When That Sexy Roommate Turns Out to be an EVIL Hexing Hag! “Don’t Let her In” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

“Don’t Let Her In” on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features and Distributed by MVD Visual

Young artist couple Amber and Ben live downtown in a spacious single floor loft.  To afford rent and earn a little extra cash on the side, they decide to sublet a portion to Serena, a beautiful, and recently single, new age jewelry bowl artist who crafts old age product.  Some would say Serena’s craft is witchcraft as the alluring artist is actually being inhabited by an ancient, malevolent demon.  As she settles into her new abode, Serena slowly works her way between Amber and Ben, seducing and bedding both for her reasons to prolong a legacy on Earth.  When Ben is suddenly whisked away for an unexpected rock tour, Amber finds herself cornered by the demon in human skin and, to her on the pill surprise, pregnant because of Serena’s daily bewitching manipulation and incessant satanic chanting.

As a part of the new Full Moon lineup of 2022, principal Full Moon filmmaker Ted Nicolaou, the mastermind behind “TerrorVision” and the longstanding director of the “Subspecies” franchise, returns with another vision of terror, a beautifully demonic roommate from Hell, in “Don’t Let her In.”  Shot entirely on location at the historic Nate Starkman and Sons Building in Los Angeles, home to an array of productions from inside Paddy’s Bar of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to appearing in a handful of iconic horror series, such as “Candyman:  Day of the Dead” and “Wishmaster 2:  Evil Never Dies,” the 1908 erected factory is said itself to be haunted, adding to the miscreant charm of a shapeshifting fiend plaguing the innocence of a young couple.  Charles Band, like all of his productions, serves as chief producer and executive producer with the cannabis friendly Nakai Nelson, this side of the century Full Moon Feature producer with credits such as the “Evil Bong,” “Weedjies,” and a pair of more recent “Puppet Master” films to her name. 

“Don’t Let Her In” has an intimate cast comprised of four actors who have to pull in different, varying levels of character dynamics and frames of mind depending on how Serena’s orchestrating of the strings upon her marionette subjects favor in or from her dastardly ambition.  At the center is first time Full Moon actress Lorin Doctor as the pleasantly chic but unpleasantly succubus-like Serena who wants more than just a place to sojourn from an ex-boyfriend.  Serena is the kind of role where you have to applaud Doctor for not only pulling off grimacing in the shadows and being able to keep up the rhythms and beats of complex chanting but also be comfortable in the facial prosthetic makeup and make like a troll for a creepy crouch walk in a backwards reel speedup effect.  Kelly Curran and Cole Pendery are also newcomers to Full Moon’s world of strange and unusual T&A horror as the loft-residing couple Amber and Ben.  Curran and Pendery make up for an okay, downtown twosome with hints toward a checkered past of philandering that’s irritated by Serena’s provocative presence, but that’s doesn’t quite blossom into more of an issue as Amber is quickly eager to just go with the flow without being too bothered by the prospect that Serena and Amber did the bedsheet whoopee next to Amber as she slept.  The four and last character Elias Lambe is by far the most lacking in development and substance as an important piece of Serena’s puzzle that quickly becomes shoved under the rug.  Austin James Parker plays the part that’s mostly standing outside the building on the street corner looking gothically mirthless rather than ominous and before realizing how Lambe fits into the narrative, the long haired, trench coat-cladded, vampire-esque backstory is quickly snatched away with not a morsel left of his bigger part as suggested.

