When EVIL Literarature Jumps Right Off the Pages and Starts to Hunt You Down! “Monsters in the Closet” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)



Watch Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!

Eccentric horror novelist Raymond Castle mysteriously dies alone in his New York City apartment.  His daughter Jasmin, who never had a loving relationship with her father, returns to her childhood home, self-negative reminiscing about the strenuous verbal arguments between father and daughter with usual themes surrounding her playing with his valuable horror collectibles and her continuous use of the Spanish language despite his desires for an English only language household, but instead of finding the contents of his will or answers to who he really was a person, as a father, Jasmin discovers her father’s latest novel, an anthology collection based off the black magic spells of a 17th century that brings his short stories to life right there in the apartment with her. 

I said it once and I’ll say it again until the day I die:  horror anthologies are not my cup of tea.  Sure, there are excellent oldies, aka classics, out there, like “Creepshow” and “Body Bags,” from the masters of horror and a handful of more modern, done-right, anthologies from filmmakers on their way to such a grandiose title within the “V/H/S” series, but the majority of micro-narratives nowadays are collected from the scrapings of the low-budget trash barrel due in part to the cost-efficiency of short films, shot over a lengthy stretch of time, brought together into a single feature and the types of slim budget stories can sustain a better reception in a shorter format instead of full-length one.  Now, I’m not saying Zack and Spencer Snygg collaborated “Monsters in the Closet” falls into the latter category but as one of the first released films of 2022 to come across our ever-critical desk, the indie horror-comedy anthology needed to punch the living daylights out of use to begin the year and whether the Snyggs’ 4-episode, plus wraparound story, anthology slammed dunk or airballed will be covered below. “Monsters in the Closet” is a kickstarter project and a self-produced venture funded by a pair of sub-Hollywood filmmakers in Spencer Snygg, who has worked behind the scenes in the lighting department on some major films over the recent year, and a veteran indie softcore-horror director Zack whose has involvement with indie production companies like Troma and the New Jersey based E.I. Cinema, as you’ll see with a large, splayed display of E.I and Alternative Cinema posters strategically arranged as background fodder. It’s like a Misty Mundae poster celebration on exhibition.

The outer shell narrative that encompasses and unites each separate story entities begins with a frantic Tom C. Niksson as the diehard believer in his own success horror writer Raymond Castle, covered in blood, manically talking to himself, and in the throes of typing away before a cloaked stalker wielding a knife closes in on him. Niksson, who worked under Zack Snygg’s pseudonym, John Bacchus, in that Easter holiday E.I. Cinema favorite, “Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell,” steps into that looming, ever-present figurehead from the grave, delivering random dad joke dialogue while cozying up the audiences for an audiobook rendition of Castle’s latest bestseller, a black magic spell anthology of horror stories that come to fruition when read aloud. Other than his talking head role, Niksson’s involved in some contentious flashbacks with Jasmin as a child, but we never see Niksson and the adult Jasmin Flores (Jasmin) ever in the same scene together as the flashbacks are Jasmin voiceovers. Nikkson’s theatrical behavior perfectly suits the stagecraft atmospherics in erecting the gameshow-esque of a horror host whereas Flores is often stiff as a dry plank of wood. Limitations drawn from her lack of experience keep the actress’s timing and delivery often subdued in an obtuse and ungraceful character when escaping the ever-changing fiction-to-non-fiction villain of the minute. Jasmin, the character, is already inherently underwhelming in a role that has no purpose or buildup to understand her headspace surrounding the sudden death of her father. What do those flashbacks mean to her or are they just melancholic gibberish? And why isn’t she more interested in his death or even showing a lack of care for it? Throughout “Monsters in the Closet,” a fair amount of pleasantly surprising performances from the anthological works pull the overall project together better than those in the wraparound story. Along with a first person view zombie tale as the first short, Luke Couzens and Carmilla Crawford play newlywed new homeowners going through the frustrations of DIY Hell until they off each other with tools, the silver spoon Jordan Flippo becomes tarnished when a camping accident turns this rich daddy’s girl into an unstoppable killing machine to protect her immaculate image, and side-splitting John Fedele (“The Vampire’s Seduction”) as the humbly polite mad scientist Frankenstein who can’t get over the death of Mrs. Frankenstein (Valerie Bitner) and keeps resurrecting her despite her wishes to stay dead.

