EVIL Moves in When Sister Goes Missing! “Sister Tempest” reviewed (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)



“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com

Private school art teacher Anne Hutchinson faces an alien tribunal on the set of circumstances surrounding the sudden disappearance of her younger sister.  Anecdotally going through the chapters of her life, beginning with her parents perishing when the sisters were young into growing up in a confrontation household between the sisters’ warring personalities to Anne’s desperate search for her younger sister after an ugly fight one night.  Still reeling from the abrupt disappearance, a new student joins her class that ensues a sudden fascination from Anne.  When the student shows up one night at Anne’s house, unloading woes of being kicked out of school due to lack of funds, Anne offers sympathy and suggests staying in her sister’s room that’s now been vacant for some time, but Anne’s new roommate hides a secret as she must feed on raw meat to combat of a body-covering boil sprouting illness.  Little does the art teacher know that there’s a connection between her sister’s disappearance and her former blood-thirsty pupil that will shock her very core.

What happens when a promise to another person can’t be kept because that person’s will and commitment is so strong it’s becomes a severe fault?  From an not from this world alien perspective, the contradictory and irrational nature of humankind has a profoundly illogical pattern to it that bears hardly any understanding to an unlike mind.  There’s fragility to interpersonal relationships and to the people devoted to those relationships that force unforeseen, sometimes fatal, consequences when expected coherency and harmony turns into irrational chaos from seemingly arbitrary means.  This is how Joe Badon’s genre-bending “Sister Tempest” expresses that conundrum of curious conscious with a surrealistic sci-fi-horror-drama that teeters on the edge of deadpan.  The 2020 released “Sister Tempest” is the second written-and-directed feature film from Badon, following his 2017 experimental horror “The God Inside My Ear,” which falls upon similar “Sister Tempest” lines of emotionally distress-induced bale.  Filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana, “Sister Tempest” is a produced by Badon, editor/sound designer Joseph Estrade, Dustin Rosemark (“Inferno”) and cinematographer Daniel Waghorne with visual effects artist Clint Carney (screener of “Dry Blood”) and Miles Hendler serving as executive producers.

After a series of prefacing introductory and non-linear story scenes, Anne Hutchinson, a debut feature role for New Orleans based actress Kali Russell, sits in negative space wearing an orange jumpsuit and being introduced to her alien tribunal council.  Dazed and confused, but not totally in shock and frightened about being in the presence of otherworldly extraterrestrials, Anne recounts events surrounding the disappearance of her sister, played by Holly Bonney (“Bird’s Eye).  As sisters, a defined line between the older responsible and the younger immature is contentiously formed between Anne and Karen as they deviate from earlier promises after their parents’ untimely death to take care of each other.  Through Anne’s retelling of her life, her mother, though hard and disciplined, had a conditioning care that burdened the eldest child with a sense of duty and care at a young age and this really is no different from most firstborns who shoulders already a ton of responsibility regardless in taking on even more when the parents are no longer around.  You love them to death is great idiom that rings true in Badon’s subversive-cinema standards tale when the sisters can’t see eye-to-eye on matters and there’s a loss of connection, accountability, and gratitude that the audience can relate to.  For much of the picture, Holly Bonney takes a backseat to Kali Russell’s spiraling disconnect that affects her relationship with love interest Jeffrey the Janitor (Alex Stage, “Eat Brains Love”) and new life-entangling pupil Ginger (Linnea Gregg).  The latter Greg played character has a little more layers to peel back that involves directly with Anne.  Ginger’s is venom in disguise as vampire of sorts who requires raw meat and to keep her human appearance intact.  There’s a representational duality in Ginger, reflecting both a monstrous quality and a sweet innocence that ties into Anne personally and into the search for the sister.  “Sister Tempest” rounds out the cast with Clint Carney (“Dry Blood”), Lucas Boffin (“Return to Sender”), Andre LaSalle (“The God Inside My Ear”), Cami Roebuck (“Children of Sin”), and Sarah Rochis.

