One Hundred and Twenty-Nine Men, Two Ships, and One EVIL Beast Trapped Together in Icebound. “The Terror” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Acorn Media International)



Departed from English ports in 1845, two exploration sailing ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, sought to chart a northwest passage through Artic waters above North America.  Bound for King William Island with over 120 men between the two vessels, the traversers found themselves icebound as the Winter months froze the arctic waters completely and solidifying their positions within one large ice mass.  Their story doesn’t end there as months pass, even through the summer, and winter’s firm grip shows no sign of rising above zero degrees, sweating the brow of the few experience Arctic officers.  To top off their troubles, a vicious polar bear, or some kind of supernatural beast connected to Innuit people, hunts down and ravages a few unfortunate Royal Navy seamen.  Low of provisions and spirits, a combination of infinite winter madness and trembling fear weigh heavy on the seafaring fellows frozen in an icy cold Hell. 

Straight from the ill-fated expedition in British maritime history, the mystery surrounding Captain Franklin and his crew’s death and disappearance in the Arctic is given the hypothetical explanation and supernatural treatment in season one of the AMC series “The Terror.”  However, the tale is more relative to the adapted novel of the same name written by American author Dan Simmons who specialized in science fiction and horror.  Adding elements of a monstrous presence stalking them in the shadows of a bleak tundra, Simmons’ historical fiction turned television series blurs the lines of non-fiction and fiction with chilling atmospherics and the indelicacies of human nature when necessities for survival are pushed to the extreme and are in short supply.  “The Terror” is backed by a strong executive producer team in Ridley Scott (“Alien”) and notable historical television producer David W. Zucker (“Mercy Street,” “The Man in the High Castle”) with writers Max Borenstein (“Godzilla vs. Kong”) and Andres Fischer-Centeno (“Under the Dome”) penning the screenplays with Tim Mielants, Edward Berger, and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan directing a total combined 10-episodes under the Scott Free Productions and Entertainment 360 flag. 

The AMC television thriller scores an amazing cast of seasoned English and Irish actors refined in their skills of becoming a part of the history their work reflects.  Chiefly surrounding the top three principle commanding officers, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’s” Ciarán Hinds as Captain Sir John Franklin, “Underworld: Blood Wars’” Tobias Menzies as Commander James Fitzjames, and with a foremost focus on “Resident Evil:  Apocalypse’s” Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier, an unique dynamic courses through the speckled personalities of each commander in the face of duty for Queen and country and in the certain finality to their crisis from the God-fearing Franklin, to the command prodigy Fitzjames, to the more sage practicality of Crozier.  Each also have their own flaws that inadvertently put a blight on the already ill-fated mission of charting a passage through the frigid bleakness of the Arctic ice and how they interact with a doubt inching motley crew of novice and experience sailors, especially between the stark contrast of fellow principle characters in the amiable Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready), whose personality is reflected by his name, in confliction with the more menacingly conniving shipmate Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis).  Both Ready and Nagaitis perfect their roles in convincing the audience on how we should feel about moral compass as they become the nerve center that drives the tale of continual darkness.  Praiseworthy performances definitely go to the entire cast, that also includes Nuuk native and Greenlandic band frontwoman, Nive Nielsen as well as Ian Hart, Alistair Petrie, Trystan Gravelle, Tom Weston-Jones, and Richard Riddell, pinpointing and bringing to life the mid-19th century Royal Navy speak, look, and mannerisms that adapt over the length and breadth of “The Terror’s” forlorn themes of two ship’s crew stranded in what could be said is a strange and alien terrain that evokes madness and fear in the longer you reside. 

