In the small rural community of Devil’s Gate, Oregon, a boy and his mother disappear without a trace. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis spearheads the investigating to atone for a regretful previous child disappearance case. She’s accompanied by a local deputy, Colt Salter, to assist her. During her brief investigation upon arriving at Devil’s Gate, Agent Francis comes to the determination that Jackson Pritchard, the father and husband of the missing boy and mother, is directly involved in their sudden disappearance. The investigation turns from a seemingly straight forward, open and shut case to a colossal mystery that’s beyond their comprehension when arriving at the religious dogmatist’s boarded up and disturbing cladded farm house where unearthly forces lay claim to the Pritchard family home for sinister reasons. With one of the beings caged in his basement, the desperate Pritchard seeks an exchange with the creatures he labels as the fallen angels in attempt to regain his wife and son, but as the night falls, trapping Agent Francis and Deputy Salter with Prichard inside the residence, they become surrounded by the fire in the sky creatures aimed to reap not only the world, but their souls.
Like an enigmatic report straight from the non-redacted portions of a nail-biting X-Files case, “Devil’s Gate” is a we are not alone sci-fi horror film from 2017 under the apocalyptic eye of director Clay Staub and co-written by video game plot scriber, Peter Aperlo. The considerably financed project is the first feature film for both filmmakers in their respective roles with Staub having served as an assistant director on other paranormal plotted projects like Zack Snyder’s heavily praised remake of George Romero’s flesh-eating zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” and Matthijs van Heijningen’s underrated “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s film of the same title. One quality that we can all can be pleased about is that Staub carries over from his previous experience as a genre filmmaker participate is the use of gore in the “Devil’s Gate” because, honestly just by looking at the cover and reading the plot, the bloodletting expectation was low on the totem pole. Staub doesn’t unload a gratuitous splatterfest of alien and human entrails, but subtly sanctions the right amount of extrasensory chest bursting and finger snapping goo that plays an ill-fated role of circular or motivational circumstances for the characters.
Putting the pieces of the Pritchard mystery together is Agent Francis who is a to the point and tough national law enforcement officer with a bleeding heart complex after her very first assigned case went tragically sour that looms an unexplainable root cause cloud over her straight blonde hair. Desperate to cure her past, Agent Francis rushes into Devil’s Gate, bypassing the notable chicken fried steak meal offered by Deputy Salter upon her tarmac arrival and defying the local Sheriff’s heed to not interview husband Jackson Pritchard, that sorely causes her to land in the virtually the same predicament of just trying to get the right thing done no matter the unclear ancillary evidence. “12 Monkey’s” television star Amanda Schull spearheads the character with the characteristics aforementioned with drab appeal, lacking the emotion and the intensity her character is supposed to be exhibit when trying to solve a case of personal redemption as well as the fear from an higher ominous power that can shoot lightning down from the sky and flash velociraptor toe-claw sized fangs. Colt Salter might be a small time, Podunk deputy, but the born and raised Devil’s Gate officer can match wit with his FBI counterpart. Salter strikes me as a character who doesn’t stray far from home, mentioning various times, in various ways, his parallel path to high school friend Jackson Pritchard. Shawn Ashmore, from Joe Lynch’s “Frozen,” opposites his costar Schull like Mulder and Scully type as well as an all-around good guy who happens to stray from his protocol path once Agent Francis puts her federal fingers into his already investigated investigation. Like his performance in “Frozen,” “X-Men” franchise, and even in FOX’s television thriller “The Following,” Ashmore is a pretty solid actor, showing a range of emotion that transcends him from easygoing deputy to mortality fearing when mankind’s on the verge of extinction comes into the equation. An equally solid performance by Milo Ventimiglia, who recently starred in “Creed II,” really sells the crazy portray by Jackson Pritchard, a God-fearing man with a long lineage of misunderstood family heritage that leads him to the uncanny bombshell that has been bestowed upon his family farm. Ventimiglia, in his roughest, toughest country twang, creates such an anxiety-riddled and frantic character that unravelling his fate is not too clear which is refreshing to be able to retain mystery to a role as we can kind of figure out how Agent Francis and Deputy Salter when fair in the end game. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Regan (“John Wick”), Javier Botet (“Slender Man”), and “Star Trek: The Next Genergation’s” Jonathan Frakes, still sporting that iconic beard even if it has grayed, as the town Sheriff.