“Sister Tempest” has a foundational design we’ve all likely seen before with breaking points, dualities, and downhill-racing mystery unfathomable to the naked eye, but the Josh Badon story inexplicitly feels different from the others.  Perhaps because of Badon’s unconventional storytelling style that throws the normal perceptions for a loop, literally and figuratively, with a 50’s-ish callback to science fiction films or its glamour of 70’s-ish British horror in color and macabre or an unsane mixture of both. I’m not going to sugar coat “Sister Tempest” as an easy to follow, low-hanging fruit film that simple, straight-forward, and is everybody’s cup of tea. That would be a waste of peddle spiel. There’s a zaniness quality that can’t be ignored that surrounds the principal Anne character as if she’s experiencing an ersatz world normally. Some would say that Anne’s caught in a maelstrom, or tempest, of unclear thought and her ordeal is catalytically charged by the work and the love that is poured into her sister’s wellbeing only to be thrown back into her face. Badon has a flair for the unusual, an eye for the odd, and can extravasate an uneasy air from a capsule of seemingly randomized happenstance and beyond the already preternatural events to aggregating the wayward tension.

“Sister Tempest” is the very definition of independent movies with a take it or leave it spellbinding archetype that’s unlike anything ever seen before. You can bear witness to Joe Badon’s mesmeric madness and melancholy with a brand-new Blu-ray from Darkside Releasing. Presented in two aspect ratio formats, a 2.39:1 and 1.33:1, the screen really runs the side-to-side gamut. Image quality shows zero sign of issues from the high-definition digital video, shot on a 4K black magic pocket cinema camera. The blacks are deep and rich as well as the coloring through Daniel Waghorne’s versatile cinematography involving gel lighting, color reduction, and spotlighting. The English language 5.1 surround sound shows no sign of slowing down this A/V wonder with clean and lively multi-audio tracks that come through every channel definitively. Bonus material includes an audio commentary with the director, produces, and actors, a blooper reel, a deleted scene, and trailers for Darkside releasing surreal and giallo films. “Sister Tempest” Lynchian style is not going to please the masses, but it’s certainly the wildest ride in the theme park of contemporary indie cinema.

“Sister Tempest” – on Blu-ray home video at Amazon.com

To EVIL, Death is Only the Beginning. “Girl With a Straight Razor” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

“Girl With A Straight Razor” available on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon.com!

A placid woman waits in her modern chic apartment until dark. She ritualistically dresses elegantly and exits her apartment building wearing sunglasses, a bright red coat, and an unsheathed straight razor. As she wanders the streets, she locates a target, another woman, and stalks her with a bloody thirst in her eyes. When approaches from behind to only turn around her victim and come face-to-face with an exposed neck, she slashes away at the jugular, slicing crudely a blood-splattering spree that manifests a smile across her face. She returns to her apartment where she’s visited in between her straight razor murders by a lady dressed and veiled in black, priming the elegantly dressed woman for the next kill. The blade continues to slash through napes nightly, memories of the woman’s past seep into her psyche to a terrifying outcome of how she became a killer.

“Girl With a Straight Razor.” Simple, yet effective. The eye-catching, razor-sharp title certainly has a couple of key words combined together audiences often drool over just by the very straight-forward approach and appealing word sequences that make the appearance of an idiosyncratic title that much more desirable. Canadian horror-filmmaker Chris Alexander seizes advantage writing-and-directing a script that’s a numbing-gaze reminiscent in homage to giallo by assembling the trademark motifs of stark red coloring, gloved hands shot in a first-person view, and the use of a melee blade familiar to the Italian-made mystery-thriller genre for a fever dream highlighted as a pain-pleasure principled purgatory. The “Female Werewolf” and “Necropolis: Legion” director also composes the film and controls the overall look of the colorfully prone to epilepsy cinematography that jars sense the visual cortexes. “Girl With a Razor Blade” is the first feature production of the Vancouver based Molemen Entertainment and is produced by Vince D’Amato, the founder and managing partner of Darkside Releasing who released the film on home video this year.

