EVIL Gets Loopy in “Welcome to The Circle” reviewed! (Artsploitation Films / Blu-ray)

Greg and his young daughter Samantha are turning out the lights on a camping trip in the woods.  When a bear attacks in the middle of the night, Greg awakens in the care of a commune-like camp.  Injured but alive, Greg is given the grand tour of the encampment of a cult known as The Circle where he rejoins with his happy-go-lucky daughter and meets a few other strange and unusual members who worship the legacy and the omnipotent existentialism of The Circle’s creator, Percy Stephens.  What the father-daughter combo don’t realize is that The Circle is a demon worshipping cult bidding on the whimsical demands of Percy Stephen’s rancor and malice.  A group of outsiders led by Grady, a former cult member in his youth, are determined to rescue and reprogram one of the followers close to them, but step into an upside-down world, demonized with smoke and mirrors, set on swallowing their souls for the sake of Percy Stephens delight. 

A diabolical drip of disorienting deception, “Welcome to The Circle” is a roundabout from Hell, cordially ostracizing the love and blessings ideology for more sinister, soul-sucking profit of an unconventional demon film.  “Welcome to the Circle” is a Canadian-made debut independent feature from write-director David Fowler and Fowler, better known for his work on documentaries, knocks on the door of insanity with a tailspin narrative that collides John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness” with Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions” with Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s “The Endless” rapping at the door and the results are an enigmatic nightmare full of stone faced mannequins, body inhabiting occupations, a series of blackhole peculiarities, and being eaten alive by crazed acolytes.  The Vancouver, British Columbia based Canadian company, High Deaf Productions, embarks into the feature film bazaar, with Mack Benz and Michael Khazen serving as company producers, with co-production association from Corvid Arts and Upfront Films.

Broken into two parts, the narrative opens the first portion up to familiarize with the cultist sheep in the stark white attire of wolves’ clothing that throws Greg and his daughter Samantha’s kismet into the uncertain pit of a demon’s impish thirst for souls.  When introduced to Greg (“Dragged Against Concrete’s” Matthew MacCaull), much of the character falls below the waist side as a single father detached from his own child and surrounded by conniving zealots that funnels into becoming weak, if not also immaterial when MacCaull is unable to explore Greg more in depth.  Nothing against MacCaull who performs well enough with an unsympathetic character that has a cold shoulder connection with his insubordinate child and no real background fuel a feed into Greg’s worth as one of the mainstay roles.  I also thought a little more on The Circle’s followers would be constructive to The Circle’s reason for fervor and appeal, but instead, Sky (“Supergirl” television series’” Andrea Brooks), Lotus Cloud (“Pacific Rim’s” Heather Doerksen), Rebekah (“The Wrong Daughter’s” Cindy Busby), and Matthew (“The Unspoken’s” Michael J. Rogers) are members developed only inside a crumbling hierarchy structure obtaining cryptic messages from a demon, Percy Stephens, from beyond their plane of existence.  Percy Stephens is perhaps the best complex character in the fold without having a stable foundational actor in his shoes and is played by various faces of the film’s cast able to reach back toward an immense and mysterious backstory that involves a slew of daring and impressive accomplishments and a demonic tiger shark that may or may not be Stephen’s aquatic damnation to Hell.  The second portion moves greatly away from Greg and his daughter and into a rescue operation, led by the unfiltered and unorthodox Grady, a former The Circle youth who landed in a psyche ward only to be hired to infiltrate the cult to extract Rebekah, paralleling his motives to understand the mechanics of the cult that led to the disappearance of his mother.  “Stan Helsing’s” Ben Cotton delivers a performance that is anything but vanilla as the sharp wit and cool as a cucumber Grady, dominating each and every scene in a disheveled and aloof veneer that becomes Grady’s best defense against Percy Stephen’s engaging entanglements.  The cast rounds out with Taylor Dianne Robinson (The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part 2), Hilary Jardine (“Teen Lust”), Matt Bellefleur (“In Their Skin”), Christian Tessier (“Night of the Demons III”) and Jordana Largy (“Rememory”). 

