In the small rural community of Devil’s Gate, Oregon, a boy and his mother disappear without a trace. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis spearheads the investigating to atone for a regretful previous child disappearance case. She’s accompanied by a local deputy, Colt Salter, to assist her. During her brief investigation upon arriving at Devil’s Gate, Agent Francis comes to the determination that Jackson Pritchard, the father and husband of the missing boy and mother, is directly involved in their sudden disappearance. The investigation turns from a seemingly straight forward, open and shut case to a colossal mystery that’s beyond their comprehension when arriving at the religious dogmatist’s boarded up and disturbing cladded farm house where unearthly forces lay claim to the Pritchard family home for sinister reasons. With one of the beings caged in his basement, the desperate Pritchard seeks an exchange with the creatures he labels as the fallen angels in attempt to regain his wife and son, but as the night falls, trapping Agent Francis and Deputy Salter with Prichard inside the residence, they become surrounded by the fire in the sky creatures aimed to reap not only the world, but their souls.
Like an enigmatic report straight from the non-redacted portions of a nail-biting X-Files case, “Devil’s Gate” is a we are not alone sci-fi horror film from 2017 under the apocalyptic eye of director Clay Staub and co-written by video game plot scriber, Peter Aperlo. The considerably financed project is the first feature film for both filmmakers in their respective roles with Staub having served as an assistant director on other paranormal plotted projects like Zack Snyder’s heavily praised remake of George Romero’s flesh-eating zombie classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” and Matthijs van Heijningen’s underrated “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s film of the same title. One quality that we can all can be pleased about is that Staub carries over from his previous experience as a genre filmmaker participate is the use of gore in the “Devil’s Gate” because, honestly just by looking at the cover and reading the plot, the bloodletting expectation was low on the totem pole. Staub doesn’t unload a gratuitous splatterfest of alien and human entrails, but subtly sanctions the right amount of extrasensory chest bursting and finger snapping goo that plays an ill-fated role of circular or motivational circumstances for the characters.
Putting the pieces of the Pritchard mystery together is Agent Francis who is a to the point and tough national law enforcement officer with a bleeding heart complex after her very first assigned case went tragically sour that looms an unexplainable root cause cloud over her straight blonde hair. Desperate to cure her past, Agent Francis rushes into Devil’s Gate, bypassing the notable chicken fried steak meal offered by Deputy Salter upon her tarmac arrival and defying the local Sheriff’s heed to not interview husband Jackson Pritchard, that sorely causes her to land in the virtually the same predicament of just trying to get the right thing done no matter the unclear ancillary evidence. “12 Monkey’s” television star Amanda Schull spearheads the character with the characteristics aforementioned with drab appeal, lacking the emotion and the intensity her character is supposed to be exhibit when trying to solve a case of personal redemption as well as the fear from an higher ominous power that can shoot lightning down from the sky and flash velociraptor toe-claw sized fangs. Colt Salter might be a small time, Podunk deputy, but the born and raised Devil’s Gate officer can match wit with his FBI counterpart. Salter strikes me as a character who doesn’t stray far from home, mentioning various times, in various ways, his parallel path to high school friend Jackson Pritchard. Shawn Ashmore, from Joe Lynch’s “Frozen,” opposites his costar Schull like Mulder and Scully type as well as an all-around good guy who happens to stray from his protocol path once Agent Francis puts her federal fingers into his already investigated investigation. Like his performance in “Frozen,” “X-Men” franchise, and even in FOX’s television thriller “The Following,” Ashmore is a pretty solid actor, showing a range of emotion that transcends him from easygoing deputy to mortality fearing when mankind’s on the verge of extinction comes into the equation. An equally solid performance by Milo Ventimiglia, who recently starred in “Creed II,” really sells the crazy portray by Jackson Pritchard, a God-fearing man with a long lineage of misunderstood family heritage that leads him to the uncanny bombshell that has been bestowed upon his family farm. Ventimiglia, in his roughest, toughest country twang, creates such an anxiety-riddled and frantic character that unravelling his fate is not too clear which is refreshing to be able to retain mystery to a role as we can kind of figure out how Agent Francis and Deputy Salter when fair in the end game. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Regan (“John Wick”), Javier Botet (“Slender Man”), and “Star Trek: The Next Genergation’s” Jonathan Frakes, still sporting that iconic beard even if it has grayed, as the town Sheriff.