In spite of some really cool visuals, especially of the man underneath the mask, Javier Botet, inside a ghoulishly white extraterrestrial suit that only his elongated and thin body (and perhaps also Doug Jones’) could snuggly fit into, “Devil’s Gate” tells a narrative that hails from a lot of re-spun material. Whether intentional or not, viewers more than likely won’t be able to help themselves as they’ll eagerly point to the television screen and say, ““Independence Day” did that first,” or exclaim, “didn’t Donald Sutherland star in the same kind of thing???” I know I did. However, Staub and Aperlo don’t completely ape the concepts that surely haven’t inspiring them, making the effort more endearing, and visually crafted a well-blended plot into an enjoyable and captivating story; a story that has been mostly devoid of underlining messages and symbolism other than the themes of religious zealots are extremely bad for the world and living with past regrets can be hazardous for your health if not properly accessed. “Devil’s Gate” focuses more directly on just entertaining another version of visitors from another world and how those no-so-little-green-men play an assimilating role into humanity.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Devil’s Gate” onto a region 4 DVD presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The vast Midwestern landscape with the foreboding rolling clouds stretches from top to bottom with an exact sharpness and crisp from the digital picture. The textures in the broad, yet barren-esque fields look especially detailed, more so with the wind and brownish-yellow color. Speaking of color, the hue is a filter of shadowed purple and on a sepia side that works the dread atmosphere. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has ample range and depth. Lightning strikes boom equally from the five channels, alien shrieks trembles through, and the dialogue is not obstructed. Surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release as the Stateside counterpart even has a trailer in the extras. There isn’t a static menu either as the film goes right into play feature mode. c
A low on the totem poll detective receives the chance to get out from behind a paperwork overloaded desk to investigate the gruesome death of a seemingly BDS&M gone array. The case lures the investigator through the muck of the sleazy and sexy underground to where an independent zine lists GORGASM as the ultimate climax. With every lead, GORGASM connects them all and there’s one person, one suspect, on his radar and her name is Tara, the face of GORGASM. Tara’s a psychopathic call girl, aiming to dish out a finitely pleasurable zenith to those who want more than just sex, and the unlikely hero detective embraces the case personally to put a stop to Tara’s gruesome delusional calling before he’s sucked into an inescapable world blended with lustful carnalities and death.
“Gorgasm.” By title alone, “Gorgasm” has already peaked interest and paved for a path of optimism and delight despite the inkling in the back of the mind about the film’s low-budget shlock. In any case, the title comes from the imagination of creator, writer, director of “Dead Silence,” a one Mr. Hugh Gallagher, and is his 1990 sophomore feature that showcase plenty of violence in an ostentatious psychosexual thriller. Gallagher, perhaps, isn’t the first to delve into porn’s mucky and sleazy underworld that’s universally stigma in many cultures, but, and again perhaps, is the first to explore the many facets that porn has to offer and highlights the habituating circumstances porn has to morph into to keep up with customer demand, whether it involves whips, clips, and chains or to be more specific in the realm of fetishes.
