High School Musical Meets EVIL in “Anna and the Apocalypse” reviewed!


Anna’s a senior at Little Haven high school whose not thinking about what University to attend after she graduates. Instead, Anna focuses on working all the time as a shoe counter girl at the local bowling alley to pay off a year’s worth of traveling despite her father’s wishes, even working through Christmas, but when a sudden zombie apocalypse derails her and the worlds’ plans, Anna’s friends and father are her first priority. With her father trapped at the high school, Anna and her closest friends must trek and battle through a horde of the undead from the bowling alley before striking out dead themselves. Despite social differences and teenage angst, they must dance and sing to put now frivolous juvenile issues aside and work together if to not become one of the living dead.

Timed just right from 2019’s Christmas holiday season is Second Sight Films’s two-disc set of “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a contagiously fun, well performed, and cheekily gory musical comedy-horror by the United Kingdom’s John McPhail directing a script written by Alan McDonald and the late Ryan McHnery, based off McHenry’s short student film “Zombie Musical.” As true to the marketing behind the film, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is certainly the “High School Musical” with teeth-gnashing, putrid-walking, and flesh hungry zombies. The Scottish bred production comes from Blazing Griffin Films, Parkhouse Productions, Constellation Creatives and Creative Scotland to flash mob dance and sing in chorus through the apocalyptic melee while figuring out their complicated adolescent troubles, such as what to do after graduation, turbulent romantic emotions, and being different and alone.

The ensemble cast is heftily made up of unknown talent beginning with, then 17 year old, Ella Hunt in her debut lead performance as the titular character. Hunt’s a fresh, young face with an astonishing amount of acting range with Anna whose defiant against the wishes of her father, but, deep down inside, still wholeheartedly cares for him as he’s her only parent left alive, and Hunt has natural poppin’ dance moves and pop-star vocals. In Anna’s core group of friends, Sarah Swire’s Steph North stands amongst them as the LGBTQ representative whose strongly portrayed as courageous, caring, and independent while her characterization at the beginning of the films focuses on downing her life to the pit of despair with parents, who Steph claims wants nothing to do with her, are on holiday in Mexico and her romantic partner won’t be spending the holiday with her. Swire’s choreographic and musician background, along with an edgy look, make her a perfect fit for Steph. There’s also Anna’s best friend, a boy named John, played by Malcolm Cummings in his first feature film. Cummings has to be the hapless friend zone boy that remains sidelined when trying to find the opportune time in expressing his true feelings for Anna, but finds himself the third wheel in a high school love triangle conscripted with Nick, a hot-to-trot prick and bully colorfully depicted by Ben Wiggins. Christopher Leveaux and Marli Siu are the gang’s love birds, Mark Benton is Anna’s custodian father, and “Game of Thrones'” Paul Kaye antagonizes with a power hungry assistant headmaster gone crazy!

Honesty, I wasn’t sure how “Anna and the Apocalypse” was going to work, or be successful, or be entertaining at all as a horror movie. Horror-musicals are a rare breed that come with a mind-boggling quantitative algorithm to make them truly work wonders and, somehow, John McPhail dusted off his abacus, powered up his TI calculator, and put note to pen to paper and delivered a holiday spectacular on a horror scale stage. The horror, though very prominent and unmistakable, takes a backseat to the powerful soundtrack by the ensemble cast, ranging from caricatured with Fish Wrap to the desolation of personal connectivity with Human Voice to a couple of Christmas satires to bring a little joy with the merry mayhem. The mayhem is absolute with all the trimmings of a zombie apocalypse, even right down to the military being the butt of a joke when they’re overrun by a slow-moving force, but while there’s some gore early on with a dead head decapitated by a see-saw and a pair of bowling balls pop the top of one alleyway corpse, the blood flows downward to a little more than a dribble and “Anna and the Apocalypse” cobbles together a mere mediocre zombie film from then on out.

