A Career Boost Too EVIL to Ride. “Star Vehicle” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Digital Screener)

For super movie aficionado and independent film production driver Donald Cardini, film crew after film crew treat him with very little worth.  Full of creatively complimenting movie ideas and brandishing a go-getter attitude, nothing will stop the driver’s own creative outlet.  When his favorite scream queen, Reversa Red, is involved in his next gig, Cardini’s creative juices bubble to the surface as he personally drives her to and from the set, sparking a connection with the actress who values his input, but the threat of a Reversa Red stalker places Cardini on edge and the rest of the film crew continues to ceaseless disparage him.  Pushed over the edge into madness, the violence prone driver hijacks those belittling him, along with Reverse Red, to an isolated location where he can shoot his own snuff movie, a one of a kind production starring his favorite actress.

You might have read on how much I’ve given my two cents praise toward the late Ryan Nicholson in previous reviews of “Hanger,” “Live Feed,” and “Gutterballs.”  Those trio of pictures are stuffed with gratuitous violence and nudity, wealthy in rich, colorful characters, and are just the epitome of gonzo-grindhouse cinema from the multi-talented filmmaker from our Canadian neighbor.  “Star Vehicle” rides that same bonkers high-speed train full of Nicholson-ism and topics too crass for comfort, but even with all the similar vulgarity and depravity that makes Nicholson so ghastly loveable and even with a few of the same actors from previous works, “Star Vehicle” regresses technically into a lesser shell when compared to the aforementioned films above.  The 2010 exploitation-slasher, alternatively known as “Bleeding Lady,” is executive produced by former model Charie Van Dyke under her New Image Entertainment production banner and Nicholson’s company, Plotdigger Films.

At the tip of the spear is the non-titular “Hanger” front man Dan Ellis in the role of the abrasive Donald Cardini.  Instead of wearing face-altering prosthetics and aviator shades that made his The John character in “Hanger” an antiheroic and perverse veteran of the armed services unforgettable, Ellis steps down into a leaner version of psychotic foreplay by providing his “Star Vehicle” appearance with an all-natural tough guy stern and smirk look under a permed beard and atop hair while seamlessly plotting the same amoral atrocities.  Crazy suits the actor with wild eyes complimenting his grave unsympathetic hand, an act of situational severity that comes more naturally to Ellis when interacting with other castmates as urges begin to take over and all hell breaks loose, leaving not a single other to rival his Donald Cardini wanton killer.  Unlike Ellis, the other characters are not as colorfully mad or interesting and that’s terribly atypical of a Nicholson film who had the ability to craft diabolically perverted and warped behaviors.  I was expecting a punchier leading lady opposite of Ellis with Sindy Faraguna.  Playing a genre scream queen doted on by Cardini with every film she touches, Faraguna inevitably descends into the final girl trope without deserving one ounce of landing in such a fortunate position for the simple fact that her captor really doesn’t wish to hurt her; instead, Cardini exploits her to convince others of his movie-making-macabre magic while Faraguna just screams Reversa Red’s head off for the plot-digging finale that’s more cacophonously raspy in determination than a bloodcurdling cry of terror.  Tangled up in a mix is plot twist and subplot involving a Reversa Red stalker who, as we know how these dropped tidbits of information circle back around eventually, should have determined the fate of our leads but this, too, lands wobbly at best, crusted over by an energetic-drained letdown of corrosion-covered aggressive conduct.  “Star Vehicle” rounds out the cast with Nathan Durec (“Famine”), Nick Windebank, Mike Le, Paiage Farbacher, Erindera Farga, Matthew Janega, Kris Michalesk, and Gary Starkell who also seems to windup playing some version of a homeless man – see “Collar” and “Bad Building.”

