Hellbent on being the first to discover something big between 1000-feet, talented marine biologist and ecologist, Olive Crown, constructs a convincing case in a video hiring application to test a deep sea diving suit invented by Dr. Fletcher, but a harrowing encounter with monstrous creature at 2500 feet nearly claims Olive’s life. Blamed for a botch dive and unable to remember the incident, Olive has been fired from her dream position, but when she double checks the dive suit for evidence of what might have happened, she discovers an alien substance, an egg-like object, attached to the outer layer and smuggles it home. The egg hatches to birth a blood thirsty, Cthulhu being that has marked Olive as in a symbiotic relationship as protector and mother. Olive senses everything the creature does, even it’s hunger, and caves in to her discovery’s need to feed with those who antagonize Olive and her creature baby, but at an alarming rate, the life form grows into a mammoth creature and Olive might be losing the perspective of who is really in control.
“The Creature Below” puts a spin on a popularly wild H.P. Lovecraft tale and adds a notch into the belt of the Cthulhu mythos. From director Stewart Sparke in his first feature film comes one woman’s tragically macabre endowment that runs amok through the uninteresting confines of her own life and obliterate it from within. Co-written by Paul Butler, the British Cthulhu feature, “The Creature Below,” melds together a very grand unearthly story into the restrictive walls of an unwanted love triangle Olive’s involved in while dipping toes into also being a pre-Romero zombie film with the automata slave. Though very modest in story and budget, “The Creature Below” is an itsy-bitsy speck in a bigger mythological genre and that’s usually the case for indie Cthulhu flicks, as they should be, because giving a little mystery to Lovecraft’s myth tends to build worlds later, sparks the imagination aflame, and leaves a lasting impression long after the movie is over.
Anna Dawson stars as Olive Crown, creature’s foster parent, and Dawson’s first impression of Olive emits a fierce, go-getter ecologist, looking to make a name for herself in the deep dive exploration field. That egotistical drive tapers off a bit once she’s canned for botched dive, delivering a more humble and reserved Olive Crown, but Dawson puts on the sunken-eyed, icy-cold skin that’s clammy and deadlike in order to fulfill the infant Cthulhu’s bidding. Daniel Thrace embraces the lovably sweet boyfriend, Matthew, whose sensible, charming, and overall nice guy. The pair are complete oil and water, a welcoming dynamic, when Olive’s rationality goes off track. Olive and Matthew are really the only two developed characters as, disappointingly, three considerable major characters don’t build too much of a reputation to warrant their value, especially with Olive’s sister, Ellie, played by Michaela Longden. There’s something more between Ellie and Matthew that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head and there’s also more to her staying with her sister, Olive, that the audience is not aware of and the scenes where Olive comments on her sister’s freeloading just loses all it’s credibility. The other two actors, roles awarded to Johnny Vivash and Zacharee Lee, are more involved in Olive’s deep sea dive and bring more of a well rounded antagonistic or betrayal personality to the table.
Sparke doesn’t linger too long on the creature, shielding it mostly behind a plastic tarp with a nude façade and that’s, perhaps, more in line with the micro budget constraints. In any case, Sparke focuses the story around Olive’s paranoia and obsession with the creature and with her boyfriend and the bitterness between him and her Sister, Ellie, seemingly toward Olive. Dave Walter has composed from start to finish a low and slow synth soundtrack, that’s familiar to a slowly anticipating heartbeat, and really heightens Olive’s spiraling paranoia similar to that of Ennio Morricone’s work on John Carpenter’s 1982 remake entitled “The Thing” where the eerily sounds of a personified isolation breaches every corner of your body, mind, and the dark room you’re in and all you can hear is that thump…thump…thump in a chest vibrating synchronicity of tones. While the soundtrack is riveting throughout, the story becomes a bit sluggish around the midsection in the sense that space and time don’t exists and Olive’s encounters with Dr. Fletcher, Dara, and various others, are halted to develop any kind of affluence amongst each other or with the audience. Even the ending, which I do adore on a certain level, bares the mark of being incomplete and devoid of substantiating that monolithic ending. There is some post-view satisfaction with the blend of practical and computer generated special effects and as I reflect on the film as a whole, to display a species from birth to adulthood, Sparke and his special effects team had amazing results that are fanned out well enough to leave a lasting impression of the unearthed creature’s visceral and intelligible girth.
