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.
After an intense stand off with a powerful and playful demon during a supernatural expedition gone wrong, the unfortunate death of a young girl has Jonas Littleton facing skeptics that hand the ghost hunter a five year sentence behind bars ruling. His release from an Arizona prison offers him a second chance to start over with his wife and young son and Jonas makes promises to no more paranormal pursuits in hopes for a normal life. Miraculously, Jonas is offered a good paying job despite his manslaughter record that affords him seven years of suburban comforts and family growth, but little does Littleton know that his good fortune is the handiwork of the very same demon who bested him so many years ago, tricking him into a underhanded deal that requires his son’s soul with his wife being a casualty of war. Another seven years later, an obsessed Jonas fields every call that comes across his paranormal investigator’s desk as he tirelessly searches for his son and with the help of an eager investigator, Ron Tippard, and a green horn assistant, Ellie French, Jonas will come face-to-face with his rival evil again for one last time.
Welcome back to part two of our unexpected two part review segment of films that were disowned, supposedly, by their filmmakers. Today, we take a look at the 2010 supernatural thriller, “Hunting Evil,” or more commonly known under the title as “Closets” or “The Closet.” Already, the evidence is clearly powerful against “Hunting Evil” that alternate titles bares the potential markings of a repudiated film, aimed to cloak and shield the ramifications that would be supplied to unsuspecting audiences renting or blind purchasing. Director Charles Peterson has been reported to have disowned the Bob Madia (“You Can’t Kill Stephen King”) penned film because of too many chefs in the kitchen, if you smell what I’m cooking. Peterson, who has directed other indie horror projects such as “The Eleventh Aggression” and most recently, “A Killer Awaits,” which will be released this month, has ties with the investment group Old World Investors Group Incorporated a.k.a. OWIGI Films. Now, OWIGI Films is ran by “Hunting Evil’s” producer and star Lenny Rethaber (“Blood Moon Rising”). So, the lingering questions is this: Did star-producer Lenny Rethaber force the whip and reigns from Charles Peterson? Well, all this reviewer can say is that Lenny Rethaber also produced “The Eleventh Aggression” and the upcoming release “A Killer Awaits,” so seems like any adversity between the two has long since settled or just comes and goes with the industry territory.
However, what’s inherently curious about the DVD release from World Wide Multi Media is the three names headlined on the DVD’s front cover to which none are the film’s star Lenny Rethaber as the embattled Jonas Littleton. Knowing the type of distribution company WWMM is, more than likely the case is the first three credits, which are also in alphabetical order, and slapped them onto the front cover, one of which is just an unnamed barkeep who has approx. 5 minutes of screen time and not one other single credit to his name. As Jonas Littleton, Rethaber is soda flat with no bite and fizz to his performance and though his entertaining enough, the producer-star is also on the wrong side of the tracks in that category. There’s even whispering talk that “Major League’s” Corbin Bernsen, who has dappled in directing horror with “Dead Air” starring Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”), had issues with the producer (Rethaber), yielding to yet another instance of production problems. Though I’ve had verbal disagreements with Bernsen with his previous work, I find his performance as an enigmatic father of a missing child refreshing and complex, but the fate of his character poofs into thin air as if the writers, directors, or, most likely, producer didn’t know how to finalize the character. The sole best role comes from Patrick Adams as the enthusiastic paranormal investigator Ron Tippard. Not to be confused with “Suits” actor Patrick J. Adams, the Arizona resident Adams sparked life into a relatively unhinged project with an amusing and interesting performance in a side kick role who has substantial screen time and adds value to the situation. Rounding out this remaining cast in this conundrum is Darl Chryst (“Autopsy: A Love Story”), Dena Esquivel Frederickson, Jackson Furedy, Sallie Glaner (“The Visitant”), Davina Joy (“Death of a Ghost Hunter”), Pete Kelly, and Orchid Tao.
A twitching, tingly part of my soul yearned for “Hunting Evil” to come out on top, to be a solid supernatural saturation that a viewer, like myself, can sink into immensely, and with a script that precedes “The Conjuring” with the perceptive view of an unoriginal, yet sparsely used investigator concept, the appeal hyperdrives into salivation, but instead of salivation, “Hunting Evil” sluggishly drips slowly from the mouth’s corner crevices with script plotholes, badly layout composites, and undercooked characters. The story follows Jonas for nearly two decades, yet the man never ages despite already starting out looking middle aged to begin with so where are the streaks of grey, the loose and wrinkled skin, or maybe even a display a little physical ailments? Each of these natural flaws could have further enhance his lifespan evolution on Earth and speak to a little down to Earth as well. The composites look horrendously old fashion like from an antiquated video game platform. It’s as if the creators of 3D Realms not only provided the MS-DOS source code for those amazing Duke Nukem 3D levels also provided the visual worlds for “Hunting Evil” actors to humorously and painfully act against. the underwhelming, unfinished characters were slightly touched on before, but their arcs just ultimately poof into smoke without constructive reasoning or even to leave as fishhook into another movie.
“Hunting Evil” haunts onto DVD from World Wide Multi Media and MDVisual. Presented in a widescreen format and clocking in a 90 minute runtime, the DVD technically has little faults to discuss aside from the coloring looking a little desaturated and don’t visually pop. Some digital noise from the low end production quality during the night scenes that are accompanied by a little compression blotchiness, but the DVD passes muster in image quality. The English language 5.1 surround sound finds itself limited moderately to a two-channel output which is unfortunate with the amount of demonic tomfoolery being subjected to Jonas and his team. Low of the LFE and minimalistic on the depth and range, “Hunting Evil” couldn’t scare the pants off viewers audibly alone. There are no bonus features on this disc. Jonas Littleton’s troubles spread beyond a malevolent and playful demon destroying his family with “Hunting Evil” targeted as a suspect of an unfinished and problematic film. Whether turmoil driven or just the lack of rightfully placed funding, the spooky stories of paranormal investigators are left to the genre platonic professionalism of James Wan and not Charles Peterson and Lenny Rethaber.
Brand spanking new trailer for The Lords of Salem by shock rocker Rob Zombie has landed! The first teaser was incoherent and messy, but this official trailer looks astounding and epic. Epic may not be the correct terminology because I don’t think Zombie would want his work to be described as “epic,” but the trailer did make his latest film seem very so.
Sherri Moon plays a Heidi, a local DJ who plays a mysterious record backwards that sparks trauma and bizarre violent flashbacks of the town’s past. I’m loving more and more that Zombie is back with original work. The Lords of Salem will be in theaters 4-19-13 and don’t forget about his new album hitting shelves shortly after 4-23-13 Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor! Hell yeah.