Fear is Evil. “A Taste of Phobia” review!


“A Taste of Phobia” brings together 14 international directors to the fold, executing their creative version of terror of various fears. From the fear of the dark to the fear of feces, each short compiled into this feature length film delves into what it means to be afraid of something that an average person regularly encounters on a daily basis. No ghouls, no monsters, and no ghosts stories here; “A Taste of Phobia,” or otherwise known as “Phobia,” explores the inherit human element, the everlasting internal struggle, and the mental conjuring of demons and the anxiety of the unknown that fabricates by and into fear itself. The psychological terror of phobias plagues each and every one of us and is never exclusive to a particular group or race of people, and that’s a haunting reality, especially in an time and age where suppressed personal emotions and issues lead to unfortunate suicidal circumstances. Some of the directors include Lorenzo Zanoni, Alessandro Sisti, Alessandro Redaelli, Alessandro Giordani, Rob Ulitski, Sam Mason Bell, and Davide Pesca.

A number of these filmmakers I’m not familiar with, but I do recognize a few names from the bunch by examining their previous work. Somniphobia is a sleep anxiety disorder which is the basis for the short written by Sophia Cacciola and directed by Michael J. Epstein, who also steps into the lead. “Blood of the Tribabes,” a vampiric melodrama, was my last experience with the Cacciola and Epstein duo, who have a passionate dynamic and chemistry when it comes to horror. Somniphobia is a whole different animal that’s more on a compact scale in comparison to their vampire feature and doesn’t necessarily tackle the perpetual fear of sleep; instead, Epstein portrays a contractor pushed to the limits, practically threatened by an employer, to finish coding a project to the point where he hasn’t slept in days. The lack of sleep and the various methods to try and stay awake by the power of suggestion have fried his brain to the point of self-inflicted harm. The writings good and the dark humor direction is a nice touch. Another recognizable filmmaker that stands out to me is Domiziano Christopharo. The “House of Flesh Mannequins” and “Red Krokodil” director has always exhibited a thirst for body horror and the Italian director places his talents in the kitchen with Mageirocophobia, aka the fear of cooking. Christopharo continues his brand of body-manipulation motif by telling a story of a woman, whose seemingly very good at putting together a tasty and savory fish dish, into a deeply disturbed woman who contemplates and nightmarishly fantasizes herself being the sliced, diced, and cooked to a crisp main dish.

Then, there are many filmmakers I’m not familiar with at all, but did enjoy their short entries. Sunny King’s Nyctophobia, aka fear of the dark, is hands down one of the best entries despite the slight ghost-like manifestation, but the Nigerian director fosters a tangible evil constructed by fear and his version of Nyctophobia is classic, very timeless, sans blood and shock to the point where the story plays out like a simple spook film. Very enjoyable, subtly powerful, and basically classic in tone, King reigns “A Taste of Phobia.” Now, that doesn’t mean Nyctophobia stands alone; UK’s Jackson Batchelor and his fear of politics, Politicophobia, has to be one of the more honest entries and, certainly, one of the more timely. The political undercurrent of two-faced politician is a phobia we can all get behind with their scummy, repetitive, and subliminal messaging campaign ads. Batchelor polar extreme sheds light on what a fear invoked person might experience when viewing just one of the hard-hitting, lying through the teeth campaigning juggernauts. The previous examples pinpoint heighten the emotional aspect of fear, but what if fear perpetuated madness, such as in Poison Rough’s Mysophobia, or fear of germs. The idea of bugs, dirt, or even microbes, crawling in the hair or on the skin gives one very particular man the creepy-crawlies to the breaking point where he’s forced to self-remove his own skin in order cease the sensation.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some shorts didn’t make muster. Fear of feces, or Coprophobia, was just bizarre, daft, and, well, not even that gross for the titular phobia. The approach by churning schlock director Jason Impey was more juvenile than expected with a feces covered stuff animal rising out of the depths of a shit covered toilet and have actor Martin Payne portray a fight of physicality in a small bathroom that ends with Payne naked stabbing the metaphorical stuff animal. Dustin Ferguson’s Mazeophobia, fear of mazes, was another that flared out with a hispanic man driving around lost in America’s unforgiving conservative countryside. He eventually winds up in the hands of a pair of Trumpian wing nuts and the climax becomes a little fuzzy from there into editing shambles that hesitates to make sense of how the series of events play out.

Artsploitation Films, a Philadelphian based distributor seeking the dark and desolate corners of the world to bring to light international entertainment, releases horror-anthology “A Taste of Phobia” onto DVD home video. The anthology is presented in various ratio formats due to the different styles of filmmaking and, thus, a range of image qualities stand out to some that’s suffer from aliasing and blotching atrocities to others that surprising peak in picture value. The 2.0 stereo audio track, mostly English with some Italian and Spanish, have varied ranges, depths and balances as well. Bonus features include a bonus fear mini-movie entitled Achluophobia from director Jason Impey, a behind the scenes look at Michael J. Epstein’s Somniphobia and Chris Milewski’s Pharmacophobia, an interview with producer and one of the 14 fear directors Domiziano Christopharo, a little inside on the special effects for Pharmacophobia and Mageirocophobia, and a theatrical trailer. “A Taste of Phobia” pushes the limits to extremely visualize the niche fears in us all by packing 14 deadly phobias up into an anxiety-riddled anthology released by the good, but probably psychologically insane, people at Artsploitation Films!