If you want to make a low-budget film and keep a lot of change in your pocket, hire only a handful of decent, well-rounded actors and actresses to maintain the spirit of independent filmmaking that balances the budget as well as balances the filmmaker’s creativity with semi-creditable performances. If you want to make a low-budget film and keep dollar bills in your pocket, hire two actresses where one only has two to three scenes max with no dialogue and the other have them play four different versions of themselves with very little dialogue. The minimal dialogue forces Alexander into a creative environment where express the principal’s emotional deluge, or lack thereof, can be displayed in a range of camera angles, his musical composition, and the variegated kill scenes contrasted against contrasting black and white visuals. In these scenes are a pair of Chris Alexander regulars. Having had roles in some capacity 2019 re-imagining of Bruce Hickey’s “Necropolis” from 1986, Thea Munster finds herself again in front of the director as a ghostly, haunting figure costumed in an old-fashioned lacy black dress as if going to a funeral, to which she’s properly playing a character called Lady Death so there’s no ambiguity about the status and intentions from the grim reaper concept, and Ali Chappell who isn’t foreign to leading lady role with Alexander and has the nearly the entire story on her shoulders with scenes of her as the lady in red cutting the throats of window shoppers on a nightly basis that becomes reverse engineered into the deconstruction of her as a killer with humanizing sympathy. Despite not much dialogue, both Munster and Chappell hit their marks and cater to Alexander’s idea of posturing expression that mostly involves Chappell laying topless in an egg-shaped chair, an animal skinned carpet, or on a black mannequin chair.

“Girl With a Razor Blade” is cutting-edge existentialism and novel re-imagining around the idea of death’s plans for us all. Alexander dives into the depths of mortal consequences that limbo the soul into a loop of insensible pain and suffering.  As we learn more about this woman and her marital troubles, presumably separated by legal force and a resentfully angry husband, from her child, Chappell’s character has no other place to go than down into darkness, mentally and physically.  Its during that time Lady Death approaches to become a harbinger of death, puppeteering her subject’s will to conduct more self-harm as the villain and the victim in a mind warping illusion that’ll fool the viewers’ perception of the woman’s insatiable lust for red jugular juice.  Alexander’s cinematography style is simply ethereal and elegant with a touch of precise choreography in the characters positions and movements to reflect a vivid dichotomy between the present stillness of surrealism and the past’s stressful reality. “Girl With a Razor Blade” is grim bordering the line of certain religious doctrines in condemning oneself to an unsavory existence, if you can even call it an existence, of facing yourself, your fate, over and over again until no longer the feeling the need to spill blood is gnawing at the marionette strings and waking up to the truth, facing it, can be free. There are moments the blade is a sexual object, almost like an obsession with what it represents, which would be death, that can be addicted, can’t be ignored, and won’t let you forget it.

Stylish, cryptic, and thought provoking, Chris Alexander’s seventh film “Girl With a Straight Razor” cuts onto a high-definition, AVC encoded, Blu-ray home video courtesy of Darkside Releasing. Two versions of the film are available – a Darkside Releasing expanded cut with a runtime of 67 minutes and a director’s original cut of the film with a runtime of 57 minutes. Both produced during the pandemic films are presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality wasn’t the best for Darkside Releasing with a shaky, often banding, image mostly throughout due to compression issues. You can see the blurry splotches in the darker portions of the scenes. Delineation is also difficult during rainbow strobe effect when the woman slices at away during a kill moment in a fit of haziness that leaves barely an outline of the contours. In fact, Alexander’s style is all over the map with filters, lens flares, and gel lighting that can be a little too much and gaudy to digest. The English language 5.1 surround sound has a lossy framework that’s more of a soft crunch than a sharp crisp. There isn’t much dialogue to be hand in the film, but the clarity is there, it’s just not robustly defined. Aside from two versions available of the film, bonus features also include an audio commentary on the director’s cut, three short music videos by co-star Thea Munster and her band “Night Chills” as she spotlights her niche playing of the theremin instrument, and Darkside Releasing 2021 Giallo and Surreal trailer reels. A character-driven and introspective “Girl With a Razor Blade” laments as an acquiescent nightmare breaded lightly in giallo features and fried heavily in the abstract qualities of surrealism. Don’t expect Chris Alexander’s film to be straight forward giallo with a straight blade razor and you’ll come out with only a close shave nick into your expectations.