The information surfaced about Franklin’s lost expedition with the discovery of possible cannibalism evidence discerned in the early 90’s and, more recently, the found wreckage of both the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror within the past decade add insurmountable coils of surreal realism around the true tragedy of both ships when embellished supernatural elements of an Inuit spirit animal stalking, hunting, and ravaging the crew.  Simmons novel and the series go hand-and-hand story wise but pull visually inspiration from Sir Edwin Landseer’s painting entitled “Man Proposes, God Disposes” where one polar bears tear at what’s left of a ship’s mast and another swallows what looks like human ribcage remains in a surely more a powerful image that’s aligned with the series in the offering an outcome of when it comes to man versus nature, nature will unduly win on it’s own frozen turf. AMC and Ridley Scott undoubtedly knew how to showcase a character driven story where over the time relations build and deteriorate between crew, officers, and a mingle of both and in that stretch of time, the passing of time itself has seemingly stood still as the nights become longer, routines are made, and the ships are stuck on the ice like a warm tongue pressed against a frozen metal pole, but, in the 10 episode series, the story stretches over a nearly two year period and the production is able to connect together next scenes to the previous ones without having to address each and every moment or exposition enough information to avoid the explanatory segue. This method of filmmaking always leave a smidgen of unknown, leaving viewers like us on tenterhooks and in an agitated state that we’ll never fully understand or fulfill that missing part of the mysterious portions and lapses in time. The unfortunate real life story itself casts an alluring wonder and I would even go as far as maritime excitement even if stemmed out of tragedy; that’s how “The Terror,” affixed to the rising ice in an infinite frozen sea of stalagmites, dresses every episode with a less is more garb. “The Terror” endures for a long time in the mind set to replay the desperation and the poignancy of the character’s madness, fear, cold, hunger, and the rest of their godawful bad luck.

A story relished with new fright and unsullied violence with every repeat viewing is now available on a two-disc, region 2 Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. The 10-episode series is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, on two PAL encoded discs with a total runtime of 453 minutes. The image pails in comparison to the perilous subject matter with a more softer, hazier picture than the harsh, snowy environment setting. Yet, I find that the subpar high definition not to be a complete distraction as much of story plays out in the dark or in the thick of flurries meant to obscure the eyes from seeing reality before biting your head off. Two different audio options are available on the release – a DTS surround sound 5.1 and a Dolby Digital PCM Stereo 2.0. Both tracks have high audio discernible marks as a well-balanced whole with the dialogue cleanly present, the ambient noise, especially the continuous wood creaking on the ships being squeezed by the ice, finely tongued for ever musket shot and snowy foley, and a respectfully insidious soundtrack that makes the body’s blood curl. Option English subtitles are available. I do think the bonus features are a little on the cheap side with only AMC’s behind-the-scenes commercial break segments making the cut on this release, complete with the AMC logo in tow, but the special features include Ridley Scott on “The Terror,” a look at the characters, the boat and visual effects, and concluding with an inside look at each episode featurettes. By the end of the last episode of “The Terror,” you won’t feel chipper, you won’t feel happiness for a long time; yet, you’ll want more and wished season 2 continued the story, but after an impressionable gnarly grand finale, “The Terror” season one is one of the best televised horror shows to come out in a very, very long time.

Love. A Complicated EVIL. “Me You Madness” reviewed! (STX Entertainment / Digital Screener)

Catherine Black, a materialistic and narcissistic hedge fund businesswoman, prides herself on expensive fashion, a healthy appetite for wealth, and a keen appreciation for 80’s music.  There’s also one little other aspect of Catherine’s life that excites her immensely, she’s a total sociopathic serial killer and cannibal who gets off on inviting the detrimental to society to her Malibu home for the slaughter.  When petty thief Tyler thinks he’s pulling a fast one over the megalomaniac by casing her lavish home full of luxurious jewelry, cars, and décor, he’s actually walked into a trap set by murderess.  Toying with her prey before springing her trap, a typically emotionally detached and cold Catherine begins to feel something for not only Tyler’s ruggedly handsome looks but also for his down to Earth knowledge of the world around him, but upon his discovery of her freezer full of preserved dismembered body parts, a love and hate cat-and-mouse game ensues as Catherine and Tyler battle it out between either their individual survival or to pursue the sensation of madly falling for each other. 

