When EVIL Literarature Jumps Right Off the Pages and Starts to Hunt You Down! “Monsters in the Closet” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)



Watch Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!

Eccentric horror novelist Raymond Castle mysteriously dies alone in his New York City apartment.  His daughter Jasmin, who never had a loving relationship with her father, returns to her childhood home, self-negative reminiscing about the strenuous verbal arguments between father and daughter with usual themes surrounding her playing with his valuable horror collectibles and her continuous use of the Spanish language despite his desires for an English only language household, but instead of finding the contents of his will or answers to who he really was a person, as a father, Jasmin discovers her father’s latest novel, an anthology collection based off the black magic spells of a 17th century that brings his short stories to life right there in the apartment with her. 

I said it once and I’ll say it again until the day I die:  horror anthologies are not my cup of tea.  Sure, there are excellent oldies, aka classics, out there, like “Creepshow” and “Body Bags,” from the masters of horror and a handful of more modern, done-right, anthologies from filmmakers on their way to such a grandiose title within the “V/H/S” series, but the majority of micro-narratives nowadays are collected from the scrapings of the low-budget trash barrel due in part to the cost-efficiency of short films, shot over a lengthy stretch of time, brought together into a single feature and the types of slim budget stories can sustain a better reception in a shorter format instead of full-length one.  Now, I’m not saying Zack and Spencer Snygg collaborated “Monsters in the Closet” falls into the latter category but as one of the first released films of 2022 to come across our ever-critical desk, the indie horror-comedy anthology needed to punch the living daylights out of use to begin the year and whether the Snyggs’ 4-episode, plus wraparound story, anthology slammed dunk or airballed will be covered below. “Monsters in the Closet” is a kickstarter project and a self-produced venture funded by a pair of sub-Hollywood filmmakers in Spencer Snygg, who has worked behind the scenes in the lighting department on some major films over the recent year, and a veteran indie softcore-horror director Zack whose has involvement with indie production companies like Troma and the New Jersey based E.I. Cinema, as you’ll see with a large, splayed display of E.I and Alternative Cinema posters strategically arranged as background fodder. It’s like a Misty Mundae poster celebration on exhibition.

The outer shell narrative that encompasses and unites each separate story entities begins with a frantic Tom C. Niksson as the diehard believer in his own success horror writer Raymond Castle, covered in blood, manically talking to himself, and in the throes of typing away before a cloaked stalker wielding a knife closes in on him. Niksson, who worked under Zack Snygg’s pseudonym, John Bacchus, in that Easter holiday E.I. Cinema favorite, “Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell,” steps into that looming, ever-present figurehead from the grave, delivering random dad joke dialogue while cozying up the audiences for an audiobook rendition of Castle’s latest bestseller, a black magic spell anthology of horror stories that come to fruition when read aloud. Other than his talking head role, Niksson’s involved in some contentious flashbacks with Jasmin as a child, but we never see Niksson and the adult Jasmin Flores (Jasmin) ever in the same scene together as the flashbacks are Jasmin voiceovers. Nikkson’s theatrical behavior perfectly suits the stagecraft atmospherics in erecting the gameshow-esque of a horror host whereas Flores is often stiff as a dry plank of wood. Limitations drawn from her lack of experience keep the actress’s timing and delivery often subdued in an obtuse and ungraceful character when escaping the ever-changing fiction-to-non-fiction villain of the minute. Jasmin, the character, is already inherently underwhelming in a role that has no purpose or buildup to understand her headspace surrounding the sudden death of her father. What do those flashbacks mean to her or are they just melancholic gibberish? And why isn’t she more interested in his death or even showing a lack of care for it? Throughout “Monsters in the Closet,” a fair amount of pleasantly surprising performances from the anthological works pull the overall project together better than those in the wraparound story. Along with a first person view zombie tale as the first short, Luke Couzens and Carmilla Crawford play newlywed new homeowners going through the frustrations of DIY Hell until they off each other with tools, the silver spoon Jordan Flippo becomes tarnished when a camping accident turns this rich daddy’s girl into an unstoppable killing machine to protect her immaculate image, and side-splitting John Fedele (“The Vampire’s Seduction”) as the humbly polite mad scientist Frankenstein who can’t get over the death of Mrs. Frankenstein (Valerie Bitner) and keeps resurrecting her despite her wishes to stay dead.