Breaking Glass Pictures with Dark Rift Films in association with High Octane Pictures release “The Creature Below” onto DVD. The 16:9 widescreen presentation of this sci-fi horror thriller explores a sleek and clean, with a hint of being just a little hazy, picture that puts forth the appropriate dark grey and blue tone for an underwater or above water creature feature. The English Dolby 5.1 sound’s slightly muffled, but solid. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, “Rats” a short film, and a Frightfest Q&A. Stewart Sparke’s “The Creature Below” is not perfect and does have appalling, laughable moments, but underneath the surface is a UK film that’s budget-busting bold and aims to be a goliath in an indie market.
Alex and Jane just graduated college with an uncertain future ahead of them. In financial debt with no aid from their family because of their lesbian relationship, Alex can’t shake the uncomfortable sensation that her life spirals down an unknown path. Jane’s optimism stems from the upcoming reboot woodland retreat with friends. Booze, drugs, and a whole lot of sex is planned to escape reality’s harsh unforgiving grip. There’s only one problem. A creature lurks in the woods, sniffing out the moment of vaginal penetration, and ripping to shreds the naked, sweaty bodies that were entangled in raunchy passion. A jock, a cheerleader, a geek, a stoner, and a pair of lesbians are the familiar horror film tropes fighting for their very lives in a grisly battle against a ghastly man-beast.
“Don’t Fuck in the Woods,” an alluring cavalier horror film title, is the indie project from writer-director Shawn Burkett. Burkett’s crowdfunded low-budget venture doesn’t piddle around the subject matter with interpretive titles or undertone stories. Burkett, with every intention, aimed his sights on developing the most proverbial scenarios of horny young folk in the woods being stalked by an inhuman monstrosity and achieved great success while also topping his film off with a sexually explicit cherry, defining “DFITW” as every young boy’s wet dream with gratuitous nudity and blood splatter mayhem! In fact, nudity, at least in my belief, outweighs the creature in screen time with the majority of the female cast baring more their breasts than the creature bares it’s teeth.
Brittany Blanton and Ayse Howard lead in the lesbian roles of Jane and Alex and are the only two actors to have characters to have some meat on their depth chart. Hence, why they’re in the lead role shoes. Blanton and Howard alternative style spills into the rest of the cast pool. Roman Jossart, the stoner, naturally gushes with wit and delivery that makes the sweaty, large, and overly perverted character very likable. Then there’s the inexplicable Nadia White. The “Give It To Me Grandpa” actress (look it up in Google) wears many shameless hats off screen, from modeling to fetish porn, but the stark blonde who once wrapped herself completely in duck tape except for her massive boobs, dons a hardly uncharacteristic character whose attached to the hip of her tall, dark jock boyfriend Conor, played in a debut performance by Brian Cornell. Hannah Herdt picks up the geek trope with credulous rant about iconic scream queens and their rise to fame without having to bare it all on screen. Kayla Stone, Brandy Mason, Derek Wehrley, and Scott Gillipsie in a dual role as Luke and the creature round out the rest of the “DFITW” cast. What I love about this cast is the fact they’re not these super slender and fit individuals with four, six, eight-pack abs you typically see in horror films. Instead, each one has their own little mid-section cupcake pudginess or pooch and that’s okay!
