EVIL Presses the Reset Button For Killer Results! “To Your Last Death” reviewed! (Quiver Distribution / Blu-ray)

Miriam DeKalb has just survived a bloodbath inside her tycoon father’s high-rise, walking out shaken, bloodied, and carrying an axe.  When the police detain her in the hospital, construing a case against her for the death of her siblings and father based off her previously unhinged mental state inside a psychiatric institute, Miriam is visited by an otherworldly being known as the Gamemaster.  Miriam is given two choices:  stay at the hospital to be pursued as the murderous villain in her harrowing escape from near death or restart her traumatizing experience to save her siblings in an intergalactic wager by infinite being gamblers eager for amusement, blood, and a clear winner.  Miriam’s foreknowledge of how the events play out should give her an edge in saving her family, but the restart is the Gamemaster’s game with the Gamemaster’s rules as timelines and outcomes are determined limitless. 

“To Your Last Death” is a science fictional brawl of Darwinism in this eviscerating adult animated survival horror from director Jason Axinn.  Originally titled as “The Malevolent” during the crowd-funded Indiegogo campaign, which raised 114% above film’s budget, “To Your Last Death” is Axinn’s first full length feature from a script co-written by Jim Cirile (writer of horror-comedy “Banned”) and is the first credited work of Tanya C. Klein, both who’ve previously collaborated on the superhero short “Liberator” in 2016 starring the original Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno  With an animated direction similar to that of FX’s “Archer,” Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse,” or an even slightly more advanced version of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” but, in fact, the hand-drawn, puppetry style animation is the first ever 2-D animated horror under the meticulous art direction of Carl Frank along with lead artists Luca Romano and Vicente Saldivar, who interned on “Metalocalypse,” that keeps in tune with the adult themed animation trend, but levels up the explicit nature that kisses the sordid substance of “Heavy Metal” with strong bloody violence and some nudity.  “To Your Last Death” is the first feature film of Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klien’s Coverage Ink Films, a subsidiary of the screenplay analysis and development service group, Coverage Ink, and Quiver Distribution (“Becky”) with Cindi Rice, Paige Barnett and Jason Axinn taking on a producer role. 

The voice work is comprised of some of the most distinguishable voices in genre land; voices that carry the unparalleled weight in intensity, tenor, and madness to their darkly depicted illustrated characters.  You can almost feel the veins throbbing out of Ray Wise’s neck when spewing the murderous insanity of warfare kingpin and diabolical businessman, Cyrus DeKalb.  The “Dead End” and “Jeepers Creepers 2” actor’s inhumane avatar, who looks just like him, devises a plan to solidify his company’s legacy by eliminating his four children who, if banding together, can derail his egomaniacal runaway train.  His children are distinct individuals themselves, beginning with the BDS&M buff and death metal rocker, Ethan (Damein C. Haas), a pill-popping wrist cutter, Kelsy (Florence Hartigan “Phoenix Forgotten”), and a mirror-image disappointment and homosexual, Collin (Benjamin Siemon “Thankskilling 3”).  The fourth child, Miriam, is the principle lead.  Voiced with perpetual mixed reactions by Dani Lennon, a regular from the videogame-themed horror comedy and zombie apocalypse television series, “Bite Me,” Miriam’s complexities stem from a web of junctures that lead her to being a control freak amongst her siblings, an obsessive activist against her father, and a certified schizophrenic, but Miriam is also pragmatic with the strongest will to see through and survive her maniacal father’s abhorrence.  While everyone’s voice work is solid, Steve Geiger’s Eastern European accent replicated for the sadistic, warmongering henchman, Jurek, imprints a nightmare man unabashed by his decadent desires.  You wouldn’t think just be reading this review, but Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”) and William Shatner (“Star Trek” franchise) also have voice roles that are more cameo resembling as Moseley voices a short lived, facially disfigured hired gun and Shatner is the narrating voice in between the void as the Overseer, filling in with cryptic exposition of the Gamemaster’s existence, much like his narrative work on the reboot of the children’s show, “The Clangers.”   Mark Whitten, Bill Mishap, Rom Lommel, Paige Barnnet, Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein, Ruairi Douglas, Jason Axinn, and “Deadpool’s” Morena Baccarin as the Gamemaster round out the cast.

