When Music Videos Go EVIL! “The Backlot Murders” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red / Blu-ray)


After a night of drinking that ends in breaking a bottle over the bar owner’s head, a struggling and internally conflicted rock band kicks out the cancerously unhinged and troublesome member before their rise to stardom. Unfortunately, all the talent went out door along with the excommunicated band member, forcing the band to impress with an extravagant music video shot on Universal’s iconic backlot, sponsored by their agent and the lead singer’s girlfriend’s music mogul father. Instead of intense pyrotechnics and scantily cladded female groupies dancing on their crotch, the band, their girlfriends, and the crew find themselves caught in the gloomy, labyrinth-like movie lot, housing spooky interior and exterior sets, unaware the lurking murderous manic taking them out one-by-one.

By far a polar opposite polished genre film than the sadistically raw brutal rape and murder extravaganza that was “Chaos,” writer and director David “The Demon” DeFalco dabbles in the early 2000’s revival of the slasher genre with his 2002 released feature “The Backlot Murders” in the wake of the widespread success of the “Scream” franchise. In much of the same way “Chaos” came to fruition derived from “Last House on the Left,” DeFalco, once again, finds inspiration in the form of cult horror director Wes Craven. However, DeFalco strays away from the meta-horror and trope-reversal techniques and replaces it with a satirical façade of the music industry where glam is more important than meaningful substance. The slasher-comedy carves up nods to Van Halen, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, and even Elvis Presley with a horrendously skewed mask version the killer wears. “The Backlot Murders” were co-written by Paul Arensburg and Steven Jay Bernheim with the latter writer serving also as co-producer with DeFalco in association with Dominion Entertainment.

A contributing factor to “Scream’s” success was the diverse in career cast that clicked together as well as twisting archetypical roles into atypical whammy that veered audiences to the edge of their seats. “Scream” shocked audiences with the immediate death of a well-known actress right out of the gate, nabbed “Friends’” star Courteney Cox, “SLC Punk” and “Hackers” actor Matthew Lilliard, teen heartthrob Skeet Urlich, one of the Arquettes with David Arquette, and, perhaps, would have guaranteed Neve Campbell a slab of concrete for the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with an already cemented label as a scream queen and a final girl. The same eclecticism could be transfixed by “The Backlot Murders’” acquisitions but on a more obscure scale with a cast from all walks of life that includes the Roger Rabbit voice actor himself, Charles Fleischer, “Three’s Company” star Priscilla Barnes, 1997’s Playboy Playmate Carrie Stevens, and the late Corey Haim (“The Lost Boys”) as the band’s guitarist in a role that seemed below his fame stature. Most gaps are plugged with interesting characters treated with some backstory buildup that becomes more stagnant than footfall companions in order to get to know them better before their demise, but their persona conductors include Brian Gaskill (“The Bloody Indulgent”), Tom Hallick, Jaime Anstead, Dayton Knoll, Lisa Brucker, Ken Sagoes (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), LoriDawn Messuri, Angela Little, and Tracy Dali.

“The Backlot Murders” didn’t set out to revolutionize the slasher genre, but only relished in the after success and donned a more satire effort that purposefully retreated back into the conventional tropes to form an entertaining run of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll gags, but the one thing missing, and it’s a doozy, is the actual killer presence in the film who is treated as an afterthought of slim importance and chucked into a insignificant plot twist that forces DeFalco’s hand to become a routine hack’n’slash lemming. One positive aspect of “The Backlot Murders” is the extremely high body count that produces a continuous stream of nixing off a slew of characters with their own death scenes inside the renowned confines of a Universal backlot backdrop that’s not only good-humored irony but also a sizeable effort by the Bernheim/DeFalco producing team. Yet, despite the high body count, the kills and gore felt sorely uninspired and underwhelming, rehashing into homage death scenes from “Friday the 13th” and “Scream” with a few forgettable approaches to call its own, until DeFalco breaks the damning goreless streak with a gruesome Columbian necktie effect that goes for the throat. I make “The Backlot Murders” seem unenjoyable and heartless when, in fact, the early 2000 slasher-comedy is immensely funny with a Charles Fleisher gold recorded, laugh track amongst the relentless mocking of the music industry from a far in this true to form slasher accessorized with a high body count kill dozer of a villain.