“Don’t Let Her In” is a refreshing addition to the Full Moon feature line that maintains a lot of hallmarks of the company, such as heavy use of body prosthetics, an expensive veneer on an indie budget, and, of course, nudity.  Though many other audiences draw comparisons to “Rosemary’s Baby,” Nicolaou relates only a smidgen in the story alone without the Roman Polanski pin drop suspense of subjective narration.  Instead, Nicolaou embodies Full Moon’s quirky and special effects greased terror fried to a familiar taste all fans have known from the past 40 years and that’s not terribly a bad thing.  “Don’t Let Her In” feels like an original piece of storytelling, much like “Castle Freak” or  “The Dead Hate the Living,” that detaches itself from Charles Band’s obsession with miniature maniacs, but Full Moon has no shame in telling us we’re still watching one of their films, gratuitously plopping easter eggs of their films all throughout “Don’t Let Her In” (i.e. Poster artist Amber’s current project, a rendering of “Corona Zombies,” and “Castle Freak” playing on the television set as Amber and Serena spend an evening as a pair of winos).  Serena’s demoness rat-faced makeup does appear stiff and inane at times, but the way Nicolaou mostly presents Serena in true form is through a blend of quick-sufficient editing, a manipulation of lens and pace, and the to-and-fro from the human façade that ultimately makes rodent Serena become scary Serena when accompanied by Charles Band’s strike of forte notes when not being melodiously carnivalesque.

Lesson here, kids, is to always background check you potential roommates because they might end up being a demon. Happens all the time. Fortunately, Full Moon Features delivers the entertainingly sapid “Don’t Let Her In” onto Blu-ray home video, presented in region free and a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Full high-definition and 1080p resolution, this release has a strong, robust presentation in favor of Nicolaou’s often in your face with evil style despite the single loft location. The fact that this Full Moon feature is toned down from the usual moody, tenebrous gothic style shows a bit of range can be good for the collection. There are two available audio options: a 5.1 surround sound and a dual channel 2.0 stereo. If you want more fluff to your sound design, the 5.1 offers extra street ambiance while characters converse, sawing through the dialogue with car horns, traffic, and other urban outdoor racket as if they’re living right in the middle of Times Square. Yet, all outdoor scenes show little car or foot traffic that makes this fluff foolish. The dialogue is otherwise clean and Charles Band’s soundtrack interposes pizzazz and dread in this brawny audio output. Bonus features include a “Don’t Let Her In” behind-the scenes with snippet interviews from director Ted Nicolaou, actresses Lorin Doctor and Kelly Curran, and producer Nakai Nelson and rounding out with an array of Full Moon trailers. “Don’t Let Her In” has vim and vigor for an indie guise horror that’s erotic as it is fun surrounding a small cast and single location; yet there is also an evoking pathos in its decimation of young, naive artists and couples with career ending consequences.

“Don’t Let Her In” on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features and Distributed by MVD Visual

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! 

EVILs Make Difficulties in Finding God. “Agnes” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

Blemished man of the cloth, Father Donaghue, and a neophyte are summoned to perform the holy rite of exorcism on a possibly possessed nun, Sister Agnes.  Disadvantaged and forced by his own scandal, Father Donaghue is ordered by the local Bishop to oversee the matter before they ship him overseas to avoid further disgrace upon the Church, but the skeptical priest, who has performed many exorcisms in the past, has never once believed he was casting out a demon but, rather, relieving a guilty, tormented soul seeking divine forgiveness.  When the priests confront Sister Agnes, the situation is violent, wily, and unlike any possession Father Donaghue has ever seen before.  The incident casts doubt over Sister Agnes’s friend and fellow nun, Sister Mary, who leaves the convent to try and live on her own and find God in the real world her own way, but a little bit of Sister Agnes has seemingly rubbed off onto her. 

You gotta have faith, sang once by pop-rocker and songwriter George Michael (and Fred Durst, if want to go that route) and though Mickey Reece’s “Agnes” doesn’t necessarily croon a rebuttal, the Oklahoma City born filmmaker surely splits hairs with a formidable blockade that advocates the crisis of faith cinematic model with layered horror.  The “Climate of the Hunter” writer-director’s latest quasi-horror-comedy and full-throttle religious drama questions the validities of finding God on a personal level with a divergently cut screenplay co-written with frequent script partner John Selvidge, whose current post-production penned time-warping horror entitled “Wait!” coming next year.   “Agnes” is filmed in the heartland of America inside Reece’s home state of central Oklahoma and is a reteaming of Mickey Reece and producer Jacob Snovel of Perm Machine with Greg Gilreath and Adam Hendricks’ Divide/Conquer (“Black Christmas” 2019 remake, “Freaky”) as the production companies and is first feature presentation for Molly C. Quinn, Matthew M. Welty, and Elan Gale’s QWGmire Productions.