The way “To Your Last Death’s” story is structured runs along the same quivering line that’s equal to pure madness and this narrative path of unstoppable carnage is purposefully trekked to dislodge any judgements about what we, the viewer, think we know about the Gamemaster’s macabre game for galactic gambling.  Is the whole “Saw”-like designed bloodbath really a part of Cyrus DeKalb’s hatred and vindictiveness toward his children or is the lucid experience just a figment of Miriam’s break from reality?  Remember, Miriam was depicted to an ex-committed, living with and within the pressures of her father’s ever present, looming shadow. Miriam finds herself repeating moments but blueprinted differently than before or is manipulated by the Gamemaster’s gamer’s high for the adrenaline voyeurs betting on the outcome. The story’s effervescently fluid in pivots, tactics, and style; yet, the constant modify and rebuild was, perhaps, done one or two many times as staleness begins to set in and I eventually find himself anxious for a more linear goal for Miriam and her siblings to be out of limbo, out of being hacked to pieces on the fourth or fifth go-around, and reach the final stage, the final boss, to not be jerked back (or jerked around) to the beginning or midpoint like in unendurable game of chutes and ladders. Soon after that sensation of being uninterested in another rewind, the feeling immediately washes away as the story finally did progress, climax, finish, end, close, and put to sleep a rotunda of violence engendered by cosmic sadists that is “To Your Last Death.”

Like some warped version of “Clash of the Titans,” the insouciant Gods in “To Your Last Death” are not generous or kind in their gamble of human entertainment on this Blu-ray release distributed by Quiver Distribution. The feature is presented in a windscreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with rich colors through but favor toward scenes splotched of dark red or saturated in full tints of blue. The animation can be a little jagged at times but tolerable and only one scenes stood out compromised with two character stuck still for a few seconds too long and color banding rear its little ugly head on their animated faces. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound renders equally gratifying that includes a pulsating and terror riddled soundtrack by Rene G. Boscio. Typical with animation, ambience is generally underused as the filmmakers control much of what’s in the frame and the same can be said with this film, but with the much of action stationary inside the building, the confinement fills in the auditory gaps in conjunction with lucrative and well timed effects, such as a ripping roar of gas guzzling chainsaw, the squirting sounds of blood sprays, and even with the lossless details of minor necessities, such as Jurek whistling, to build upon character development. Dialogue is prominent, clear, and syncs okay with the marionette animation. The Blu-ray case is sheathed in a cardboard slipcover, both arranged with the same front and back cover image and layout. The bonus features are lack as the bare bones release only comes with a high definition trailer of the film. “To Your Last Death” is this year’s cinematic graphic novel to knock back and lap up, loaded with transcendent selfish twists and second-chance carnage with dysfunctional family issues spot lit on center stage.

 

Pre-Order “To Your Last Death” for a October 6th release!

The Pangs of an EVIL Movie in “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” reviewed!


Shane desperately desires to be a part in the making of a low-budget horror movie. Failure after failure of submitting to production studios who opt out rather than option his scripts and the discouraging financial hits with each festival entry, Shane and his girlfriend Chloe decide to venture into producing, writing, and shooting a film themselves. With the script still a work in progress, the promising title alone scores a film crew from his friends and roommates, generate a small fortune of crowdfunded cash, a leading scream queen from the skanky residue poles of a strip club, and a set location provided by a local video store clerk and schlocky indie horror filmmaker named Machete Mike. As the young film crew bumbles through raising more money and the headaches of production woes without a completed script, a demented clan of hardcore snuff and cannibalistic filmmakers seek a hostile takeover of their ambitious endeavor that’ll produce authentic screams and real blood, the very basic foundations of a good horror movie.

You have to admit it. “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” is an appetizing, exploitation glazed carrot of a title, a salivating lure that’s hard to ignore for any enthusiast for licentious material. Brazilian born director, Paulo Biscaia Filho, helms the Big House PIctures and Vigor Mortis Apresentam production of an ostensibly horror-comedy that leisurely alters into a slasher-survival-esque structure courted with all the admirations of torture porn with a pinch of homage toward the iconic Sawyer family without a Texas size chainsaw wielding maniac wearing a flesh mask. Blueprinted as a meta-horror with twists and turns galore, “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains,” by name alone, doesn’t take itself seriously as an inebriated version of the genre it represents and layers to weave a non-linear, outlier story into the heart of the plot, sewn together by the co-producer Gannaway and went in and out of production in 20 or so days to finally hit festival markets a year later in 2018.