In spite of some really cool visuals, especially of the man underneath the mask, Javier Botet, inside a ghoulishly white extraterrestrial suit that only his elongated and thin body (and perhaps also Doug Jones’) could snuggly fit into, “Devil’s Gate” tells a narrative that hails from a lot of re-spun material. Whether intentional or not, viewers more than likely won’t be able to help themselves as they’ll eagerly point to the television screen and say, ““Independence Day” did that first,” or exclaim, “didn’t Donald Sutherland star in the same kind of thing???” I know I did. However, Staub and Aperlo don’t completely ape the concepts that surely haven’t inspiring them, making the effort more endearing, and visually crafted a well-blended plot into an enjoyable and captivating story; a story that has been mostly devoid of underlining messages and symbolism other than the themes of religious zealots are extremely bad for the world and living with past regrets can be hazardous for your health if not properly accessed. “Devil’s Gate” focuses more directly on just entertaining another version of visitors from another world and how those no-so-little-green-men play an assimilating role into humanity.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Devil’s Gate” onto a region 4 DVD presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The vast Midwestern landscape with the foreboding rolling clouds stretches from top to bottom with an exact sharpness and crisp from the digital picture. The textures in the broad, yet barren-esque fields look especially detailed, more so with the wind and brownish-yellow color. Speaking of color, the hue is a filter of shadowed purple and on a sepia side that works the dread atmosphere. The English 5.1 Dolby audio track has ample range and depth. Lightning strikes boom equally from the five channels, alien shrieks trembles through, and the dialogue is not obstructed. Surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release as the Stateside counterpart even has a trailer in the extras. There isn’t a static menu either as the film goes right into play feature mode. c
Hot off the Quinn Brenner case, parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a phone call from Ted Garza regarding paranormal activity at his house in Four Keys, New Mexico. The location happens to be the childhood home of Elise, where her father viciously abused Elise to stop her supernatural gifts and also where her mother was brutally murdered by a fearsome and hatred-energized demon known as KeyFace. Reluctant to return where memories revel in persistent and continuous nightmares, Elise and her two eager assistances, Tucker and Specs, take the case to aid the Garza’s request for a cleanse and to conclude the haunting and scarring chapter in Elise’s life, but the demon yearns power by luring Elise back to where it all began. With the help of her brother and two nieces, Elise’s family and friends aim to be a force against pure and undiluted evil hidden in the further.
Full disclosure….Insidious: Chapters 2 and 3 is not in my well versed cache of watched movies. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric hit that is James Wan’s 2011 “Insidious” film starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and the incredible Lin Shaye, but since that time, neither of the sequels have wandered into my unsystematic path. Except now. “Insidious: The Last Key” is the latest installment to the “Insidious” franchise and universe that’s directed by Adam Robitel, screenwriter of “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and written by franchise writer Leigh Whannell. In the grand scheme of chronological viewing, catching “The Last Key” first won’t divert and confuse too much from those on a methodical storyline timeline. Robitel’s chapter is a sequel to the prequel, “Insidious: Chapter 3,” and aside from an Easter egg here and there, there’s little reference and nothing substantial bonding to the next two films that are in sequential order.
Lin Shaye returns to reprise her role as parapsychologist Elise Rainier for the fourth time, picking up her character’s telepathic shtick like it was yesterday. Shaye’s one of acting talents that just flourishes like wild fire no matter what the type of role or movie she’s in or even affiliated with. Her ability to adapt and to get down and dirty with her characters proves why we love her thespian range from bust-a-gut comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” to indie horrors like “Dead End.” The now 74-year-old actress is more red hot now than ever as Elise Rainier whose even more popularized by her co-stars, writer, Leigh Whannell and and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker, whom like Shaye have reprised their roles for a fourth time. The comedic duo lighten up the dark toned premise, offering up dad jokes and snickering hairdos to offset to jump scares and gnarly KeyFace. Spencer Locke (“Resident Evil: Extinction”), Caitlin Gerard (“Smiley”), and the original 1971 Willard, Bruce Davison, play the supporting cast of Rainiers long lost, reunited family members caught in the middle of her quest for conclusion. Rounding out the cast is Kirk Acevedo (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Tessa Ferrer, Josh Stewart (“The Collector”), and contortionist, and Doug Jones’ Spanish rival, Javier Botet as KeyFace.