“Star Vehicle,” an industry term, defines as a film or television show specifically written and/or created to showcase the talents of a specific entertainer to increase their fame and recognition.  Nicholson sardonically uses that concept as Cardini kills his way to make it happen for his primo starlet Reversa Red, but also Nicholson literally, in a subtle Nicholson-ludicrous manner, has Cardini driving Reversa Red to and from filming sets in his beat up 2000’s Ford Windstar mini-van.   The latter, along with the entire essence of “Star Vehicle,” is essentially a jab to the guerilla style nature of indie movie filmmaking.  A few characters note how producers skimp with the budget, Cardini snarks about his cracked windshield production won’t pay for, and the caliber of the cast comes under indirect fire when one of starlets mechanically delivers her lines like a stiff automaton are just a handful of instances Nicholson mocks in his knock against indie production idiosyncrasies. Where “Star Vehicles” becomes a lemon is with the slapdash editing and the clunky story that tiptoes onto non-linear ground, bashfully uncertain going back into previous events for exposition sake was actually necessary. What’s brought to light with Reversa Red’s stalker and their involvement treads flimsily to an ultimate twist gum up by “Star Vehicle’s” curbed devices. By adding the break down by throwing a monkey wrench in the already galumphing development, the main antagonist, Cardini, can never regain that vice gripping potency touted earlier. Gory as it may be like any Nicholson splatterfest, “Star Vehicle” loses drive to make the finish line but still purrs like a bloodhungry beast.

This October, Unearthed Films releases Ryan Nicholson’s “Star Vehicle” onto Blu-ray and DVD. Unrated and stuff with extras, the sixth Nicholson film to be resurrected for Unearthed Films’ catalogue is presented a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio BD50 and DVD9 with a runtime of 76 minutes on both formats while the Blu-ray is encoded with region A and the DVD with region 1. Extras include a whopping amount with a little more bonus material on the Blu-ray. Blu-ray includes commentary with director Ryan Nicholson and lead Dan Ellis, Left Coast TV present “On the Set with Star Vehicle,” Behind the Wheel of Bleeding Lady, Making “Star Vehicle,” Makeup Students and Acting Students, deleted scenes, alternating opening, Splatterfest! at the Plaza, Nicholson’s 2013 feature “Dead Nude Girls,” photo gallery and trailer while the DVD sports the same content minus the second feature, “Dead Nude Girls.” I can’t relay my thoughts on either the A/V nor the special features since only a digital screener of the film was provided. Don’t be afraid of the clunker comments and opinions, hop in and take a ride with Ryan Nicholson’s “Star Vehicle,” a gory dauntless joyride sped to lampoon it’s own indie outlet with a meta-plot and a tank full of carnage fuel.

“Star Vehicle” available on Blu-ray and DVD.  Click to Purchase at Amazon.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to be the Evil Doctor’s Guinea Pig? “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock” review!