While Shane might feel like the focus of the story, Amber and Chloe undercut his presence and steal his thunder as the naïvely ambitious filmmaker with their final girl fight and vengeance. Amber’s the stripper whose yearning for her spot in the limelight no matter how small and she’s portrayed by prominent Manga voice actress Elizabeth Maxwell (“Dragon Ball Super”) and Maxwell is paired with “Last Girl Standing’s” Kelsey Pribilski in Chloe, initially as a mortal enemy toward Amber when the issue arises of the most common, basic, and core division between women – men. Yet, Amber and Chloe dominate the principal antagonists whose subtle quarrels frame an mulishness and aversion relationship build a stronger support for one another when they come toe-to-toe with utter sadism that threatens what collectively matters most to them. Maxwell and Pribilski demonstrate the conventional markings of the popular final girl trope, acting as a single unit, while Ezekiel Swinford bares the helpless victim and ignorant filmmaker, Shane, to be in the crosshairs of death and for the two corners of his semi-triangular love affair to be his saviors. Swinford acts the giddy fool well enough to warrant his character’s witless person in distress calling. Machete Mike lastly, but not at the least, rounds out the core four personas from Don Daro. The “Sex Terrorists on Wheels” actor has little-to-no kindness in his face, marking him intriguing and guileful as the video store clerk whose more than what meets the eye. Ariana Guerra (“Hollow Scream”), Lindsey Lemke, Gary Kent (“Bonehill Road”), Ammie Masterson, Larry Jack Dotson (“Humans vs Zombies”), Kaci Beeler, Michael Moford, Woody Wilson Hall, Ken Edwards, and professional bassist musician in the band Drag, Dominique Davalos “Howard the Duck”), co-star.

“Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” resembles a movie inside a movie that tries to pull a fast one over the audiences with an open for interpretation of the true nature of events and leaving those once thrilled at firsts sight of the title moviegoers kind of stun like a mouse batted over the head right before being fed to the famished pit viper. Filho and Gannaway’s film does swallow you whole, down it’s gullet, and dropping you right into the stomach acids that begins to dissolve the disillusion of what was imagined from the get-go. Nothing wrong with some slight of hand, but the overall result meanders on the promise of being hyper meta; an attempt to disrupt the conventional and tummy tuck in the tropes from being too loose and obviously exposed. The attempt is well intentioned, but that’s where the summiting the mountain ceases, at attempted, with a great, low-budget desired, premise aimed to upheave the genre and the audience’s expectations, whirl them all into a massive maelstrom, and spit out a “I fooled you!” expose. One aspect that made the grade were the Creeper Labs FX’s Andy Arrasmith and artist Shelly Denning’s special effects work that held a modest candor of blood and severity when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Heads being lopped off, eviscerated stomachs with guts oozing out, and just enough chainsawing and machete work to go around to properly finish the beautifying of “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” appropriately.

Rack’em and hack’em those chaste cheerleaders with a Blu-ray copy of “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” distributed as the 10th spine from the wild cinema aficionados of Darkside Releasing and MVDVisual. The Blu-ray is presented unrated and in 1080p on a BD-25 with a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The estimated $70,000 crowdfunded budget has a rather aesthetic and sleek digitally recorded imagery, perky with natural lighting and dark tint where appropriate, and is an overall pleasant outcome on a moderately robust budget for indie horror out of Austin, Texas. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track maintained a balancing act between dialogue and score where the two fought for priority. Dialogue should always have right of way unless intended not, but for the sake of “Virgin’s” story, there’s doubt that drowning out the dialogue momentarily was purposeful. Bonus material includes Brazilian promotional videos, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bloorhouse Tour with Gary Gannaway being the tour guide himself, a Machete Mike introduction version of the film, and a 16 page booklet that includes stills, original sell sheet cover art, and the birth of the project penned by Gannaway. “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” is meta-sexy, meta-slasher, and meta-fun, but wanders into meta territory a little too long for comfort while still positioning a piecemeal survival horror with fine talent and high kill count.

“Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains” available on Blu-ray!

The Scene Isn’t Over Until EVIL Yells Cut! “Incredible Violence” reviewed!