When things are quiet on set, “The Backlot Murders” evoke the slasher spirit on a new-to-Blu Blu-ray release in the U.S. from Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red with MVDVisual handling distribution. The 1080p, hi-def release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen from a brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The cool contextual colors render nicely amongst the shadowy gloom and foggy backdrop that’s reminiscent of a softly lit late 90’s and early 2000s slasher. The textures are sharper than the Razor Digital DVD release; the tactile feeling of asphalt when a bluish white glow hits the pavement or the gritty backlot sets vibrant with an ominous glow strike powerful chords of a lively presence from the transfer. There doesn’t seem to be any cropping, edge enhancing, or any other manipulation to the transfer present. The English mono track, which leans away from the LFE, has the opposite, lackluster appeal with a single channel blockade that doesn’t project the bands pyrotechnics, the screams of being chased, and settling for limitations on other wide range of girthy resounding audio. However, the dialogue is clear, unobstructed, and in the forefront. Bonus material includes a new audio commentary with director David DeFalco and Code Red’s Banana Man plus three new and very bizarre interviews with Carrie Stevens lingering from effects of the #MeToo movement to making home fudge, with Charles Fleisher and dissociative disorder or madman genius insight, and ending with a fairly regular interview with Brian Gaskill recollecting the film and his career through a tough industry standard. The Fleisher and Gaskill interviews end with a video op with The Demon himself, David DeFalco. “The Backlot Murders” had forefront potential of systemic slasher films of the time period, but pitter-patters for levity and a sweeping kill count that reconstructs the dread into death and comedy.

“The Backlot Murders” on Prime Video!

Nothing Will Stop EVIL From Being EVIL! “Chaos” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment & Code Red / Blu-ray)


Visiting home on break from UCLA, Angelica visits her close friend, Emily, at her parents’ secluded country home. With nothing else better to do in the small rural town just outside Los Angeles, the two teenage girls set off early to attend a local rave deep within the woods at the reluctance of Emily’s overprotective parents and to kickstart what could be a drink and dance fueled night, they aim to push the limits and find a drug pusher to score ecstasy as the first priority to make a dull party fun. They run into Swan who promises the best ecstasy as he leads them to his cabin away from the rave. What Angelica and Emily find is themselves caught in the middle of a ploy by a sadistic gang lead by the ruthless Chaos, whose wanted in 4 states for his barbaric and merciless methods and looking for something fun to play with and torture. The cat-and-mouse game with the girls makes an interesting turn when the gang arrives at Emily’s parents’ house when their van breaks down and the parents suspect them in Emily’s sudden disappearance, veering the night into unreserved chaos.

“Chaos” is the intended true love song remake to Wes Craven’s 1972 sadistically vile “The Last House on the Left” that’s co-produced by Marc Sheffler, who play Junior Stillo in Craven’s film, and, at one time, Krug himself, David Hess, was attached to the project. “Chaos’s” conception is the brain child of Steven Jay Bernheim and David DeFalco, with the DeFalco wielding the hammer of writer and director, and the pair have collaborated a few years earlier on another DeFalco directorial, a comedy horror entitled “The Backlot Murders.” In the eyes of the filmmakers, the amply charged exploitative “Chaos” shares more in common with the original “The Last House on the Left,” despite having no official connection other than the ties with Marc Sheffler, and that the more commercialized remake of the same original title, released four years after “Chaos” in 2009 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), lost that raw camerawork and visceral storytelling that depicted the abhorrent human malevolency that’s capable from within us all. “Chaos” is essentially a self-funded project from Steven Jay Bernheim’s Bernheim Productions.

