Frontman Bobby Gray and his Southern rock band, Dark Roads, were supposed to be next big hit next to The Rolling Stones, but there fame and fortune started dwindling after some short-lived success. Barely surviving on a here-and-there gig in 1979, Dark Roads manager, Grace King, secures a secluded cabin in the woods for them to find their new sound before being dropped by their record label. Along with their female companions, chatty coach driver, their sensible roadie named Cash, and a handful of some hallucinogenic drugs, the trouble band members continue to squabble amongst themselves, especially more so against the vain and alcoholic Bobby Gray. Gray holds a terrible secret from his bandmates, a secret involving a pact he made with the Devil ten years ago and, now, the debt is due, placing the entire group in mortal danger…the price for fame and fortune.
Based loosely surrounding the tragic circumstances of the infamous 27 Club mythos, a moniker given for a collection of up and coming talented musicians who die unexpectedly and prematurely at the ripe young age of 27, “Dark Roads 79” incorporates into the fold the legendary tale of Blues musician, a 27 club victim named Robert (Bobby) Leroy Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil at a Georgia crossroads during midnight for to be the greatest blues musician, or so the story is told. The 2017 film is the fifth macabre picture from writer-director Chase Smith who co-wrote the film with documentarian filmmaker, Richard Krevolin, who no doubt kept the script on a historical accuracy path, as much as one supernatural storyline can stay on. “Dark Roads 79” is a production from Smith’s Georgia based independent filmmaking company, Spirit World Productions, and brought to viewers by “Old 37” executive producer “Jason Anderson” and co-executive producer Nicholas Frank Auger.
Already donning many hats, Chase Smith slips on one more broad brim and trashy cowboy mesh hat with Ian Cash, the level-headed, good natured roadie with a voice like an angel, but built like a Mack truck. Cash serves as narrator who sets up the story that swerves across the dotted line into spoiler territory just a tad, but Cash becomes the vehicle that brings the viewers up to speed on the legend of Bobby Johnson and the rise and fall of the Dark Roads, like a cowboy quick connect in case you needed help in establishing that Dark Roads’ success hinges on a fatal pact with the Devil himself. While Cash may seem like the focal point of the story, there’s a split with lead singer Bobby Gray (David A. Flannery, co-star from a few of the homoerotic thriller series “1313”) whose vanity flushes Dark Roads’s stardom down the toilet. Cash and Gray go toe-to-toe many times and Smith’s emits formidable tough guy appearance on screen while Flannery impresses with a complete loathsome veneer. Neither Smith or Flannery make top bill however as long as “Devil’s Rejects” Bill Moseley has a show stealing bit role as the wicked tongue Christian, Caretaker Williams. Moseley’s short, catchy tune of “Boys and Girls they’ll make some noise. They’ll all be burning in Hell” is a classic, archetypal Bill Moseley character idiosyncrasy. Though Moseley’s scenes are short, they’re definitely sweet and rememberable. “Dark Roads 79” rounds out with “Creature Feature’s” Austin Freeman, Lance Paul, Libby Blanton, and Chance Kelley alongside April Bogenshutz (“Attack of the Morningside Monster”), Jessica Sonneborn (“Never Open the Door”), Jennifer Masty (“Rabid”), Eddie George, Ramona Mallory (“Piranha Sharks”), and co-writer Richard Krevolin as the bands’ chatty driver, Thomas ‘Motormouth’ Jones.
“Dark Roads 79” is categorically a a mystery slasher with a supernatural edge that tinkers with blending lore and the theme of lost good times and friendships despite how unfriendly and uncouth they might be, but Smith and Krevolin purely tiptoe around the keynote of terrible, yet sense of family, camaraderie, failing to capture the coherency of the melancholic essence due to loss and despair built upon years of cathartic criticism, distrust, loathing, and continuous bickering between best buds. In fact, the band and it’s entourage displayed little love if it wasn’t under the influence of some drug, but we must remember that the narrative is told through the perspective of roadie Ian Cash who believed in the band, and, in so, believed in each band member albeit their merciless fair share of busting his balls. The editing, cuts, and transitions are, perhaps, some of the most interesting with “Star Wars”-like wipe transitions that effectively heightened as a hallmark of the swanky 1970s era and the emotion-extracting lingering shots, such as with the handheld super 8 cam that roams the room of an abiding jovial moment in time, capture more of the tender times between the group of bitter and weary druggies, alcoholics, and vain temperaments. Unfortunately, the positives do not outweigh the negatives with a scatterbrained and predictable story that comes off as another failed spawn of the 27 Club urban legend and shaves off the emotional baggage with cheap kills and too many unfulfilling characters.