After squandering a shady investment group’s money, a struggling filmmaker stages a last attempt effort in writing and directing an all-out and profitable horror movie. Isolated on a stretch of private land sits a house which his movie will be set. The director installs camera monitors, archaic printers in each room, and fashions a room for himself in the confining attic space, turning the house into a platform for five young actors to perform at his instructional, omnipotent influence without having to ever personally interact with the actors, a group he strongly loathes. His despise for actors and the financial pickle he finds himself in with shark investors places him at the centerpiece of his slasher film as the masked killer. With the stage set and the actors all in place, the directing maestro helms unsuspecting actors to their violent deaths in the name of art, self-preservation, and actor genocide.

As a film that turns the slasher mythology on its head, G. Patrick Condon’s “Incredible Violence” is a serrated vision of bleak, dark comedy too sharp to really fully digest and that’s okay. Filmed in Canada of 2018 and released this year on SVOD from The Hunting Party Inc., production studio, “Incredible Violence” strays away from the young, naive victims points of perspective and opens the path up for a nihilistic killer to control the narrative around his desperate motives. Though having complete control over most of the factors and planning ahead of time, “Incredible Violence,” as a partial comedy, folds miscreant mishaps and caricatured flaws on top of, indeed, incredible violence and while that vehemence is focused primarily on actors as a while, a good portion pivots and breaks down even further to the individual level that can be personal and can be insensitive for women who have to best themselves, sometimes together and sometimes separately, against two different antagonistic foes of the opposite sex.

The largely based Canadian cast begins with Stephen Oates playing the hack director and self-imposed killer, named after director G. Patrick Condon, of the titular film and though that might seem egotistical of the Condon, enough humiliation smothers the self-assuring and struggling character to the point of utter satire with even going as far as poking fun at his last name in a brief quip of dialogue. Oates, who has starred alongside Jason Mamoa on the historical Canadian action Netflix series, “Frontier,” is an intriguingly no-shame filmmaker who hustles together a plan schemed to save his life. Sporting a wife beater, long fur coat, and an unadorned mask, Oates exhibits Condon perfectly as a hack artist in filmmaking and in being a badass serial killer. Then there’s Grace, the lead character bound for stardom as an untrained actor taking a role in, what she considers, a performance art film and naively goes into the project with such gusto that she blatantly ignores all warning flags from the beginning, a role very well suited by the striking eyes of M.J. Kehler. Grace endures shots left and right, from friends and foes alike, as a hopeful artist, but like “Incredible Violence” shows, a true inclination comes out of people when push comes to shove and Grace, through Kahler’s physical bombarding of a final girl trope, doesn’t need acting school or any other doubters to trump her will, passion, and ferocity. One scene to note is between Foster, Kahler, and Kimberly Drake and Kahler’s Grace is just stricken by fear over being ask to kill someone, she’s screaming and is essentially rooted to her spot. The moment is grippy and terrible empathetic to know that true fear does freeze one’s fundamental functions of survival and of morality. “Incredible Violence” co-stars Michael Wotherman, Kimberly Drake, Erin Mick, Meghan Hancock, and Allison Moira Kelly.

“Incredible Violence” bursts with a talented cast with deserving of a curtain call performances and lives up to the title with incredible, if not whole heartily gratuitous, violence and some brief macabre nudity, but Condon’s story has a lot of zeal that doesn’t properly switch tracks when characters break under their obscure tormentor’s direction. Condon, the director, builds the tension more through the repetition of violence with a slight tweak every time rather than crafting a breaking point, a catalyst that dissembles sanity and refigures patchwork insanity, making characters alliances difficult to place that ultimately crumbles the dynamics into just a bunch of people beating each other to a pulp. The same kind pivoting told differently can be said about the strange, public television show Celebrity Autopsy paralleling as intra-story that often feels disconnected to Oates and his film. I guess with a film entitled “Incredible Violence,” a substance merit to the narrative would be a long shot, but as an exploitive, self-described meta-horror centerpiece, “Incredible Violence” is made up of all sorts of gut-checking goodness with torture, madness, and cynicism helmed by sadism without the presence of slasher-esque, blank evil.

