Sit Back. Relax. And Wank Off to EVIL’s “Live Feed” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

While on vacation in China, five friends traverse the local festivities and drinking holes, relaxing in the surroundings of an alien culture of their getaway destination, but when one of them accidently bumps into a depraved Chinese Triad boss, they believe to have nearly escaped a localized international incident with the help of a Japanese vacationer who seems to know quite a bit about this particular Triad boss.  To blow off steam, and to blow off some loads, the friends patron the Venus Theater, a sleazy porno theater offering 1-hour couples VIP rooms.  Their short-lived, and short-comings, visit turns into a terrifying nightmare of broadcasted kill rooms as they find themselves trapped inside the theater owned by the Triad boss for his personal snuff cinema experience and fine dining of cannibal cuisine.  Fried dong and balls are 100% MSG free. 

With a Ryan Nicholson directed film, you never know just what to expect.  From our reviews of the Vancouver native’s work, his teen slasher “Famine” was an angsty disappointment, his destitute slaughterhouse “Collar” collided technical gaffes with sordid satisfaction, and his most renowned direction on the bowling-themed retro-slasher, “Gutterballs” displayed a primal brilliance that rolled one hell of a strike down the lanes of indie filmmaking, but the late, great gore hound filmmaker always lit up our screens with a single reoccurring theme – flashes of red.  Lots and lots of red blood that is!  The blood geysers and gushes in heaps in Nicholson’s 2006 release, the written and directed, “Live Feed” that touts SOV violence in an arcane snuff style.  Co-written with his father, Roy Nicholson (“It Waits”), the self-taught, special effects prodigy bursts onto the full length feature scene with an introductory exploitation and survival horror full of ambition, insane effects, and a narrative bred specifically for fountaining blood.  Self-funded under Nicholson’s Plotdigger Films, the ”Live Feed” legacy continues to output interest in the gore and snuff subcategories with updated home video distributed releases throughout the years, keeping the resourceful, twisted humor filmmaker alive and well in our hearts and collections. 

The story revolves around five friends, or more intimately, the hapless stars of a snuff theater production, who are not the most chaste or morally concerned individuals finding themselves center stage because of their wanton whims and uninhibited fortes.  Out of the touristy Americans in a given the impression of being a strange and sordid foreign land, one of them quickly becomes established as the primary beacon of hope as an unassertive wiser in Emily played by Taayla Markell in her first lead performance.  Though their long history makes for easy persuasion into participating, from a distance, in their lewd behaviors, Emily’s hemmed in around familiar perversities derived from her good friends and even her finance.  Mike, a muscular, drug-fueled blowhard develops his crass charisma from “Stan Helsing’s” Lee Tichon, Mike’s current and former girlfriends, Sarah and Linda, in tinge of tattered relationships by Caroline Chojnacki and Ashley Schappert, and Darren, Emily’s douchebag, philandering fiancé played by “Skew’s” Rob Scattergood, lead Emily astray from her own self-preserving inner voice when their arrogance and laxed attitudes place them in hot water with a sadistic Triad Boss.  Stephen Chang fills in the gangster roll with a plastic energy that’s over-the-top and absurd just like the two women who hang off each side of his arm in hackneyed fashion, offering very little to outshine as a sadistic megalomaniac.  Luckily for the out-of-towners who are soon-to-be-goners, they coincidently meet the conversant Miles Nakamura (“Mortal Kombat: Legacy’s” Kevan Ohtski) who round houses his way through a torrent of bad guys to save his newfound American friends, but for what reason goes over our heads other than the potential guilt of knowing he left them to their demise.  Greg Chan, Mike Bennett, Ted Friend, Colin Foo and introducing boner-fide stripper, Charlene McCulloch, with an in your face pole dance rounding out the cast.   