A hyperbolic whirlwind in how opposites attract to the new wave tune of an 80’s soundtrack with a glitzy siding of the modern macabre, “You Me Madness” visually defines the coined idiom to be crazy in love.   The debut dark comedy of 2016’s remake of “Cabin Fever” and “The Midnight Man’s” actress, Louise Linton, introduces the Scotland native not only as a director, but also as a screenwriter, penning “You Me Madness’s” unflinching admiration to homage music, films, and their clichés and incorporate them into a fiercely funny comedy that sows unusual seeds of love.  Shot primarily on location in Malibu, set atop of a promontory in and around the sleek modern Ed Niles’ glass-and-steel architecture of the marvelous Henman House, that lists with a hefty price tag of nearly ten million dollars in today’s housing market, and has been the backdrop as Johnny Rico’s family home in Paul Veerhoven’s 1997 authoritarian war on the bugs, “Starship Troopers.”  Linton’s Stormchaser Films serves as the production company with financial backing from Christopher Rush Harrington (“Dead of Winter”), Jijo Reed (“Deadly Famous”), and Christelle Zeinoun.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say “Me You Madness” is the riley, subconscious projection of Louise Linton who not only directs and writes the film but also leaps into to the star role as the self-absorbed Catherine Black.  It is my opinion that Linton’s desire to be a filmmaker stems from her love of moves, especially from the 1970s and 1980s, from the slew of references deliberately spoken throughout to either bring attention about and to avoid the overused tropes all together or a story structure style to galvanize the, sometimes historically ridiculous, long lineage of serial franchises like with “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” when Catherine wields a chainsaw and stops to quickly turn toward the camera to harp about the series longevity.  But, in any case, Linton is wonderful as the powerful corporate sociopath saturated in elegance and is near impervious in breaking her principles about stylish perceptions whether be her designer made outfits during kill mode or keeping red wine, and blood, of her Italian-purchased sofa…or is it a couch?  Linton is opposite the sweet, yet skillfully crafty, innocence radiated from Ed Westwick as conman Tyler Jones.  The British born actor steps into an entirely lighthearted, yet dark, role that’s undoubtedly different from his previous cache of disconsolate films of “Children of Men” or “S. Darko,” the sequel to “Donnie Darko,” with stories of gut-wrenching dread and a general sense of uneasiness throughout.  Despite having a black-comedy tone, “You Me Madness” evokes Westwick to gleam with hopeless love for a smart and beautiful woman undeterred by her then wanting to then needing to kill him because he knows too much about he in spite of her feelings for him.  As you see, the coupling dynamic in this Catherine Black and Tyler Jones show is tremendously complex and both actors are able to reach that level of radical commitment of killer zany passion but only to a limited extent.  Linton terribly overshadows Westwick’s dry, almost deadpan, manner that leaves Tyler feeling unworthy of pursuit because here you have this beautifully intelligent and aggressively possessive woman with Linton’s grand presence coming to life on screen over everyone, and everything, in the film and in strolls a rather silent and express soft Westwick that doesn’t quite fit the bill. 

What I found to be thoughtful and carefully worked was Catherine Black’s image from the male perspective.  Like I said, Catherine is a power-hungry, manipulative, and material-driven narcissist but also beautiful, elegant, and well-versed at stratagem, but this larger-than-life character isn’t demeaning to women as a whole nor is she degraded by the, essentially, the one man in this story with her.  Most rape-revenge or women with a cause narratives inflict a barrage of choice nasty descriptors, such as cunt or bitch, toward the heroine or anti-heroine because she’s battling back against the man or men who’ve wronged her or a loved one. Linton further moves away from the odious layers of destruction lamina by stylishly beefing up the neon effervesce exterior and glam lifestyles of the rich and famous hyperextended upon with a love of an 80’s music soundtrack complete with 80’s arbitrary dancing with Ed Westwick jumping, kicking, swaying, and hypersexualizing dance moves around the Black’s house to the omnipresent soundtrack that includes bands Yello, New Order, The Pointer Sisters, A-Ha, The OJ’s, and Thompson Twins just to name a few. Linton also adds a meta touch where the main characters can turn and narrate directly at the audience to narrate their thoughts.  The unlikely of couples Tyler and Catherine have a relationship that’s being sewn together during their deadly love skirmish right before our eyes as the Catherine led audiences with a narrative disclosure of her confined world seeps into Tyler’s unguarded bubble to the point where he can now turn to the camera and speak to the audience that forms a stronger bond between them.  Yet, “Me You Madness” doesn’t quite have that perfectly coursed transition from enemies to lovers with a story that starts to become lost in itself from being built up strongly by Linton establishing, overtly, Catherine Black’s dark lifestyle choices and the kill scenario plot on this street smart thief to then watering down Catherine’s intense resolute that peters into a shoulder shrug of giving up and in to Tyler after a ferociously hellbent to cut his throat and Hannibal Lector him for dinner.