1091 Films, in partnership with G. Patrick Condon’s The Hunting Party Inc., presents “Incredible Violence” that runs 89 minutes onto a plethora of media streaming platforms, such as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu, and on-demand cable services. Unfortunately, “Incredible Violence” is a streaming only feature so image and audio qualities will vary across streaming devices. There were also no bonus material or special features present, but as an extra tidbit about production, the film took approx. 2 years to complete with the unpleasant misfortunate of one of the original cast members passed away during rehearsal. This forced the script to be re-written, delayed, and ultimately triggered G. Patrick Condon to write himself, as a character, into the script. Futhurmore, the cast and crew had agreed to stay in the house set location until filming wrapped which resulted in some actual anxiety and stress to spill out into the performances. Contextually sound in the confines of violence, “Incredible Violence” finds footing staggering abroad the cascading carnage of horror-comedy with a single character arch involving making it big in the acting world only to just make it out alive and in one piece of this film.

Stream “Incredible Violence” on Prime Video

Evil Shall Not Steal! “Purgatory Road” review!

The Kirby brothers, Vincent and Michael, witness the attempted suicide of his father who placed a snub-nosed barrel shotgun underneath his chin and pulls the trigger. As adult, the brothers process the trauma in their own ways with Michael unable to jumpstart his life that has been exploited by his brother who has joined the priesthood. Now as exonerated Catholic priest, Father Vincent continues his crusade in absolving confessional patrons of their sins, but with a twist. Hell bent on exacting death through absolving upon those who steal in any capacity, Father Vincent travels the rural areas of Mississippi in a beat up congregational and confessional mobile camper to soapbox his wrath sermons and to rid the world of those who surface his childhood trauma. When another psychotic killer ascertains Father Vincent’s radical cause and wants to join devious purposes, the aversely complicate Michael can no longer abide by his brother’s carnage of guilt path and isn’t keen on spending his life with another heartless killer, urging himself to exit the threesome and starting a life of his own with Ruby, a diner waitress who has taken a shine to him, but Father Vincent and his newfound accomplice won’t let him go that easily.

Just what the Catholic Church needs… one more film depicting a priest using God to benefit his own greed! Mark Savage co-writes and directs the damnation of thieves film, “Purgatory Road,” with a post-viewing requiring a penance of one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s! Co-written with “Stressed to Kill’” Tom Parnell, “Purgatory Road” is a horrific hallmark of adverse Americanisms such as religious fanaticisms, self-indulgence, mental instability, corruption, and narcissism. All these qualities can potentially lead to one common bond that Savage makes centerpiece and that would be murder. Savage’s extreme vision isn’t all that far from today’s reality where cases of the mentally and the spiritually unstable and religious acolytes plan, stage, and carry out killing sprees almost weekly, corrupt politicians and the uppermost devout pocket secrets and bribes, and egotistical maniacs pick and choose basic civilities to divide groups against each other. I don’t see “Purgatory Road” as shocking and taboo, but rather as 98 minute revelation, not in a Almighty sense, but as a break in the opaque lens that is today.

Father Vincent firmly believe in his actions, without doubt and without shame, and uses any tool, or person, to fatally smite thieves, but has no absolute joy in the way he responds to pilferage acts. The guilt over his father’s attempted suicide drives him, sucking the vibrancy, the energy, and the happiness from him, and the fact that his father still lives, as a basement dwelling, cannibalistic creature, makes the matter even more dire to Vincent. The fraught priest ended up being an ideal performance for Gary Cairns (“Malignant”) who noted in the behind-the-scenes interview that his personal issues at the time brought out the all-around worst in Father Vincent and despite the character written as a fire-breathing, wrath of God man of the cloth, Cairns is able to weather his role as a seemingly idyllic Catholic priest with something to hide from credits-to-credits. Michael Kirby might be complicit, but isn’t wholeheartedly on-board with his brother’s blood shedding that drives another relevant nail into a Cain and Abel type tale. Michael’s longing to part from his brother is difficult for him, whether he also feels guilt for his father’s misfortune or an attempt to try and steer Vincent from complete and utter chaos, and even with a chance to escape the madness, Michael unintentionally flounders the attempt that ultimately becomes his climax to kill. Luke Albright (“Devil’s Pass”) engrosses himself as the black sheep amongst wolves in sheep clothing. Though his character is scribed as conflicted, Michael has downplayed emotional trauma that extremely binds him to his brother and makes him just as equally disturbed when disposing of his brother’s victims. Savage and Parnell’s narrative angle might not focus on the emotional level of Michael, but Albright flourishes the angst that internally rips him apart within the confines of every contentious scene that involves Cairns’ character. The brothers are driven further apart when Mary Francis, a sadistic and cannibalistic serial killer, discovers their undertaking, forces herself to join them in the cause, and catches the eye of Father Vincent, who displays some physical touch withdrawals and loneliness with the vulnerability of his corpses. Mary Francis is easy on the eyes, casual in her affairs, and empowering with a high sex drive that would make any man weak at the knees in a normal world, but Mary Francis is far from normal and Trista Robinson (“Jurassic City”) offers her short build, cutesy voice, and piercing eyes that favorably compliment Mary Francis’s dark features and equally dark soul. The character is an unsuspecting brut heart whose well-written as she describes to a radio talk show host her boy or girl fascinations as a drab hunting sport where spilling their blood and robbing them is the last great and excitable moment of the relationship, signified and sealed with a single kiss. The rest of the cast rounds out with Sylvia Grace Crim (“Happy Death Day 2U”), Geoff Falk (“The Livingston Gardener”), Chace Beck (“Meltdown”), and Douglas Cunningham.