“Insidious: The Last Key” works on many positive levels: has a solid premise with Elise burning to finish the nightmare she had unleashed many years ago, subplots involving Ted Garza’s role and Elise’s abusive father, a dysfunctional family relationship between all the Rainiers, and some serious eye-popping scares throughout. The further also opens up more and becomes a vast area for exploration into all the creatures, ghosts, and demons that lurk in the otherworldly dimension, setting up future sequels and/or spinoffs. What doesn’t work as well is the rather anemic and lackluster climatic finale that took KeyFace from an extremely high frightfully monstrous pedastal, continuously building up the character to be the most powerful antagonist Elise has yet to encounter, and have the rug pulled right from under it’s horrid feet by squandering it formidability, flattening it with the single uppercut swing of a… lantern.
Adam Robitel’s “Insidious: The Last Key” finds a home on a Blu-ray plus Digital HD combo release by Sony Pictures and Universal Home Entertainment. The release is presented in high definition 1080p with a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image quality just tops out with overly spooky cool blue hue that’s gloomy, dark, and ominous, all the attributes perfect for a supernatural thriller, while managing to sharply define the details on the actors and their surroundings. The English 5.1 DTS-HD track stings where jump scares are prevalent and appropriate. Dialogue has clarity with mild ambiance supporting the localized and conventional horror audible moments while brawny LFE bursts on-screen in a bombardment of scare tactics whenever KeyFace suddenly shows face. Bonus features include an alternate ending (complete with cheesy one-liner from Lin Shaye), eight deleted scenes, a look into the “Insidious” universe, going into The Further, Lin Shaye becoming parapsychologist Elise Rainier, and a segment entitled “Meet the New Demon – Unlocking the Keys” to KeyFace. Perhaps not the epitome of the franchise, but “Insidious: The Last Key” absolutely fits into the franchise’s ever expanding universe and unlocks more of the spine-tingling backstory to one of horror’s contemporary and unremitting heroines ready to confront evil.
A Hollywood screenwriter named Nicholas owns a very special household feline. Angel, his Cat, has a unique relationship with her owner Nicholas. Yet, their unbreakable bond has put a severe damper on Nicholas’s intimacy with women as Angel slaughters any and all who becomes close with her beloved human. When Nicholas finally catches wind of the reason behind his love life woes and learns that Angel is actually possessed by an obsessive and dangerous demon, he and his friends Adam, whose also his downstairs neighbor in the apartment complex, seek to exorcise Angel back to being a nice kitty, but all who’ve challenged Angel thus far have been unlucky enough to be scratched to death. A medium, two priests, and even a cat therapist haven’t seem to help Nicholas through the bombardment of weird dreams and death that surround him in his lonely and tiny one bedroom apartment.
Cat lovers beware! “Hell’s Kitty” is purring up your leg to claw you in this new horror-comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana. If you had thought cats were already contemptible enough to begin with then sit down in your air freshening kitty litter and get a can of Friskies out because you’re about to take a 666 ride with this demon kitty. “Hell’s Kitty” is original a web series created by Tana that began all the way back from 2011 to 2015 and, since then, has been immensely popular through the inter-webs with the extra special casts of genre vets ranging from “The Hills Have Eyes'” Michael Berryman to “The Fog’s” Andrienne Barbeau. From the web series, the episodes were pieced together, forming one hairball adventure of Nicholas and his demon cat, Angel.
Aforementioned, Nicholas Tana headlines as himself because, essentially, “Hell’s Kitty” is based off true events of his turmoiled love life. Series regulars also become essential players in the film, such as Nicholas’s downstairs loafing neighbor and best friend Adam (Adam Rucho), Lisa Graves (Lisa Younger of “Cold Creepy Feelings”), and Dr. Laurie Strodes (Nina Kate of “Snake Club: Revenge of the Snake Women”). Then, there’s a slew of special guests that, at times, pay homage to the works that made them household names in horror or relating genres. Special guests that include “Children of the Corn’s” John Franklin and Courtney Gains semi-reprising their roles as Isaiah and Mordicia. Lynn Lowry (“The Crazies”), Doug Jones (“The Shape of Water”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Coyote”), Kelli Maroney (“Night of the Comet”), Dale Midkiff (“Pet Sematary”), Lee Meriweather (Catwoman from “Batman” television series), Victoria De Mare (“Killjoy” franchise), and porn star goddess, and legend, Nina Hartley (“Pleasure Maze”)! That’s one heavy-hitting lineup! As a cherry on top, even a Killer Klown, you know, the ones from Outer Space, made an appearance!