“Girl With A Straight Razor” available on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon.com!

Beware! EVIL is Afoot in a Small Town! “I Scream on the Beach” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Mellow Coast is a small, quiet fishing town typically free from big city violence.  When a dead body shows up on the Mellow Coast’s shoreline, a past of enigmatic and thought solved disappearance cases return to haunt Emily whose father was murdered right in front of her when she was little, yet the local police department ruled her father’s case as simply a father-husband leaving his family when no evidence of blood was recovered, and his car was missing.  The murders and disappearances are connected to a now defunct large corporation working on shady experiments and as Emily digs deeper into her father’s case, a light is shed upon the dastardly transgressions of a shifty, under handing corporation as well as more bodies, including her close friends, turn up dead around town. Pieces all the clues together with the help of a keen detective desperate to solve a case no other officer wants to touch, Emily comes face-to-face with an unsuspecting, tightly knitted killer.

As if slasher films are already tough enough in trying to unlock and solve who the mysterious homicidal wolf in sheep’s clothing is before the big, blood reveal, the 2020 horror-comedy “I Scream on the Beach!” surely takes the cake as the impossible and no-win kobayashi maru test of the slasher genre. Hailing from United Kingdom with a retro 80’s VHS veneer, the Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday written-and-directed parodying red herring seeks to be deceptive and as cryptic as logically possible with a masked serial killer storyline stretching over a span of 10 years that culminates to an illogical and shockingly socking finale. “I Scream on the Beach!” is the first feature from the filmmakers working as a pair and as individuals, but Churchyard and Holiday have been skimming together that micro thin layer of the horror stratosphere with college short film works, such as “Fragments” and “The Ratman of Southend,” the latter referencing Churchyard and Holiday hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Southern Essex. The duo cofounded TIS Films Limited during their production of “I Scream on the Beach!” with Churchyard and Holiday as producers alongwith Claire Bowman and executive producer Hill Burton (“RoboWoman, “Slasher House 2”).

The story follows Mellow Coast local Emily, her friends, including a bashful big city transplant with a crush on her, and Detective Kincaid embroiled in a 10-year mystery beginning with the murder of Emily’s father (Rob Shaw) or maybe even beginning with the murder of Dr. Lloyd (Lloyd Kaufman, “The Toxic Avenger”). Hard to tell as Dr. Lloyd expositional death is brought up as background plot painting an unscrupulous picture against a devious, experiment-conduction corporation. In her first feature film and first of many productions with the Churchyard and Holiday team, Hannah Paterson is placed in the final girl role of a VHS decorated slasher that has her twisting and turning from the pub to every which way to find corpses stabbed, gutted, and decapitated in the search for the truth about her father. Her friends, played by Jamie Evans, Rosie Kingston, Ross Howard, and Reis Daniel, are the trope typical asshole, hot girl, filmic nerd, and good guy love interest, in that respective order, are definitely defined to bring out the shine around this specimen of the slasher genre. Lurking in the shadows, as a contemporary scream queen of such films like Debbie Rochen’s “Model Hunger” and “Cute Little Buggers” starring alongside the iconic Caroline Munro, is the Australian born, English raised actress Dani Thompson as a snarky bar keep and aspiring actress who pokes her into the picture as the sort of easy girl and easy target for other characters to love-and-hate, especially amongst Emily and her friends in a mixed bag of feelings toward her role of bitchy Paula. Martin W. Payne (“Toxic Schlock”) as the staunch, Mellow Coast chief inspector, Tess Gustard as Emily’s combative mother, Will Jones (“Terror at the Black Tree Forest”) as the dispassionate inspector, Andrea Sandell (“Patient Zero”) as a fake nun, Chris Linnat-Scott as the creepy Dr. A, and Mark Keegan in a surprising reprising role fill out the cast.