What I like and thought interesting about the “Monsters in the Closet” corpora is that they’re written in-house by at least one of the Snygg brothers, sometimes both.  This extends style and control over the entire body of work boundless to the ideas and the panache of other filmmakers and showrunners without having to associate themselves.  The Snyggs’ balanced anthology comes with equal levels of comedy and horror that unearths the humor in humorless scenarios sans the sometimes tired gags that can devalue a project into tedium and, ultimately, into worthlessness and since we’re already being beholden to more than one narrative that jumbles the mind, the mental capacity is too low to withstand different numerous tales in one sitting as well as to try and struggle with the bad unfunny bits.  “Monsters in the Closet” at least has a whimsical darkness about it, a sinister playful attitude, and isn’t afraid to get gory from time to time beginning with the Spency Snygg directed zombie existentialistic “Please Kill Me Again” that takes the viewpoint of a recently turned woman with normal inner thoughts and intentions, but the cravings begin to take over.  The Snygg brothers follow up with darkly satiric “Home Improvement” involving a new couple’s adversary journey to fix up their rundown new home to the point where they can’t take any more of the repairs or of each other and the overflowing sardonic banter starts to spill blood; this bit is fun, more than you know it relatable, and gets real nasty at the end. The weakest short is “The One Percenters” with a nob’s daughter eager to mingle amongst the common folk during a seemingly harmless camping trip that turns deadly after she accidently kills her boyfriend.  Conceptually, the message is sound with the wealthiest subverting the law theme and Jordan Flippo is stunning as a plutocrat’s high expectations daddy’s girl, but the story lacks enough obstacle and tension-filled stuffing for an interesting enough short. “Frankenstein’s Wife” spotlights John Fedele’s equable, light-hearted humor in affectionately reconstructing and resurrecting the wife he accidently kills and with each attempt at bring her back from the dead, her corporeal temple becomes less and less of herself through Frankenstein’s botched cosmetic surgeries. The lovesick cycle is both deranged and full of laughs from Fedele’s riotous desperation take of a classic character.

Gravitas Ventures unchains all the creatures loose in their digital distribution of The Snygg Brothers’ “Monsters in the Closet” anthology now available on-demand and digital platforms this January. None of the audio or visual aspects will be covered since the feature is not a digital release, but when I say The Snygg Brothers self-produced the film, I mean they literally wore nearly every single departmental hat, including director of photography and visual effects that impresses with a wide range of shots from drone, to hand-held, and to tracking done with depth and various levels of focus. There is no one trick pony behind the camera. Some of the digital effects, such as the bullet holes that riddle the basement floor and walls, cheapen the already cheap production and, for the most part, the practical effects reach the passing bar with the obvious lay figure body parts and crude masks/getups. There are no special features or bonus scenes with this release that runs unrated at 88 minutes. Anthology bias be damned, “Monsters in the Closet” is a rarity in a dying breed subgenre with a jocular sense of sinister, social commentary humor braided into a tenebrous fray between man versus man and man versus monster.

Watch “Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!

Second Lesson of Evil by Knowing Your ABCs! “The ABCs of Death 2” review!

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Ready for the second round of ABCs of death? Twenty-six new directors sign, seal, and deliver twenty-six new stories about death and breathe a whole new life into this highly anticipated sequel to the highly popular 2012 anthology. The ABCs of Death 2 attempts to be callous, sick, and offers up more blood and gore than it’s predecessor while the ABCs are very elementary, its the death part that makes then alphabet more complicated.
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When one glances the cover and see thats familiar figure of the death eating Grim Reaper holding a story book, one who knew nothing about the anthology would consider The ABCs of the Death to be strictly a horror genre, short story telling series in the same ballpark as “Creepshow,” which ironically enough has a similar, yet cartoony, ghastly Grim Reaper on it’s sophomore sequel DVD cover. That assumption is significantly mistaken. The Grim Reaper is all about the death in every sense of the way and “The ABCs of Death” productions resemble more of the controversial and ultra-violent “Faces of Death” series. If you scour the internet, or just have the entire collection, many of the VHS and DVD editions have a similar Grim Reaper, but again more cartoonish. The content though is all about death gathering home recordings of unspeakable acts of death from suicide, murders, and to accidentals just to name a few.
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Yes, there are fantastic horror elements to “The ABCs of the Death” as well making this hybrid of an anthology that more entertaining, but the sequel relies a lot on the human element. The nature of man is cruel and vicious and most of the 26 films are based on this true to form fact. For example, “C is for Capital Punishment” by director Julian Barratt tells the story of a lynch mob trying to justify the disappearance of a village girl, Aharon Keshales “F is for Falling” involves the tautness of a rifle-toting Palestinian boy who discovers a Israeli fighter dangling from her parachute chords stuck in a tree, or Vincenzio Natali’s “U is for Utopia” in where a society made up of thin, good looking people living their lives while the ugly people are hunted down and burned alive.
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What I also like about “The ABCs of Death” is the various culturally inspired films. There are directors from all over the glob spanning from Japan, England, France, Argentina and Nigeria just to name a few and all of who incorporate their own culture and style in the mixture. Some introduced comedy while others took a stylish-serious route and others just wanted to scare the pants off you. The couple animated shorts weren’t as rememberable as in the first anthology, but certain “D is for Deloused” by Robert Morgan will at least make you have underlining nightmares.
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Some of the more memorable shorts stood out over all the rest. One in particular was Steven Kostanski’s “W is for Wish” which took a late 80’s to early 90’s take on a fantasy toy commercial where two children wished to be a part of and then actually went into the world where it was like nothing they expected. In fact, carnage and chaos (and awkwardly weird and fantastic) was the maelstrom these kids were thrusted into making their fantasy a real and deadly nightmare.
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Magnolia Home Entertainment scores big with the sequel to “The ABCs of Death” and I’m sure the company won’t stop at just two. Expect more great films from lesser known directors and more blood and guts than ever. In the meantime, pick up your copy of “The ABCs of Death 2” on DVD or Blu-ray because you never know when you might keel over and die!