It suffices to say that David Fowler’s topsy-turvy and boundless the fake-fake, a descriptor of the story’s in-between existences, is an alternate universe complete with hope chest portals and wraith approaches that will disrupt the audio and visual perceptions, disconnecting the straightforward wiring only to cross the stepping stones of normalized story structures to fissure what we know into a fractured reality.  The foyer to oblivion, the fake-fake, isn’t an easy one to digest and Fowler is very much aware of the real-real consequences of traversing into the world of the fake-fake.  Fowler forces you to pay a penance for crossing the threshold that will cause dizziness and nausea, the same affects the characters sometimes experience through the compressed spaces of time and planes of The Circle, soldering an unintentionally immersive experience with the combination of simple and natural cinematography infused effects that spun, tilted, and corralled acute fear and isolation from under the DP supervision of Sterling Bancroft. In regards to Fowler’s darkly imaginative story, the script a lively progression of diverse ideas and concepts that construct a little world within a bigger world, especially on a modestly tight budget that can’t afford mind-blowing special effects, but the cohesiveness is heavily reliant on the character’s to explain the actions that are occurring to progress an outline and much of that explanation falls into poetic prose and riddles. Characters Percy Stephens and Grady to much of the grunt work in vocalizing the visuals, but the course is a rocky road and with every bump there’s a meaning within a meaning and to know the meaning is to meaning to know. See what I mean? “Welcome to the Circle” chips away the substantial concrete barrier with a bombardment of incorporeal flak that comes in wave-after-wave of full blown auteur creativity.

 

To get caught in the loop is to loop in getting caught and that’s what Artsploitation Films has done by acquiring and distributing “Welcome to The Circle” on a Blu-ray home entertainment release. Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the digitally recorded picture is about as immaculate as they come nowadays with tactile textures of grainy log of the cabins, the floral of the forest, and the scruff of Matthew’s bristly beard all looking particular sharply detailed albeit some minor fluctuations of softness seeping into the brush and into more dreamlike sequences and though flat, the colors due run unbridled with the forestry green and the eggshell color of mannequin “skin” that renders subtle differences more distinct. Darker scenes render nicely and smoothly without as much of a flicker of interference and Bancroft’s use of depth forces audiences to focus only on what’s extremely close up or what’s faraway by way of adjusting the focal length. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio also has little-to-no complains with a well rounded discernible platter of clear, forefront dialogue, depth and range of vocals and ambience, and a combination score and soundtrack by Reid Hendry with original and haunting folk tracks by Jo Krasevich do an insidious one-two punch that bruises the soul. The not rated, 93-minute film comes with only a theatrical trailer in the bonus features. Despite the dense ambiguity that surrounds the film, the demonic ensnaring doom that accompanies “Welcome to The Circle” is, simply put, psychosis in a bottle that director David Fowler just effortlessly uncorked.

Own “Welcome to the Circle” on Blu-ray!

When EVIL Gets Inside Your Head…


An immigrant cabby named Luz stumbles dazed into a German police station, repeating a profane distortion of a religious prayer to a couple of baffled detectives. Meanwhile, in a nearby bar, a forwardly chatty woman is diving seductively into a spiel about her Catholic schoolgirl friend who just recently jumped out of her moving taxicab to a psychoanalysis specialist on the edge of his seat. Drunk enough to take advantage of, the Doctor falls for the woman’s alluring trap, beguiling him to do her bidding as an unwilling host. As the now possessed doctor arrives to evaluate Nora for the police, he instigates a hypnosis recreation of the details events leading up to Luz’s ravings and disillusions. What happens next goes beyond human comprehension and rational as the doctor desires more from the stupefied Luz than what meets the eye.