Though Sage Stallone, the late son of the iconic action movie star, Sylvester Stallone, receives front cover bill due to, in perhaps, his name alone, but the film is called “Chaos” which centers the story around the “Heat” and “Laid to Rest” actor, Kevin Gage. In some kind of cosmic circumstances in regards to recent events, before the Kelly Preston settled into married life with John Travolta, she was once wedded to Gage, marking “Chaos” as a timely film from 2005 and a just so happened upon my lap occurrence for this review. Yet, Gage, a seemingly giant of a man with a resemblance build toward WWE/WWF’s legendary Bill Goldberg, utilizes his intimidation appearance, transferring all the good and gentleness that’s described of him from fellow costars into a pure embodiment of evil whose misogynistic, bigoted, a killer, and just a downright bad guy giving way a testament to the character’s adverse moniker. Gage brings to the table a formidable tone, viperous wit, and a clean cut brutality in the most sordid and unforgettable ways that makes him stick out as portraying one of the most inhumane villains in the last 15 years of the cinematic universe. Chaos’s infamy is by ingenious design from the Marc Sheffler and David DeFalco collaborations who, along with the actors’ faux backstories, meticulously craft each of the gang’s personalities. Sage Stallone’s Swan seems like a similar parallel version of Sage in reality as a chain-smoking, reserved individual sans the perverse context. “The Love Witch’s” Stephen Wozniak is a complimenting character that offerings a different personality with Frankie and Frankie’s feels like a two-bit slime ball with long, greasy hair, an unkempt beard, and a scrawny figure but can produced an evil that’s step or two back from Chaos; Frankie is a character you’ll love and you’ll love to hate, making Wozniak’s performance singular and one of the best in the film. Then, there’s Daisy, the only female of the group though more butch than delicate, and Kelly K.C. Quann (“Baberellas”) adds a dose of Southern inhospitality to Daisy’s brutish beauty. “Chaos” rounds out with a bunch of victims; hell, everyone’s a victim, but the cast includes Deborah Lacey, Scott Richards, Maya Barovich, Chantal Degroat, Ken Medlock, and Jeb Barrows.

“Chaos” absolutely equates toward the unflinching callous themes from “The Last House on the Left” of violence amongst various degrees of people, youthful ingenuousness, and systematic racism with the latter being extremely relevant and on point, years earlier, of the current social climate in America. Yet, with any remake, “Chaos” yearns to stand on its own by instituting an unmeasurable sense of graphic violence that will churn stomachs, advert eyes, and belly-up the throes of disgust. For a good portion of “Chaos,” the exploitation narrative is fairly run-of-the-mill, damn near walks the same line as Craven’s story, with a sadistic gang kidnapping two young women for their own amusement only to then wander unknowingly into the arms of retributive parents, but two scenes sticky out and go beyond the course of customary exploitation fodder and into necrophilia, mutilation of body parts, and a perverse way to kill another human being with such tactless intentions that the act makes the other gang members splay questions, doubt, and fear amongst their faces. The film opens up with a written warning, not so much on the intense scenes themselves, but resembling more of a public service announcement for parents that what you’re about to see does and will happen to the youth of land, but these shocking scenes are just that, for shock value, and that a small percentage of people partake in such grisly matters. “Chaos” is violence upon violence, leaving no room for conscious absolving resolutions in the unofficial capacity of a remake that pungently separates itself with extreme violence and that’s saying something considering Craven’s visceral first course.

As the bestow flagship release of Dark Force Entertainment, “Chaos” arrives onto a deluxe special edition Blu-ray in association with Code Red and distributed by MVDVisual. Transferred through to a 1080p, high definition scan, from the original 35mm negative, complete with extensive color correction, and presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. “Chaos” doesn’t look very chaotic anymore in regards to the image quality; instead, the before stardom cinematography by Brandon Trost (“Lords of Salem” and “Halloween” remake) creates the voyeuristic position of the audience is now visually distinct with stable color markers that are more in tune with the premise’s raw approach. The English language dual channel stereo mix renders softer than desired, especially in the first act as Angelica and Emily converse through the woods. The teenagers dialogue are nearly mumbling on their rave trek with depth issues perplexing their relation to camera. Range seems to be well faceted: rustling leaves through the woods, the clank-clunks of a rustic van, the ground skirmishes. All seem to exude exact decimals of their intended value. Even the firing of firearms has a pleasantry about it. The special features include brand new interviews with co-producer Marc Sheffler, who goes in-depth pre-production and production while also touching upon his other interests before concluding with director David DeFalco and a man in a banana suit making an appearance and offering up dick jokes, and actor Stephen Wozniak with a fountain of information about his time on production, his fellow cast, and about the filmmakers as he is being interviewed in front of a locomotive museum. I love the absurd, obscurity of it all. The bonus material rounds out with commentary from the director and producer as well as the original theatrical trailer. The lewd and radical “Chaos” has engrossing roots of violence that burgeon into realm of rarity or, if not, into sadomishsim extended by the filmmaker’s deepest darkest desire, but what’s transpires on screen is difficult to look away from which begs the question, is it morbid curiosity or is there something far more sinister within us all?

Own “Chaos” on on the new “Blu-ray” release!