Whether in a stroke of good luck or an ill-timely misfortune, Eli Roth’s highly popular and profitable “Hostel” was released a year earlier in 2005 and while Nicholson’s surely cantered behind that gore porn locomotive in the early 2000’s that sauntered a path for many filmmakers to make unbridled torture and tits productions in the wake, “Hostel” undoubtedly provided some hinderance by scraping some of the shock value from off the sticky theater venue floors of “Live Feed.”  The characters were also nothing to write home about, or in this case, to write highly about, as the circumstances that churn the dynamics amongst their closed circle friendship don’t dissolve until well onto the cusp of being dismembered and thus becoming a moot investable or relatable venture that was, in a way, still crawling for the finish line with spotty payments on Darren and Emily’s acute about-face relationship, the only turbulent character context that saw contentious action.  Yet, there is wonder why “Live Feed” even attempts to brittle or outright break the bonds between friends and lovers in a film that’s all about the blood, about the blood, no trouble, as I channel my Megan Trainor phrases that probably sounds better in my head than in my review.   Unless Emily and Darren’s woes play later into the story, as a point of significant break from the other or in a glimmer of salvaging something between them, the purpose is purposeless and the blood should pool together the entire snuff narrative without an emotional hiccup.  Speaking of blood, the effects between Jason Ward (“American Mary”) and Ryan Nicholson couldn’t have been better executed with a pliable, tangible, and free from visual imagery arsenal at their fingertips with prosthetics upon prosthetics of grisly skirmish matter.

“Live Feed” has it all:  cannibalism, decapitations, sex, bondage, medieval torture, kung fu, snakes, pole dancing, barbecued penis, sword play, a “Big Trouble in Little China” old man Lo-Pan lookalike, and gallons of spattering blood.  All of the above now arrives uncut and uncensored onto an Unearthed Films Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release.  The region A BD50 presents the transfer in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enclosed with various formatted styles from the poor resolution of SOV to a full-bodied and unstrained digital playback lit up with vibrant neon lightening by director of photography, Sasha Popove, to create an illuminating florescent color splay of a universal Asian urban district.  The sundry of styles can be weighty on the sequences that challenge what should be natural segues into the next scene, but the format choices, from mostly handheld vantage points, interrupt the flow with a nonsensical fluidity.  Unearthed Films amassed a legacy-stamping amount of extra content with a commentary with Ryan Nicholson and cast, a making-of segment entitled “Behind the Blood” which is geared toward being a tell-all on how they spun and produced “Live Feed’s” fruition, a return to the Venus Theater location with a low-key walkthrough of scene locations and you get a little X-rated show during a live project run, deleted scenes, alternate scenes and ending, the video feed footage, photo gallery, trailers, and a short film entitled “Womb Service” of the softcore feature playing background of the feature story. There’s also an “Adult version” of “Live Feed” in the bonus material that includes the original runtime feature but with edited in hardcore footage; however, personally, did not notice any sultry inserts. Maybe they’re brief and missable…? In the experience unravelling Ryan Nicholson’s work, “Live Feed” is the filmmaker’s second best movie with wholehearted intention to jazz it up with as much blood and exploitation as possible and his loss, as a person and an exorable filmmaker with room for ghoulish growth we’ll never experience, stings to this day.

“Live Feed” blu-ray now on sale at Amazon.com. Click the cover to go to Amazon.

Steamed Pork Buns Stuff With EVIL! “The Untold Story” reviewed (Unearthed Films/Blu-ray)

Wong Chi-hang brutally beats and sets fire to a fellow gambler who refuses to lend him money.  After destroying his identification card and creates a new look and identity, Wong flees Hong Kong before he can be hunted down for first degree murder and be served capital punishment for his crime.  For the last 8 years, Wong has lived and worked on the island village of Macau, running a small, but well-known, steamed bun restaurant, Eight Immortals Restaurant.  He receives inquisitive letters everyday asking about the whereabouts of the former owner, Cheng Lam, by Lam’s older brother on the mainland.  The letters force Wong to attempt manipulating lawyers into signing over the restaurant to him without Lam’s presence.  When the police discover dismembered limbs washed up on the beach, an investigation ensues that connects the body parts to a Chan Lai Chun, the mother-in-law to Cheng Lam, leading a small task force of blockheaded detectives to Wong’s restaurant where he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances, but he won’t break so easily after being apprehended, unwilling to cooperate and confess to the whereabouts of the bodies of the vanished owner, his entire family, and a pair of workers.  Yet, what were exactly in those steam buns that made them so delicious?