“Me You Madness” starts off hungry like a wolf film that gets physical with a smooth criminal but turns into a total eclipse of the heart that’s addicted to love and is never gonna give you up!  “Me You Madness” hits video on demand services Valentine’s weekend, releasing February 12th, distributed by STX Entertainment (“Hardcore Henry,” “The Boy”). The 97 minute duration is a celebration of enriched love more powerful than money, fancy things, and diabolical desires while also contributing playful banter and dazzling with the overkill of a voluptuary femme fatale. Ray Peschke’s cinematography grasps the “Miami Vice” vibe. Peschke’s can be on both sides of the coin with a sterilizing bright white of elegance to then flip around into a drug-fueled, kind of smoky robust color variant scene chosen carefully from a broad palette to accentuate the mood. Obviously, going full neon is important too and with Catherine’s dark room spin class, you get that rich fluorescent coloring when all riders are adorned in wearable glowsticks and a neon light illuminates their light colored clothing. Since “Me You Madness” is a brand new film opening right into the video on demand market, there were no bonus materials with the feature nor were there any extra scenes mid-or-after credits. Often wordy to be an adjunct of pop culture name-dropping, “Me You Madness” still renders as a beautifully shot, sybaritic-inclined film that slightly misses the intended mark of connection and love, but does take us out of our dreams and down the lane of playful nostalgia and frivolous fun.


Watch “Me You Madness” on Prime Video! Click the poster to watch!

Sit Back. Relax. And Wank Off to EVIL’s “Live Feed” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

While on vacation in China, five friends traverse the local festivities and drinking holes, relaxing in the surroundings of an alien culture of their getaway destination, but when one of them accidently bumps into a depraved Chinese Triad boss, they believe to have nearly escaped a localized international incident with the help of a Japanese vacationer who seems to know quite a bit about this particular Triad boss.  To blow off steam, and to blow off some loads, the friends patron the Venus Theater, a sleazy porno theater offering 1-hour couples VIP rooms.  Their short-lived, and short-comings, visit turns into a terrifying nightmare of broadcasted kill rooms as they find themselves trapped inside the theater owned by the Triad boss for his personal snuff cinema experience and fine dining of cannibal cuisine.  Fried dong and balls are 100% MSG free. 

With a Ryan Nicholson directed film, you never know just what to expect.  From our reviews of the Vancouver native’s work, his teen slasher “Famine” was an angsty disappointment, his destitute slaughterhouse “Collar” collided technical gaffes with sordid satisfaction, and his most renowned direction on the bowling-themed retro-slasher, “Gutterballs” displayed a primal brilliance that rolled one hell of a strike down the lanes of indie filmmaking, but the late, great gore hound filmmaker always lit up our screens with a single reoccurring theme – flashes of red.  Lots and lots of red blood that is!  The blood geysers and gushes in heaps in Nicholson’s 2006 release, the written and directed, “Live Feed” that touts SOV violence in an arcane snuff style.  Co-written with his father, Roy Nicholson (“It Waits”), the self-taught, special effects prodigy bursts onto the full length feature scene with an introductory exploitation and survival horror full of ambition, insane effects, and a narrative bred specifically for fountaining blood.  Self-funded under Nicholson’s Plotdigger Films, the ”Live Feed” legacy continues to output interest in the gore and snuff subcategories with updated home video distributed releases throughout the years, keeping the resourceful, twisted humor filmmaker alive and well in our hearts and collections. 

The story revolves around five friends, or more intimately, the hapless stars of a snuff theater production, who are not the most chaste or morally concerned individuals finding themselves center stage because of their wanton whims and uninhibited fortes.  Out of the touristy Americans in a given the impression of being a strange and sordid foreign land, one of them quickly becomes established as the primary beacon of hope as an unassertive wiser in Emily played by Taayla Markell in her first lead performance.  Though their long history makes for easy persuasion into participating, from a distance, in their lewd behaviors, Emily’s hemmed in around familiar perversities derived from her good friends and even her finance.  Mike, a muscular, drug-fueled blowhard develops his crass charisma from “Stan Helsing’s” Lee Tichon, Mike’s current and former girlfriends, Sarah and Linda, in tinge of tattered relationships by Caroline Chojnacki and Ashley Schappert, and Darren, Emily’s douchebag, philandering fiancé played by “Skew’s” Rob Scattergood, lead Emily astray from her own self-preserving inner voice when their arrogance and laxed attitudes place them in hot water with a sadistic Triad Boss.  Stephen Chang fills in the gangster roll with a plastic energy that’s over-the-top and absurd just like the two women who hang off each side of his arm in hackneyed fashion, offering very little to outshine as a sadistic megalomaniac.  Luckily for the out-of-towners who are soon-to-be-goners, they coincidently meet the conversant Miles Nakamura (“Mortal Kombat: Legacy’s” Kevan Ohtski) who round houses his way through a torrent of bad guys to save his newfound American friends, but for what reason goes over our heads other than the potential guilt of knowing he left them to their demise.  Greg Chan, Mike Bennett, Ted Friend, Colin Foo and introducing boner-fide stripper, Charlene McCulloch, with an in your face pole dance rounding out the cast.   