One-third of the head of QWGmire is also the “Agnes” leading lady as Molly C. Quinn, who doesn’t play the titular character, plays Mary, a nun and friend of the possessed plagued Agnes (Hayley McFarland, “The Conjuring”) with a tragic background that ambiguously parallels a similar path to the mother of Jesus, also named Mary for all you non-Christians out there.  Mary is tender, quiet, and self-effacing but determined to pave her own way without the means of charity, especially those of the unsavory-favor nature, and consulting God for answers.  Quinn is perfect to shoulder Mary’s innocent disposition and does carry her naïve meekness throughout up until Mary’s gradual decline toward her faith that turns the sweet and innocent young woman into a pragmatic doubter, spurred by Agnes’ sudden otherworldly turn from devout to impiety that becomes more than what meets the eye.  However, in kicking off Reece’s film, one would have thought the exorcism of Agnes would emphasize more heavily on Father Donaghu (Ben Hall, “Minari”) and soon-to-be priest Benjamin (Jake Hororwitz, “Castle Freak” remake), but despite the involved build up of Father Donahu’s sordid past that conflicts with the Church and his struggles with the exorcism, Reece and Selvidge ultimately do, in what feels like, a pulling of the plug on a storyline that followings in the footsteps of “The Exorcist.”  That is, in my opinion, the downfall of “Agnes’” story in elimination of really interesting character arcs right in their girthy throes, leaving audiences hanging on Father Donaghu, grocer owner/low-end gangster Curly (Chris Sullivan, “This is Us” and “I Trapped the Devil”), ostentatiously swaggering Father Black (Chris Browning, “Let Me In”) and even the titular character Agnes fails to flesh out fully.  Rachel True (“The Craft”), Zandy Hartig, Bruce Davis, Chris Freihofer, Ginger Gilmartin, Mary Buss, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Suicide Squad’s” Sean Gunn as a standup comedian and Mary’s love interest.

“Agnes” loosely follows a couple of Catholic patroness saints in Agnes and Mary derided in a contrary sense.  Agnes, the virgin martyr in Catholic veneration, opposes the Church in the film with flashbacks of her embracing an indulgent life along with her sexual insults that’s uncouth for the patroness saint of pure little girls.  Mary’s a little more recognizable with a previous, ambiguous account of her child’s death (aka Jesus Christ?).  Plus, there’s the religious imagery, amongst others in the film, of Mary with bleeding eyes as an analogous to the weeping statues. Reece blatantly shows most men and women of the cloth to be unorthodox Orthodox Catholics from Father Donaghu’s troubling allegations to the mocking head priests. Mother Superior throws around her superiority amongst the convent nuns and even the Bishop, who doesn’t ever say a word in his brief scene, appears smug and high and mighty with his stature, letting his assistant communicate (and excommunicate) all the ugly business. Only a non-priest, training to be ordained, in Benjamin is the only innocent, infallible Christian who captures the humble essence of God and the only one who can capable in rejuvenating Mary’s faith. “Agnes” is all about doubting faith whether be by demonic possession, the loss of a child, all forms of corruption, and more, but Mary keeps striving, struggling, and searching for that spiritual lifeline amongst seedy and unscrupulous faithless charlatans slowly poisoning her to be the same. However, the “Agnes” story divides too sharply leaving the acute crisis of faith to be nearly lost in translation and is practically a wandering spectrum of identity that’s roughly craft glued together by Reece.

Some may see the film’s poster and excitedly expect Nunsploitation but the reality of “Agnes” digs at the hypocrisy of people and the endless search for faith. What it’s not is the sexual exploitation or sadomasochism of chaste nuns. Give Mickey Reece’s horror-comedy drama “Agnes” a faithful shot come it’s December 10th theatrical release from Magnet Releasing, a subsidiary of Magnolia Pictures. “Agnes” has a runtime of 93 minutes and presented in a 2.55:1 aspect ratio. Typical of any Mickey Reece film, his melodramatic horror-comedy fits into his oeuvre of talking head cinema so leave expectations of brooding and atmospheric milieus at the door for more realistic, down-to-Earth scenes, which is a bit surprising since the cinematographer behind “Hellraiser: Judgement” and “Children of the Corn: Runaway,” Samuel Calvin, has an eye for unhallowed aesthetics. Calvin does produce some perfectly poised shots with the flock of nuns and the ever slightly deviant angle to sharpen a scene. No bonus features were included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Agnes” floats on a haphazard timeline of dark, melodrama comedy for a desperate need of faith against the immense heartache, the crudely selfish, and the absence of morality all of which incessantly imposes upon the good to assimilate.

