EVIL Says, Victor Crowley Who? “Freak” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

Arthur Crenshaw – the name of a terrifying urban legend.  The story has it that the religious small town-born Arthur was malformed unlike anything anyone has ever seen and that the God-fearing townsfolk didn’t take kindly to his existed as Arthur was looked down upon as an abominable creation of Satan.  His parents, giving into constant community pressure, casted him out into the nearby woods to die alone.  Years later, campers would record that their food and supplies would go missing.  Some campers even went into the woods and never came out.  Present day, a group of campers reserve a campsite, seeking the thrill of the woods’ notorious backstory and for a little R&R on a quick weekend getaway, but the stories of the misshapen, monstrous Arthur Crenshaw are not just tarradiddles to give people the willies and for the youthful campers, a night under the stars has become a night of survival.

Looking for something different, unusual, and still carnage drunk in a disfigured, backwoods killer of a campy slasher?  Look no further!  Lucky Cerruti’s very own misunderstood reject Arthur Crenshaw is the type of “Freak” we’ve all been craving.  The 2020 American indie feature is the sophomore production from writer-director Cerruti who oversaw all the pre-, principle, and post- in the height of pandemic time.  The “Kindness of Strangers” filmmaker films “Freak” in New York’s picturesque Adirondack mountains surrounding the community of Ochiota and Cerruti’s able to capture a slither of the landscape beauty with the majority of shots constrained to closeups due to puppetry.  Yes!  Arthur Crenshaw is but a mere puppet with more than frightening features that makes him appear more alien than human.  “Freak’s” indie crew consists of James Bell on special effects with producers Matthew Sorensen, Kegan Rice, Jessica Fisher, Leslie Dame, and Robin Cerruti serving under multiple hats with cinematography, puppetry control, and creature design under directors Dead Vision Productions.

Consisting of mostly Adirondack local artists and actors, “Freak’s” casts yips with little bite to make Arthur Crenshaw’s wretched, hillbilly kill-monger. Unimpressive and uninspiring character buildups coupled with so-so first-time acting doesn’t exactly put one on edge for these unlucky campers’ survival. I realize that Cerruti attempts to parallel Crenshaw with the awkward tag-a-long little sister Jenna, played by independent painting artist Sasha Van Cott, by focusing on both of them being an outcast and misunderstood. Cott’s meek performance aligns with that element but the character, like the others, is terribly bland. Her brother Ryan, performed by independent musician Dorran Boucher, is portrayed as seemingly have little to do with Jenna in a big brother role that can be described as neither sympathetic or apathetic to his sibling and treats her more like just one of the friends, but encouraged by their parents to bring Jenna to socialize her into having…I don’t know what. Jenna does manage to have a spark with or soft spot for Ryan’s best friend Henry as she constantly sides with his oddball interest in the legend of Arthur Crenshaw. Her fascination keeps Henry interesting in a subconscious kind of way but the two are a mismatch from the start as he appears to be the cool kid or the jock trope of the group. “Freak” sacrifices up a platter of kill-fodder with throwaway roles by more feature film first timers in Annachristi Cordes, Hunter Wilson, Leslie Dame, Hope Stamper, and Lucky Currati in an intense introductory opener and Kent Streed as Arthur’s old man who gave a damn and one of the only principals to receive a proper personal history that provides depth and understanding.

“Freak” might have low marks in acting, but the self-labeled C-movie has straight up, grade-A kills. We’re not talking about a simple knife to the gut or a slice across the throat here. Arthur Crenshaw doesn’t quite know when to stop as that single slice turns into two slices, three slices, four slices, and on and on until the who head hangs barely on the sinew attaching the head to the rest of the body. You know when you’re dicing up chicken breast and that white tendon streaking through the raw white meat is so damn hard to cut through, it’s like that. There’s blood everywhere and then some. “Freak” is surprisingly and pleasantly gore-laden and that goes hand-in-hand with the antagonist’s physical existence as a rod puppet worked from behind under the guise of a green screen by creature designer and executive producer Matthew Sorenson. Sorenson’s visualization is quite the abstract concept in reality with reverse knee flamingo legs, essentially no torso, and a head with one big blue eyeball and snaggle teeth. Arthur reminds me a little of the aliens from the 1996 David Twohy alien conspiracy film “The Arrival.” Hell, he could have very well been a stand in. The puppet and the puppetry are quite crude but are profoundly effective, welcomely campy, and an ingenious way to make a horror film during pandemic pandemonium.