Kiss Your Cousin and Watch Some Evil! “Hillbilly Horror Show Vol.1” review!

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Bo, Cephus, and their kissing cousin Lulu lounge on their small trailer park camper couch drinking ice cold beer and watching a bag-filled of horror shorts discs. A fear-filled anthology containing four of the best horrifying shorts from some of the most talented and unknown filmmakers displayed for our country-bunpkin viewing pleasure.

For the most part, horror anthologies are the bane of my existence. The appeal of numerous plot lines, not intertwined, swells and overflows the mind. Trying to process it all is like dumping all your Thanksgiving leftovers down the garbage disposal and witnessing it clogging up trying to choke down week old Turkey, bits of yellow kernel corns, and de-gelatized cranberry jelly patties.
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…but every once and awhile a worthy anthology gets it right, gets the gist of what makes the innards of good collection of horror shorts. I commend good compilation releases such as “Body Bags,” “Creepshow,” and “ABCs of Death.” Believe it or not or take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but “Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1” is on the same awesome level as those I’ve just listed in not so marketable fashion.
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1: “Franky and The Ant”

Franky and his partner are hitmen and their current mark is a sexy, barely clad young lady. With bag over her head, the two men drag her to the isolated field where an open grave was previous dug. When the target is revealed to the two men, Franky has more in store for his partner and his target than what meets the eye.
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“Franky and The Ant” is a quick-wit and smart short about lover revenge in a chilly cold-hearted and thrilling way. This short will make you think twice about the people who are close to you in more ways than one. Directed by first timer Billy Hayes, the festival winning short is a crime thriller with just the right amount of duration and enough story to make it compelling.
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2: “Doppleganger”

In this stop motion short, a skeleton awakes alone in a cave and ventures out on a journey into the world. Walking across great lands and discovery the desolation of the world, the skeleton stumbles upon another skeleton. They’re both seemingly the same with only the lower jaw missing from the second skeleton. When the journeying skeleton extends a hand in friendship, friendship is not what the doppelganger is seeking.
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Director Theo Stefanski creates a gothic and surreal looking info life after death and then death again. The message of nothing changes after death is a bit depressing in a comical depiction. The animation wonderfully constructed with love of classical inspirations. The short is short but the takeaway is everlasting.
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3: “Amused”

Martha returns home to her snow covered house to find an insane individual munching on her daughter’s scalp. The crazed man then wears the detached scalp on his head and chases Martha through the cold countryside. With every hope of help, more terror lurks around every corner and its up to Martha to resolve her own salvation against the sinister amusement that has overcome the murders.
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Cuyle Carvin is a vet in the film industry and with “Amused” being his first attempt at direction just proves that his experience is a test of time spent on the independent and Hollywood scene. “Amused” is well shot even if the film stock quality isn’t up to snuff; this might have been purposefully done give the tone and feel of the short a more retro sensation. The short has no dialogue and translate so well to the viewer that no chatter is necessary and I would go as far as unwanted. I would love to see more from Cuyle Carvin in the future in the horror genre and see a longer version of “Amused.”
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4: “The Nest”