Undoubtedly a strong skiff of demonic peculiarity weathering forth against an unforgiving maelstrom of spiffy-glamourous and yacht-sized counterparts is Tilman Singer’s memorizing tale of demigod deception in “Luz.” As the German born filmmaker’s first written-and-directed full length feature film, a film school project shot entirely on 16mm color negative, Singer dazzles with a throwback grindhouse glow set ablaze with a neon flare that adds to the perilous seduction and violation of the mind and primal infatuation. “Luz’s” was filmed in Cologne, Germany, where Singer studied film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, during the production year of 2018 and saw success at various Germany festivals, including it’s debut at the Berlin Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Festival. The Academy of Media Arts Cologne also serves as the production company, as it was, after all, a school project, and listed as Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM).

“Luz” wouldn’t be what as staggering as it is if it wasn’t for the invested cast who brings Singer’s vision to the spectrum. Luana Velis’s seamless grasp of the editing has remarkable wealth when playing a disoriented cab driver coming in off the street and Velis as Luz, in the ebb and flow of reality when Dr. Rosinni (Jan Bluthardt) entrances her with a blend of hypnosis and psychoanalysis techniques, sustains character through various transitions present inside a large police board room, reality, and the subconscious recollection of places and events inside her mind that Singer constructions for visualization, not reality. Singer melds together places, people, and events, throwing audiences for loops and casting misleading signals and just where the hell our characters are gathered. Bluthardt is equally captivating post transformation, coming off like a calculated maniac, resolved in his wild role. Perhaps, my favorite of the cast list goes to Julia Riedler as Nora Vanderkurt, Luz’s icy former bedfellow from Catholic School who slithers into Dr. Rosinni’s ear like a bewitching asp while seeming like a normal bar patron, but Riedler’s spin on Vanderkurt breaks the construct beyond that of the sleazy barfly and into something more conniving, wicked, and alcohol infused while still steamy with sexual emissions. All three performances are keystones to “Luz” success while fellow cast mates Johannes Benecke, Lilli Lorenz, and Nadja Stubiger, offer some spot on support.

“Luz” summits fear with intrinsic performance art of hazy, but colorful, atmospherics and off-kilter shapes and lines, making the most routine settings feel unsettling. It’s a strong cinematography showcase by Paul Faltz who was able to frame and fright a scene from a sterile and fatigued, wood paneled office environment; essentially put, Faltz turned coal into a diamond while Singer brought a keg of European horror to the party. Unconventional, of course, with a profound arthouse quality about it, “Luz” is very much inspired by the European masters of horror, but pulls quite a bit from the vibrancy of American filmmaking too, pulling inspiration more noticeably from John Carpenter’s overwhelming sense of apocalyptic doom from such a scale down narrative and the terror looms like a chandelier hanging by a single thread just waiting from the startling crash of glass and metal. There are themes related Catholicism, homoeroticism, guilt, and obsession through the venomous innate nature of demon, as if unknowingly leaving an open invitation for evil by way of spiritual clairvoyance and Catholic defiance. Full of abstract visuals and melodious dialogue, “Luz” still burns the scary story lantern with a flickering of imminent existential combustion.

While the theatrical release has been officially canceled, “Luz” will still live on through the digital world, being released by Sharp Teeth Films, who released the POV slasher horror “You Are Not Alone,” on June 1st in the United Kingdom. With this being now a digital release, critiquing the audio and video quality will be limited to the artistic direction. Video-wise, Singer sought the use of a 16mm film stock with the speckle and grain texture of that beloved, yet enveloping imperfection and shooting in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, using an Arri Alexa and RED cameras that supported an anamorphic lenses. The result is phenomenal to digest with some serious depth when considering how small the sets are, turning mere pockets of space into the likes of grand ball rooms. The German, Spanish, and very little English dialogue tracks are clear and prominently abutted against a well adjusted ambience mix; in all, the audio package has good depth and range. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener. “Luz” is weird, mystifying, and can wriggle into your favor with a chilling essence taking a leisurely stroll along your back, propping up the hairs one strand at a time. Highly recommended.