What I like and thought interesting about the “Monsters in the Closet” corpora is that they’re written in-house by at least one of the Snygg brothers, sometimes both.  This extends style and control over the entire body of work boundless to the ideas and the panache of other filmmakers and showrunners without having to associate themselves.  The Snyggs’ balanced anthology comes with equal levels of comedy and horror that unearths the humor in humorless scenarios sans the sometimes tired gags that can devalue a project into tedium and, ultimately, into worthlessness and since we’re already being beholden to more than one narrative that jumbles the mind, the mental capacity is too low to withstand different numerous tales in one sitting as well as to try and struggle with the bad unfunny bits.  “Monsters in the Closet” at least has a whimsical darkness about it, a sinister playful attitude, and isn’t afraid to get gory from time to time beginning with the Spency Snygg directed zombie existentialistic “Please Kill Me Again” that takes the viewpoint of a recently turned woman with normal inner thoughts and intentions, but the cravings begin to take over.  The Snygg brothers follow up with darkly satiric “Home Improvement” involving a new couple’s adversary journey to fix up their rundown new home to the point where they can’t take any more of the repairs or of each other and the overflowing sardonic banter starts to spill blood; this bit is fun, more than you know it relatable, and gets real nasty at the end. The weakest short is “The One Percenters” with a nob’s daughter eager to mingle amongst the common folk during a seemingly harmless camping trip that turns deadly after she accidently kills her boyfriend.  Conceptually, the message is sound with the wealthiest subverting the law theme and Jordan Flippo is stunning as a plutocrat’s high expectations daddy’s girl, but the story lacks enough obstacle and tension-filled stuffing for an interesting enough short. “Frankenstein’s Wife” spotlights John Fedele’s equable, light-hearted humor in affectionately reconstructing and resurrecting the wife he accidently kills and with each attempt at bring her back from the dead, her corporeal temple becomes less and less of herself through Frankenstein’s botched cosmetic surgeries. The lovesick cycle is both deranged and full of laughs from Fedele’s riotous desperation take of a classic character.

Gravitas Ventures unchains all the creatures loose in their digital distribution of The Snygg Brothers’ “Monsters in the Closet” anthology now available on-demand and digital platforms this January. None of the audio or visual aspects will be covered since the feature is not a digital release, but when I say The Snygg Brothers self-produced the film, I mean they literally wore nearly every single departmental hat, including director of photography and visual effects that impresses with a wide range of shots from drone, to hand-held, and to tracking done with depth and various levels of focus. There is no one trick pony behind the camera. Some of the digital effects, such as the bullet holes that riddle the basement floor and walls, cheapen the already cheap production and, for the most part, the practical effects reach the passing bar with the obvious lay figure body parts and crude masks/getups. There are no special features or bonus scenes with this release that runs unrated at 88 minutes. Anthology bias be damned, “Monsters in the Closet” is a rarity in a dying breed subgenre with a jocular sense of sinister, social commentary humor braided into a tenebrous fray between man versus man and man versus monster.

Watch “Monsters in the Closet” on Prime Video!

EVIL Bottled Up is EVIL That’s Life Ruining. “Repossession” reviewed! (Gravitas Ventures / Digital Screener)

“Repossession” Available on Amazon Prime Video!

Jim Tan is a middle-aged engineer earning more than decent living for his luxurious lifestyle with a high-rise condo with private swimming pool, his daughter’s university tuition, and an insanely expensive car. When he is suddenly forced to leave his job after decades of service, Jim’s inability to face the truth and retain his pride results in not telling his family upfront. As his bank account dwindles but his family’s lavish spending continues, Jim’s drastic measures of gambling what he has left in the stock market trading goes against his best friend’s advice as he also submits to a meager income as a transportation driver, but as Jim sinks deeper into the red, the secret he keeps from his family eats more and more at psyche and his traumatic past, full of more secrets, leave the door open for a pernicious dark figure to infringe upon his crumbling reality.