Full disclosure.  I’m not too terribly familiar with Hong Kong’s rating system of Category I, II, and III, but I’ve more-or-less dabbled in the Category III (Cat III) horror and exploitation cinematic market, owning only a handful of these gruesome-and-sexually gratifying guilty pleasure full of sex, violence, and taboo concepts of titles such as “Riki-Oh:  The Story of Ricky,”  “The Chinese Torture Chamber,” and “Three…Extremes” and only “The Story of Ricky” has ever been popped into my player for recreational viewing.  Also, in my collection, is a Tai Sing DVD copy of Herman Yau’s 1993 crime-and-cannibalism graphic thriller “The Untold Story” and, frankly, I never opened it either, but when Unearthed Films sent me their new Blu-ray release to review, I’ll never be able to see chop sticks the same way again!  The eye-opening experience also screamed that I should definitely rip open and see those other films to quench my thirst for Cat III’s offensive opulence.  Based off a true story of the Eight Immortals Restaurant murders in 1985 around the Macau area, the nearly unwavering from the truth storyline parallels the Kam-Fai Law (“Dr. Lamb”) and Wing-Kin Lau (“Taxi Hunter”) co-written story in which a madman slaughters an entire family over a gambling dispute and runs their family business, the Eight Immortals Restaurant, until the police capture him, but Yau sticks more sensationalism to the already brutal notoriety surrounding the actual case with ground human barbecue steamed buns to tease with abhorrent flavor under the Golden Sun Films Distribution distribution of the Uniden Investments and Kwan Hung Films production.

“The Untold Story’s” lead man in the shoes of the maniacal, rage-filled Wong Chi-Hang is “Ebola Syndrome’s” Anthony Wong who initially thought the script was greatly unattractive.  Little did he know that his performance would be so good, so osmosis with his wide-eyed lunatic stare through the luminating pixels of the television screen, that the role would honor him with a Hong Kong Film Award for best actor; Hong Kong’s equivalent to the best actor award for an Oscar in the States.   The “Hard Boiled” actor embodies a soul of frustration and anger to rise his character up to the demented level of nihilism and heartless exploitation that unforgettably scores being the face of “The Untold Story’s” cruelty.  Yet, there is a Jekyll and Hyde complex with Yau’s film that cuts the cynicism with a risible troupe of police officers supervised by Officer Lee (Danny Lee “The Killer”).  With a beautiful foreign woman, a blatantly announced hooker, always at his side and being the sharpest detective on the force, Lee’s a contradictory, authoritative commander meshing immoral principles and duty into one while leading a four-person squad of non-initiatives comprised of three rubbernecking men, craning their gulping jugulars toward Mr. Lee’s arm-candied gals, and one tomboy woman with an affinity for Mr. Lee who struggles with being taken seriously amongst her peers as an unenticing woman in cop’s clothing.  The officers’ western names are a slither of satire to poke fun at the nicknames of tough or macho cops go by in the States with Bo, King Kong, Robert, and Bull (respectively Emily Kwan, King-Kong Lam, Eric Kei, and Parkman Wong of “Dr. Lamb”).  The cast rounds out with Fui-On Shing and Julie Lee. 

“The Untold Story’s” embittered nihilistic violence, gratuitous rape and sodomy, and steamy, mouth-watering cannibalism leverages this Cat III film as tiptop horror exploitation from the far East.  If broken down more, director Herman Yau pins and sews together a liaising three act prong story of a horrid man’s attempt at deadly stability in society and a madcap group of officers, with a penchant for police brutality and coercing confessions, bumbling their way through clues that ultimately funnel into a blended third act of magnetizing the two sides together toward a satisfying, almost faithful, ending of “The Eight Immortals Restaurant:  The Untold Story’s” purloin and murder fiction and non-fiction exploit.  Yau spares no expense for gore, serving up a platter worth the splatter of some nifty chop’em up and grind their meat into the dough effects that’ll turn stomachs as well as heads and doesn’t exude as bargain basement quality; yet, just enough gore goes uncovered to tantalize without a full onslaught tarp covering the ground of disembodied limbs and floor-splattering entrails that boil down to an overshadowing character that detracts from the cast performances as such can accompany with the more extreme Asian horror catalogue.  There’s nothing gentle about the actions of Wong Chi-Hang, but the way he’s scribed to manifest spur of the moment carnage, stemmed by the most minute disputes, and the way Anthony Wong carries and maneuvers of a monstrous villain with ease takes an esthetical point to not stray away from his, or rather his victims’, story.  “The Untold Story” is, in fact, meta-exploitation fiction of non-fiction down to the very last tasty morsel. 