If a viewer didn’t know of or research into “Hell’s Kitty” web series past, the thought of low-budget junk just might scroll across a judgmental mindset. Let’s be honest for a second; “Hell’s Kitty” is grade-A camp with schlocky special effects and the editing quality of a ramshackle shackled ram. Along with the unique cast being intertwined into the story, other aspects of the Frankenstein-glued together film, such as the sharp pivoting subplots, stir up Nicholas ever so chaotic life into a new and interesting fold. From his fruitless sex life with various attractive women to the friend who always makes himself welcome in Nicholas’s apartment, Nicholas only has one consistent thing in his life and that is his relationship with the cat from hell and that journey is explored from episode-to-episode that climaxes with an ultra-drag musical rendition of something out of the “Birdcage.” Another quality to watch for, and enjoy, are the homages to fan favorites like “Children of the Corn” and “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” as mentioned before, “The Exorcist,” and “Psycho.”
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing presents the Smart Media LLC,. production of “Hell Kitty,” as a whole, on DVD home video that’s visually subpar when considering the quality. The low bitrate crudely displays blotchy image quality, leaving details to the waist side. The 5.1 surround sound is the best attribute to the DVD with clear dialogue and a modest soundtrack. There are no extras included aside for the film’s trailer. While technically incompetent, “Hell’s Kitty” meows murderously onto DVD in a cultivation of cult actors and hellacious comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana that does sometimes feel rehashed or borrowed from previous films, but the quirky evil pet element gnaws on an inner layer to be enjoyed and enthralled in a day-and-a-life of one man’s skewed, if not deranged, version of events of a lackluster romantic lifestyle blamed toward one jealous feline.
Elliot, Sasha, and John move into an old manor home just off the university’s campus. The tight knit three friends stumble upon a tattered nightstand with scribbled nonsense inside the drawer and underneath the incoherent writing and scratched into the wood is The Bye Bye Man. Once you hear the name, a searing imprint has been made into the mind, opening up a layer within the universe that invites a grim reaper-like figure to come horrifically collect individuals who have been infected with the name. The mysterious malevolence will impose hallucinations, or tricks, upon the mind to induce others to commit evil acts on another and will stop at nothing until those who know his name are either end up dead or spread his vileness. For Elliot, Sasha, and John, their close relationships will be tested, they’re bodies will be challenged, and their minds will be altered in a race against the clock in order to beat death, to defeat The Bye Bye Man.
“The Bye Bye Man” is an Universal Pictures and STX Entertainment distributed boogeyman concept from 1995’s “The Last Supper” director Stacy Title. Title, who hasn’t been active for about ten years since her last directorial, helms the project written by her husband, an appropriately named Jonathan Penner, who also had a co-starring role in “The Last Supper.” The inspiration stems from a collection of horrific tales from Robert Damon Schneck’s “The President’s Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America,” but “The Bye Bye Man” borrows heavily from well-crafted horror brethren too, birthing a mythological personification of death that doesn’t wield a scythe, but rather being a master, underneath a dark hooded cloak, to a hellish beast that munches on the faces of The Bye Bye Man’s victims. “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Final Destination,” and a little bit of “Scream” become the selected examples that are the genetic makeup of TItle and Penner’s film, but doesn’t grossly rip from the said works, two of which are the late Wes Cravens masterpieces. Instead, Jonathan Penner reconfigures the nightmare man, a modern day Freddy Krueger type stalking every soul during the day and night hours, whom establishes his own brand of Rube Goldberg deaths through deadly vision inflictions that pray upon a human’s moral subconscious. “Don’t say it. Don’t think it” sets as the 2017 film’s tagline with the notion that perhaps little white lies are, literally, lifesavers or that the truth can be hurtful, and or knowledge can be powerful, but can also lead to your own demise.