Churchyard and Holiday embark on a VHS faceplate journey with their inaugural film complete with faux tracking lines, low-quality picture, lo-fi audio, and rounding out the semblance with schlocky f/x composition and content.  “I Scream on the Beach!” is a non sequitur, yet perfectly fitting, title for a seemingly beach-themed slasher that evolves erratically and radically as the story progresses into an eyebrow raising “…what?”  I would also dare to say that the acting isn’t the best but rather reflects the modeled era of straight-to-video indie low-budget horror with mild ostentation exaggeration with a character or two grounding the film with relative gravity from floating toward a too far-gone outcome. “I Scream on the Beach” is a kind of film that sits in the nosebleed section of the video rental and physical media aisle (if there are such things as video rental or physical stores anymore) but, sometimes, the cheap seats can be the section where anything goes, and no one will ever know about what happens near the roof. I’m not saying the Churchyard-Holiday production is a raunchy, nudity-laden, immodest, grindhouse peepshow worthy of the now ousted 42nd Street; in fact, “I Scream on the Beach!” mounts a tame and respectable horror-comedy that, like the cheap seats, is nothing to be ashamed of because in the end, they both provide entertainment on a budget.

Continuing to pluck out atypical wild horror genre films, Darkside Releasing distributes “I Scream on the Beach!” onto Blu-ray home video as part of the UK release collection. Keeping with the VHS effect, the stretched 1:78:1 aspect ratio feels to mimic only the very summary of details that continue into employing other SOV gags such as tracking lines, as I mentioned above, as well as a flat coloring palette. The English language PCM 2.0 continues to stay the antiquated technical course, taking the joke all the way, with a badly dubbed and ambient filled lossy audio tracks that keep with the kitschy package. The unrated, 87-minute, full director’s cut release comes with retrograded previews, such as “Mask of Thorn,” optional cast and crew introductions to the film, an audio commentary, complete short films “The Decorator” and “The Hiker” that were briefly spotlighted in the story, and promo spots from the Music and Film Festival. “I Scream on the Beach!” falls above being better than low-rung horror that’ll still knock your socks off, literally, with surreptitious corporation experiments insidiously embedding its clandestine claws into small town denizens in the dark and being stalked.

First you Scream, then you DIE!  “I Scream On the Beach” available to buy at Amazon!

Catalepsy EVIL Blended with Japanese Folklore! “Snow Woman” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

Trekking up a mountain side are three male villagers hauling up a wooden casket.  Inside the casket is thought to be the malevolent Yuki Onna, the urban legendary beautiful snow woman spirit who roams the snowy landscape enticing men to their death.  Found seemingly dead and half naked amongst the village at the bottom of the mountain, this will mark the second trip up to the crag with her corpse that suddenly comes back to life.  Feared by the men, her casket is left abandoned and stranded atop of the icy, cold mountain yet the thing inside the casket isn’t a ghost, but rather a shunned woman, Yuki, with a thought supernatural evil power that’s actually a death-trance condition where her intense sexual climaxes render her unconscious and not breathing for long stretches of time.  Lodge owner Hyubei discovers her predicament firsthand after bedding the strange woman and the two use her condition to feign the killing of the “Snow Woman” when other persecuting-seeking male villagers coming calling for her head.