Filmed and set in the multicultural, larger-than-life city of Singapore, “Repossession” is a transfixing cautionary tale of the grim side of pride, society’s devaluation of experience, and the return of past demons. Written and directed by the predominantly television producer, writer, and director, Goh Ming Siu, and Scott C. Hillyard, the 2019 thriller about the ugly failings of falling personal stature grace is the first feature length venture from Siu, a Northwestern University’s Communication’s graduate, and Hillyard, a Mass Media Management grad of Nanyang Polytechnic School of Business Management, that showcases not only his drive to create a structurally sound narrative, but also a vision of one man’s minimalistic mental terror backdropped inside a vibrant, heavily urban surrounding where madness can be lost and confused with the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Siu and Hillyard have tapped a handful of short comedy films over his career with “Repossession” being the directors’ first attempt at a fright film, even if it’s only a diluting portion of the considerable drama elements and is a production under their private limited company Monkey & Boar, operating out of Singapore.

“Repossession” revolves around the fall of a prideful patriarch performed by Gerald Chew (“The Tattooist”). Chew, who previously acted in one episode of Siu’s comedy series, “First Class,” has to enact a man torn from the breast of affluent society and forgo the weening process of learning how to manage life’s obstacles without a steady, lucrative income. As the corporate terminated Jim Tan, a middle-aged man forced back into the current job market after 20+ years at the same company, Chew reaches into our darkest corners for anxiety and panic when everything in Tan’s life that has felt secure and sustainable is now on the precipice of tumbling down into a heap of loss. Instead of coming forth with his mare’s nest of occupational troubles, Tan hides it away, keeps it a secret, and tries to maintain status quo from his wife, daughter, and friends, but the daily life of was once sustainable yesterday is not sustainable today and Chew does the immaculate reformulation of proud man who never needed to worry to now a man whose pride is getting in the way of his acceptance and progression. To add an extra little something to the narrative, Tan’s backstory creeps into the fold one flashback at a time to underline the bubbling trauma now aggravated by his newfound sense of desperation that leads him down a concealed path of disturbing distraught. The mostly all-Asian cast rounds out with principle actors in “Just Follow Law’s” Amy Cheng as Jim Tan’s wife Linda, Rachel Wan as his daughter, Jennifer Ebron as the condo-keeper, and Sivakumar Palakrishnan, as his confidant and common-sense life adviser he never thoughtfully considers, along with bit roles from Daniel Jenkins and Grace Chong.

Demonized as an inky black and towering dark figure with long, sharp hands is Jim Tan’s bottled-up trauma ready to pop like a screw loose on an airplane engine that’s flying 10,000 feet above a populated city. A catastrophe of psychological collapsing looms constantly around every corner when the figure first makes its presence known and only Jim experiences its menacing presence. Viewers won’t know if the glomming figure is a figment of Jim’s mounting pressure or a haunting dose of realism from his past. The otherworldly shadow is just that, a tenebrous shadow of Jim’s foreboding hesitancy in coming clean, and, just like most secrets some of which can be monstrous, harmful, and wicked, Jim’s withholding cleans house with his relationships, hurting everyone in his path from friends to family from his past and to his present. Siu and Hillyard offer a slow chug displeasure cruise of one man’s course through dormant madness, triggered after years of comfort and security, in repossessing a lifelong psychological issue thought long suppressed. The wordplay is clever in design with the character’s default on payments as well as defaulting on his own life and, thus, everything he ever owns falls onto the grounds repo-horror. What can be considered asymmetrical in Siu and Hillyard’s film is the concerting connection of the dots, through Jim’s sometimes off-topic flashbacks and startling visions of the dark figure, that lead up to, what I consider to be, one of the best simply shot and powerful climatic endings experienced to render a pitfall of rueful heartache with a gory final moment.

On December 21, “Repossession” came a-knockin’ on the North American market’s digital door with a multi-platform release from Gravitas Ventures in association with Kamikaze Dogfight. The film has a runtime of approx. 96 minutes and bares a not rated certification. Since “Repossession” is a digital release, the audio and video quality critiques will not be covered. However, I was impressed with cinematographer Chow Woon Seong’s wide lens celebration of Singapore by capture various sentimental landmarks in the area and establishing a contrasting space between the actors and the stunning visuals screen monolithic and serene, creating a conflicting blend between ominous and wonder that also translates into the film’s industrial-lite soundtrack by composer Teo Wei Yong with a brooding mechanical perfunctory to match Jim Tan’s hardly lifting a finger effort. There are no special features or bonus scenes included with the digital release. Powerfully relatable, the human condition for survival, despite the trivial circumstances surrounding one’s dignity, can turn deadly in the blink of an empty bank account.