Watch William Shatner Shell EVIL With Explosive Munition! “Devil’s Revenge” reviewed!


Obsessed in locating a relic that has cursed his family for generations, archeologist John Brock desperately searches the cave his difficult father’s dispatches him to to locate and destroy the artifact that has plagued his lineage. His last expedition kills a man and John begins to question his father’s ranting and whether a curse actually exists, but when a mysterious accident sends him to the hospital, horrifyingly devilish visions nearly kills him in the unconscious state. As he snaps back to reality, John is hellbent on ridding the relic’s clinging evil and his family joins him for one last expedition to the cave that’s also a portal to hell and the Devil is waiting for him.

The above synopsis sounds terribly convoluted for such a rectilinear plot of the William Shatner story of demonic spelunking entitled, “Devil’s Revenge,” from 2019. The “Devil’s Domain” and “Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!” director, Jared Cohn, tackles the position’s obstacle of frustrations working with a rumored overly difficult Shatner as well as flushing out a cohesive story suited strappingly as can be on establishing a hell bound narrative with little backstory mythology from a script by Maurice Hurley, a writer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” What’s unusual is Hurley isn’t credited at the end or on the backcover of the Blu-ray and it’s a project he supposedly collaborated with Shatner up until his death in 2014 at the age of 75. Luckily, Cohn’s on the record saying Shatner was professional and precise, a true credit to his skill. “Star Trek” does become a constant motif not inside the frames, but more behind the camera with the cast, including Shatner, and Hurley who is the creative parent of one of outer space’s biggest nemesis, The Borg. “Devil’s Revenge” is a far cry from the final frontier, seizing on the border fringes of the underworld that seeps above ground.

Trekkie fans will appreciate the Captain Kirk star’s uncharacteristic doomsday pessimism and grand finale grenade launching that turns demons into canon fodder. Shatner is a savage as John’s fanatical father, bombarding his grown, near middle-aged, son with constant disappointment and disparagement that becomes one source of John’s (“Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey’s” Jason Brooks) dire motivations to risk his family inside the gaping mouth of the netherworld, a questionable and ill-advised move especially when death is evident. Brooks is a career television and TV movie actor who can settle right into a third rate production with ease without batting a condemnatory eye lash. While Shatner and Brooks’ one-sided family role quibbles over languishing curses and John’s inability to man-up for the situation goes into the hilariously bad category, the second “Star Trek” star, Jeri Ryan from the “Voyager” series, lands a subdued role as John’s foot mat wife who just goes with the punches without making too much of a wake serving as John’s better half and reasonable conscious. Ryan and Brooks’ on-screen relationship is a supposed marital one, but the chemistry just isn’t present and wanders into questionability with their relationship status. The script’s backstory on John and wife is obliquely exposed through exposition without any of the visual depth and discharge of fleshing out a better dynamic for Ryan and Brooks to work with in building their characters. The remainder of the cast list includes Ciara Hanna (also from “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey”) and Robert Scott Wilson (“American Fright Fest”) as John’s college(?) aged kids who add little substance to the narrative.