Many unusual, but still erotically stimulating, pink films have come across my desk for a professional review and for personal viewing.  Shintaro Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman” might be the goofiest, nonsensical one, and threadbare storied one yet.  Based off the Japanese folklore of Yuki-onna, various versions of Yuki-onna revolve around the freezing harm or death of children as well as succumbing those near the child to an icy grave.  For Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman,” the 2009 released adaptation follows more closely to the Ojiya region of Niigata Prefecture where a beautiful and mysterious woman sought out a man to marry for her own sensual desires only to dissipate into frozen droplets when forced into a bath.  While there’s no forced bathing in the film, the writer-director does pull inspiration of a woman immediately eager to please and marry the first man who doesn’t expel her permanently from companionship upon her climatic death-trance and is, in fact, more inexplicably inclined, aka an inkling of amorousness, to keep her around despite her unsettling disorder that locks their genitals together until she awakes from her stupor.  “Snow Woman” is produced by Takeyuki Morikakuo (writer of “Rika:  The Zombie Killer” and producer of “Legend of Siren XXX”) and is a production of the AMG vintage erotic catalogue.

“Tokyo Gore Police,” “Grotesque,” and JAV model actress Tsugumi Nagasawa stars in the folkloric titular role or Yuki. Nagasawa’s a bit all over the board, which is usually the case with all Japanese pink films, with her misjudged ghostly “Snow Woman” that loses all the pizazz when much of the mysticism is removed almost instantly when the immediate revelation of her sexual catatonic disorder renders her into a rigor mortis like state. Nagasawa doesn’t exactly sell the ethereal quality of the folklore of a presence able to float above sheets of snow without a trace left behind or burst into icicles surrounding heat. Yes, yes, I know pink films are strapped with very little cashflow, banking on the nudity and the bump-and-grind of exploiting popular and historical culture. Takishi (listed as Takashi on other platforms) Okabe opposites Nagasawa as the lonely lodger Nyubei who saves Yuki from an icy death by trying to charge her warmth and shelter. Okabe and Nagasawa fail to bring any kind of chemistry to the screen, romantically or sensually, that render themselves far short of saving this pink’s film vitality rebound on the home video market. The villagers who are seemingly more interested in destroying the Snow Woman as well as contemplating speculative conjecture on whether having intercourse with a monster is better than having intercourse with a woman who eats a lot is better. That whole section of the dialogue arc to the portrayed monster in the story, the Snow Woman, and when the virginal deft villager sees the Snow Woman for the first time, he immediately ravages her in a rape-eseque moment to prove no matter how monstrous she is he’s going to conquer by way of copulation. The other villagers round out with a cast in Takehisa Futagawa, Daisuke Tamaru, Horiken Fumio Yamamoto, Tetsu Teraoka, and Nami Uehara.

As mentioned, “Snow Woman” is considered a pinksploitation parody of a well-known folklore and as stated, the film’s financial support leaves much to be desired in the finish product to the point that there’s really not a story here to be told. Ostentatiously goofy without a morsel of A-for-effort lore or supernatural suspense to call a foundation, the struggle is inherently real to get through the entire film, a film that’s only approx. 1 hour long. The humor doesn’t stick and that would have flipped “Snow Woman” to a more advantageous experience coinciding with the one-on-one action that’s puts pink films on the erotica map. “Snow Woman” ultimately is a double flop on both fronts with the humor missing marks in its ultra-dry deliveries and miscued moments to the romping that’s not stimulating, titillating, or satisfying in the positioned choreography or character heterogeneity as a basic setup and cycle that inches toward only a chip of difference between the sexual scenes by adding the accompaniment of villagers with only the usual outcome results. The scenic views are actually pretty and breathtaking in see the snow-covered landscape with plenty of long and wide shots to capture Japan wilderness and while the location becomes only important in its aesthetic beauty, the b-roll footage never becomes important to the storyline as should with any Snow Woman themed media adaptation. I, personally, just wanted the characters to vamoose the lodge, or rather the overly large hut, that kept becoming the place of Yuki’s catalepsy trances because the location is the only interior location and gets old really quick.