“Repossession” Available on Amazon Prime Video!

Two People Living in Different Times Linked By an EVIL Secret. “Dead Air” reviewed! (Freestyle Digital Media / Digital Screener)

As a single parent of two teenage girls, William stows away the painful memories of the death of wife some two years ago.  When rummaging through boxed away belongings, he stumbles upon an old ham radio and a diary that once was his late father’s, who tragically was killed during William’s youth.  Psychiatric sessions aim to resolute a traumatic event from the past William can’t seem to recall and has plagued him over the decades and well into adulthood, but all his problems converge when he befriends another amateur radio user, a woman, that simmers a progression of unraveling his past rooted by an unfathomable secret the woman holds that will collide William’s past and present to alter his future. 

Not to be confused with the 2009 same titled film of bio-terrorism turned zombie horde starring “The Devil’s Reject’s” Bill Moseley or mixed up with 2000’s “Frequency” where Dennis Quaid’s character phenomenally reconnects with his deceased firefighter father over an old ham radio, Kevin Hicks’ “Dead Air” also shears linear time by embracing supernatural elements over the air waves of an archaic means of communication and though flesh eating maniacs don’t ravage the world, another terrible humanoid race in the Nazi’s are brought to the proverbial table.  Nazis, traumatic past, jumbled paranormal radio transmissions, clandestine spies – Kevin Hicks directs a multifaceted suspense mystery thriller penned by wife, Vicki Hicks, marking yet another notch in their collaboration history that includes a strong history of horror-thriller credits from 2010, such as “Paranormal Proof,” “Behind the Door,” and last years “Doppel.”  The husband and wife combo produce the “Dead Air” under their homegrown production company, Chinimble Lore.

However, Kevin and Vicki Hicks do a little more than just be a presence behind the camera, they’re also in front of the camera, co-starring across each other as the principle leads who never come face-to-face as they interact solely by tuning into the radio frequency of the ham radio.  Their respective roles of William and Eva douse “Dead Air” with plenty of cover-your-base exposition in building a long distance friendship that turns sour when truths are revealed by supernatural circumstances.  Before the pinnacle reveal, a stitch in time ripe to be altered, Hicks has to be a widowed husband and father of two teenage girls while parallelly secretly dealing with an unidentified trauma from his past.  The trauma doesn’t peak through in Hicks’ performance as William goes about his day either emotionally comforting his temperament diverse daughters with the loss of their mother or always sitting in front of the ham radio eager to speak with a newfound chat buddy, the adversely taut Eva.  Vicki Hicks shelters in place as the paranoid agoraphobic, though not yet understanding what that term means just yet, as the cagey Eva and Hicks cements Eva’s covert dealings with suspicious eyes and a cryptic gait that tells us she’s chin deep into counter intelligence.  “Dead Air” focuses nearly exclusively on the William and Eva radio hour, but minor characters are sprinkled for support traction with Luca Iacovetti, Chris Xaver, Ryan C. Mitchell, and real life sisters playing sisters on screen and co-producer Mark Skodzinsky’s daughters, Madison Skodzinsky and Mackenzie Skodzinsky. 

As far as indie films go, Chinimble Lore is well versed in the expense saving concept providing “Dead Air” with limited locations of about three or four primary small and conventionally decorated indoor sets, low-key in the little-to-no high-dollar, high-concept action, and having the filmmakers step into the shoes of the principle characters of William and Eva. Don’t expect “Dead Air” to be knocking socks off with mind blowing choreographed sequences or any type of painstaking visual or practical special effects in a story concentrated script constructed to be a fable filled with second chances and righting the wrongs through unexplained phenomena; yet, when blindly vehement to correct the past, the unintended butterfly effect could also take away what’s precious to you. Vicki Hick’s script meets that cautious tale bar, but doesn’t exceed the darn thing as the mystery element, William’s insights into who Eva’s true self and calling and how he’s supposed to stop her despite living decades a part, to which the film could only express verbally instead of plastering a veneer to show, can be quickly solved in “Dead Air’s” blueprints of foreseeable plot points. One thing that teased the imagination and should have been explored further is William’s psychiatrist performing hypnotherapy to unearth his trauma, but then opens the Pandora’s box of well, why the hell didn’t the psychiatrist try this in the first place?!? William notes spending $40 an hour on therapy sessions and we see him sit in at least 3 times with dialogue extending that to a higher number. Either William’s psychiatrist is a hornswoggling swindler or a daft healthcare worker with poor practice management. Either way, team Hicks, between their repertoire of directing, screenwriting, and acting, can’t smooth out the film’s rough patches enough to be an original twisty thriller backdropped with an ethereal external force communicating from beyond the grave to save more than one soul, leaving “Dead Air” radio silent.