In what is perhaps the epitome of Hong Kong’s Category III film index, “The Untold Story” arrives onto high definition Blu-ray courtesy of the gore and shock genre label, Unearthed Films as part of the label’s Unearthed Classics line and distributed by MVDVisual. The well preserved, near flawless transfer is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the picture is a vast improvement over the slightly washed previous DVD releases though favors a higher contrast resolution that ekes trading out the details for a brighter, softer film in an overall compliment of Cho Wai-Kee’s beaming cinematography. Whether in the police station or the restaurant, fluorescent lumens light up the scenes with a sterile-driven madness. The Cantonese, Mandarin, and some English 1.0 PCM audio track denotes, without surprise, the lossy quality doddering from age and antiquated equipment, but renders well enough without the imperfections of hisses, distortions, or any vocal impediments. The option English subtitles display without error with only the issue in their breakneck pacing when attempting to keep up with reading the subtitles and the rapidfire dialogue. You basically have to skim read. The special features include commentaries with star Anthony Wong and Herman Yau, the superbly dark and traditional film score isolated for audible pleasure, commentary with Art Ettinger from Ultra Violent magazine and Bruce Holecheck of Cinema Arcana, a Q&A with Herman Yau, a featurette of the history behind Category III films of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema, a interview with Rick Baker entitled Cantonese Carnage, and Unearthed Film trailers. There’s also an two-page insert of Art Ettinger’s write up about Hong Kong cinema and “The Untold Story.” Resilient to the test of time, “The Untold Story” benchmarks a high point in High Kong exploitation cinema, recalls the tremendous feat of performance by Anthony Wong, and displays the sheer mastery of disciplined filmmaking from Herman Yau in this unforgettable gruesome black comedy.

Must Own Christmas Gift! “The Untold Story” on Blu-ray!

Chronicling the Cannibalistic, Necrophilism EVILs of a Serial Killer is for Adult Eyes Only! “LoveDump” reviewed! (A Baroque House / Digital Screener)

July, 2003 – a hollow-hearted serial killer, Denise Holmes, moves into a motel room of a populated metropolis of the West Coast.  Journaling every perverse and murder-lust desire in a diary, the unspeakable acts of sex and death blend together as one as the urge to kill grows bolder, leaving a trail of gore in the wake.  Paranoia begins to sink in after the last execution of an innocent victim and desecrating their bloodied, decapitated head in an inerasable moment from the mind. What you’re about to hear are the audio recordings of Denise Holmes’ diary inserts, read by Detective Jamie Reams whose giving a tactile voice to a wraith-like monster.

Over the years, the term Horror has been exploitatively glamourized for capital, trendsetting and bedazzled with glitzy gems of tamed teenager torment that sold the strung up, struck down, and sliced-and-diced adolescent carnage-fodder into each and every way the human brain can conceive with only a tweak of difference adorned with each ornate kill. Horror has also become garish with gorgeous women for the gratuitous donation of bare skin for the camera and the audiences to entice and gawk at the beauty in death. I’m not going to lie, I eat every millisecond of film of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to horror, and, truthfully, horror has been making a strong stance in the last couple of years and I’ve been embracing the subtle tingling of mind game thrillers to the overtly ostentatious gore-soaked slaughterhouses of a genre with the broadest spectrum known to the cinematic universe. The filmmaker under the alias of SamHel pushes our tolerance for extreme content to the breaking point with the written-and-directed 2020 adult-fetish exploitation, “LoveDump,” an independent film from the USA under the production company, A Baroque House, that set out to pay homage to the graphic adult and fetish horror films of 1990s Japan.