Whether in a stroke of good luck or an ill-timely misfortune, Eli Roth’s highly popular and profitable “Hostel” was released a year earlier in 2005 and while Nicholson’s surely cantered behind that gore porn locomotive in the early 2000’s that sauntered a path for many filmmakers to make unbridled torture and tits productions in the wake, “Hostel” undoubtedly provided some hinderance by scraping some of the shock value from off the sticky theater venue floors of “Live Feed.”  The characters were also nothing to write home about, or in this case, to write highly about, as the circumstances that churn the dynamics amongst their closed circle friendship don’t dissolve until well onto the cusp of being dismembered and thus becoming a moot investable or relatable venture that was, in a way, still crawling for the finish line with spotty payments on Darren and Emily’s acute about-face relationship, the only turbulent character context that saw contentious action.  Yet, there is wonder why “Live Feed” even attempts to brittle or outright break the bonds between friends and lovers in a film that’s all about the blood, about the blood, no trouble, as I channel my Megan Trainor phrases that probably sounds better in my head than in my review.   Unless Emily and Darren’s woes play later into the story, as a point of significant break from the other or in a glimmer of salvaging something between them, the purpose is purposeless and the blood should pool together the entire snuff narrative without an emotional hiccup.  Speaking of blood, the effects between Jason Ward (“American Mary”) and Ryan Nicholson couldn’t have been better executed with a pliable, tangible, and free from visual imagery arsenal at their fingertips with prosthetics upon prosthetics of grisly skirmish matter.

“Live Feed” has it all:  cannibalism, decapitations, sex, bondage, medieval torture, kung fu, snakes, pole dancing, barbecued penis, sword play, a “Big Trouble in Little China” old man Lo-Pan lookalike, and gallons of spattering blood.  All of the above now arrives uncut and uncensored onto an Unearthed Films Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release.  The region A BD50 presents the transfer in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enclosed with various formatted styles from the poor resolution of SOV to a full-bodied and unstrained digital playback lit up with vibrant neon lightening by director of photography, Sasha Popove, to create an illuminating florescent color splay of a universal Asian urban district.  The sundry of styles can be weighty on the sequences that challenge what should be natural segues into the next scene, but the format choices, from mostly handheld vantage points, interrupt the flow with a nonsensical fluidity.  Unearthed Films amassed a legacy-stamping amount of extra content with a commentary with Ryan Nicholson and cast, a making-of segment entitled “Behind the Blood” which is geared toward being a tell-all on how they spun and produced “Live Feed’s” fruition, a return to the Venus Theater location with a low-key walkthrough of scene locations and you get a little X-rated show during a live project run, deleted scenes, alternate scenes and ending, the video feed footage, photo gallery, trailers, and a short film entitled “Womb Service” of the softcore feature playing background of the feature story. There’s also an “Adult version” of “Live Feed” in the bonus material that includes the original runtime feature but with edited in hardcore footage; however, personally, did not notice any sultry inserts. Maybe they’re brief and missable…? In the experience unravelling Ryan Nicholson’s work, “Live Feed” is the filmmaker’s second best movie with wholehearted intention to jazz it up with as much blood and exploitation as possible and his loss, as a person and an exorable filmmaker with room for ghoulish growth we’ll never experience, stings to this day.

“Live Feed” blu-ray now on sale at Amazon.com. Click the cover to go to Amazon.