Shot on location in Mississippi, “Purgatory Road” offers a really cool story that’s not produced on a studio lot and is kept out of the rural areas of California and any other locations that bear no resemblance to the deeply Southern pious roots of the 20th state of the U.S. Savage was able to obtain raw locations that best fit the delusional and fanatic tendencies of Father Vincent and with the gruesomely beautiful special effects and makeup by “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock’s” Marcus Koch and Cat Bernier, the murderous role of not only Father Vincent but also Mary Francis are furnished to frightful fruition of two fiends you just don’t mess with in the devout South. Koch and Bernier texturize severed body parts and provide a wide diameter for blood splatter as an intensifying tool, but don’t overly exaggerate the gory garnishes that might re-direct attention from the story.

Unearthed Films and MVDVisual’s Blu-ray of Delirium’s “Purgatory Road” has Unchristian values worth indulging that includes a widescreen 1.85:! aspect ratio. The digital shot film uses a Canon EOS C300 Mark ll in a full HD setting and the image quality has phenomenal sharpness with natural skin coloring and excellent details that come to focus on the outside faded, dirty paneling of the rustic RV and in the fleshy, blood wet limbs of the Koch and Bernier gory special. Cinematographer Andrew Giannetta has a working eye for the horror element of “Purgatory Road’s” red-light district familiar frame work with appropriate fog and tint to augment the gothic murkiness and dread. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is favorably well-balanced with no kickback or unintelligible miscues. “Purgatory Road” might have an RV kill room, but the RV isn’t involved in high speed chases or fiery explosions, so the dual channel works well for this type of low-key thriller. There are bonus features aplenty with a commentary with writer-director Mark Savage, a gallery slideshow entitled “The Grisly Art of Marcus Koch and Cat Bernier,” writer Tom Parnell speaking about his experience as a screenwriter behind his main profession as a lawyer, a lengthy featurette of the three lead actors speaking about their involvement, how they came to the project, and what the film and/or story means to them personally, and a Purgatory Road Q&A featuring Mark Savage. Impenitent swindlers beware! “Purgatory Road” is all fire and brimstone braced with a strong cast of compelling talent and a horrifically transfixing tale of blood is stronger than holy water.

Evil Gets a 4K Digital Transfer! “Ichi the Killer” review!


Three hundred million yen and Yakuza boss Anjo have disappeared without a trace. Anjo’s most deadly and most sadomasochistic enforcer, Kakihara, and the rest of the Yakuza gang embark on a torture-riddle search and rescue to find their missing boss. After unrightfully torturing and mutilating a rival Yakuza leader, Kakihara learns through a trail of mayhem of a fierce killer known as Ichi and after being exposed to Ichi’s grisly handiwork first hand, a usually stagnant and emotionally detached Kakihara becomes stimulated and eager to go one-on-one with a formidable foe like Ichi, who could possibly bestow upon him gratifying pain to feel something other than emptiness. Ichi’s eviscerating destruction isn’t totally in his control as the sexually-repressed and candidly disturbed overall nice guy is being coerce through psycho-manipulation by Jijii, an old man seeking retribution against the Anjo gang. With blades projecting from his shoes and his skill at martial arts, the timid Ichi becomes the ultimate killing machine when brainwashing takes him over the edge into a hysterical fit of rage that leaves guts and blood to paint the floor and walls.