The 33-minute short film only stars two performers in non-speaking, purely physical roles. First up, Wolvie Ironbear, an intersex non-binary adult content pansexual specializing in gothic and kink fetishisms, depicts the notorious necrophiliac serial killer, Denise Holmes, and Apricot Pitts, an unshaven fetishist whose also in the adult content creator realm, as a hapless prostitute who becomes a slayed statistic of sadism lured in by Holmes to greedily satisfy the nagging ghastly degeneracies. Most of the runtime runs with Ironbear licking at the chops, contemplating the next libidinous victim. Thick in the air is the sordidness moisture of solo self-gratification with unorthodox sex toys: a pig’s head, human blood, and other interesting, socially ignoble objects not fit to describe without dismantling in spoiler territory. Ironbear has to be a killer and a pretender, playing into a pretense that is a wolf in a sheep’s kinky-gimp clothing when Pitt’s prostitute steps into the motel room. Together, Pitts and Ironbear are electric, sexy, and give a damn good X-rated show of lust and macabre that turns the fever of carnality into a gruesome display of monomania participation.

“LoveDump” is not an attractive title, but suitable for unattractive content of desecrating the dead to the likes of Jörg Buttgereit’s “Nekromantik” and Marian Dora’s “Cannibal” while striving to be akin to Japan’s extreme horror like “Splatter: Naked Blood” or the notoriously sought after Guinea Pig films. “LoveDump” has an outrush of a snuff film that emanates a deep, dark secret club with elite memberships under pseudonym-ship in the producer and production departments. The makeup and special effects prompt disconcert of an upholding quality for an indie picture and, so much so, the affect of the human soul skin-crawlingly good that we can’t find ourselves looking away when the urge to be squeamish is strong. SamHel’s film digs niche graves that not everyone will have the courage enough to step into by choice. For myself, “LoveDump” is purely curious voyeurism, ingesting and digesting the film as an informational vessel of visceral paraphilias and without a solid plot to chew on, “LoveDump” is a straightforward stitch in time gorging more on graphic imagery than story and that is where the A Baroque House flick loses me to an extent.

Don’t expect palsied love-stricken hearts to be oozing with jubilee affections; instead, expect a romantic bloodbath of narcissism in a solo courtship like none other in SamHel’s ultra-gory “LoveDump” on a limited edition DVD and Blu-ray from A Baroque House. The camera work by the monikered Excessive Menace renders a SOV resemblance from the 90’s with a lot of unsteady handheld shooting as well as adjusting the clarity of focus, but the frames do flicker noticeably which can be a minor nuisance. Almost all the sex and gore scenes are in an extreme closeup the gives you an extreme eye feel for the commingling faux blood and real semen. One of my only gripes is with the angles in the intercourse with Apricot Pitts that didn’t translate over well without the proper focus and lighting to be as a graphic as possible. Since provided with a digital screener and the screener provided is a rough cut of the short film, there were no bonus material included, if there were any. The limited edition physical packaged Blu-ray will include the full HD uncut version of the film, a still gallery, a behind the scene making of, and trailer. I assume the LE DVD contains the same features, but are not specified. Be warned! “LoveDump” is not teeny-bopping horror filmed for any Joe Schmo to casually sit down to Netflix and chill with their partner, unless they’re into switch BDSM with an ichor fetish and, in that case, “LoveDump’s” an avant-garde aphrodisiac bred out of extreme and unwavering compulsions.

EVIL Begins With A Simple Pizza Delivery in “Chop Chop” reviewed! (Kamikaze Dogfight / Digital Screener)

Married couple Liv and Chuck Matthews are enjoying a quiet and romantic night in at their apartment complex.  That is until a pizza delivering psychopath, who relishes chopping off the heads of his victims, knocks at their front door, interrupting the Matthews’ serenity with his own homicidal desires.  The skirmish puts forth the Matthews onto a series of misguided and bizarre encounters with an underground criminal syndicate that upends and jeopardizes their very lives, but the Matthews are not as innocent as they appear and harbor a dark secret of their own that just might get them out alive, barely. 