For the first time, Shintara Sasazuka’s romantic-pink-comedy, “Snow Woman,” has a North American release from Darkside Releasing and distributed by MVD Visual. The region A coded Blu-ray release is an AVC encoded BD-R 25 presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are two versions of “Snow Woman” available for viewing: the vintage version retains the Japanese orb of censorship around the nether regions and a newly restored version that basically means the removal of the those said orbs. Both transfers are identical in a clean and free from blemishes and damage eyesores. However, banding is a real issue that creates visible clear lines across a shade washed picture. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack renders over quite well with discernable and clean dialogue, but the English subtitles are slightly out of synch and have at least one error that I saw. Special features include the original “Snow Woman” trailer, an erotic trailer reel that contains erotica and horror from select Italian productions, and a pink trailer reel that includes classic and modern pink films from PinkEiga. I guess in a world where pink films are outrageously perverse and can be downright sleazy and horrific, a necessity for balance would come in the form of goofy-romanticism and that’s what “Snow Woman” offers humbly by exemplifying passion and compassion as a cure for the mobbing disorderly and the ones with misunderstood disorders.

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

EVIL Spam E-Mail Wants to Play a Game! “Planet Zee” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

Land onto “Planet Zee” now on Blu-ray! 

Struggling woman filmmaker Zee Bronson is trying to make what she loves a supportive career. Smoking pot, drinking beer, and living with her grandmother Sam mellows out Bronson’s anxiety of potentially landing a writer-director’s gig one day. When her sleazy producer, Serge, closes a deal with an investor interested in her script, Zee eyes widen with excitement, but her premature celebration quickly turns sour when Serge notes the financer wants someone else to direct her screenplay. A vexed Zee turns to a weird email spam virus that has seemingly appropriated her computer to propose a game of life with superpowers or death. Convincing Serge into joining her, the two unwittingly open a diabolical portal that traps them inside the apartment, subjecting them to battling a demon and persuading them to kill one another. As their relationship dissolves slowly throughout the night, lines a drawn between friend and foe in order to escape the grip of a computer-commanding Game of Power.

There is bottom-of-the-barrel independent schlock done with very half-hearted inspiration and then there’s bottom-of-the-barrel independent film done with A for effort around a difficult to sell single-locale story that includes witty dialogue and humble homemade effects. Some of these mighty, homegrown indies stem from one ultra-eccentric Berlin, Germany physics and prehistoric archeology studied-turned-artful filmmaker Zetkin Yikilmis in her second written and directed feature, “Planet Zee.” Her B-movie, or should I say Z-movie, is the epitome of independent filmmaking in knowing the production’s limits and how to make the most of a film with what little material is available to use, such as a deluging cash flow for big budget grandstanding that’ll get your name on marquees, posters, and regional commercials. Instead, “Planet Zee” is very much meta love and confidence concept toward Zetkin Yikilmis herself, as the title implies, being a woman in a typically projected masculine dominated industry. Yikilmis follows up her sophomore film from an array of micro shorts and her 2019 released debut feature, “Some Smoke and a Red Locker,” incorporating elements of the stoner horror-comedy into her 2021 film that’s self-produced by Yikilmis and her cinematographer husband, Dominic, as well as longtime collaborator S.B. Goldberg.

Zetkin Yikilmis, obviously, stars as Zee Bronson, a bohemian screenwriter attempting her hand at filmic success while having her grandmother live with her in a small apartment. Having surveyed Yikilmis’s micro shorts, her droll act as stoner-chic Zee Bronson imitates far from her other self-applied roles with a sluggish repartee and often tinkering with slapstick with fellow costar Alexander Tsypilev as squalid producer Serge. Yikilmis and Tsypilev’s reconnection after “Some Smoke and a Red Locker” gives way to a natural onscreen dynamic that has experience role reversal, gender role reversal, and to test their association connection. With a tight-fitting shirt that flirts with exposing his slightly protruding belly, Serge fits swimmingly into the cesspool of sexist producers with Tyspilev crafting Serge’s slimy mold with little pinches of details toward the producers first-rate me-first attitude. While Bronson and Serge are the two chief residents of “Planet Zee,” there is often a forgotten third wheel who bookends the narrative. Sam, Zee’s elderly only in looks grandmother played by Trish Osmond who had a small role in Zack Snyder’s “Army of Thieves.” The 1944 born English actress bloomed late in her career that begin in 2014, but that doesn’t stop Osmond from being a dominating player of goodwill toward bizarre films and roles, especially playing ones involving an usually vigorous old woman with underlying uncanniness probably important to the story. Minor characters fill in the rest with small brushes with minor scenes from Roland Bialke and Michael Tietz.