Perhaps director Takashi Miike’s finest work, the 2001 Japanese blood bath “Ichi the Killer” is a must own for any film aficionado teetering on the razor wire between crime dramas and gory action flicks that might be on the viewing docket for then night, but certainly a must-see for all film lovers at some point in time. Miike’s stone cold, chaotic style of filmmaking embraces the story’s unwavering havoc that blisters with ruthless brutality between two very different, black and white characters with one thing in common – being good a killing. Based off the manga penned by Hideo Yamamoto and from the adapted screenplay by Sakichi Sato, Miike crafts the most disturbing elements of mankind and brings them to the forefront in a simple story of revenge. On one side, there’s Kakihara, a scarred-face Yakuza enforcer with a very rich violent history to the extent that he’s become numb to his own existence in the world and then there’s Ichi, a reclusive cry-baby stemmed from being mentally fed graphic bulling stories of battery and rape in a memory built upon languishing lies. Vastly different, well-written characters opposite the spectrum and both are good at dealing death, but one aims to dish it out and the other yearns to stop his carnage, and that compelling core element is immensely fluffed by extreme violence in a way that only Miike can deliver it.

But for a film like “Ichi the Killer,” Takashi Miike had a little (hint of sarcasm) help from his gifted cast in making this project a cult success. Before this actor was Hogun in the Marvel Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Tadanobu Asano shaped up the psychotic enforcer Kakihara and the usually dark featured Asano reconfigures his appearance to put life into the character who sports blonde, wavy hair, a frothy complexion, and small hoop piercings at the corners of his lips to keep the slits from opening to expose the entire gaping jaw which is used as a defensive weapon. Opposite Asano is the Tokyo born Nao Ohmori who perfectly subjects himself to being a wimpy human shell with an explosive inner anger. The two men have only a small amount of screen time together and that requires them to build their character’s standout personalities. Complimenting their performances is an amazing support cast, including Shin’ya Tsukamoto (“Marebito”), Miss Singapore 1994 Paulyn Sun, Hiroyuki Tanaka, and Suzuki Matsuo.

“Ichi the Killer” is simply magnificent where it vulgarly touches upon various themes, mostly human flawed that also destines opposing counterparts together. Aside from the graphically realistic violence, Miike’s film hits upon other attributable tangents, among them some are just being plain gross, but these aspects are undeniably important to the story. Themes ranging from sexual suppression and female inferiority to sadomasochism and severe obsession top the charts in a heap of motifs throughout. Accessorial blood and other bodily fluids are extravagantly portrayed, spraying across the room with jettison entrails or dripping from potted plants to a cloudy puddle below during in a voyeuristic rape scene, to get the clear sense of an adult manga inspired chockablock exploitation and crime drama.

Well Go USA presents “Ichi the Killer” on Blu-ray in a newly restored 4K digital transfer of the director’s cut; a task undertaken by Emperor Motion Pictures in 2017. Presented in a widescreen 16:9 (1.85:1) aspect ratio, the film starts off with a blurb about the history of this particular digital restoration and transfer that asserts director Takashi Miike’s approval for release. Well Go USA’s rendering resembles much of the previous Tokyo Shock Blu-ray with subtle differences such as a slightly more aqua tint to the picture coloring and also much like it’s other Region A Blu-ray counterpart, a bit of noise is present in the restoration, but still the better detail of the two. The Japanese stereo 5.1 DTE-HD Master Audio surround sound has an bombastic soundtrack, but dialogue remains on the softer side where relying on the English subtitles is crucial. No issues with timing or accuracy in the subtitles. Surprisingly, the only extras included on the Well Go USA release is an audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and manga artist Hideo Yamamoto, still gallery, and the trailer that undercuts this releases’ purchasing value and might as well hunt down for the out of print Media Blasters Blu-ray, if extras are a must. Even still, “Ichi the Killer” has been resurrected in North America again and the release technically sustains growth amongst the mass of releases around the world. The lack of special features is disconcerting, especially being a restored director’s cut, but “Ichi the Killer” can stand on it’s own as a gracefully sanguinary masterpiece. Look for the Blu-ray to hit retail and online shelves March 20th!

Get Ichi the Killer today on Blu-ray!

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