Flying under the October release radar this year, amongst a swarm of horror films that we thankfully have this unprecedented Halloween season, ekes in the debut feature film, a USA-made, independent horror-thriller entitled “Chop Chop,” from writer-director Rony Patel.  Co-written with Andrew Ericksen, the sleeper film echoes notes of Lynchian themes embroidered with idiosyncratic personas toiling uncomfortable tensions that are dryly humorous.  The Temple University educated in film studies Patel is no stranger to the metaphysics of the genre, pulling influences from and expanding upon his short film catalogue over the last decade with narratives that revolve around the dread of situational surrealism and detour from tropes of traditional tangible horror.  “Chop Chop” is a production of the Patel founded LA based company, Fairwolf Productions, LLC.

Jake Taylor and, the uncanny Zoe Saldana lookalike, Atala Arce, star in their first principle roles as a seemingly normal husband and wife, Chuck and Liv, who are introduced into the initial beginnings of date night that turns into a stay-at-home night of relationship bliss, but as the story progresses, even before the psychotic pizza boy’s entrance into their lives, setting off a string of deadly incidents, a latent secret itches within them as if toiling an escape plan from a previous unsavory life connected by the unexplained red spade symbol tattooed on both of their bodies.  Ambiguity fills the air between the mysterious tattoo and Taylor and Arce’s sanctum mind and side-eyed performances that convey very little of their unspoken plight and reveal very little about their existing purpose in an organization comprised of odd, but dangerous, jobs and dubiously offbeat and clandestine characters.  However, the face of “Chop Chop” draws an intense paroxysm of eye popping curiosity from the character actor David Harper (“Sick Boy”) in a dual performance as Teddy, the head chopping pizza delivery man, and Teddy’s mute twin brother who wields a samurai sword with a glaring look conveying malevolence.  Harper’s distinct face becomes transfixing when the scarred skin and bedecked with silvery braced teeth jut out from the bowed lips of a sinister smile.  To continue the trend of eccentric, quite rememberable, dark characters, Mikael Mattsson (“Scariest Night of Your Life”) and Nicholas Correnti contribute warped opposition encased inside an intermittent individual of horrid killer instincts reinforcing the already loaded with tension thriller.   “Chop Chop” rounds out with Jeremy Jordan, James McCabe (“Drifter”), Natasha Missick, and Lizzie Chaplin to wring Liv and Chuck’s out, whatever that might be from, even more life-and-death.

“Chop Chop’s” immensely cryptic diagram tones more evocatively by the uniquely rich characters planted from moment to moment inside Liv and Chuck’s inescapable conundrum of cascading misadventures.  Whereas Patel and Ericksen scribe persona diversity that’s interlinked to the fermenting innards of the scene, these characters would not be as fruitful if not exuberated by the actors who portray them, instilling a symbiotic coexistence of selling viperous rouges. Mysterious elements don’t solely lie with the veiled married couple, but also with Terry and his brother who are said, and is shown to an extent, to have powers with the abilities to walk through walls and be clairvoyant; yet, cliff notes of the beyond elemental are nixed and the omission of faculty talents are obliquely positive.  Where the characters flourish in a cesspool of strange and usual criminal activity, the story steps back as a murkier shadow game that’s about as translucent as pea soup and while understanding Liv and Chuck’s more exact role in the whole scheme of events isn’t a complete necessity, Patel and Ericksen’s narrative shell loses the cohesive glue to hold and sustain everything in into a diatonic cadence to the end.  Viewers will be kind of left stuck on the precipice by the finale led up by a perpetual tease of haphazard affairs thinly connected by one inexplicable common source that was surrounded by spies, murderers, and a malicious carcass disposer.  Evading a near total fumbling of the story, “Chop Chop” whips up fresh, new characters for the fray scattered throughout the playing field, keeping the loosely lassoed narrative structure from disastrously crumbling down into hollowed heap.