Steamed Pork Buns Stuff With EVIL! “The Untold Story” reviewed (Unearthed Films/Blu-ray)

Wong Chi-hang brutally beats and sets fire to a fellow gambler who refuses to lend him money.  After destroying his identification card and creates a new look and identity, Wong flees Hong Kong before he can be hunted down for first degree murder and be served capital punishment for his crime.  For the last 8 years, Wong has lived and worked on the island village of Macau, running a small, but well-known, steamed bun restaurant, Eight Immortals Restaurant.  He receives inquisitive letters everyday asking about the whereabouts of the former owner, Cheng Lam, by Lam’s older brother on the mainland.  The letters force Wong to attempt manipulating lawyers into signing over the restaurant to him without Lam’s presence.  When the police discover dismembered limbs washed up on the beach, an investigation ensues that connects the body parts to a Chan Lai Chun, the mother-in-law to Cheng Lam, leading a small task force of blockheaded detectives to Wong’s restaurant where he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances, but he won’t break so easily after being apprehended, unwilling to cooperate and confess to the whereabouts of the bodies of the vanished owner, his entire family, and a pair of workers.  Yet, what were exactly in those steam buns that made them so delicious?

Full disclosure.  I’m not too terribly familiar with Hong Kong’s rating system of Category I, II, and III, but I’ve more-or-less dabbled in the Category III (Cat III) horror and exploitation cinematic market, owning only a handful of these gruesome-and-sexually gratifying guilty pleasure full of sex, violence, and taboo concepts of titles such as “Riki-Oh:  The Story of Ricky,”  “The Chinese Torture Chamber,” and “Three…Extremes” and only “The Story of Ricky” has ever been popped into my player for recreational viewing.  Also, in my collection, is a Tai Sing DVD copy of Herman Yau’s 1993 crime-and-cannibalism graphic thriller “The Untold Story” and, frankly, I never opened it either, but when Unearthed Films sent me their new Blu-ray release to review, I’ll never be able to see chop sticks the same way again!  The eye-opening experience also screamed that I should definitely rip open and see those other films to quench my thirst for Cat III’s offensive opulence.  Based off a true story of the Eight Immortals Restaurant murders in 1985 around the Macau area, the nearly unwavering from the truth storyline parallels the Kam-Fai Law (“Dr. Lamb”) and Wing-Kin Lau (“Taxi Hunter”) co-written story in which a madman slaughters an entire family over a gambling dispute and runs their family business, the Eight Immortals Restaurant, until the police capture him, but Yau sticks more sensationalism to the already brutal notoriety surrounding the actual case with ground human barbecue steamed buns to tease with abhorrent flavor under the Golden Sun Films Distribution distribution of the Uniden Investments and Kwan Hung Films production.

“The Untold Story’s” lead man in the shoes of the maniacal, rage-filled Wong Chi-Hang is “Ebola Syndrome’s” Anthony Wong who initially thought the script was greatly unattractive.  Little did he know that his performance would be so good, so osmosis with his wide-eyed lunatic stare through the luminating pixels of the television screen, that the role would honor him with a Hong Kong Film Award for best actor; Hong Kong’s equivalent to the best actor award for an Oscar in the States.   The “Hard Boiled” actor embodies a soul of frustration and anger to rise his character up to the demented level of nihilism and heartless exploitation that unforgettably scores being the face of “The Untold Story’s” cruelty.  Yet, there is a Jekyll and Hyde complex with Yau’s film that cuts the cynicism with a risible troupe of police officers supervised by Officer Lee (Danny Lee “The Killer”).  With a beautiful foreign woman, a blatantly announced hooker, always at his side and being the sharpest detective on the force, Lee’s a contradictory, authoritative commander meshing immoral principles and duty into one while leading a four-person squad of non-initiatives comprised of three rubbernecking men, craning their gulping jugulars toward Mr. Lee’s arm-candied gals, and one tomboy woman with an affinity for Mr. Lee who struggles with being taken seriously amongst her peers as an unenticing woman in cop’s clothing.  The officers’ western names are a slither of satire to poke fun at the nicknames of tough or macho cops go by in the States with Bo, King Kong, Robert, and Bull (respectively Emily Kwan, King-Kong Lam, Eric Kei, and Parkman Wong of “Dr. Lamb”).  The cast rounds out with Fui-On Shing and Julie Lee. 