Without a better way of putting this, there’s much to demerit against “Devil’s Revenge.” The concept is sound: a disarrayed and browbeaten archeologist must locate an evil transmitting relic from destroying his family with a everlasting demonic curse. Sounds good, right? Combine that with Shatner blasting demons to smithereens with a multi-barrel grenade launcher, the potential for a solid and fun viewing experience would be a no-brainer. However, what’s sold is the made in China version of what’s being marketed. Hard to imagine Maurice Hurley’s, the man who helped re-pioneered space exploration and developed The Borg adversaries, script was so out of whack and had gone into various limp curvatures that I don’t expect all blame should point to him for the posthumous misstep as the direction is emphatically coarse and incoherent of too many ideas without any connective tissue much unlike boldly going where no man has gone before. In fact, many filmmakers have gone this route before by taking all sense of a rounded script and dissolving it the way Cohn does. The path Cohn ultimately takes is to splice loads of unnecessary and repetitive flash backs into the story to try and retain into viewers over and over again the events that conjured hell’s minions to surface. I’m sure we saw the same scenes at least five or six times from beginning to end, even during the opening credits. There’s also a looseness about how this curse attaches itself to John’s family from long ago that inexplicably goes without being conveyed and we find ourselves asking, why these people? What have they’ve been suffering through all these years? What makes them important? The curse seems rather recent rather than historic and for John’s family legacy to go uncharted just poses too many unanswered questions. What’s fundamentally right is Inan, the head demon, who represents the best parts of the “Devil’s Revenge’s” netherworld rock and roll presence with a large and ghastly humanoid with blank, fiery eyes and a protruding clasping mouth and the visual effects surrounding Inan are pretty good despite their some minuscule glossy bad aftertaste. An aftertastes that extends into Shatner using the grenade launcher with the goofiest of detonations in an unrealistic distance between him and his targets without so much of a single piece of shrapnel grazing his well postured gun-toting stance.

MVDVisual distributes “Devil’s Revenge,” a Cleopatra Entertainment production, onto a region free, special edition Blu-ray and soundtrack CD combo. The Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen, 2.78:1 aspect ratio, in a BD-25 with a 1080p transfer. “Devil’s Revenge” implores more than the natural lighting used through much of the 98 minute runtime and while natural lighting isn’t a flaw in any sense, Ryan Broomberg’s cinematography falls flat, uninspired that doesn’t represent well the presentiment eventualities past, present, or future. Technically, “Devil’s Revenge” isn’t soft around the details albeit minor banding in closer quarters of the cave. Practicality versus the computer imagery really do go head-to-head between Vincent Guastini’s (“Art of the Dead”) special effects and the visual effects team of Eric Chase (“The Black Room”) and Mike Rotella (“The Predator”). The detailed rubber body suits and the composited explosions akin to the military hellfire creatures were bombarded with in monsters movies from the 50’s are of the campy independent film culture and purgative of any expectations of the Devil actually making good on revenge. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio is not as lossy as the usual Cleopatra Entertainment Blu-ray releases and certainly regales with the theatrics of a William Shatner monologue (can’t you tell I love me some Shatner). Range and depth are concurrent appropriate with each other and dialogue is clean and clear. Surprisingly and rarely does a Cleopatra Entertainment releases goes without a soundtrack intertwined with the score that contracts their signed artists from parent company Cleopatra Records; instead, we receive a brooding industrial score composed by Jürgen Engler, co-founder of German punk band “Male” and “Die Krupps,” which can be gorged on as the film’s coveted silver-lining. Luckily and conventionally for a Cleopatra special edition release, an un-cursed 13-track CD of Jürgen Engler’s score accompanies the feature Blu-ray. That being the height of the special features, other bonus material includes a picture slideshow and theatrical trailer. “Devil’s Revenge” won’t shudder your bones to milky pigments of sawdusts and will likely strikeout with fans, as perhaps the Devil’s actual revenge for portraying him so ill-conceived. Still, I suggest checking out the Jürgen Engler’s gnawing and insidious industrial score, a gleaming highlight for sure.

Check it out for yourself! “Devil’s Revenge” on Blu-ray.

There’s Not a Big Enough Pipe Cleaner to Exorcise this EVIL! “Drainiac” reviewed!


Julie, troubled by her mother’s suicide one year ago, is forced by her deadbeat dad to accompanying him in cleaning up an old house he purchased for renovation and resale. As he takes off to attend to “important business” at the local watering hole, Julie is stuck alone with the mop and bucket inside a mysterious, rundown house she’s suspicious of being haunted after strange occurrences and horrifying visions transpire during her isolation. Lurking beneath the house and seeping through inside the rusted pipes, a figureless water demon’s presence persists with malicious intentions and things become worse when Julie’s friends check in on her. Drowning in the supernatural seepage amplified by Julie’s trauma, they become trapped on the property that won’t allow them to escape, draining them of hope against a bodiless, hell-bent entity until a certifiable exorcist shows up at the door arrogantly confident of ridding the flood of evil from this house for good.