Through the veneer of bare budget and puerile comedy, “Planet Zee” puts together a couple of ugly statements well versed like a stain amongst the film industry but only brought up more recently during the #MeToo movement and seen as ingrained into industry as par for the course. Yikilmis mentions in the dialogue that as a woman filmmaker she fears oppressive struggles in forming a passionate career in creating art, her art being satirical comedy-horror motion-pictures, insinuating female-driven aspirations are often squashed by misogynistic viewpoints akin to the British journalist and author Christopher Hutchinson’s claim that women are not funny because they are pretty and do not need to appeal to men through humor. Yikilmin writes pitting herself, as Zee Bronson, against a sleazy and dismissive producer who exploits her with pretense friendship, mirroring the real-life exploitation of certain long-standing, fundamental moguls who instead of being held responsible for distasteful chauvinistic corruption, held women’s careers in the palms of their hands with a conniving, convincing promise of blacklisted ruinous slander or unfounded gossip if unethical compliance to their advances were denied. In lighter terms of the film’s satire, Yikilmis uses the situation as an allegorical parallel of who really has control over the story – the creator or the producer. As the creator, Zee Bronson yearns to maintain creative rights in telling her tale whereas the producer gives into the meddling whims of the highest bidder, reaching for the dollar signs that illuminate over their eyes. Serge’s me-first persona during the game offers no collaboration as he literally pushes down Zee for the faint prospect of survival and causes more harm than beneficial good. Look past the stock electricity effect visuals, polished lens flares, and the cheaply made demon getups and you’ll see inside “Planet Zee’s” fiery core, a passively seething call to overcome the darker side of a biased film industry.

Explore the terrain of Zetkin Yikilmis’s “Planet Zee” now on Blu-ray home video a part of the Darkside Releasing, as feature #24 on their Darkside Collection line, and distributed by MVD Visual. Shot and released in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, “Planet Zee” isn’t breathtaking with nearly the full 97-minute runtime inside Zee’s tight apartment living room, aka Yikilmis apartment where many of her shorts were filmed, and so the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is overkill or wasted on nothing spectacular aside from the trippy wallpaper or the bone-curtain that linger the background. In truth, “Planet Zee” could have been shot in a 4:3 for better framing inside a vertical inclined ratio. The full high definition, 1080p output does look good in the details. The trippy-cladded apartment and warm toned outfits pop with robust color. Though not labeled on the Blu-ray back cover, the release offers a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix and despite being produced in Germany with Germany actors, the original language track is in English thick with a dialect accent but overall adequate and clean in delivering dialogue. Ambient effects often feel just as distant or separated from the visual trunk as their digitally rotoscoped onto the frame. Special features include a behind-the-scenes that actually isn’t anything relevant to behind-the-scenes material with a couple of rehearsed statements on set from Alexander Tsypilev pretending to be scared of Zetkin Yikilmis’s feigned dictator-like direction. Other bonus content includes a string through of Zetkin Yikilmis’s micro-shorts with Yikilmis serving as a host in between and a woman in horror trailer reel. “Planet Zee” is an unpretentious good time. Small, yes. Limited in budget, yes. Unknown cast, yes. Yet, where the film lacks with high dollar density it makes up for in free reign creativity and breezy humor that becomes a middle finger to inequality and duplicity.

Land onto “Planet Zee” now on Blu-ray!