Wild Eye Releasing, along with distributor MVD Visual, get in bed with the “Freak” on region free DVD home video. The big question is is “Freak” considered a feature film since the runtime is only 52 minutes? Some would argue the not rated Lucky Cerruti production doesn’t make the cut. I would say so what? But I did find the short runtime does hurt the storyline that’s unable to beef up portions that severely lack substance, such as the campers. The DVD is presented in a widescreen format that doesn’t list the ratio on the cover but if I was a betting man, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The digitally recorded video’s data decompresses are varying levels between from a high 4 to a low 7 Mbps as banding and digital noise inference sneak into on the low-lit scenes negligibly. The DVD lists the audio as stereo, but the release actually has an English Dolby Digital 5.1. In fact, for some reason, there are two of the same Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks without any metric differences available. Despite some crackling during the more intense audio moments, the audio tracks are pretty well balanced and keep most of the blights at bay. The bonus features include a nifty behind the scenes featurette that dives deep into creating “Freak” in a wholistic view, a directory’s commentary, and Wild Eye trailers. We want more of the “Freak,” more of Arthur Crenshaw, as the Lucky Cerruti and Matthew Sorenson have a goldmine of a cult slasher right at their fingertips as the potential next big backwoods franchise that’ll breathe new life into horror and provide the genre what it sorely needs and deserves. Now…where’s Part II: The Return of Arthur Crenshaw?!?

Get Freaky with “Freak” on DVD at Amazon.com

Nothing Says EVIL Like a Woman Scorned! “Revenge” reviewed! (Second Sight / BR Screener)


Richard, a wealthy businessman, and Jen, his young, candy arm mistress, helicopter in onto Richard’s desert retreat house. While his wife and children are at home, Richard plans to spend his time away relishing a pleasurable weekend that involves relaxing by the outdoor firepit, swimming in the infinity pool, being sultry with Jen, and do a bit of hunting along the mountains, canyons, and riverbeds. When Richard’s associates, Stan and Dimitri, arrive a day early, a party filled night rapidly ensues, but events turn sour when Jen is brutally attacked the next day and Richard plans to snuff out the scandal before it unravels to ruin him. Unwilling to cooperate with a coverup, Jen is nearly murdered by her three attackers only to arise like the rebirth of the Phoenix, igniting a vengeful fire inside her as she uses everything she has at her disposal to finish what they started.

In a day and age when the slightest bit of a woman’s attention can explode into a vile reaction of testosterone warped misguidance and it’s the woman who is shamed as the accosted criminal being barked at aggressively by the unequivocal fearful and condemning voices of the male species, it’s movies like Coralie Fargeat’s action-packed “Revenge” that symbolizes woman’s resiliencies against men’s efforts in a show of violent force that’s “First Blood” without John Rambo, but rather with a scorned princess for retributive capital justice. “Revenge” is the French filmmaker’s first full-length penned and directed feature film that’s one gritty and bloody grindhouse vindictive sonovabitch, a pure punch to the throat, and a direct message to misogyny everywhere. Filmed in the Morocco desert during Winter, the small cast is swallowed by the vastly arid landscape of transfixing cruelty, a synonymous parallel to the feat the heroine Jen is drawn to task. It’s also a feat that Fargeat managed to salvage to finally release a rape-revenge thriller backed by a conglomerate of production firms and financiers to stand with a film from a first time director whose treatment offers up maltreatment of women, such as the rape, along with the savagery, the concept of revenge, and ridiculous amounts of blood. M.E.S. Productions, Monkey Pack Films, Charades, Logical Pictures, Nextas Factory and Umedia are just to name a few of the production companies to be supporting capital.