Already seen a couple of standard releases from other distributors, Second Sight Films reserved “Anna and the Apocalypse” to the royal treatment with a special features heavy region B, two-disc Blu-ray set containing two versions of the film – the theatrical release cut and the extended version which will include a musical number that didn’t make the theatrical cut. The Arri Alexa SXT shot film is presented in 1080p and in the film’s original aspect ratio, a widescreen 2.37:1, with a featured ProRes 3.2k format that allows upscaling to UHD quality providing a high resolution output that’s clean and bright. The color palate has real vibrancy under the director of photography’s, Sara Deane, direction to use colorful outfits and neoned and darkened sets. Some scenes become a little choppy with some sloppy editing work, but as a whole, the story remains coherent. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 vivaciously energizes the soundtrack with alternative pop numbers, harmonious melodies, and a synchronized chorus, but there are times the dialogue falls into a lossy grey area. A stereo 2.0 track is also available as well as optional English SDH subtitles. The Second Sights Films’ release is chock full of extras with disc one including an audio commentary with director John McPhail, writer Alan McDonald, composers Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening scene, a deleted song “What Side Are You On?”, a deleted bathroom scene, the Hollywood Ending cast and crew lip dub, footage from the EdinBurgh Film Festival, and, of course outtakes. Disc two includes a brand new feature-length documentary with new interviews by the actors and filmmakers. Plus, the original short film – “Zombie Musical.” A definite definitive two-disc set from Second Sight Films goes hand-in-hand with “Anna and the Apocalypse’s” feel good charm and unruly undead charisma complete with catchy tunes and bloody zombie goons in a modern day holiday cult classic.

Two-Disc Blu-ray Set of “Anna and the Apocalypse!” The perfect Christmas Gift!

Evil Ousts Evil in “Christmas Blood” review!


On Christmas Eve for over a Decade until 2011, a psychopath dressed as Santa Clause hunts down people on his naughty list, people whom have, at one time or another, been incarcerated. Santa’s violent kill streak ends when detective Thomas Rasch tracks puts multiple bullets into Santa after the gruesome slaughter of three people. After 6 years of imprisonment, with no sign of improvement from his holiday hallucinations, Santa escapes to continue checking and crossing those unlucky souls off his naught list, leading him to Alta, a small, quiet village in the northern most part of Norway where one woman when unpunished on his list. Unbeknownst to Santa, the woman he intends to frightfully dispatch has committed suicide, leaving behind a daughter, Julia, to oversee her mother’s home. Struggling to cope with her the loss of her mother, Julia’s college friends from all over the world embark to comfort her on Julia’s first Christmas without her mother, but the gesture of goodwill only speaks to their impending doom with a serial killer Santa ready to reign in Christmas with red blood soaked, holiday fear.

“Christmas Blood, aka “Juleblod” in the original Norwegian lingo, is Reinert Kiil’s yuletide splattering spectacular. Kiil writes and directs a new horror-holiday classic of the Norwegian variety that turns the jolly, red nose, cookie-eating fat guy into an axe wielding maniac. “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” “Black Christmas.” “Jack Frost.” “Christmas Blood” joins the high ranking level of a niche genre, the X-Mas horror genre, which doesn’t see really the light of day in conventional theaters, but home video unsheathes the new life into films one may have never heard of such as Kiil’s “Juleblod” Yet, the overall body of work for Christmas films is very black and white. They’re either overly feel good films with a blanket of pure white joy and happiness or utterly insane and soaked with the crimson interior body fluid, unless you count Die Hard or Lethal Weapon as Christmas films than one can make a case. “Christmas Blood” is certainly in that far right polar opposite of extreme violence, but is solid and engrossing, chopping body parts away with trepidation and stringed up with multi-colored lights.