Back in the year 2000, Brett Piper’s written and directed volatile ghost house feature, “Drainiac,” saw the light of day for the first time on DVD home video. Unfortunately, through the dismal proceedings of post-production funding and a less than enthusiastic distribution company, that version of the film is undercooked and unfinished in the artistic eyes of Piper who worked with a slim budget of $10,000, making every detail crucial and required to flavor the dull taste of anemic financial support. Luckily for the “Queen Crab” director, his collaborations with Shock-O-Rama Cinema, a sublabel to the indie film doting POPCinema, gave the 20+ year indie filmmaker access to digitally remaster to ultimately finish “Drainiac,” leaving the issues with the previous version water under the bridge, water related pun intended. “Drainiac,” believe it or not, has extraordinary relate-ability to today Americans who are frightened from the mistrust of confidence in their local water treatment systems and drainage pipes for the fear of lead poison and other harmful contaminants, which, in these affected citizen’s circumstances, is a “Drainiac” monster of sorts, hidden from sight with an uncertainty of product quality that drips from their faucets and into the bathtubs their kids play in and into their water drinking glasses.

Another amazing aspect of “Drainiac” is the fresh-face, young cast in their humble beginnings that flourished into solid careers and feels absolutely energetic and stimulating to know their roots reach far back to a cellular grindhouse organism becoming their vocation life. Georgia Hatzis debuts as the beleaguered Julie, a resilient survivor of her mother’s suicide with an oil and water dynamic with her estranged live-in father. Maintaining Julie’s sanity while still fronting a stable façade couldn’t be easy, but Hatzis builds upon Julie’s strength and owning the character’s self-doubt. Hatzi extended her career into television, but Julie is her most memorably performance, especially braving bathing full front to be attacked by a drain’s quasi tentacle erotica sequence. Perhaps the most recognizable face in the film co-starring in the film in her mid-teens, Alexandra Boylan is conscripted to be Julie’s best friend, Lisa. Boylan, who went on to have roles in “The Hitchhiker” remake and the invasive thriller “Home Sweet Home” as well as branching out into life behind the camera as a producer and writer, plays consistently a rationally steady bestie that grounds Julie when needed and is the firm leader of their group of friends that also includes a shaky and nearly spineless Jake (Ethan Krasnoo) and a shallow beauty Tayna (Samara Doucette). As the black sheep in the group, perhaps not even a friend at all, was Wade, a hog riding, wisecracking jerk who didn’t have sense of personal space, especially when the rapey urge washes over him. Wade is an abhorrent human being that came to life due in part of Robert Gorden’s performance. Soon to be seen in the television comedy entitled “My Wife Divorced Me Because I’m a Zombie” that is taglined “The Walking Dead Meets Modern Family,” Gorden will make you hate his guts and despise his obnoxious 90’s haircut and wardrobe and the overall package is enjoyably cathartic to have him pitted against a conventional set of friends. Other colorful talent includes roles by Philip Barbour as an exorcist who reassembles the fisherman Gordon from the frozen fish stick packaging, Steven Bornstein as the despicable dad of the year, Todd Poudrier as a melting derelict, “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.’s” Andrew Osbourne as the melting derelict’s friend, and Elizabeth Hurley! No, not the Austin Powers’ Elizabeth Hurley, but an Elizabeth Hurley nonetheless!