Make a pact with the Devil himself by watching Chase Smith’s “Dark Roads 79” that’ll debut on stage with a wide digital release by the end of May from genre distributor, Terror Films. No set date has been announced. The film will be hosted on multiple digital platforms, such as TUBI TV, Google Play, Prime Video, ITunes, and various other streaming options. Since “Dark Roads 79” will be a digital release, the video and audio specifications will not be reviewed as it’ll be different for all personal devices, but I will note that some minor portions of the dialogue elements were echoey at times. The original soundtrack has strength behind it with Southern Rock tracks by Black Mountain Shine, Mark Cook, Benton Blount, and HK Jenkins, who composes the single “The Road You’re Going Down,” written by Chase Smith, for the film’s official music video. There were no bonus features with the digital screener. “Dark Roads 79” has the necessary ingredients of a backwoods-frat party gone awry slasher except with Southern Rock, but this Georgia based production is tuneless and tone deaf as it stutters through the Devil’s network of deadly deals.
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.
The Wilsons’ are the perfect portrait of a nice family; they’re wealthy but charitable and kind without exploiting the humility of others. However, when Dylan and Gina Wilson bid and win on the SinSational art collection at auction and hang the enchanted paintings strewn through their mansion estate, a strange succumbing to sin overwhelms their moral fiber. The paintings of Dorian Wilde, an eccentric and obsessive 1890’s painter who achieved eternal soul longevity by making a pact with the devil, created the art, depicting primal animals symbolic of the seven deadly sins, by using canvas and paint out of flesh and blood of his victims. The Wilsons’ become corrupted and carry out the sins of Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, Envy, and Wrath and the only way to save the family from damnation lies in the hands of a former priest, Father Mendale, and a girlfriend, Kim, of the oldest Wilson boy engulfed by Wrath.
“Art of the Dead” is what people call when art comes to life, or in this case, death. From the selective “Emmanuelle” film series and “There’s Nothing Out There” writer-director, Rolfe Kanefsky comes a story woven with the seven deadly sins theme as a foundation that approximates a 90’s grade thriller of epically gory proportions. With a catchy, yet dead horse beaten “of the Dead” title, “Art of the Dead” uses the seven deadly sin theme and blends it with an obvious homage to the gothic literary novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde. The main antagonist, Dorian Wilde, is the merging of the author and his fictional creation. Oscar Wilde wrote the novel in 1891, the same era the story enlightens in which Dorian Wilde makes a pact with the devil. Unlike another notable film, “Se7en,” where a practical killer exploits the capital vices to thwart a pair of detectives, “Art of the Dead” introduces dark, supernatural forces of Oscar Wilde’s work into the fold that are not only abject in what makes us human, but also biblically condemning, spearheaded by a satanic maniac who will do everything and anything to maintain his precious work and eternal soul, Produced by Michael and Sonny Mahal of Mahal Empire productions, the financial investors have also backed a previous Kanefsky film, another occult gone astray thriller entitled “Party Bus to Hell,” and in association with Nicholas George Productions and Slaughtercore Presentations.
Another pair of producers are also a couple of headlining actors who are household names – “Sharknado’s” Tara Reid and “21 Jump Street” actor and avid painter, Richard Grieco. Reid plays a snooty and shallow art gallery curator who sells willingly the Dorian Wilde set knowing well enough of their malignant history, but Grieco has a personal connection toward a film regarding art more so than the dolled up Reid because of his nearly 20 year passion as an painter of Abstract Emotionalism. His character, Douglas Winter, is obsessed with the SinSational collection to the point where it uses him as an instrument to kill his artistically unappreciative family; a sensation washed over as parallel and broad among all artists alike fore sure. Jessica Morris (“Evil Bong 666”) and Lukas Hassel (“The Black Room”) also headline. Morris provides the sultry and lustful-influenced mother, Gina, and her golden hair and blue eyes has a fitting innocence that’s is tainted and provocatively shields the cruel intentions of lust and power while Hassel, a giant of a man, immediately becomes capitulated to greeds’ warty influence. Each actor renders a version of their paintings and each dons the sinful presence gorgeously with individual personalties and traits; those other actors include Cynthia Aileen Strahan (“Dead End”), Sheila Krause, Jonah Gilkerson, and Zachary Chyz as well as “The Black Room’s” Alex Rinehart and Robert Donovan along with Danny Tesla playing the demonic proxy of Dorian Wilde.