Daughters Don’t Cause This Much EVIL! “Son” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



After escaping the imprisonment of an abusive ordeal with her father’s cult, the next eight years have been easy for Laurel living with the joy of her son who was born as a result of her abuse.  When her son contracts a mystery ailment that causes open sore rashes and bloody vomit, the doctors are baffled when the surely fatal, undetermined disease makes a rapid retreat and the boy recovers seemingly miraculously.  Days later, the boy again falls more ill and, this time, Laura suspects her previous life in the cult to be behind his suffering.  With clandestine acolytes making the presence known, Laura flees with her son as the two motel jump across the Midwest with no only two detectives on her tail but also the cult looking to reclaim her son with a terrifying and gruesome new gift. 

Back into the creepy kid subgenre field we go with another multiplex single mother and son relationship American-thriller, simply titled “Son,” from Irish-American writer and director of “The Canal,” Ivan Kavanagh.  Spun from the yarn of familiarities that are stitched together with the overprotective mother trope battling the forces of beleaguering evil reigning down on her child, as seen in such films with Jacob Chase’s “Come Play” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” Kavanagh deviates from the abstract lines of the mental illness undercurrent that reshapes and plagues centric characters into horrific, supernatural episodes of isolation, grief, and loneliness personified by often terrorizing entities lurking in the dark.  “Son” is an American production formed by intercontinental production companies with the UK’s Elastic Films (“Cub,” “What We Become”) spearheaded by producer Louis Tisné, Dublin based Park Films co-operated by Kavanagh along with AnneMarie Naughton and Ana Habajec, and René Bastian and Linda Moran’s Belladonna Productions (“Funny Games,” “Stake Land”). “Son” is an exclusive release of Shudder and RLJE International.

Added to the long history of assorted turmoiled single mothers versus the things that go bump in the night is currently a big name in horror at the moment with being principally casted in the latest three recognized sequels of the “Halloween” franchise.  Andi Matichak steps into the wretched past but ever so optimistic shoes of Kindergarten teacher Laura whose introduced in a prologue of heavy rain and the blood pumping cacophony of an intense chase.  Pregnant and haggardly dirty and barefooted, Laura is being followed by menacing, unknown men before she pulls off to safety just in time to give birth to a child she verbally proclaims no desire for but reluctantly accepts as her own after a bloody, front seat natural delivery, a moment that not only conveys Laura’s compassion but also her strength. Fast forward, Laura and son David (Luke David Blumm, “The King of Staten Island”) living daily normal lives with school, neighbors, and the ins and outs of parenting.  Blumm gives a good run on distress and duress as the titular character that has contracted an illness rapidly reconstructing his mortal soul.  “Killer Joe” and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe’s” Emil Hirsch enacts a sympathetic detective taking an interest in Laura’s case, but Hirsch is mostly silent and stiff, almost like he’s part of the background furniture, for the entirety of the character arc, bringing down, as a counteractive device, much of “Son’s” speedball narrative.  Rounding out “Son’s” cast is Blaine Maye, Cranston Johnson, Kristine Nielsen, Erin Bradley Danger, Adam Stephenson, and David Kallaway.