Gallagher didn’t manage to make any old, run-of-the-mill low-budget venture, but managed to do so with a professional lead in Rik Billock. The name might sound familiar to horror fanatics. Billock has been a stock regular in George Romero films: “Dawn of the Dead,” “Knightriders,” “Monkey Shines,” and in “The Dark Half.” He also had a small, yet door knocking down roll in Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Billock’s a bright star with an organic singularity amongst a mechanical lineup, popping out like a child’s pop-out book that solidifies his presence. Even his co-lead, introducing an actress only known as Gabriela, a former wrestling-affiliated performer in her first feature film. Gabriela is stunning, beautiful, and well-endowed, perfectly casted to be the personal-placing killer call girl with dark features and though her method is a bit monotoned and monologuing, Gabriela’s looks really do standalone. “Gorgasm” also co-stars Paula Hendricks who puts a real damper into the ebb and flow of being a strict and condescending sergeant to Billock’s character, but the silver lining is that this Hendrick’s sole credited role. Rounding out the cast includes Paula Gallagher, Kevin Patterson, Denis Hellrung, and co-producer Flint Mitchell in a show-stopping slimeball performance as a sleazy magazine owner.
With an extreme and inviting title like “Gorgasm,” there comes a usual, if not blatantly given, perception that blood will flow and guts will be strung and plastered on forefront of the featured scenes, but to an extent, the gore and the blood splatter were surprisingly granular results and doesn’t ultimately champion an autassassinophilia effect. However, don’t be scornfully turned away from Gallagher’s film if “Gorgasm” isn’t locked and loaded with blood drenching entrails and other body fluids and fleshy tissue. Gallagher executes tasty scenes of violence and mortality on a budget with examples being a garage door decapitation and a kill shot to the vagina. There’s also a weed whacker chewing through a pervs face. “Gorgasm,” perhaps, does find space in the gore and shock subgenre pie, even if only a sliver of a piece.
MVDVisual and SRS Cinema release the Draculina Productions film, “Gorgasm,” onto DVD home video and present the film on the original SOV, full-frame format that’s pleasantly held up over the last 28 years. Aliasing is quite common on shot-on-vide, even on Super VHS that director Hugh Gallagher shoots the film, and the coloring has a slight washed look, but considering the VHS monstrosities out in the world today on DVD, “Gorgasm” has no ill-will toward this release. The uncompressed PCM 1.0 mono track has limited depth and range with a consistent static hiss throughout, but generally adequate with clear dialogue upfront. The “bloody” bonus features include a commentary with Hugh Gallagher, behind-the-scenes footage, and trailers. Also, the grisly-gorgeous illustrated cover art by Mike Mez Phillips is exquisitely killer and on point. While director Hugh Gallagher mediocrely went through the nuts and bolts of vehement slasher violence without really thickening already deep pool of gore, the director did manage to fulfill a promising title with meshing sexual deviancy and blood in an entertainingly provocative feature. Rik Billock and Gabriela, whose half naked through more than half the 82 minute runtime, embraces their twisted characters that you’ll love to death!
Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.
In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!
“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.
Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.
AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?
Los Angeles’ skid row is the desolated and forgotten residence to countless displaced people living in tents or sleeping bags on the cold streets, fighting ever which way they can to live just one more day. When three University of Southern California students take a wrong turn onto the streets of skid row, a dangerous world opens to them where being young and privileged doesn’t warrant an easy pass through LA’s notorious “The Nickel.” A homeless gang, ramrodded by a vicious vagrant named Wilco, catches them trespassing under the unused sixth street bridge and detains them until the situation turns deadly wrong. When one of the students, Marshall, escapes naked and on foot, a chase ensues through the empty concrete jungle, and as he attempts to retrieve help, he encounters wretched night owls who are just as dangerous, or if not more so, than Wilco and his gang.
The very first impression from the films of “Parasites’” director Chad Ferrin came in the form of Ferrin’s 2003 underground cannibal dweller film “The Ghouls” and, retrieving past critiques or comments from past yonder, I wasn’t too thrilled with his indie sophomore feature. However, after sitting through “Parasites” and being a fan of the 2009 pleasantly berserk “Someone’s Knocking at the Door,” a second viewing might be warranted. The 2016 film, shot on location, defines Ferrin’s immense penchant for independent filmmaking that basically tells a story of one man’s perilous and herring marathon journey through the meat grinder of Los Angeles while also reminding and resonating viewers that the homeless are just an unfortunate alternate version of ourselves.