“Ouija’s” Douglas Smith succumbs to his lead role of Elliot, an educated and patient young man who seems to have everything despite tragic misfortune that’s whisked through the character development. From friends, to a supportive brother, to a loving girlfriend, Smith transition seamlessly to languishing burden during a spotlight scene with co-star Carrie-Anne Moss (“Matrix”) that’s raw and cuttingly empathetic. The story centers around Elliot, but Sasha and John have pivotable relationships to Elliot, two essential roles given to two British actors, former girl of Prince Harry, Cressida Bonas, and television actor Lucien Laviscount. Both Bonas and Laviscount expensed drab performances, mechanically and, often, monotonically coming and going from scene-to-scene without mingling well into the rest of the film’s grim and dire trimmed overalls that basically left Smith out to pick up the slack. Along with Carrie-Anne Moss, who always seems to be typecast in a women of power role and, in this case, a detective, “The Bye Bye Man” sports other veterans of both horror and general film, but; instead, take a backseat to a younger generation of actors. “HellBoy’s” Doug Jones silently strolls through one of the easiest prosthetically garbed performances of his illustrious career as the titular character, genre stable Leigh Whannell (“Saw”) commits to a haunting performance as a murder-suicide martyr, and the legendary Faye Dunaway portrays a longtime widow of the aforementioned madman. Michael Trucco (“Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled”), Jenna Kanell, Cleo King (“Hood of Horror”), and Erica Tremblay round out the supporting cast.
Universal picking up a horror title resembling an infantile kids feature and releasing it theatrically might with relatively unknown, mostly non-American cast, will scratch some questioning heads, but with a well oiled supporting cast consisting of many years of guild service, a director, despite being inactive for many years, maintaining a sensible and visionary eye, and a story, aside from a few underdevelopments, that captivates with edge of your seat scares and with next moment eagerness, “The Bye Bye Man” has great potential. With smoothing out details of Elliot’s and The Bye Bye Man’s backstories and construing more of a slow burn method when getting the characters involved with the ‘don’t think it, don’t say it’ villain name, Universal would have increased their gross profits by double and the world would be happy once again. Unfortunately, that scenario was not the case as credits bombarded “The Bye Bye Man” as about as borrowed and as hokey as any low-budget horror film can be, but “The Bye Bye Man” surpassed the production budget by triple and to me, someone who generally has the same stance as most credits, that’s a win for Stacy Title and company.
The Intrepid Pictures and Los Angeles Media Fund production “The Bye Bye Man” makes a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment debut on a two-version unrated Blu-ray and DVD combo. The MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p Blu-ray disc contains a razor sharp image in the 1.85:1 presentation. Depth and shadows phenomenally define the space, especially in closer quarters and the ariel shots. A motif of bleak black and grim grey is consistent throughout, creating a tone through the darker shades, with vivid hues to gloriously fend for themselves amongst the achromatic reel landscape. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound doesn’t feign in the balance category with dialogue prevalence not short of excellence and, much like other atmospheric horror, the spooky elements are outlined in various levels from a coin dropping to a train horn. Bonus features are surprisingly zilch with no extras on either format; I guess there wasn’t much to say during or post-film. In all, “The Bye Bye Man” is a total hack with plot holes. A completely borrowed and revamped product with a terribly childish title promising nothing to the genre, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “The Bye Bye Man” can’t be entertaining, providing a wicked sense of humor and a morbid final destination outlook with unexpected casting choices and a barely bordering PG-13 horror rendering.
From the demented minds of Brian Dorton and Douglas Conner, “The Horror Network” anthology has set sail on it’s first volume maiden voyage, shipping five petrifying and on the edge of your seat horror shorts right to your television set. Stories so darkly atmospheric and spine tingling that leaving the lights off while watching would be a horrible mistake. Each tale tells a different kind evil including demented demons, child stalking predators, family abusers, and a sadistic plaster saint. Certainly not intended for the faint of heart or the easily offended for each episode turns up the intensity, the fear, and the scares. Leave the lights on, take a blanket to hide under, and make sure you grab a couch partner to watch with you and then ask yourself, are you ready to tune into “The Horror Network?”