Ringing in the holiday screams are young victims typically associated with familiar slasher archetypes. The “Christmas Blood” prey, typically adorned by actresses due to their ability produce toe curling, are a pact of university school friends gathered together to rally around one who has recently lost her mother to suicide. Helen Eidsvag, Haddy Jallow, Yassmine Johansen, Karoline Stemre, Kylie Stephenson, and Marte Saeteren share the limelight as unsuspecting Christmas carnage-fodder and all of the actresses hail from Norway with the exception of Kylie Stephenson, who has odd interjecting into Norwegian conversations with her Australian English dialect. Written as great friends, but also depicted as the worst of enemies as various facets of animosity slithers between them, the actresses pull off of their ill-fated character quirks well: Eidsvag as the innocent and naïve Sanne, Jallow as the drug indulgent and secret keeping black sheep Kitika, Johansen does stern and uptight girlfriend well in Katja, Stemre as a favorably licentious mute Elisabeth, Stephenson is the fun-loving non-national in Annika, and Saeteren as the heartbroken Julia with loss of her mother. I’m not sure if “Christmas Blood” would be a socially acceptable film in the States and not because of the blood-spatter blasphemy of traditional holiday and Christianity values, but because of how the one and only black character is treated throughout the narrative in a predominately white movie. Kitika has no verbal filter, smokes weed despite her host’s severe objection, slept with and was going to sleep with again her friend’s boyfriend, is kicked out into the freezing cold along with said friend’s boyfriend by the rest of her white friends, and is eventually slaughtered and stuffed into Santa’s sack. The remaining cast includes Jørgen Langhelle, Stig Henrik Hoff, Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, and Andreas Nonaas.

“Christmas Blood” is a retro-grade horror film that very merrily feels like a product of the Golden Age of slasher-survival genre from the 1980’s with a powerful and unstoppable aggressive killer, a delectable high body count, and a significant calendar date to infamously memorialize the event, similar to Friday the 13th or Halloween dates that are have been synonymous to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Generally speaking, Santa’s already this jolly mystical being worshipped by all and in “Christmas Blood,” that mysticism is really exploited, but as a frightful killer Santa who is seemingly able to be in two places at once and survive a barrage of bullets. Only a couple gripes linger that don’t necessarily derail Santa’s slay-ing of bitchy former co-eds, daft police offers, or any unfortunate person in his blizzard path of butchery. For one, the wordy title card sequence explaining the background of serial Santa’s 13-year killing spree is sorely out of place and slightly kills the buzz built up initially by the gruesome opening scene that sets the morbid tone. Secondly, on the technical side, the lighting is very dim lit. The coloring scheme from the decorative bulbs is festively great and there’s also a very low-tone neon red, blue, and yellow juxtaposed against a bleak, cold setting as if walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light district at night, but with less people, more snow, and no peep shows, but the overall lighting is thin-to-damn near black at times that, shamefully, shades some of the gore work into a silhouette something and your eyes attempt to define what is being seen, but can’t definitively consume the form. Luckily, numerous gory moments make the cut in the light that include exposed entrails and some sheer brutal force with an axe to the neck and to the vagina!.

Artsploitation Films present “Christmas Blood” onto DVD this December. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the details are a little lost in the dim lighting as mentioned before, but the image quality looks vibrant on colorful in the mise-en-scene lighting and there are no issues with artefacts. The Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track is rather pristine like a bow-wrapped present under the tinseled tennenbaum, gifted with clarity, synchronization, and no distortion in any aspect. English subtitles are available and are synched well. However, Artsploitation’s release offers no bonus materials aside from a static menu, but this Reinert Kiil’s “Christmas Blood” snarls Merry Fucking Christmas by bastardizing the popular Scandinavian folkore of the genial Saint Nick into a fierce and frightening killing machine!

Kebabs Made From Drunken, Evil Patrons! “K-Shop” review!