Above paragraphs contain praise for admiration and passion toward everything that’s right about “DFITW,” but there’s also plenty to dislike and many viewers, and reviewers too, have spoken publicly their harsh negativity. In a more constructive criticism, the first point is that Burkett’s film has no real logical story structure. Why should we care about these characters who trek into the woods, bone like rabbits, and then become lunch meat for an anti-fornication fiend? Secondly, the editing and special effects need firming as some kill scenes felt unnecessarily rushed and prolonged terror scenes didn’t really induce the terror, requiring that edit to break apart the monotony of the scene. The cheaply made creature passes, but the imperfections in the latex, or whatever material it was constructive of, can be clearly captured. Which leads me into the Alfred Hitchcock quote at the beginning of the film, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” The anticipation of the creature was sorely absence as much of the film focused on the group and their shenanigans and didn’t give the creature much hype, reducing it to a powerless vessel until rearing that jacked up Ninja Turtle head into the campers’ den.
Concept Media and Shawn Burkett’s “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” is a horror homaging and referencing machine, spitting out as much time-honored horror movie no-nos and final-girl conventionalism as one film can, but the story feels hollow inside and doesn’t offer worthwhile character development in neither protagonists or antagonist. Definitely the title, and even the film as a definitive whole, borders that thin line of becoming a ridiculously bad, but very interesting, parody porn, exploiting the rules of the slasher genre and having little-to-no girth of a plot. Roman Jossart’s hilarity, notable “Predator” references and remarks, and the fair amount of fair skin saves this exploitive film from being a total loss and, as well, the overwhelming communal participation and support to have this film see the light of day is absolutely amazing as a title like “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” would financially scare the money bag pants off any potential backer. You can see “Don’t Fuck in the Woods” on Vimeo On Demand by clicking the link below!
Six friends break bread for the holidays in a remote woodsy cabin. As their jovial and joyful conversation continues, a wicked evil lurks in the forest. A sudden and harsh knock at the door confuses the group on who would be calling at their isolated retreat and at the late hour. When Tess volunteers to answer the knocking, a stranger spews blood all over her and falls to the ground as she opens the door. With his dying breath, the aging stranger warns them to never open the door. stunned with complete shock and terror, the group doesn’t realize that the very moment the strange dies on their doorstep is the very moment of the beginning of the end as weird occurrences and odd behavior pits friend versus friend, girlfriend versus boyfriend, and spouse versus spouse when staying or fleeing the cabin becomes a life or death decision.
“Never Open the Door” strikes as an odd feature that marries projecting horror genres with resurrecting structures from the past into modern times. The Vito Trabucco directed 2014 released film, who also had producer Christopher Maltauro collaborate on to pen the script, stirs up vintage Alfred Hitchcock cinematography craftwork and mirrors the enigmatic nature of particular and peculiar “Twilight Zone” episodes. Trabucco and director of cinematographer Joe Provenzano voids the film of color to encompass the mood of bygone black and white thrillers and employs composer Carlos Vivas to enchant the story with a classically engaging score that embellishes upon harrowing pivotal moments in the story. Vivas and Trabucco have a prior working relationship under Trabucco’s previous nunsploitation slasher “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.”
Vito Trabucco casted his staple entourage of actors. If you’ve ever seen “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp,” you’ll recognize many faces with the exclusion of George Troester, who plays the crude, unhitched Terrence. However, Troester does fit into the whole seven degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, being a co-star in “Crack Whore” along side Kristina Page and Steven Richards, Angel and The Stranger in their respective roles. Contemporary scream queen Jessica Sonneborn, the lead actress in “Never Open the Door’s” quasi-dual Tess performance, has a director’s credit under her name for her work on “The Haunting of Alice D” starring the iconic Kane Hodder. The 2014 film also rostered supporting actresses Kristina Page and Deborah Venegas, who portrays in Trabucco’s film as Maria, Luke’s wife. Luke is portrayed by Mike Wood with fellow “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp” co-star Matt Aidan as Angel’s fiance. Whew. Overall, the actors click as a group with a dinner room dynamic that’s natural with slightly pretentious moments that don’t really kill the mood. When the story ramps up, performances start to dwindle and overacting starts to unfold. Mike Wood absolutely murders the shower performance with ghastly exposition, but, again, this might be playing the retro card. Sonnerborn does well as the headliner. Her demon-like twin dominates, but just didn’t receive much screen presence in measly 66 minute runtime.