“Parasites” will suck every once of hope and happiness one might have for humanity to the point of believing in misanthropic perspectives. Purely oozing with cynicism in a nightmare scenario, the story couldn’t have reached such depths without a few key performances such by Robert Miano (“Giallo”), a bold and enduring role for Sean Samuels, and an always pleasant cameo by “Day of the Dead’s” most villainous captain, Joseph Pilato. Though, some exaggerated moments of peculiar over performances and prolonged montage scenes of Sean Samuels running through the barren Skid Row maze run their course with seizing captivation, but Miano steals many scenes with his spiteful portrayal of an overprotective, mad dog violent bum being the venomous snakehead of a 1980’s style street gang whose keen on hunting down and burying a college quarterback.
What I also found interesting about the Ferrin’s scripted-narrative is the severe lack of tension with race and gender relations between the eclectic group of characters. Much of the action and dialogue flows freely without much opposition as if the racial slang or the running down of a young black man is normalcy. Gang leader Wilco only cares about one thing, his dilapidated corner of L.A., and berates everyone in a fit of racism peppered with nihilism. Ferrin purposefully implemented a Hispanic and an Asian in Wilco’s crew to run rampant with obscenities from their leader, along with a hefty woman to whom Wilco objectifies constantly with chauvinistic nicknames such as “Sugartits” and “Sweet Cheeks,” and an athletic black character being the subject of a bizarro-world reversal characteristic witch-hunt that relates awfully too familiar with recent race crimes. The social commentary leaves an everlasting trail of uncomfortable goosebumps, working their way toward the heart’s core of human morality and packing a powerful punch when not nearly one single character has any redeeming value.
Crappy World Films in association with Girls and Corpses Magazine produces “Parasites,” an exhibition a do-or-die survival horror framed to point out the loathsome portions of past, and most certainly, current events. Ferrin’s low-budget film goes the extra mile with the brief, yet effective, violent special effects. I’m unable to critique on the audio and video quality of the 108 Media distribution release, nor the bonus features, as a screener copy was provided. “Parasites'” raw approach through characters, story, and cinematography, breathes life into a desolate place like “The Nickel” and gives power to the powerless, remarking upon the monsters we create by ignoring their existence and shunning their potential worth. The fear from this film is all too real.
Trying to locate the good in a Syfy television series was a difficult thing for me. I was never one for any of the “Stargate” series or it’s never-ending spinoffs (except the movie), “Farscape” just didn’t fascinate me, and “Being Human” just didn’t feel human enough with the characters or the story. It’s not as if I’m not into science fiction (I’m certainly a Star Trek geek and a Star Wars fan), but these series just didn’t get me going.
Then “Helix” came along…
Boy, oh boy, did I love “Helix”. With a feel that fits right into Syfy’s arsenal of shows, Helix had spawned something more unique with a show about being isolated in a Tundra and having a similar “Resident Evil” feel to the show that involved a mutating virus and a giant evil corporation.
On the horizon in September, a new show will debut for Syfy’s horror lineup. “Z-Nation” shows it’s razor sharp teeth in a new promo that was released today. “Z-Nation” is about an infested America three years after the shit hit the fan with a virus that spread throughout the country. A group of rag-tag individuals travel from New York to California with the only known survivor of a zombie bite in hopes to reach a blood lab that could contain the survivor’s antibodies and create a cure to the virus outbreak.
After a view of the promo, I’m reminiscing about Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake as the trailer has running, mean footed zombies looking for nothing less than a full meal of meat and blood. Not too forget the formidable chaos that ensues shortly after outbreak! I have a good feeling about the cast too with Tom Everett Scott (“An American Werewolf in Paris”), Harold Parrineau (“28 Weeks Later”), DJ Qualls (“Cherry Falls”), and Anastasia Baranova.