“Art of the Dead” embodies an innovated spin on a classic tale of self-absorption and deferring one’s own detrimental sins upon others to carry the burden. Kanefsky grasps the concept well and visually sustains a contextualized 98 minute feature that carries a straightforward connection to the Gothicism of Oscar Wilde while cascading a family tree (pun intended) of problems that pinpoint each sin’s affecting destruction upon the soul through a wide burst of dispersive poison. While the idea is sound enough, the script and narrative channelling hardly carries the equivalent weight of the idea and comes off clunky, cheap, and sometimes uncharismatic. “The Black Room” was the last Kanefsky film critiqued at ItsBlogginEvil.com and the script was noted with the characters that hardly progress up toward and out of the despondent and deviant muck and it was the filmmaker’s softcore cinema background that attributed to the characters over-saturated girth of lust, which elevated and hindered “The Black Room’s” incubus storyline. With “Art of the Dead,” Kanefsky redresses the lust to quench just the respective sin with the right amount of perversion, represented by the mythical, sex driven Satyr that was created beyond being a nice touch of storytelling, disturbance, and meta kinkiness. Kanefsky continues to proportionally feed each sin the same manner with the exception of Pride that lures in a specific victim; however, the paintings’ insidious nature wonders to a circumstantial level at best with Kanefsky’s tongue-and-cheek dialogue and uncouth playfulness of Dorian Wilde while possessing the flesh of a black-laced, Fredrick’s of Hollywood-cladded Gina.
Umbrella Entertainment and ITN distribution release “Art of the Dead” onto a region 4 DVD home video and is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The sterile and polished look of the image renders doesn’t invite stimuli to visual senses, but is superbly clean and free of blotchiness that can routinely be a contrast issues with darker, indie productions; however, the digital source is nicely maintained and the darker scenes and colorfully deep portions of the paintings, the viscous blood, the modernized Wilson house, and the anywhere else have quality caliber. Visual and practical effects are necessarily key for “Art of the Dead” to be successful and the film scores a combination of talent to enhance the ho-hum photography with renaissance man Clint Carney, whose visual effects work on his own written and starred in film “Dry Blood” was flawless and who also painted Dorian Wilde’s works of art, and some solid practical and Satyr creature effects work by “Child Play’s 3” Victor Guastini and the VGP Effects team. The English language Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio is clear, precise, and no inkling of issues with the range and depth of ambient sound. Like most standard DVD releases from Umbrella Entertainment, this release comes with no bonus material or even a static menu. To observe his work as a whole, filmmaker Rolfe Kanefsky has nothing to prove with a body of work spanning over nearly three decades, but in reducing “Art of the Dead as a singular film, there in lies a double edged sword. A true sin is to headline a film with actors with brief roles just to draw in investors and an audience, yet “Art of the Dead” also finds innovated modernism out of classical creativity, giving new life by homage, and displaying some maximum carnage fun with plenty oil and water color.
Ever since his wife’s life has staggered on the near brink of death, John’s mental state has been thrust into constant turmoil. Unable to get straight answers from doctors and stuck inside the vapid white walls of a hospital, John remains by his unconscious wife’s hospital bed. When a mysterious man with a severely disfigured face wrapped in bandages offers him a locket that will grant him a single wish, John’s desperation to try anything to save her soul stretches beyond logic and reality, overpowering his rational principles. Despite coming with an ambiguous warning on how to detail his wish, John heedlessly requests that death cease to exist. The locket grants endless life not only for John’s wife, but for everyone as the dead rise from their eternal slumber in perpetual anguish that sends them into a frenzy of violence without a means to an end.
“A Wish for the Dead” is the first venture into a Renegade Art production and a Shami Media Group, or SMG, release for Its Bloggin’ Evil and, to be frank, the viewing re-establishes a couple of important things: 1) “A Wish for the Dead” has tremendous bite for an under the radar flick and 2) never rule out modestly financed films based on their technical appearances. The 2014 micro-budget indie horror from the short film director of “The Confession of Fred Kruger,” Nathan Thomas Milliner, along with the editing, photography, and co-writing assistance from “Girl Number Three” writer Herschel Zahnd, takes the cautionary tale themed with a careful what you wish for approach when despondency has one backed against the wall that leads to direly lethal negligence. Milliner’s film that’s based off a comic book of the same title might not be “Wishmaster,” starring Andrew Divoff, but can certainly be grouped into that similar genre realm where the ugliness of mysticism mischief can be personally devastating instead of gratifying. The film can also be lassoed into the over saturated zombie category because, well, you know, the whole arise of the undead thing.