“Drainiac” is Brett Piper’s finest work. Copiously laced with assorted practical effects now completed with a coloring touch up and enhancement by Penn State grad colorist Dave Northrop, “Drainiac” is now has a definitive package that includes Piper hyper-psychedelic matte effects, creepily good stop motion clay creatures, and an abundance of well-crafted gag effects to give the drain presence a slimy drain-protuberance without exposing a tangible thing in the pipes. “Drainiac,” in every category, has a vibrant late 80’s, early 90’s epoch authority even though clearly set and stated at the turn of the century and this is partially because of how the film was shot in 16mm, giving the feature a grindhouse texture. Along with the turn of the century, CGI becomes a huge factor no matter the budget of the film as long as portioned appropriately, but Piper sticks with a practical craft which, in a sense, is a large piece of his filmmaking passion and so “Drainiac’s” is the essence of Brett Piper.

Courtesy of POPCinema’s Shock-O-Rama Cinema horror banner comes Brett Piper’s “Drainiac” onto a special edition with a 24 progressive segmented frame, high definition DVD from the original camera negative and presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Having never experienced the original, unfinished cut of the previous release, watching this present cut will forever be seared into my soul as the best possible rendition in the past, present, and future. The 16mm film stock quality has a lot of natural grain upon a semi-washed look over a gradient-lenient color range sanctioned around the natural lighting that then explodes into a varying vividness of hues when the FX-enhanced scenes spark an immense saturation of color schemes…in a good way. No sign of damage to the original print nor any other signs regarding frame or edge enhancing and cropping. The English language 2.o stereo track, with a re-edited mix as part of the remastered package, is free of distortions, prominent dialogue, and a classic chilling piano soundtrack that pays homage to notable horror films before it’s time. The only issue to mention is some synchronization with the dialogue track and the picture seem to be off early on in the presentation where actors move their mouths to vocalize the lines, but nothing comes out. Special features are a little anemic considering the painstaking involvement and time gap in remastering “Drainiac,” but they include an audio commentary by writer-director Brett Piper and a read worthy tidbit of an inner-lining booklet written by commentary moderator, Greg Conley. THe DVD cover art is very snazzy (or snotty-like) similar to of another POPCinema release, Greg Lamberson’s “Slime City.” Reminiscent of “Evil Dead” or even some inklings of early Peter Jackson, Brett Piper has a knack for proving low-budget horror’s misconceptions are nothing more than that, misconceptions, by keenly tinkering to perfection a story that’s made is seemingly funded from a pot of unlimited gold from nifty, traditional effects and a narrative that works wonders on the imagination, keeping you glued to guessing from start to finish.

Special Edition “Drainiac” available on DVD! Click the DVD cover!

EVIL Wants to Feed Off Your Pain & Suffering in “Hotel Inferno” Reviewed!


Gulf War decorated soldier Frank Zimosa uses his particular set of skills as a professional contracted hitman. Frank’s current assign takes him oversees to a luxurious hotel to eliminate a couple of marks, a man and a woman, who are itemized as atrocious serial killers who’ve murdered over 150 people and Frank’s employer seeks to provide the same gruesome retribution in a certain kind of way – remove the brain the skull and the guts from the body. The relatively simple task for Frank turns into a fight for his life and his very soul as he finds himself trapped inside the hotel, owned by a secret organization swarming with putrefying acolytes of an ancient, fire breathing demon known as The Plague Spreader. Frank was ordered to kill to satisfy her pain and suffering hunger pangs, but his tenacious refusal awakens the demon who now hunts him, craving his pain, his suffering, his eternal soul for her own sated gratification and disrupts the organization’s creed to keep her dormant for the sake of humanity.

More, more, more! My internal fireworks outpouring and wanting more from a fire and brimstone gore forged finale from the action-packed first person view feature length horror film, “Hotel Inferno,” could not quell the embodied explosiveness wanting more from writer-director Giulio De Santi! Hailing from Italy, “Hotel Inferno” pulls little-to-no punches when dishing out uber-violence and non-stop carnage that invigorates the sensory and corporeal experience in the first installment of what’s called the Epic Splatter Saga that will total over six films. Two have already been produced with the third in production! De Santi, who is no stranger to the fervid gore film, teams his visual effects knowledge with long time, special effects collaborator, David Borg Lopez (“The Mildew from Plant Xonader”), and makes something shockingly beautiful that’s only been wrongfully teased in predecessors.