Zaki owns a small kebab shop in England’s vern own party central in Bournemouth on the South Coast. Every night, Zaki withstands the late night drunken antics of the local party goers in the hope his son, Salah, would continue his graduate studies and to also, maybe, one day own his own fine dining restaurant, but when he becomes involved in a scuffle with a late night rowdy bunch, he’s killed in a fit of alcoholic whims. Salah takes over his father’s shop, neglecting his studies, and continuing the serve the intoxicated public in his father’s memory, but when he accidentally kills one stubborn customer, he mincings his body parts into kebab meat instead of calling the police and whenever a deplorable enter his shop, he serves them the newest menu item. One sloppy drunk customer after another, Salah wages a vigilante’s war on party world, especially toward a new dance club that masks over a drug trafficking ring.

“K-Shop” is the 2016 horror from writer-director Dan Pringle in his first helmed feature that aims to explore the troublesome nature of the after party, intoxicated human plagued upon sensible people. Pringle strengthens the social commentary by implementing actual footage of drunken debauchery filmed right on England’s South Beach that range between spewing chunks onto the sidewalks to heated back and forth fisticuffs. Pringle’s script tackles that insatiable inner urge everyone has felt at least once in their life when dealing with unreasonable nightlife and that is to raise a fist against them to show how to act like a decent human being. “K-Shop,” which denotes being a double entendre for Kebab Shop and Kill Shop, takes the act one step further, introducing a cannibalistic element to the mix as Salah rids scrum from the earth by slicing and dicing them into his kebab mixture. Salah’s father, Zaki, is a Turkish refugee and him and his son are essentially immigrants that becomes another script undertone brought up the club owning, drug trafficking, all over bad guy Jason Brown.

Salah is brilliantly executed by Ziad Abaza who brings a cache of raw emotions to his character. “K-Shop’s” trailer hinted at a horror-comedy feature, but there’s nothing funny about Abaza’s Salah who seems that life is wholeheartedly against him as a downtrodden college student in a search for basic human decency and compassion. Salah is pitted against an egregious Jason Brown played by Liverpool native Scot Williams and Williams embodies and embraces being a person of high social status and fame, a person of who lavishes in luxury, and epitomizes being a slime ball. Brown’s a stark contrast against Salah who has to slave away and earn his living while Brown takes his life for granted. The supporting cast are also very interesting starting with Reece Noi as Malik who voyeuristically takes an interest in Salah’s vigilantism and who also, perhaps, shares common cultural aspects, but Malik is just a kid acting beyond his age at times and then drastically at his age at the most crucial moments during his dynamics with Salah. Another character is Salah’s potential love interest in Sarah portrayed by Kristin Atherton. Atherton provides a sweet, quiet, and intelligible demeanor to Sarah that projects onto Salah whereas other women in Salah’s life, mostly his patrons, are loud, obnoxious, and corrupt. Lastly, “Doomsday’s” Darren Morfitt instills a catalytic character in fallen from grace Chaplin Steve. There’s a bit of a confessionally staged event between Salah and Steve that offers a realization and a tale-end twist that just puts that unwanted pit into the bottom of stomachs.

Now “K-Shop” isn’t totally perfect, especially in the flow of the film. Pringle doesn’t clearly provide a timeline of progression. Between the holidays Christmas and News Years is perspectively prominent, but Salah’s calling, or mission, seems to extend weeks, if not months, and that isn’t clearly communicated. Plus, there’s slight difficulty understanding turn page moments that dilute the significance of events whether it’s through too much exposition or choppy editing. Where “K-Shop” is weak, Pringle makes up with gore and story. The gore is absolute from scorching an inebriated man’s face sizzling in a vat of hot oil to chopping up limbs with a butcher’s knife in order to make his delicious kebabs. Pringle’s conclusion is absolving, satisfying, and also, at the same time, fruitless because even though Salah makes a stand against immorality, a realization washes over him that nothing will ever change despite cutting the head from the snake.