Ding, Dong! Pizza’s here! “Chop Chop” is a deliciously devilish dish from newcomer Rony Patel, landing onto Digital HD and Cable VOD on October 20th to rent or own on Amazon, iTunes, Comcast, Spectrum, Vudu and more, distributed by Kamikaze Dogfight in partnership with Gravitas Ventures. Since a digital screener was reviewed, critiquing the A/V aspects will not be covered. There was also no bonus material available and no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The cinematography scenes from Ryan Emanuel and Carter Fawcett produce striking setups that immediately dictate an artistry of vest-pocket anarchy that stick out gorgeously from the more darker laden respite between meetups. The English audio mix entangles the dialogue into murky territories underneath the swathed action, creating minor clarity issues to chase when trying to understand Liv and Chuck’s subdued spats that are telling of who they really are in “Chop Chop’s” lethal, but still trippy, Alice in Wonderland variation. Keep an eye on Rony Patel’s future cinematic endeavors as the young filmmaker’s tenebrous thriller, “Chop Chop,” has a meticulous sound design and a marvelously simple flare for character prototypes that energizes the rough enigmatic mystery.

 

EVIL Presses the Reset Button For Killer Results! “To Your Last Death” reviewed! (Quiver Distribution / Blu-ray)

Miriam DeKalb has just survived a bloodbath inside her tycoon father’s high-rise, walking out shaken, bloodied, and carrying an axe.  When the police detain her in the hospital, construing a case against her for the death of her siblings and father based off her previously unhinged mental state inside a psychiatric institute, Miriam is visited by an otherworldly being known as the Gamemaster.  Miriam is given two choices:  stay at the hospital to be pursued as the murderous villain in her harrowing escape from near death or restart her traumatizing experience to save her siblings in an intergalactic wager by infinite being gamblers eager for amusement, blood, and a clear winner.  Miriam’s foreknowledge of how the events play out should give her an edge in saving her family, but the restart is the Gamemaster’s game with the Gamemaster’s rules as timelines and outcomes are determined limitless. 

“To Your Last Death” is a science fictional brawl of Darwinism in this eviscerating adult animated survival horror from director Jason Axinn.  Originally titled as “The Malevolent” during the crowd-funded Indiegogo campaign, which raised 114% above film’s budget, “To Your Last Death” is Axinn’s first full length feature from a script co-written by Jim Cirile (writer of horror-comedy “Banned”) and is the first credited work of Tanya C. Klein, both who’ve previously collaborated on the superhero short “Liberator” in 2016 starring the original Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno  With an animated direction similar to that of FX’s “Archer,” Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse,” or an even slightly more advanced version of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” but, in fact, the hand-drawn, puppetry style animation is the first ever 2-D animated horror under the meticulous art direction of Carl Frank along with lead artists Luca Romano and Vicente Saldivar, who interned on “Metalocalypse,” that keeps in tune with the adult themed animation trend, but levels up the explicit nature that kisses the sordid substance of “Heavy Metal” with strong bloody violence and some nudity.  “To Your Last Death” is the first feature film of Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klien’s Coverage Ink Films, a subsidiary of the screenplay analysis and development service group, Coverage Ink, and Quiver Distribution (“Becky”) with Cindi Rice, Paige Barnett and Jason Axinn taking on a producer role. 