Freestyle Digital Media sends signals from the dead with Kevin Hicks’ “Dead Air” available now on Video-On-Demand across North American digital HD, satellite and cable VOD through platforms Including streaming services iTunes, Amazon Video, and Vudu and cable services Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.  The 91 minute runtime could have been cut to a leaner 70 to 75 minutes to not only dilute the impact of a dialogue-saturated narrative but also trim a forced subplot of William’s cancer-struck wife that doesn’t quite enact the depth to William’s background that it was intended to do.  Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, cinematography by Kyle Carr is digitally clean with a blanketed combination of hard and soft lighting in a rather warm glowing color palette of yellow, red, and jade, but the camera work and shots are standard in technique, not offering much in the way of style since most of the shots hover on medium closeups of William and Eva chit-chatting over the radio.  The light rock tracks composed by Kevin Hicks and performed by the versatile music man Lonnie Parks are sprinkled in to engage a sense of passing time correlated with the storyline events, but the soundtrack’s genre tone sounds like a transistor radio out of place of a story built on a ham radio’s static and garbled messages and would have been more poignant with more of Parks’ mellow-brooding engineered score.  The digital screener was not accompanied with any bonus features and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Part of “Dead Air’s” demise is the fact that “Frequency” established an already familiar foundation over 20 years ago with nearly the same plot studded with star power and a large pocketed budget, but the story’s engaging enough with supernatural radio waves and the clandestine ties to Nazi spies to keep a progressive interest despite our good hunch on the climax and the finale. 

Rent or Own “Dead Air” digitally on Amazon Video by Clicking the Poster!

When The Waters Rush In, It’s the EVIL in Your Head That’ll Kill You. “Relentless” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)

Jennifer Benson’s life is a storybook fairytale that’s embraced by her close sister, exalted by a sweet, kind husband, and excited with the news of an upcoming baby. Yet, all good things come to an end and in Jennifer’s case, in a devastating tragedy when everything and everyone she held close to her heart is unexpectedly wiped away within a single year. Physically injured and suffering from depression, Jennifer withdraws from family and friends inside an empty house, sinking lower into despondency, and letting bills and the house upkeep slip through the seemingly insignificant cracks. Jennifer eventually decides climb up a little out of her rut by cleaning up and letting go of some sentimental materials that leave painful memories by storing them in the unfinished basement, but when the basement door jams and won’t open, Jennifer finds herself trapped in a subterranean state with a large thunderstorm dumping rain that’s seeping from the basement walls, plumbing, and the ground. As the torrential rain continues to fall, the water level continues to rise with no way out.

Get ready to hold your breath in Barry Andersson’s agog of metaphorical poignant survival, “Relentless.” The filling of the fish tank mender is the director’s first and only release of 2020, following his 2019 releases of the historical drama, “The Lumber Baron,” and a 1940’s set sleep deficient thriller, “The Soviet Sleep Experiment.” Andersson continues to tell stories of intricately varied human responses as the filmmaker pens “Relentless” surrounded by themes of reactionary and recovery paths toward death with the film echoing more so with Andersson’s introductory “The Lumbar Baron” on a much smaller scale in terms of cast and setting. The story is set in or near Minnesota, a Midwest state prone to some of the United States worst flash flooding hit areas, and Andersson crafts his creative juices with that in mind to mold a symbolic cognitive descension stemmed by escapism inside creature comforts. Deodand Entertainment and Andersson’s filmic workshop company, Mogo Media, designate as the production companies.