Breaking Glass Pictures distributes “K-Shop” on to an unrated DVD home video. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio and the overall quality is stunning sporting a dark painted picture and still convey a healthy color palette even if lightly washed in a yellow hue. The’s no attempt to enhance the image as the natural color tone comes right out and off the screen and that dark gritty matter really speaks to Pringle’s capabilities to create shadows. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is surprisingly hanging around par level as, some of those key moments once spoken about, are lost in a muddled heap in the dialogue track, but there’s range and fidelity thats good on the output amongst a balanced five channel track. Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes segment and deleted scenes plus Breaking Glass trailers. “K-Shop” is dark, gritty, and eye opening backed by a versatile lead in Ziad Abaza and helmed by newcomer filmmaker Dan Pringle, seeking to entertain and unearth our inner and deadly vigilante doppelgänger in the midst of social indecencies.

“K-Shop” on DVD at Amazon!

Evil Makes the Naughty List! “Krampus: The Christmas Devil” review!

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Thirty-years ago, little Jeremy Duffin barely escaped the clutches of the Krampus, the horned companion of Santa Claus who punishes naughty children the coldest weeks before Christmas. Now as a grown man and an officer of the law, Duffin, still haunted by memory of his own abduction, obsesses over the similar current child snatching occurrences and, on the direction of his captain, constructs a three man team to hunt down the child predator. Confronting the Krampus doesn’t go as expected as bullets fly harmlessly through the mystical creature, resulting in Jeremy becoming a brief prisoner and his team facing a more fatal outcome. Jeremy escapes and makes his way back home where Krampus homes in on, seeking to punish Jeremy’s only daughter Heather, but one of Jeremy’s prior arrested offenders was released from jail and also has vengeful plans for Jeremy and his family. A trigger-happy obsessed cop, a vengeance seeking convict, and a child punishing anthropomorphic becomes a superbly wrapped deadly and wild gift on Christmas Eve.
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On the verge of Michael Doughtry’s “Krampus” being released in theaters, the UK’s High Fliers Films distributes to home DVD the older, more experimental black sheep brother “Krampus: The Christmas Devil.” I say older because this Krampus Christmas horror film, written and directed by Jason Hull, was released over two years ago. Now with all the interest in Doughtry’s bigger, star-studded production being released this holiday season, the Snowdog Studio production filmed in Eerie, Pennsylvania is finally receiving a home DVD release in the United Kingdom and was just released here in the States only a month ago as well. Now while “Krampus: The Christmas Devil” will be exposed to the world, I fear that Doughtry’s “Krampus” will completely overshadow this microbudget film and, in all honesty, will rightfully do so due to the feeble and disjointed plot.
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The Jason Hull film’s swiss cheese story is missing many pieces to this Christmas tale puzzle. The begiining voiceover description of the Krampus backstory is great for those who know nothing of the myth, but in the duration, the creature travels to a particular part of the North Western side of Pennsylvania to solely strike the top ten misbehaved children in one year, 25 days before Christmas. Krampus, like his brother Saint Nicholas, travels the world in those hours to various lands to punish all the naughty listed children. The scope of Hull’s Krampus was written too narrowly, missing to portray Krampus as on a grander wickedness. Another plot hole is with Jeremy’s daughter Heather. Santa specifically requests Heather Duffin to Krampus by pointing out that she’s truly a terrible child, even worse than a child who tortures and murders animals. The reason why Heather is a horrible brat isn’t explained and is rather ignored. Heather seems like a sweet and smart girl even when she knifes a man who attempts to rape her. Heather’s wide open story plunges into a pit of wonder.
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Bill Oberst Jr. is one of the big names attached to this project and his part is rather slim, playing the role of Brian Hatt, the released child rapist looking to strike a vengeful blow upon the Duffin family. Oberst, hands down, raises the value of “The Christmas Devil” tenfold by being a wisecracking villain with a submachine gun and showing no mercy. If Oberst was ever awarded a role in a Batman movie, he would be a fascinating, if not terrific, Joker. Just sayin’. Finding more the good in “The Christmas Devil” has yet to be seen. Aside from Bill Oberst Jr.’s superb wayward performance, only an extended topless scene of Model Mayhem model Angelina Leigh as Krampus’s cave-chained Pet slowly discharges any kind of titillating and riveting on screen arousal.
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The production value is unmistakably low level and this reviewer wasn’t expecting much when considering sets and post-production quality, but Hull should have spent film funds on skilled talent to the likes of Oberst or to the opposite likes of novice actor Paul Ferm, who plays the part of a biker-salty Saint Nick with an on/off personality switch. Lead actor A.J. Leslie as Jeremy Duffin frustratingly shows no range and aimlessly makes his way through Duffin’s most conflicting and life-threatening moments. Even Duffin’s bar fight with costar Darin Foltz and his two cronies conveyed no raw emotion needed to sell the action and, speaking of the same bar fight, the staged event looked awfully fake all around.
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The High Fliers Films and ITN distributed Krampus Christmas horror film is 82 minutes of discombobulated mess. The story crawls slowly across to coherency, lightly candy coated with moments of acting talent and gratuitous nudity. Surely to be blown out of the water by the bigger and badder PG-13 “Krampus” film, “The Christmas Devil” can be considered to be a low end starting point for the anti-jolly myth of Santa Claus, helping those to jump start in learning all about the horned devil-like character and his brat-napping ways. I’m unable to review the audio and video quality and bonus material of the film as I’m sent a DVD-R copy and doesn’t truly reflect through a burned copy. “Krampus” The Christmas Devil” comes to DVD and Blu-ray in the UK courtesy of High Fliers Films.