The voice work is comprised of some of the most distinguishable voices in genre land; voices that carry the unparalleled weight in intensity, tenor, and madness to their darkly depicted illustrated characters.  You can almost feel the veins throbbing out of Ray Wise’s neck when spewing the murderous insanity of warfare kingpin and diabolical businessman, Cyrus DeKalb.  The “Dead End” and “Jeepers Creepers 2” actor’s inhumane avatar, who looks just like him, devises a plan to solidify his company’s legacy by eliminating his four children who, if banding together, can derail his egomaniacal runaway train.  His children are distinct individuals themselves, beginning with the BDS&M buff and death metal rocker, Ethan (Damein C. Haas), a pill-popping wrist cutter, Kelsy (Florence Hartigan “Phoenix Forgotten”), and a mirror-image disappointment and homosexual, Collin (Benjamin Siemon “Thankskilling 3”).  The fourth child, Miriam, is the principle lead.  Voiced with perpetual mixed reactions by Dani Lennon, a regular from the videogame-themed horror comedy and zombie apocalypse television series, “Bite Me,” Miriam’s complexities stem from a web of junctures that lead her to being a control freak amongst her siblings, an obsessive activist against her father, and a certified schizophrenic, but Miriam is also pragmatic with the strongest will to see through and survive her maniacal father’s abhorrence.  While everyone’s voice work is solid, Steve Geiger’s Eastern European accent replicated for the sadistic, warmongering henchman, Jurek, imprints a nightmare man unabashed by his decadent desires.  You wouldn’t think just be reading this review, but Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”) and William Shatner (“Star Trek” franchise) also have voice roles that are more cameo resembling as Moseley voices a short lived, facially disfigured hired gun and Shatner is the narrating voice in between the void as the Overseer, filling in with cryptic exposition of the Gamemaster’s existence, much like his narrative work on the reboot of the children’s show, “The Clangers.”   Mark Whitten, Bill Mishap, Rom Lommel, Paige Barnnet, Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein, Ruairi Douglas, Jason Axinn, and “Deadpool’s” Morena Baccarin as the Gamemaster round out the cast.

The way “To Your Last Death’s” story is structured runs along the same quivering line that’s equal to pure madness and this narrative path of unstoppable carnage is purposefully trekked to dislodge any judgements about what we, the viewer, think we know about the Gamemaster’s macabre game for galactic gambling.  Is the whole “Saw”-like designed bloodbath really a part of Cyrus DeKalb’s hatred and vindictiveness toward his children or is the lucid experience just a figment of Miriam’s break from reality?  Remember, Miriam was depicted to an ex-committed, living with and within the pressures of her father’s ever present, looming shadow. Miriam finds herself repeating moments but blueprinted differently than before or is manipulated by the Gamemaster’s gamer’s high for the adrenaline voyeurs betting on the outcome. The story’s effervescently fluid in pivots, tactics, and style; yet, the constant modify and rebuild was, perhaps, done one or two many times as staleness begins to set in and I eventually find himself anxious for a more linear goal for Miriam and her siblings to be out of limbo, out of being hacked to pieces on the fourth or fifth go-around, and reach the final stage, the final boss, to not be jerked back (or jerked around) to the beginning or midpoint like in unendurable game of chutes and ladders. Soon after that sensation of being uninterested in another rewind, the feeling immediately washes away as the story finally did progress, climax, finish, end, close, and put to sleep a rotunda of violence engendered by cosmic sadists that is “To Your Last Death.”

Like some warped version of “Clash of the Titans,” the insouciant Gods in “To Your Last Death” are not generous or kind in their gamble of human entertainment on this Blu-ray release distributed by Quiver Distribution. The feature is presented in a windscreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with rich colors through but favor toward scenes splotched of dark red or saturated in full tints of blue. The animation can be a little jagged at times but tolerable and only one scenes stood out compromised with two character stuck still for a few seconds too long and color banding rear its little ugly head on their animated faces. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound renders equally gratifying that includes a pulsating and terror riddled soundtrack by Rene G. Boscio. Typical with animation, ambience is generally underused as the filmmakers control much of what’s in the frame and the same can be said with this film, but with the much of action stationary inside the building, the confinement fills in the auditory gaps in conjunction with lucrative and well timed effects, such as a ripping roar of gas guzzling chainsaw, the squirting sounds of blood sprays, and even with the lossless details of minor necessities, such as Jurek whistling, to build upon character development. Dialogue is prominent, clear, and syncs okay with the marionette animation. The Blu-ray case is sheathed in a cardboard slipcover, both arranged with the same front and back cover image and layout. The bonus features are lack as the bare bones release only comes with a high definition trailer of the film. “To Your Last Death” is this year’s cinematic graphic novel to knock back and lap up, loaded with transcendent selfish twists and second-chance carnage with dysfunctional family issues spot lit on center stage.

 

Pre-Order “To Your Last Death” for a October 6th release!