“A Wish for the Dead” has a fairly large cast, but doesn’t have definitive leads. Instead, Milliner and Zahnd scribe a tale with miniature, personal scenarios for characters with John being a considerable catalyst or, an interpretation, of a centralized character. John’s played by Chris Petty, who had a bit part in the Zac Efron Ted Bundy biopic “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” and despite the character being fairly one dimension, Petty sells the performance of a grieving, greedy husband. John encounters the mysterious, disfigured stranger in a trench coat, head wrapped like a mummy, and nodding John over like a he’s going to sell him a knockoff Rolex from the inside lining of his coat, in Robert Hatfield that tempts him with the wish granting locket. Hatfield version of a biblical villain has charismatic and devilish value, but nothing new to note the rendition from previous performances of shallow humor and sly mischief upon an cutting grin. Branch off stories that indulge into supporting characters un-charmed, demised lives fill in the gaps and provide fuel for the undead fire and these supporting characters include Lori Cooke (“Girl Number Three”), Kristine Renee Farley (Hi-8 – Horror Independent 8), Adam Pepper (“The Zombie Movie”), Julie Strebl (“Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories”) and Ashley Anderson.
The beginning of this film starts off oddly as soon as the title credits roll for the feature film and coming to the realization that the viewer is actually not submersed into the actual story yet. First slither portion of the film is a short thriller, noted at the conclusion as being directed also by Milliner, that becomes clearly distinct from the rest of the plot line. The abnormal sequence snaps the story’s fluidity as a seamed segue that then constructs the multiple-tiered building blocks for the heart of the feature. Once the short has past, much to our chagrin that we believed to be the actual film, “A Wish for the Dead” goes into a precision mode with coordinating individually wrapped death backstories and while Milliner attempts to get us to care about these characters, all is washed away and lost when death revokes all their previous, present, and future terminations. The backstories become null and void when not circled back to for the exception of John and his wife that find’s a sweet ironic malevolency making “A Wish for the Dead” satisfying in the end.
MVDVisual and Shami Media Group courteously releases Nathan Thomas Milliner’s “A Wish for the Dead” onto a not rated DVD home video. Presented in a stretched 16:9 aspect ration, the lossy video quality and the lack of color, mostly in a squashy greenish-yellow, chap into sore spots along the 80 minute runtime to the almost the point of SOV quality. Darks are plagued with digital noise that remove the sharp quality from the image, leaving the story to fend for itself and make up for the lack of presentation. The English 2.0 stereo sound mix pops during the higher pitches of dialogue and of some action points, but the dialogue is in the forefront and nicely balanced amongst depth and range considering. There are no bonus features on this release, but as an interesting note, Milliner illustrated much of Scream! Factory’s home video artwork (releases such as “Halloween II and III”) and for HorrorHound Magazine. The artist and filmmaker’s graphically detailed and perfectly suited talents grace the SMG cover as well. A wish granted for the major win with “A Wish for the Dead” as a macabre success story for independent filmmaking for aspiring artists despite the post-production engineering for a cleaner release, but death isn’t pretty, is it?
In the year 2022, orbital satellites carry nuclear missiles and maintain flight patterns around the moon. When a satellite repair ship, known as a “refab” ship called Spaecore 1, attempts to intercept a satellite for maintenance, the system wide computer goes into an unexplained power failure that jeopardizes communications, life support, and navigation. Drifting helpless toward sector Centrus B-40, the dark side of the moon, all hope will be lost within 24 hours unless operations can be restored, but a mysterious spacecraft, NASA’s Discovery shuttle, heads toward them and docks onto their outer hull without so much of a hail from the shuttle. Captain Flynn and Lt. Giles investigate a seemingly abandoned ship until coming across a dead body of a presumed missing NASA astronaut, eviscerated with an opening left in a perfect triangle as the cause of death, and that opens the door to more questions than answer as a sinister presence boards their ship, pursuing damnation for their souls.