Continuing with the Tess demon, the black and white style fortunately masks most of the low budget special effects with the aid of some great uses of silhouettes and editing. Evil Tess’s pudgy demon sausage fingers dressed with cheap plastic looking fingernail attachments couldn’t fool a fool that they’re razor sharp, but with jagged teeth and glowing eyes encircled by a pitch black ring, she’s a nightmare inducing boogeywoman. Aside from a pair of demonic dispatches with one involving the razor blade finger caps, the effects were safely contained inside the realm of an independent feature. A few spurts of black blood and a handful of stabbings share a common bound of having being what remains of the effects which were executed well enough to serve the intended purpose. Mostly, “Never Open the Door” relied heavily on editing. Editing that involves characters’ hallucinating future or past events, attributing their frantic confusion and life threatening situation toward an endless loop of purgatory.
Yes, the characters are afflicted with a hell on repeat, switching identities on a continuous horizon that leaves fragments of prior rebroadcasts. From gathering information about the characters, none of them strike me as a damned souls. Tess is a veterinarian who performs the occasional neutering and spade and dates a man nearly twice her age. Terrence just doesn’t want to grow up, but no skeletons appeared from out of his closet. The couples, Angel and Isaac and Luke and Maria, grow suspicious of each others’ intentions that involve jealousy, paranoia, and hatred. Unlike a “Twilight Episode,” “Never Open the Door” leaves open doors of unsolved questions, such as answering the question of how the group came to acquire the house. Before the abrupt knock at the door, the person who located the isolated question seemed to befuddle the entire group. Another loose end lies with the person texting Luke messages about an illicit affair his wife’s having with one of their friends. Again, the loop doesn’t quite close on this interesting caveat.
Maltauro Entertainment presents in association with Baumant Entertainment the Vito Trabucco film “Never Open the Door” on Blu-ray. Unrated in a HD 1080p, the widescreen 1.78:1 is delectably sharp on a BD-25, but that really isn’t a surprise here with a black and white feature barely over a hour long. However, black-upon-black scenes define the Blu-ray with a low bitrate, displaying some blotchy, compression issues. Audio quality is quite fair. Carlos Vivas score channels through a Dolby Digital dual output that caters, again, to a vintage replication, but in creating an atmospheric feature, having surround sound would have boosted the result tenfold. The dialogue is a bit wish-washy, pending on the scene and character positioning, but forefront evident in the quality and that is what really matters. English subtitles are also available. “Never Open the Door” has grand potential in a small package, but trips over it’s own inconsistencies with erratic editing and walled details. Director Vito Trabucco’s vision in modernizing classic techniques and styles merely becomes just that, a vision, and was inches, or rather seconds, away from opening the door for potentially a far greater anxiety-riddled psychological thriller.
In the sleepy town of Broken Taint, dimwitted dog catcher Bubba Blanche is the town joke amongst the rest of the moronic residents even in the eyes of former girlfriend Bobbie Jo, wrapping her needs around the naked muscle-shirt arms of a triple wide trailer owning redneck. Bubba swears that he’ll do absolutely anything to win Bobbie Jo back and his pathetic cries stretch deep to the depths of hell, reaching the ears of the The Devil himself who suddenly appears in Broken Taint. The Devil strikes a dubious agreement with Bubba to make him stronger in order to win over Bobbie Jo, but when Bubba wakes up the next morning, the dog catcher has been transformed into a big, bad, and hairy werewolf. His curse becomes a gift straight from hell as he knocks the front teeth out of triple wide, wins the heart of Bobbie Jo back, and earns the respect of the local townsfolk. That is, until Bubba’s curse starts a chain reaction of unfortunate diabolical agreements between the conniving Devil and the town simpletons. As The Devil turns Broken Taint into his own tarnation playground, Bubba must use his newfound canine powers and some of his old hidden strengths to overpower and to outwit the clever Lord of the underworld.