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The Unspeakable Evil That Drugs Do to Your Body! “Red Krokodil” review!


“Krokodil is a homemade drug. It combines codeine, lighter fluids, gasoline, paint thinner, alcohol, and other ingredients.” This fast growing Russian street drug gnaws along the inner layers of one man’s insides and clawing its way out. Also, the drug deteriorates his mental stability, invigorating extreme hallucinations from his damaged cerebral equilibrium and manifesting faux body images of himself as well as inviting humanoid demons into his tattered reality. The powerful opioid, if fabricated haphazardly, induces prolonged and deathly ill effects, both physical and mental, and as his body has survived in a post-nuclear world, his mind is as much of a ramshackle as the rest of the world is in ruin. As he spirals down, out of control, through the opioid rabbit hole, he becomes only a shell of himself, transforming into the purest toxicity of the drug that creates alligator scale-like sores over portions of his body.

The need to put the definition of Krokodil” first and foremost, in front of the plot summary above, felt necessary. Director Domiziano Christopharo made it essential to do the same prior to the credits of his 2012 film “Red Krokodil.” To the average joe, the very mention of “krokodil” means nothing other than a seemingly skewed, alternate version of the English word crocodile, but the gore and shock director, best known for his debut work “House of Flesh Mannequins,” wanted the background behind the street drug to sink in, to be injected, to be snorted, and to be smoked before audiences continue with their trip through the breakup of the body. Based off a script written by Francesco Scardone, the Italian director had set the stage with his grippingly ghastly tale telling talents toward the dominion of body horror combined with ample psychological manipulation from substance abuse and while Christopharo is no David Cronenberg, the eclectic filmmaker cycles the story through a poetic flow with mostly an off-screen monologue approach that gives glimpses of a degenerative mindset.

Co-producer of the film, Brock Madson, also stars as the withering drug addict. There are hints Madson plays the character named Arthur, but the film only credits the character as simply him, and theoretically, that’s proportionate to the storyline staged as a post-apocalyptic world where it’s just him, ensnared and isolated. The role’s non-verbal role leaves Madson to go full-throttle in physicality with a semi-to-fully nude performance and he maintains an animated disconcerting fear and aloof glee whenever the moods start to swing. For most of the duration, Madson is solo, but a couple of minor characters, fabricated by his addiction, freakishly gloom over him. Viktor Karam, as the Bunny Man, and Valerio Cassa, as the Monster, positions themselves as enduring internal calamities that plague the Madson’s character.

“Red Krokodil” is laced with themes and symbolism, especially in a religious sense with the resurrection of Jesus Christ that parallels the trials and tribulations of the addict, mainly with going through the withdrawals. In order to save himself to be reborn, he must first sacrifice himself and Madson literally dons the crown of thorns and self-inflicts a stake through his feet. However, this self-crucification is all in his head, but when he awakes he’s able to ignore the heavily influential calls of the krokodil. Christapharo had kept the addicts apartment a dull, colorless prison, growing with filth and decay, but once the addict has saved himself, the room brightens, the outside sky has illuminated, and the near-death abuser has a little life left to be jovial, but to keep the grim themed tone against this man’s struggle to live through strife, Christapharo invokes false hope that ultimately becomes the addict’s concreted freedom from it all. The addict’s inner monologue goes through the steps how recovery, rekindling good memories from the past and wanting to not feel himself as it’s painful to feel your own skin be on fire from the corrosive drug, but rather be a personification of the wind, sun, water, or the grass, an element of the film that touches upon how humans mistreat the Earth much like they mistreat their bodies.

Unearthed Films and MVDVisual present “Red Krokodil” on a director’s cut, high definition, 1080p Blu-ray. Sporting a macabre, yet gorgeously illustrated cover, the release also has the same attributes in the image quality presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Like most film distributed by Unearthed Films, the grime and the disgusting reign as supreme and “Red Krokodil” has ample muck with bleeding orifices and an unappetizing uncleanliness about it, but the picture quality is clean and detailed with very little electrical interference. Color palettes, when the addict dreams to escape to nature, is a potent reminder that “Red Krokodil” isn’t just transmitting two-toned, gray and black, scale and displays exquisite landscapes. Even the computer generated Chernobyl like waste land of a city going up in an atomic fashion is well done with only a slightly glossy feel. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track broods with the ideal amount of LFE from composer Alexander Cimini that’s not acutely jarring, but still manages to showcase the detriment. Bonus material includes an alternate musical ending, deleted scenes, photo gallery, the CGI test of the nuclear explosion, teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers, and Unearthed Films tailer reels. “Red Krokodil” is a total out of body experience. Overwhelmingly brutal with muscular and mental breakdown, director Domiziano Christapharo’s indie picture of ill-effects of drug abuse has done what “Requiem for a Dream” has done for the mainstream with the matter-of-fact implication that manufactured street drugs are the purest evil that we could voluntarily do to sabotage ourselves.

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