“The Untold Story’s” embittered nihilistic violence, gratuitous rape and sodomy, and steamy, mouth-watering cannibalism leverages this Cat III film as tiptop horror exploitation from the far East.  If broken down more, director Herman Yau pins and sews together a liaising three act prong story of a horrid man’s attempt at deadly stability in society and a madcap group of officers, with a penchant for police brutality and coercing confessions, bumbling their way through clues that ultimately funnel into a blended third act of magnetizing the two sides together toward a satisfying, almost faithful, ending of “The Eight Immortals Restaurant:  The Untold Story’s” purloin and murder fiction and non-fiction exploit.  Yau spares no expense for gore, serving up a platter worth the splatter of some nifty chop’em up and grind their meat into the dough effects that’ll turn stomachs as well as heads and doesn’t exude as bargain basement quality; yet, just enough gore goes uncovered to tantalize without a full onslaught tarp covering the ground of disembodied limbs and floor-splattering entrails that boil down to an overshadowing character that detracts from the cast performances as such can accompany with the more extreme Asian horror catalogue.  There’s nothing gentle about the actions of Wong Chi-Hang, but the way he’s scribed to manifest spur of the moment carnage, stemmed by the most minute disputes, and the way Anthony Wong carries and maneuvers of a monstrous villain with ease takes an esthetical point to not stray away from his, or rather his victims’, story.  “The Untold Story” is, in fact, meta-exploitation fiction of non-fiction down to the very last tasty morsel. 

In what is perhaps the epitome of Hong Kong’s Category III film index, “The Untold Story” arrives onto high definition Blu-ray courtesy of the gore and shock genre label, Unearthed Films as part of the label’s Unearthed Classics line and distributed by MVDVisual. The well preserved, near flawless transfer is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the picture is a vast improvement over the slightly washed previous DVD releases though favors a higher contrast resolution that ekes trading out the details for a brighter, softer film in an overall compliment of Cho Wai-Kee’s beaming cinematography. Whether in the police station or the restaurant, fluorescent lumens light up the scenes with a sterile-driven madness. The Cantonese, Mandarin, and some English 1.0 PCM audio track denotes, without surprise, the lossy quality doddering from age and antiquated equipment, but renders well enough without the imperfections of hisses, distortions, or any vocal impediments. The option English subtitles display without error with only the issue in their breakneck pacing when attempting to keep up with reading the subtitles and the rapidfire dialogue. You basically have to skim read. The special features include commentaries with star Anthony Wong and Herman Yau, the superbly dark and traditional film score isolated for audible pleasure, commentary with Art Ettinger from Ultra Violent magazine and Bruce Holecheck of Cinema Arcana, a Q&A with Herman Yau, a featurette of the history behind Category III films of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema, a interview with Rick Baker entitled Cantonese Carnage, and Unearthed Film trailers. There’s also an two-page insert of Art Ettinger’s write up about Hong Kong cinema and “The Untold Story.” Resilient to the test of time, “The Untold Story” benchmarks a high point in High Kong exploitation cinema, recalls the tremendous feat of performance by Anthony Wong, and displays the sheer mastery of disciplined filmmaking from Herman Yau in this unforgettable gruesome black comedy.

Must Own Christmas Gift! “The Untold Story” on Blu-ray!

EVIL Waited 30 Years. Now It’s Unleashed! “Zombie Rampage II” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


A zombie ravaged world divides survivors into gangs. In this case, two warring rivals, a group of decent folk versus cannibalistic savages, spar over little territory left untouched by the undead. Seeking tactical advantage, the contentious factions either scheme a plan for appropriating the land while the other recruits and trains an inexpert survivalist to better their odds against one another. Leave it to humanity to still be the most dangerous animal on Earth during a zombie apocalypse when an armed showdown opens the doors for death and the undead to wreak havoc on the best and worst parts of being human.

Full disclosure. I have never seen or even sought out Todd Sheets’ renown direct-to-video, zombie epic, “Zombie Rampage,” from 1989. So, when the opportunity came around to check out the sequel, “Zombie Rampage II,” presented on a Wild Eye Releasing DVD, I jumped at the chance to witness the anticipated follow-up despite the sequel not being steered by Sheets himself. The “Bonehill Road” director’s involvement extends to the credit of producer and co-writer of the aborted 1990 sequel, which had unearthed VHS footage repurposed for the 2019 release, while Alexander Brotherton makes his directorial and script debut the new material and Mike Hellman and Charles Gooseman, who were a heavily involved duo of the original discovered footage, are credited as co-directors. In the last few years, Brotherton’s been a staple of Sheets’ films in some skeleton cast and crew capacity from the satirically bonkers “Clownado” to the narcotically world toppling chaos of “Dreaming Purple Neon” and with full confidence in Brotherton, therein lies sanctions for the filmmaker to pay homage to the 1989 original with its own shot-on-video rendition that maintains that gritty VHS integrity, continuing to be a financial churned out by Todd Sheets’ production company, Extreme Entertainment, which has been goring out content since 1988 and that makes “Zombie Rampage” and “Zombie Rampage II” larger than life, honorary bookends to Sheets’ continued indie success.