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One man becomes the unfortunate subject of ghastly experimentations performed by a sadistic and blood thirsty doctor. Wheeled by abiding orderlies back and forth from his sterile white and padded cell to the mad doctor’s dark and dingy operating room office, the man’s will to live quickly begins to fade, yearning for death before suffering anymore in an alternative Hell. That is, until the handwritten notes start appearing on his padded room floor. The notes seep through between the pads from another tortured soul, a female, in the adjacent room. Withstanding new atrocities done to her before the man receives them, she pleads with the man to not leave her and to make a pact to outlive the inhumanities together.
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Welcome to the new American Guinea Pig series! “Bloodshock” is the 2015 follow up film, on the coattails of 2014’s “American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore,” from writer-producer and Unearthed Films president Stephen Biro and directed by special effects guru Marcus Koch. Koch, whose effects credentials include the Barbara Crampton starring thriller “We Are Still Here” and Koch’s prior directorial work “Rot” and “100 Tears,” strays away from the straight forward concept with an ultra gore art house expressionistic horror film that aims to break your mind as well as your body. Open for interpretation, “Bloodshock” fits perfectly into the ever provocative Unearthed Films’ wide open cache of underground cinema and will alleviate Koch to the next level of filmmaking. My interpretation of what this poor man and woman are experiencing is simply a penancing purgatory that’s intended to cleanse their souls in the warmth of their own wretched blood; the two victims understand their pain, as if not feeling the invasive effects of being dissected while still yielding breath, and are willing to subdue themselves to a maniacal physician until they’re able to briefly thwart his tireless work to share pain and open wounds in blood-soaked passion of hopeless ecstasy.
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Dan Ellis puts in a powerful performance as the mistreated male patient with Lillian McKinnay, as the female patient, co-starring in an equally bold performance, especially being McKinnay’s first major role. Andy Winton’s diabolical medical maltreatment compares to the similar magnitude of “The Human Centipede’s” Dieter Laser by conducting exploratory, invasive, and unnecessary surgeries for sport while being candor about his blood lusting necessity. Amongst the three main actors, Biro’s script contains little dialogue, banking laboriously on physical renditions since both tortured patients’ tongues have been severed and jarred. Every movement is precisely executed and surged with attention, tuned to tell the story without much verbiage. Ultra gore isn’t everybody’s cup of cinematic tea and with an extremely thin film of dialogue as an outer coating, Ultra gore becomes that much difficult to be entertained by, but, recently, I’ve been lucky enough to come across another gore and shock film, coincidentally enough another Unearthed Films’ release entitled “Flowers” by director Phil Stevens, that had proved to me, as well as Koch has just done, that unspoken gore can be ingeniously crafted and thought provoking.
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“Bloodshock’s” gore holds nothing back and leaves nothing to the imagination. The meticulous bone-sawing, head-splitting effects from a talented special effects team, consisting of Marcus Koch’s Oddtopsy FX crew, paint a sordid picture with a blood brush. Koch’s decision to go with Donald Donnerson’s cinematography under the two-tone of black and white doesn’t stiffen the poignant sight of blood, inner layers of flesh, or the splintering bone fragments. The Japanese would be pleased with their American counterparts realistically depicting gore and death captured amongst an underlying meaning. Unearthed Films has already taken the steps to continue the series with their next installment, “American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon,” which will pertain to a graphic exorcism and, currently, there are preview images and video scenes available.
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The 3-Disc Collector’s Set from Unearthed Films and MVD Visual has priceless collector’s value. Not only does the set have a Blu-ray transfer of the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, but also contains a DVD presentation and a third disc containing a CD of the Kristian Day industrial-jarring soundtrack. The black and white image quality is sharp and solid for a majority of 91 minute runtime. Some scenes go soft, losing shape to blotchy interference, but the qualities only supplement to “Bloodshock’s” charming grit. Only during the course of the patients unifying do colorful hues gradually seep in, almost unnoticeably, during an ostentatious sex scene involving blood and intestine that’s effectively edited to slowly build the passionate boiling point. Despite two of the main characters have their tongues removed, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio has the dialogue so sorely crushed under the weight of the Kristian Day soundtrack that at some scenes I can’t even understand what the good mad doctor is saying. Also, on the DVD, I noticed that all audio tracks delay a second behind the action and dialogue. The bonus features are immense with interviews with director Marcus Koch, writer-producer, Stephen Biro, actor Dan Ellis, actress Lillian Mckinney, and two commentary tracks with Marucs Koch and Stephen Biro on one and actor Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli on the other. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette, production videos, and a booklet with a review from Ultra Violent Magazine! Unearthed Films certainly has a definitive release in their collection with “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock” that’s packed with bonus material and full of venomous content abiding by the guidelines set forth by the Japanese. I don’t foresee the underground cinema juggernaut or the explicitly snuff-like Guinea Pig series ever slowing the flow of blood. “Bloodshock” fulfills the qualifications of the series by having the guts to show the guts and being just as demented and sick for fans who can stomach and endure grisly content.

Isn’t the cover just gore-geous. Get it at Amazon!