With a role embodying the symbolic brutalization of physical and mental rape, a role of complete loneliness in a fatal skirmish against their attackers, and in a role forsaken in the face of death only to be reborn from the ashes of their former self, Matilda Lutz’s fully charged capacity to tackle such a demanding performance is beyond praiseworthy, scrapping the timid traits from Jen’s ravaged glossy persona and replacing with a rigid exterior ready and willing to combat to the death. The Italian born Lutz has to go through a metamorphosis and refashion Jen to be able to differentiate from her more bubbly first half self as the easy kill or the disposable male plaything. In a twisted turn of events, Jen’s mortal adversaries have every advantage to douse out Jen’s existence: gear, guns, vehicles, clothes, water, fuel, numbers, etc. Yet, despite all the advantages, the desert, much like Jen, is unforgiving as it is bare. Richard (Kevin Janssens), Stan (Vincent Colombe), and Guillaume Bouchede (Dimitri) exude the utmost confidence their grip around Jen’s throat. Janssens’ fortifies as the rigorous cutthroat, a misogynistic philanderer, determined to save his own skin no matter the cost while Colombe’s Stan is a retracting coward with regretful impulses. Colombe’s brings the comedy to a grimly tale and positions Stan to be the teetering villain tarnished by his guilt of nearly killing Jen, but never apologizes to being the catalytic rapist that initiates the whole debacle. Bouchede supplements with his divestment to charm as the overweight, do-nothing witness to save Jen from Stan’s seizing urges. As Dimitri, Bouchede stalls his typical niceties to be the silent violator who can open up the flood gates of aggression when transgression warrants it.

“Revenge” has an ultra-violent and super-synth finish chapping with multiple motifs of a rebirth theme and supplies a hefty bloodletting of incorporeal measures. Knocking it out of the park in her first feature film, Fargeat’s cauterizes the unnerving serious tone with alleviated black comedy of the bloodiest kind. The roundabout endgame chase comes to mind, involving a frazzled Jen and a wounded, but indomitable Richard in a merry-go-round of a shotgun standoff is some of the best editing work of fast and ferocious content I’ve seen in some time while still able to vitalize a transparent sense of what’s occurring. However, not all the slick editing is flawless. Some minor inconsistencies in the editing are noticeable and while these moments of lapse are not detrimental or pivotal to the story, they reflect Fargeat’s challenges of making a hyper-stylized action-thriller in her freshman full-length feature. In a sense, everything Fargeat’s deploys positions “Revenge” into a surreal tonality, glamorized for those thirsty for blood gushing in a canyon-vast desert bristled with rape and payback where a mere four players in this ebb and flow game of killer combat chess can effortlessly locate each other, but one can always find their prey by following their blood trail, another motif that continues to pop up that speaks metaphors of their life blood is the very object gives them away in the end.

Giving the limited edition treatment that it deserves, Second Sight Films’s Blu-ray release of “Revenge” is a mouthwatering narcotic of raging cathexis and while the Blu-ray BD-R can’t be technically critiqued, the LE release offers HD 1080p transfer of the original, 2.39:1 aspect ratio and sports an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. While Fargeat might be inspired by Lynchian themes, the cinematography work by Robrecht Heyvaert also resembles “Pitch Black” director David Twohy’s films with making something small larger than life and a particular chase scene involving all four characters at the edge of a canyon stroke a familiar chord with Twohy’s “A Perfect Getaway.” There were Second Sight Films’ exclusive bonus features included on the disc, featuring new interviews with director Carolie Fargeat and star Matilda Lutz (entitled “Out for Blood”) an interview with Dimitri actor Guillaume Bouchede (entitled “The Coward”), a interview with Robrecht Heyvaert (entitled “Fairy Tale Violence”), a new interview with composer Robin Coudert and the synth sounds of “Revenge,” and a new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor of Diabolique. The release is sheathed inside a rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Adam Stothard as well as a poster and a new soft cover book with new writings by Mary Beth McAndrews and Elena Lazic Overall, “Revenge” received a monster packaged release ready for the taking on May 11th. “Revenge” destroys toxic masculinity and breathes a vindictive hope from the fiery embers of rebirth and destruction.