“Son” is surprisingly gory involving intestinal viscera and severed body parts with child actor Luke David Blumm at the center of all the carnage and the story is heartbreakingly sober when a mother, a rape victim, has to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.  Kavanagh subtly massages the thematic quandary of how a rape resulted child can be a perspective schism.  On one hand, the born without sin child stems the mother’s womb, ready to be loved and cared for by instinct to protect our own, whereas the other side, of that coin, more ingrained into the human psyche than we like to admit, is the child is a constant reminder of the past, a figurative reincarnation of a hurtful monster who the victim has to lay eyes on every day for the rest of their life.  Kavanagh instills into Laura that blurred line of trauma while imprisoned by the cult and she couldn’t clearly recollect whether her father or someone, or something, else is David’s biological father.  However, Kavanagh’s script houses too many illogical potholes to warrant foolproof approval, some more egregious than others.  For example, at one point Laura removes her severely ill son from the hospital without authorization because she believes cult members are after him to at which then she arrives back home to gather clothes and supplies to skedaddle out of town.  Yet, there were no police officers or cult members in route or staged at the home which should have been the first place anyone looking for Laura, as Emil Hirsch’s character states over the phone to Laura, would be staked out.  Secondly, the local detectives are able to cross state lines into Mississippi, Kansas, and Alabama without so much as batting an eye lash, presumably stepping over local authority.  Lastly, If evidence of a cult, especially a pedophile cult as one of the detectives suggests, is rearing its ugly head again and coming after a previous victim and her son, the federal government would be much more involved than local PD.  “Son” holds fast in keeping it’s cast close to the chest albeit some severe logical issues.  With that being said, Kavanagh knows how invoke dread and horror with his bleak narrative and stylistic techniques.  Good at horror, poor at story is what Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son” boils down to, leaving behind a lingering middle of the road afterthought in it’s wanton wake.

“Son’s” the past catches up with us all story perpetually never becomes tiresome, hitting every stage precisely with intention and full of scares to garner big, soul-freezing reactions. The iciness of “Son” will leave goosebumps, raise hairs, and shiver spines and you can watch it all now on a UK Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. Presented fully hi-def in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the region 2 Blu-ray is PAL encoded and has a runtime of 98 minutes with UK rating for strong gore, violence, language, sexual threat, and child abuse references. When looking over the picture quality, there’s not much to note other than some scenes appear softer than others in a more a director’s style approach to the content of the scene. Much of the blood is inky black with a nice mirror glaze shine, as Paul Hollywood would say, inside from the solemn color-toned to the natural lighting of daytime scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix has a robust and fiery soundtrack in Aza Hand’s quite aggressive sophomore composing score. Dialogue is clean and clear without any break in the chain or obstruction as the audio tracks are balanced appropriately through all five channels. Special features include a spliced together snippets from interviews with the cast and crew along with deleted scenes more directly involved exploring Laura’s cult-captive background. To say you would do anything for your child is a complete understatement in Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son,” a top shelf singer full of venom , but as a whole, better stories are out there.

Believe the Bruja When She Says There’s an EVIL Demon Inside You! “The Old Ways” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Dark Star Pictures)

Drug-addicted and depressed American journalist, Cristina, travels to her ancestral home of Veracruz, Mexico to investigate local folklore and shamanism.  Upon visiting the local feared and shunned caves of La Boca, the next thing Cristina knows she awake locked up in and chained inside a makeshift cell and is told a demon is inside her by an elder Bruja and her assistant who still practice the old ways of exorcism.  Skeptical and scared, Cristina endures the primitive, and sometimes painful, religious rituals to extract the demon out from her soul, hoping they would eventually let her go if she feigns the demons release from her body, but when plagued by strange visions and unexplainable occurrences, Cristina comes to realize the real danger is actually from within.    

Shot on location in Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico, “The Old Ways” clashes good versus evil in one small corner of the world while also enhancing the already enriched central American state known for its cultural brujo, or sorcery, celebrations and activity.  “The Old Ways,” which aims to symbolize spiritual demons to confront personal ones, is the first feature length venture from director Christopher Alender over 20-years since his first feature that was also, too, a horror, an off brand federal holiday themed slasher from 1999 entitled “Memorial Day.”  The 2020 demonic possession thriller reteams the “Memorial Day” writer and director as Marcos Gabriel pens the script that has become a miniscule reflection of himself being a Puerto Rician expat losing his own sense of heritage and culture of his ancestral land.  Full pin drop scares and profound depth of personal complexities, “The Old Ways” is a production of Soapbox Films (“The Wind,” “Southbound”) from Alender and Gabriel as executive producers along with Christa Boarini (“Spree”), David Grove Churchill Viste (“The Voyeurs”), and T. Justin Ross producing.