Just think, in two more years, weapons of mass destruction satellites will loom just above fluffy white clouds, ready to mushroom clouds out of targets with a 10-ton yield; at least that’s what director D.J. Webster and the screenwriters, identical twins Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes, modeled the future when conjuring up this delectable Sci-Fi horror film approx. 20 years ago. With special effects models and techniques that withstand against powerhouse space films, such as from the immaculate effects of Alien franchise, “The Dark Side of the Moon” becomes more than just a 1973 Pink Floyd album title Fabricated out of warped creativity of old and new concepts with a Biblical horror base that only the 1990’s could loosely spin into an hour and 27 minute feature, for many of the filmmakers involved, “The Dark Side of the Moon” credits as their first taste of a feature length, large scale production, especially with the mainly music video director D.J. Webster, who loves his closeups, and director of photography Russ T. Alsobrook, as they auto clicks into a team that seemingly have experience of seasoned veterans or, perhaps, spent some secretive, unlogged time in space. Who knows, but the outcome ruminates about the dark side of religion and how each of us deal with it internally.
When mullets and giant framed glasses are afoot, the late 80’s, early 90’s filming era is beyond evident with interestingly gritty characters lined up for an evil figure eager to knock them down and, of course, the story’s lead character is the mullet sporting pilot named Lt. Giles Stewart who is unwittingly thrust into the fast track of a hero’s lane. Giles’s atheism framework has a pleasant sardonicism about it when face-to-face with the immortal conqueror of his ship and crew. Will Bledsoe paints Giles as such as faithless space pilot, bound to duty, and willing to do anything to just not save himself, but others. One of the only recognizable faces, at least for myself, in the cast is John Diehl. The “Stargate” and “The Shield” television actor is best at being a wild card in turmoil situations and as shipmate Phillip Jennings, the same can be expected without being utterly conventional or warrant any kind of typecast label. Another actor to note is Alan Blumenfeld as the ship’s panicky Dr. Dreyfuss Steiner. Blumenfeld, who had a role in the best Jason Voorhees film, in my humble opinion, “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, is once again stalked by a larger-than-life villain while maintaining a profusely sweaty persona that’s symbolically intended to be true, unadulterated fear. As a whole, the cast is amazing regardless of some first time filmmakers at the helm, rounding out with “Re-Animator’s” Robert Sampson as the ship’s Capt. Flynn, Joe Turkel from the first “Blade Runner,” “Blood Frenzy’s,” and overall erotic thriller goddess, Wendy MacDonald, stunt man (“Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, “Army of Darkness”) Ken Lesco, and another “Friday the 13th” actor, Camilla More, or Tina from “The Final Chapter,” as the stationary sexy, ship’s onboard computer-robot named Lesli – think on the same lines as Mother from “Alien,” but in the flesh.
What makes “The Dark Side of the Moon” very interesting is the film being an unofficial precursor to other science fiction horror films like “Event Horizon” that was released roughly seven years later. Space as this gateway to Hell concept is sorely under-appreciated and underutilized. Space is already vastly frightening to begin with and by adding a devilish abyss aspect to it makes the idea an absorbingly scary thought. What’s also fascinating is the Hayes brother. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is the brothers’ roots film; the proverbial patient zero that spread successful movie writing careers for the twins, spawning turn of the century horror with the remake of “House of Wax” that saw the on-screen death of Paris Hilton, had “Underworld” star Kate Beckinsale track down a killer in Antarctica in “Whiteout,” and they penned “The Conjuring” that constructed its very own universe.
“The Dark Side of the Moon” comes in at #2 on the Unearthed Films’ Classics label distributed MVDVisual. The newly restored 4K transfer of the Wild Street Pictures production is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, region A Blu-ray release. Surprisingly sharp despite consistent low-lit scenes and not as washed like previous VHS versions, this restoration fine tunes the nitty-gritty specifics needed for proper presentation that doesn’t falter from heavy digital noise or blotch artifacts and shows no signs of enhancing The English language LPCM 2.0 audio track is strapping for a dual channel format. Dialogue pronounced clearly, ambient spaceship clinks and clunks create atmospheric range and depth, and the relentless brooding score by “Society’s” Mark Ryder and Phil Davies delivers shuddering spinal-tingles without being monotonously dull. Bonus features include a commentary with executive producer Paul and Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro, interviews with Alan Blumenfeld, FX artist R. Christopher Biggs, and stuntman Chuck Borden, plus vintage audio track, trailers, photo gallery, and a insert booklet that dives into about the production and the cast. All packed into a nice little slipcover package. “The Dark Side of the Moon” pioneers into the future of space horror as a good ole dread-inducing fear-monger of the great expanse, deserving this Unearthed Films’ release, hands down.