Comic book movies. We either love them or hate them. We judge their fantastic value on the precision of who was casted as the hero or heroine and on the accurateness toward staying true to character origins. This may be common knowledge or it might not, but “Bubba The Redneck Werewolf,” a cigar-smoking, shot-gun carrying, jean-overall wearing werewolf, has been a successful comic franchise since 1995. Created by former CRACKED magazine writer Mitch Hyman, the true success of the provincial lycanthrope stems from the classic tale of a downtrodden individual being granted a huge amount of strength to overcome fear, to unleash ambitions, and to reestablish a brick wall of confidence all the while drinking a six-pack and drive a big truck. I’m sure Mitch Hyman would also note that the hilarity of a rootin tootin redneck werewolf with a patchwork heart of good intentions appeals to the masses as well.
When Two Rubbing Nickels, LLC partners with central Florida based and spoof-specializing video production company And You Films, that’s when Bubba truly comes to life from off the vivid comic book pages to ever critical independent big screen in 2014 where director Brendan Jackson Rogers’ colorful illustration of the hairiest super hero of all time and his barroom dingbats challenge a mischievous and dastardly Devil. What’s even more interesting about this under-the-radar adapted horror-comedy being released by MVDVisual onto DVD is the writer who penned the script. None other than writer, director, producer, and president of Unearthed Films, Mr. Stephen Biro. Yes, the man who delivers spectacular acquired gory avant garde and underground horror films to see a slither of public light puts forth his mighty pen to paper and etches out a perfect blend of comedy and horror that creates a sea monkey world where “Bubba The Redneck Werewolf” radiates with rib-tickling slapstick humor aimed to be darkly unapologetic and fused with embellished illustrations of spew and blood splattering mayhem.
The ensemble cast doesn’t have one single recognizable name credited and that makes this outrageous comedy that much alluring for nothing is taken overly serious. The very title of the film should be a clear expectation without explanation. Without that thespian pressure mounting on the casts’ shoulders, Rogers was able to build an alleviated atmosphere and let the actors be kids performing on the biggest stage of their careers. Even lead actor Fred Lass, who dons the Werewolf suit, had his very detailed and comprehensive werewolf facial mold conformed to show the expressions and the contours of his face. Bubba creator Mitch Hyman even has a starring roles as the Devil, his thin physique and defined face definably pops under a lush shade of hell branding red under a crown of dual horns; his satanic performance cultivates the very worst of humanity, using their greed against them, and reveling in their agony soaked suffering. Mitch Hyman wins the best ungodly trope since Al Pacino rendition of the Devil in 1997’s “The Devil’s Advocate.” Another unique element to harp upon are the strong female characters. Though the comic routinely objectifies female characters on the front covers with being petite and scantily cladded women of the countryside positioned around the massive werewolf with a baseball cap, only Malone Thomas’ role of Bobbie Jo resembles such a booty-jort, low-cut shirt clothed character, but, at the same time, Bobbie Jo remains a fierce constant show of strength for Bubba. She knows what she wants, how she wants it, and when to take it without shame and selfishness. Sara Humbert and Gail Fleming do the same for their respective roles of the blunt bartender Jamie Sue and the clairvoyant gypsy.
MVDVisual shotguns a beer and will deliver “Bubba The Redneck Werewolf” onto a region free DVD come 2017! The comic book image quality does well with the slight rotoscope composite with interlaced moments of raw and naturally colored scenes. The darker scenes in the widescreen 1.78:1 presentation comes off unsharp and blotchy, leaving details solely toward more well lit portions. The Dolby Digital audio track clearly puts forth dialogue amongst a balance ambient track. No issues are detected and sufficiently goes beyond being just good quality. A vast batch of bonus material outshines other indie releases, beginning with a 16 minute documentary “From Page to Screen. The Making of Bubba The Redneck Werewolf. Other extras include deleted scenes, blooper reel, Werewolf and Devil Make process videos, “The Ballad of Bubba” behind-the-scenes music video by The Blast-Offs, and the official trailer. Amongst the top contenders of modern horror-comedies and werewolf films, Brendan Jackson Rogers, Mitch Hyman, Stephen Biro, and Fred Lass have, literally, created a winning combination with their monstrous furry feature.