“Relentless” indurates around being a one woman show with Rachel Weber spearheading the subject of crippled and downcast Jennifer Benson. Weber, whose worked briefly with Barry Andersson in “The Soviet Sleep Experiment,” has to operate Jennifer animatedly in a near voiceless, tacit role to simulate one alone with their thoughts and emotions. Only flashbacks limn with dialogue present the state of Jennifer’s woebegone mind as she goes from despair to reluctant acceptance by reopening the wound of concealed painful memories. Weber fulfills every inch of empty space with a tinge sorrow in some way, shape, or form but doesn’t quite convey the impact well enough to fortitude a presence. Weber’s post-flashback expressions deflect the corpus theme with no real tell of how Jennifer actually feels as she stands over a box full of memorabilia of what should be inducing whether a pensive sadness or vitalizing inspiration as she goes through an unbalanced reel of memories that include bedroom book snuggles with her sister at young age or survival life lessons with her father to up at the moment of what was supposed to be a joyous baby shower occasion that turns unexpectedly into tragic point in her life. Though the story acutely restricts the camera on Weber, the unfolding flashbacks ultimately tell the story from the past that includes stint performances from Charles Hubbell (“The Bitch That Cried Wolf”), Anna Hickey, Bea Hannahan, and Presley Grams.

“Relentless” has thought-provoking messages splayed up, down, and all around it’s encased four-walled theme of, literally, drowning in your own self pity and digging yourself out of a hole of depression. The water that gushes into the air tight unfinished basement represents the rising fathoms of depression that initially trickle in harmlessly enough, but the longer the despair drips go unchecked, as noted when Jennifer reaches out to nobody up on the top floors of her house and would rather recap wedding photos in the first act, the more intense the cascades can become when your submerged in from head to toe. Along Jennifer’s rather stagnant perilous journey, sitting on top of work benches as a hapless invalid and rummaging through miscellaneous items, she opens and goes through various storage boxes of her past that she carefully tries to keep dry by continuously moving the boxes out from the low-lying waters. Each box evokes a single memory from her past fashioned in an unchronological order and stews in a melting pot of stirred emotions that work backwards from melancholy to hope to, eventually, in my opinion, an inescapable suicide. My subjective take on Barry Andersson’s open-ended culmination is purely speculative as Jennifer’s struggles for survival may all be for naught, even in the evidence of the character leaving behind a note for storm survivors, or whomever, to collect staggering into what could be Jennifer’s tomb strongly suggests that particular path. That’s what admirable about intense thrillers, such as “Relentless,” that teases an unwritten coda for those to survive and tell the rest of the story, woven with their own personal singularities, but Andersson’s film, heavy in metaphors, lacks spirited vitality in a somber stroll through what’s innately a human fear: death.

Basements continue to retain their bad rap in the traditional horror sense as well as in Terror Films’ release of Barry Andersson’s survive-or-die succumbing to mopery in “Relentless,” distributed digitally across multiple platforms. Rigorous self preservation might be watered down, but the stagecraft and production design is top shelf quality with a simple set of a well dressed dank and bare basement where streams of water rush into from the barred awning windows and waterlogged plumbing. The basement in itself is a character of misfortune, a cell of rehabilitation, and is just simply effective in a cinematic sense without seeming overly menacingly but rather like every other basement in the world. With the digital screener, there were no bonus material included nor any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t expect a nonstop nail-biter that aims to fill your lungs with asphyxia inhaled water; instead, sympathy or empathy will play significantly in “Relentless'” success with an aggregating flurry of thoughts generator in a post-traumatic vicissitude.

“Relentless” included with Prime Video and available for purchase!

EVIL Doesn’t Joke Around. “Let’s Scare Julie” reviewed! (Shout Studios! / Digital Screener)


After the sudden passing of her father, Emma stays with her cousin, Taylor, along with her aunt and drunkard uncle. Taylor pressures Emma to be part of her prank habitual group of friends, trying to convince Emma how this is how things will be from now on while also trying to be a compassionate shoulder to her reserved cousin. With Taylor’s uncle passed on the sofa downstairs and her mother flying in from out of town, an impromptu sleepover encourages the group of girls to connive a break-and-entering prank to scare a new neighbor, a teenage girl named Julie, across the street. Emma half-heartedly participates by producing a way into the house, allowing her cousin and her heedless new friends onward on their scaring scheme, but when only two of the four girls return, the prank has turned terribly wrong as an urban legend about the house across the street might actually be true.