Cast is comprised of Sheets’ entourage of actors and actresses, starting off with Antwoine Steele whose reprising the afro-sporting, smooth talking, lady loving, ass-kicking Durville Sweet from “Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon.” Steele steals the show with his indifferently foul mouth Sam Jackson approach that somehow manages to spin into a favorable personality trait. Another show stealer is Dilynn Fawn Harvey serving a plate of scantily-cladded roughness with the sexually suggestive Hot Stuff. Harvey jumps at the opportunity to show off her chest again while being the sultry lass who never has to be the dame in distress. Both Steele and Harvey are bigger than life on screen and that trend continues with other key players in Jack Mccord as the cross-dressed Mr. Hyde, leader of the cannibal gang, Eve Smith as an androgynous warrior for the good side, Jay Perkaple as the inept survivor recruit, and Skyler Roberts as a psychotic cannibal with a severed finger partner in crime. The supporting cast is made up of Daniell Bell, Carol Word, and Jenny McCarty.

“Zombie Rampage II” is a rough, SOV mix of black-to-satirical humor and a healthy amount of zombie carnage that isn’t a direct sequel. Don’t expect the carnage to be overwhelming complete and gory as the low budget bullet flatlines the realism of any kind of flesh-eating horde violence, but that lack of zombie realism is to be expected from the kitschy quality that seals in air tight the stank of the 30-year-old VHS predecessor. Yes, mistakes and miscues will be a natural condition of a penny-pinched film, such as a conspicuous train passing by in the background during a supposed zombie desolated world, fight sequences that will be hilariously and horrendously overstated, and the gore would be nothing more than quick explosive flashes of red matted paint and be about as Wharferin thin to the point of being limpid clear. Yet, what bothers me the most out of everything is the drifting flimsy and anorexic plot that initially emphases on finding Stewart and his assimilation into the gang of well-versed survivalist, but then grossly upends more for a battle of territory between gang one and gang two with a final showdown involving Durville swinging a colossally fluorescent, two-sided dildo as a num-chuk and the bashing of heads in with foam covered kids’ toy bat that you can purchase offline for $10. There’s a crude and abnormal sense of poetry in that scene involving an adult’s orifice stuffing sex toy with a children’s athletic plaything being combative instruments in the same scene, but for the sake of not going off on a tangent, “Zombie Rampage II” bares little plot growth that flaunts more tasteless humor than rampaging a zombie chorus and the destruction that leaves in it’s wake.

For fans sworn to be loyal acolytes of Todd Sheets, take a long, hard gander at “Zombie Rampage II” on DVD home video from Wild Eye Releasing on their Raw and Extreme banner. Those who’ve waited for a sequel will be pleasantly surprised in how the video presentation and quality are comprised of two similar but distinct formats with a letterbox 16:9 in the recently shot video that bookends the letterbox 4:3 footage from 1990. Both formats are heavily lossy in providing a detailed presentation and express vapid color that comes to not surprise inside a production value cost little-to-nothing at all. “Zombie Rampage II” definitely harks back to the demeanor of a shot on video film where quality is but an intangible illusion compared to the unfathomable gore that fills the quality caliber void, but to my shock, there is just not enough fake blood in the sequel to justify a purchase of a subpar quality pardon. The English language single channel stereo output caters to the same lossy conditions of a low bitrate amplitude with a stiffened dialogue track and poorly edited stock foley inserts. Again, all telltale attributes of an indie video recorded classic that’ll certainly get SOV and Todd Sheets’ fans rocks off. The only special feature amongst a model static menu available is the film’s trailer, but the visceral DVD cover, distributed by MVDVisual, has a milky eyed zombie grotesquely chowing down viscera that’s very poignant of a Raw and Extreme title and very welcoming, eye-catching package feature. There are bonus features before and after the feature with a fake trailer for “Durville Sweet and the Lost Temple of Ass Pirates” and bloopers during the rolling credits. “Zombie Rampage II” covers 30-years of ground, breaking the laws of time, and giving retrograde VHS and Todd Sheets aficionados what they want – blood, boobs, and butchery.

“Zombie Rampage II” on DVD!