The Cologne Space Labs launch their project billionaire sponsor and gold-greedy astronaut Eli Cologne into a two-year journey in hopes for a beneficial Mars expedition. Cologne, being the first man on the red planet, encounters a shiny gold-like object that infects him with a foreign organism. As mission control rashly make the decisive decision to abort the expedition and leave Cologne stranded on the wasteland that is Mars, the brazen astronaut plans not to die on the alien planet, fleeting back to the return module, and blasting off back into space where he becomes lost for one year until his return module crash lands on Earth under the massive cloak of Hurricane Katrina. His human form ceases to exists, transformed into a flesh feasting, hideous extraterrestrial in a space suit who wreaks havoc and terror for years in a podunk Louisiana bayou where the nearby local Sheriff, Dick Ruffman, attempts to save from ultimate destruction.
When Tempe Video and TomCat Releasing dropped the news of “First Man on Mars” feature on my e-doorstep in a Tempe Video press release, something very deep in the cavernous, unholy part of me wanted to screen the film’s trailer. After witnessing a primo homage of super-8 b-horror schlock, I immediately brought my finger tips to my laptop’s keys and typed ferociously, requesting a press coverage copy for a film that had me instantly reminisce of “Lobster Man of Mars,” a 1989 sci-fi comedy directed by Stanley Sheff. As weeks passed, no response of my request was returned from the distributor. However, when the film’s director Mike T. Lyddon, an experienced independent filmmaker with more than two decades worth of low-budget films under his belt, e-mails Its Bloggin’ Evil and wonders if the site could review his latest project, a satirical sci-fi comedy, by forwarding over a screener link, I gladly jumped at the opportunity and, low and behold, I wasn’t disappointed when the end credits started to roll!
Under a massive umbrella of pop cultural science fiction references, “First Man on Mars” oversteps many plot conventions, exaggerating to the fullest extent a simple story of one man’s plight of an unquenchable desire for shiny gold that literally consumes him and, consequently, consumes others surrounding him in a cauldron of cannibalistic campiness. Even though the lesser part of Benjamin Wood’s dual role shows his mug as a friendly bar patron, his Eli Cologne performance never shows character face beyond the golden shield of his space helmet or before his pre-gruesome transformation into a hideous, razor-teethed, otherworldly beast, providing anonymity to an important character much similar to that of the character V in “V for Vendetta,” if you don’t consider the stock footage prior to the film’s title. Okay, so I might be comparing caviar to spam, but nonetheless, Lyddon uses comedy and a jerry-built space suit to create an ambiguity villainous character.
Trust me, “First Man on Mars” is not at all serious as the feature is comprised of zany rednecks, birdbrain scientists, and gratuitous violent hilarity garnished with suitably colorful dialogue that can be funny while being extremely crude, can be smart in it’s admiration, and can be juvenile with bathroom-riddled humor where appropriately scened. Every actor executes the swallowing of pride process to extend verbal and physical indirect comedy that purely goes hand-in-hand with this sort of satirical storyline constructed from the certifiable portions of Mike Lyddon’s brain that might or might not be sizzling on an illegal and dangerous narcotic. Gavin Ferrara, Kirk Jordan, Marcelle Shaneyfelt, Roy “Rusty” Jackson, Jr., Kelly Murtagh, Joey Harmon, Sam Cobean, and Tresslar Burton round out the comically darling cast.
“First Man on Mars” is an absurd blast from low-budget director Mike Lyddon and his team of willing actor and crew participants, putting everything on the proverbial line to make this ambitious project first and put their seemingly absent shame second. The TomCat Releasing was presented to me as a screener link, therefore I can’t officially review the audio and video quality nor any bonus features that might have accompanied the release, but as a soft judgment, the 16mm stock that “First Man on Mars” is shot on revels in the hokey dialogue, the substantial monster violence, and the utter gore as a remembrance of the once larger than life creature feature movies from the drive-in theater era.