonus material after a 92 minute runtime, but a single scene lingers during the credits that, again, harps back to a certain dancing killing machine from the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” May not be an original concept, but “Butchers” can still castrate the soul with an exploitatively merciless family tree sowed with perversion and bloodlust.

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