Breaking out from helming television documentaries and into the genre feature realm is filmmaker Jud Cremata debuting with his written and directed bloodcurdling slumber party, “Let’s Scare Julie,” premiering on in home theaters on digital and VOD come October 2nd, 2020. Starting off Halloween with an innovative filming structure and a good ole fashion horror tale, Cremata never eases on the reins of terror from nearly a single, continuous take of his mischievous teenage girls meet malevolent ghost story that occurs over a single night, condensed further to a time frame that’s almost parallel to the film’s runtime. Formerly known as “Let’s Scare Julie to Death,” the Santa Clara filmed, real time hijinks gone awry spook show is the first horror production from the Los Angeles and Moscow based Blitz Films in association with “Becky’s” Buffalo 8 Productions. Jud Cremata and Marc Wolloff produce the feature alongside Blitz Films’ Eryl Cochran and Nick Sarkisov.

Comprised with a small cast of new talent, “Let’s Scare Julie” focuses around a group of five teenage girls and one elementary grade school girl concentrated more so around a life rebounding Emma played by Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, making her introduction into feature length films. What makes this a phenomenal role and performance for Johnson is the fact that the young actress has to maintain in-character for the entire length of the film with the camera rarely parting away from her in every moment of the nearly continuous take and she has to adjust her dynamics with a variety volume of characters ranging in temperament from meek, to obnoxious, to terrifying, to drunk, and to the perpetuance of adolescence behavior from her protective, yet peer pressuring cousin Taylor (Isabel May), the obnoxious goof Madison (“Ladyworld’s” Odessa A’zion), the unassertive duddy Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum), and the confident showoff Jess (“Unearth’s” Brooke Sorenson). Individually, the characters are well developed, hinting more towards unravelling their true selves with each progressive moment their on screen, but not overly enough to have each figured out and that leaves their hopeful futures in ruin, offering more substance to their potential demise. Rounding out “Let’s Scare Julie” cast is Dakota Baccelli, Blake Robbins (“Rubber,” “Martyrs”), and Valorie Hubbard (“Resident Evil: Extinction”) as the evil spirit, Ms. Durer.

Uncomplicated with less fancy footwork adorned, “Let’s Scare Julie” is all about the story and less about the effects hoopla usually associated with vindictive phantasma creepers, especially ones like Ms. Durer who like to seep into her victim’s personal bubble using voodoo black magic dolls while wearing nothing more than her dirty nightgown and scathing glare on her face. The simplicity of the movie is almost refreshing in the inherent campiness of the anecdotal urban legend spieled by the girl living next to the house of ill repute, but one thing about the story that irks me is the marketing of “Let’s Scare Julie” being shot in one continuous take; yet, there are a few edits that not necessarily cut to a different scene, but rather just jump seconds of a frame and continue the moment. Whether the edit’s intent was because of timing, reducing frames in a scene to meet a certain runtime, or to give the actors a slight break, the expectation wasn’t fully met when the handful of edits are slipped in condemning that anticipated single take to just a still impressive compilation of long takes. Chuck Ozea’s maneuvering cinematography seamlessly tells the tale without so much of a hiccup as the veteran music video DP choreographs somewhat of a dance around Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson to capture her slow simmer into terror. “Let’s Scare Julie” does more with less as a round about ghost story, building up suspense above the guise of guilt-riddled themes without placing the perspective in the middle of the supernatural action.

Sometimes, pranks backfire and, in this case, this prank is to die for in the Shout Studios distributed “Let’s Scare Julie,” scaring up into home theaters on Digital and On Demand at the beginning of Halloween season on October 2, 2020. Being a brand new film, there were no psychical media specs to report nor would there would be any A/V if specs were available since this review copy is a digital screener of the film. As a digitally recorded production in this day and age, expect the found footage-like video and sound as faultless as expected, but the quality will be determined by your internet connection and streaming platforms. There were no bonus material with the screener nor were there any additional scenes during or after the credits. Five teens’ prank spree ends on a dark and stormy night of terror where urban legend trounces cruelty over shenanigans in the crafty and solid shiver-inducing “Let’s Scare Julie.”

Pre-order “Let’s Scare Julie” on Prime Video.