What’s also unique about “Hotel Inferno,” other than its first person perspective, is nearly the entire dialogue is layered with a voice over track. Unique as well as cleverly cool, we’ll touch on why later, faces with distinctive dialogue pinpoint main characters, but their faces are either shrouded by some sort of horror-esque mask, turned away toward another direction, or fed through a communication conduit, such as a portable television-radio device. Same goes with lead character Frank Zimosa whose vision never goes eye line with a mirror, never gaining a glimpse see his frantic mug, though Zimosa sounds like a chisel chin, hard-nose, angry-looking ass kicker, especially when voiced vehemently by Rayner Bourton. Playing the arch nemesis that’s quickly established and continuously prominent through duration is not the all-powerful Plague Spreader, but, in fact, the faceless Jorge Mistrandia. Donning the voice is English born actor Micahel Howe (“Solo”) who has one of the more sinister intonations amongst the few; an attribute that can be cool, calm, and inviting and can suddenly transform into a treacherous, malevolent, and vile performance that amplifies the intensity tenfold. Bourton and Howe are essentially the sole two main characters inside a melee of supernatural goons and goblins, amongst them in the cast is the introduction of Jessica Carroll who went on to do more voice work in video games and actors from De Santi’s inner film circle with Christian Riva and Wilmar Zimosa, who without a doubt was the moniker inspiration for Frank.

What sets “Hotel Inferno” apart from other splatter films? The first person shooter style, or FPS, video game structure is it! In literally the first of it’s cinematic kind, “Hotel Inferno” looks, sounds, and feels like a FPS from start to finish, a blended progeny from the ultra-violent horror survival games like DOOM or BLOOD; honestly, everything about De Santi’s film feels like a BLOOD rendition minus the shirtless, axe-wielding zombies and the robe hooded, tommy gun shooting cultists, though the rotting henchmen due speak in a high pitch dialect. Think about it. In BLOOD, a game built on a foundation of iconic horror, the anti-hero, Caleb, is a gunslinger against a unholy cult he once was a part of and then becomes his opposition. Same goes with “Hotel Inferno’s” own anti-hero Frank Zimosa, a hitman hired by an organization who then deceives him for nefarious reasons and then Frank has to blast his way out to save his soul. The story goes right for the throat, throwing Frank almost immediately into peril, and from room to room, layout to layout, the anti-hero has to slice through henchmen and ghastly demons in a very HOUSE OF THE DEAD kind of face-off, weaponizing everything against foes with armaments in the anterior of a cultish backdrop. Super. Fucking. Cool.

MVDVisual distributes Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” onto DVD from the Wild Eye Releasing’s Raw and Extreme label. Presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, the Necrostorm produced “Hotel Inferno” engages the viewer into battle, but also invokes slight vertigo and turbid at times, especially the cave-like dungeon that’s almost absolute pitch-black. Again, atmospheric video games are much of the same regard for instant jump-scares and De Santi pulls that off here by not illuminating much of the scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is in an opposing stratum to how the film plays out; doesn’t quite sync with the action as the audio track is an obvious track laid on top to emphasis how much “Hotel Inferno” is like a FPS storyline. There’s an array of depth and range from each tier Frank has to painfully endure and willfully live through. English and Italian subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a secret bonus film entitled “Hallucinations,” a rough cut SOV, direct-to-video supernatural gore feature from twin brothers John Polonia (“Feeders”) and Mark Polonia (“Sharkenstein”) and Todd Michael Smith (“Splatter Farm”). Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” is only part one of the highly anticipated Epic Splatter Saga, with part 2 and 3 very high on my to-do list The blood splatter is in a doom of mayhem, will quench gore hounds from any walks of life, and reap the collective FPS gamer from their stationary consoles and blow their mind with the most seriously berserk action-horror of this decade. Crudux cruo!

Purchase Wild Eye Releasing’s “Hotel Inferno” today!