Merry Evil Xmas! Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas review!

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Just in time for the 2013 holiday season comes Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas the sophomore sequel the original film humbly titled Caesar & Otto. Caesar and his half brother Otto embark on a religious cause to become a traveling Santa Claus and his buddy elf. Another Santa has other plans as the bodies of Caesar & Otto’s friends begin to pile up from his deranged thirst for blood. As the blood flows, Caesar & Otto’s oblivious nature doesn’t leave them one clue to the chaos that has been ensuing.
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The indie horror comedy is a large homage to the genre that references mainly back to Silent Night, Deadly Night and just like Silent Night, Deadly Night, Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas comes off just as cheesy as Cheez Whiz to where most scenes are not very funny and where very few scenes give a good chuckle. The main characters are whimsical, but immature to the point where the comedy makes my take teeth grit together painstakingly.

Dave Campbell directs, pens, and stars as Caesar and his love for horror shines through into his work, but Campbell also has his hand in editing and the his editing work leaves the film feeling too fast pace that if you look down for a second or blink your eyes, you’ll end up missing an entire sequence or a key part of the film. Also, I’ve never seen the previous two films, Caesar & Otto nor Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre, and there feels to be that some portions of the movie carried over into Deadly Xmas. I was waiting for a flashback sequence or something else that would reference what had happened previously, but nothing came about leaving more confusion.
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Like a good homage, Deadly Xmas involves a lot of great horror icons that also made an appearance in Summer Camp Massacre as well. Slumber Party Massacre’s Brinke Steven’s, Return of the Living Dead’s Linnea Quigley, Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, and Soultaker’s Joe Estevez make a b-list guest cameo appearance. Kaufman’s scene was particularly the funniest of them all, but I don’t want to discredit the others as they have bring something special to the Campbell’s film even with Joe Estevez making light and spoofing Doctor Phil with Doctor Pheel!
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Wild Eye releasing and MVDVisual bring Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas to life with some really good appeasing art work that will sure attract attention to the Christmas horror genre. Check out the bonus features that include alternate scenes, behind the scene featurette, a short film entitled Piggyzilla, another short film entitled Otto’s First Job, trailers, and a bonus short film starring Maniac Cop’s Robert Z’dar entitled The Perfect Candidate.