The lean characters keeps the story intimate and personal, rarely straying away from the rough-and-ready holding cell single location.  Only in Cristina’s backflashes of her Stateside office or the caves of La Boca do we dip into non-linear fractions of the what, when, why, where and how she became a befuddled prisoner to her Bruja host. No white washing here as the main cast is comprised of Latin-American actors and at the lead is “Fear the Walking Dead’s” Brigitte Kali Canales as the journalist with a death wish. You see, when Cristina embarks on her journey down to the La Boca caves of Veracruz, the troubled druggie searches for relief against an emptiness she can’t shake. Most of this narrative is backlogged backstory eventually worked on and worked out through flashbacks and through the excavation by her national residing cousin Miranda (Andrea Cortés). Canales really leans into her Americanized impediment delivering impatience, ignorance, patronization, and scoffing at Miranda and the Bruja teams’ beliefs and cultural responsibilities. The Bruja team, what I like to call it, is comprised of Julia Vera (“All Souls Day”) and Sal Lopez (“Return of the Living Dead III” ) as the last practitioner of primordial exorcism techniques, aka the old ways, and her assisting son, Javi, and the mother-son dynamic teeters of the customs and exercises of combating evil, a task that has been long withstanding against a beaten down and weary Javi. AJ Bowen (“The House of the Devil”), Julian Lerma, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, and Weston Meredith as the demon Postehki.

Now, Postehki is not a real demon from any culture’s cache of fiends. In fact, the whole mythos of “The Old Ways” is entirely fabricated for the sole sake of the story and I find that to be thrilling. Anything is possible with new folklore if done soberly without ostentatiousness and if mixed with some realism of the surrounding area, such as the Bruja element, that grounds the story with that much more of a terrifying blueprint. Plus, the allegories give the story tremendous depth with the demon inside Cristina that mirrors her addiction with drugs that initially obscure the audience from knowing if the evil within is real or is the drug effects the underlining culprit. Cristina’s addiction also plays into her immense sadness after her mother, the last connection to her heritage identity, dies and that melancholy she suffers forms a device that motivates her to return home looking to die herself. Cristina situation resembles being a satellite vessel cut off from the mothership and is lost and alone, leaving it up to Miranda to be that beacon of reconnection with not only her heritage but also her family. The third theme is the carryover of traditions from an older generation to a younger one that becomes very prominent between the Bruja, Luz, and Cristina to come to way of understanding the importance of keeping with the tried and true no matter how beyond crazy it may seem. The first two acts set up perfectly the puzzling nature of Cristina’s imprisonment and unraveling while touching upon subtopics and crowd pulling moments of breath holding terror, but the third act begins to spoil the salivating juiciness of what’s next behind each layer after a couple of false endings, a cheesy transition of character, and an eye-rolling one-liners essentially kill the visceral vibe.

Old habits, old feelings, and old origins pry open the emotional armor to a pervading and harbor-seeking evil in “The Old Ways” now on Blu-ray home video from Dark Star Pictures.  The not rated, dual-layer, region A BD25 is a presented in 1080p High-Definition with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Cinematographer Adam Lee shoots a terrene-cladded and flat color incubus with strategically placed shots that trigger strong reactions that go toe-to-toe with a thumping tribal score and piercing ambient track from the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in the English and Spanish language.  Robust and formidable, the score packs a punch with a pulsating drum and pan flute score by “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” composer, Ben Lovett. Dialogue is clean and clear and the errorless subtitles align nicely with the vocals. English SDH subtitles are also optional. Special features include over 2 hours of bonus content with a feature length behind-the-scenes documentary The Old Ways: A Look Beyond that provides cast and crew opinions, history, and everything else in between about “The Old Ways” origins and reactions, a commentary track with director Christopher Alender and writer Nicholas Gabriel, deleted and extended scenes, and storyboards. “The Old Ways” is old world horror for the modern age, poised rightfully so to be a part of the possession genre canon even if coming off the tracks just a tad.