A small town diner has an award-winning, business-thriving honey from a deadly hive of over-sized, flesh eating swarm of bees that are kept secret. When a horse rancher and a government land inspector investigate the remains of a flesh-ridden horse, the diner owner and her dim-witted mute son strive to keep their hive a secret.
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Saving the best short for last, Tim Zwica’s masterful short contains flawless acting and a story that fun as it is thrilling. Flesh eating bees. Who know that would be fun? The dark tone of the film’s cinematography surely heightens the appeal of the film and the special effects creates an allure that can’t be ignored. The Nest is produced by the ever-so-lovely Jennifer Scott who also plays a goth-hooligan girl who gets ravaged by the bees. “The Nest” might be a Syfy mega hit if it was made into a full length feature much in the same vain of “Sharknado” but I would predict that “The Nest” would have three times more success.
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I’m hooked on “Hillybilly Horror Show” and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Glamour model Rachel Faulker and her skimpy outfits. Horror shorts with girth, grit, and guts unlike any anthology I’ve seen in a very, very long time. The “Hillbilly Horror Show” is today’s Joe Bob Briggs with more redneck fun. MVDVisual brings volume one home and I would recommend this DVD, though the cover lacks much artistic enthusiasm, with award winning shorts as these filmmakers need more exposure and new talent is brooding behind the scenes of Hollywood.

E/V/I/L! V/H/S review!

VHSMain

The Video Home System, aka the VHS, became a leap forward for home entertainment in the mid to late 1970s growing widely popular by the 1980s and into the better half of the 90s. Two decades later, most of the youthful generation can’t even tell you what a VHS tape looks like or spell out the abbreviation. Today the DVD is the standard norm and DVD has made a fatal blow that killed the VHS tape forever in the industry retail market, but believe me or not, the VHS tape still lives and breathes among us and those who collect the out of print format believe that VHS is the ultimate haven for movie lovers. Today, not everything is on DVD. VHS had thirty years to collect films from all over the world and DVD nor Blu-ray have captured them. They are timeless vintage that doesn’t have a expiration date (until the sun gets a hold of them).

Now, the VHS tape has been used in horror movies before – The Ring, Vacancy, etc – and has become sort of a icon for the genre. Nothing about a DVD disc is scary, but bring out a VHS tape with the grain and the tracking blemishes and that can even make the happiest of times seem creepy as shit. This leads me into V/H/S a horror anthology of short films surrounded by main film where adult juvenile delinquents decide to pursue a lead in gaining a cash prize if they pinch a VHS tape from an old man’s house as if sharking (scoping out women targets and exposing their breasts on camera unwillingly) and breaking windows in an abandoned complexes wasn’t exciting enough. After they break into the house and discover the owner apparently dead in a room full of televisions, they decide to split up and search for the tape. One by one they view a different tape and get more then they bargain for as each tape contains a horror story which once watched will never leave them the same again.

The Second Honeymoon

The Second Honeymoon

V/H/S is damn scary. Plain and simple. Black and white. Up and down. Five short horror stories with an horror story – a resemblance, if not a respectable nod, to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt era, but the writers and directors made these stories their own constructing each one carefully to where the content just doesn’t scare you stupid but will also leave your jaw dropped and your mind racing. Being a recently married man myself, one episode entitled ‘The Second Honeymoon’ had my mind racing and paranoid – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the anthology. V/H/S encompasses different genres such as creature feature, thriller, haunted house, satan, slasher, and even aliens. A little something for everyone to enjoy. You might even recognize some of the directors and writers names such as Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), David Bruckner (The Signal), and Glenn McQuad (I Sell the Dead).

There is definitely a feeling of no holds barred when an series of short come out like this. I feel that the nudity and gore taboo go right out the window and anything can go. A big F.U. is given to the MPAA and, for this review, that I’m on board with that as I my philosophy in life is the more brutality, more nudity, more visceral the better and though each director accomplished their part in each of their respective story, I couldn’t help that something was missing. The characters and some of the dialogue just weren’t doing it for me. I must be jaded as I write myself and I find some of the dialogue to be at a third grade level along with most of the character’s mental states. Again, ‘The Second Honeymoon’ separates itself from the pack with sympathetic characters and an adult, non-frat party attitude dialogue. ‘Friday the 17th’ episode could just be a spoof on the 80’s slasher now that I think about it and that makes me a feel a little better about the writing.

Tuesday the 17th

Tuesday the 17th

Go grab your DVD or Blu-ray copy of V/H/S from Magnet Releasing and keep your eye out for V/H/S/2 – I’m sure it’ll bite even harder than the first.