A young woman named Georgia drives through the English countryside to get away for a few days. When she arrives at her remote farm house, a strange sense of foreboding overcomes her and weird, sporadic noises emit from all around her throughout the day and into the night. When the digital clock nearly reaches 3:00 A.M., she hears a concerning noise from downstairs and when she investigates, a ghostly presence lies in wait.
Before the anthology’s credits even begin to roll, the Lee Mathews directed film “3:00 A.M.” will for damn sure kickstart anybody’s heart. The atmosphere is violently tense when Georgia explores the strange occurrences downstairs and even before the night falls. Initially, the main focus kind of misguides you through much of, what were led to believe to be is, Georgia’s imagination from the one after the other false jump scares: a branch scratching at a window, a cat jumping out of the shadows, a jack in a box toy. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit obvious and not so much a surprising jump scare, but the toy does tie into the story near the end, giving the toy a reason to exist and a hint of menacing. Many of the jump scares are accompanied by screeching sound effects, like fingernails across a chalkboard, which would make any poor soul, who fears the dark and supernatural, jump out of their skin.
“3:00 A.M.” is a good introductory 10 minute short that sets the tone for the four other films in tow; a tone with a subtle message that insinuates the maturity of this anthology. Despite being a little redundant with the classical jump scares, especially with the cheesy jack in the box jump scare that could be seen coming from miles away, for director Lee Mathews, with “3:00 A.M.” being the only credit to his name, creating a nail biting short of that magnitude is fairly impressive and inviting.
Hal has mental problems. He can’t sleep. He can’t stop sleepwalking. He can’t seem to stop dreaming about death. Psychiatrist Dr. Aleksey is determined to root out Hal’s issues, but when Hal informs him about the news of a school friend named Alice being murdered, the good doctor decides to put Hal under hypnosis and determine just what’s going on in Hal’s mind. Under the semiconscious state, Hal recounts his last dream and sleepwalking incident where he describes in detail a man coming into his room from outside his window. The man has Hal follow him into Alice’s room, the same Alice Hal said was brutally murdered prior to going under hypnosis. When Dr. Aleksey discovers the truth about what happened to Alice, Hal’s hidden inner demon named Edward reveals himself, leaving Dr. Aleksey at wits end in trying to cure the incurably evil.
“Edward” is a gothic tale that isn’t too overly gothic in setting onscreen. The ominous presence, whether through the acting of Hal played eerily and perfectly by Nick Frangione or the chilling atmosphere, remains always present in the confined space of Dr. Aleksey’s office. The “Edward” short is a stray genre short from director Joseph Graham, a San Francisco based director who has been credited in directing feature films about homosexuality and the cultural-based stigmas – reminds me a little of the work helmed by Gus Van Sant. Graham’s “Edward” has an pitch black aura that seeks to let loose the horror-elements, yearning to be freed, because everything about the story of “Edward” is well told and well shot, as if you yourself were standing in the room with Hal and Dr. Aleksey, experiencing the fate of both men. However, Dr. Aleksey’s fate could have, and probably should have, contained more exposition, especially when the doctor arrives back home to his wife and sleeping child.
Alice, a partially deaf young school girl who particularly loves the quiet instead of using her hearing aid which eventually to taking the brunt of the cruel jokes from her classmates, rides the bus home from school. When she’s being dropped off at her remote stop, she forgets her cellphone on the bus. With her mother no where in sight, Alice decides to walk home alone, but when a suspicious blue van seems to be stalking her, she makes a break for the woods where she unfortunately loses her hearing aid. Lost in woods and unable to hear good, a cat and mouse game ensues between her and the man with the blue van whose on her closing in on her.
Unlike “Edward” where dialogue catapults the film into a tension-filled frenzy, “The Quiet” lives up to the title with the duration containing no dialogue until the twist ending. The built-in weakness of our protagonist Alice and the constant bullying of her helps the audience sympathize with her character more, making Alice a relatable person rather than a whimsical character everyone wishes instant death upon. The story has a strong beginning, continuing to build once the blue van man is introduced, but there are moments of unclarity that create more confusion than add value to the story; for example, the scenes of a padded room, a tortured little girl’s doll, and someone whispering, “I’ll love you forever,” don’t seem to connect up or match with the rest of the story, making the scenes seem out of place and unnecessary. The twist ending also becomes mysterious and diluted when were giving more information about the man in the blue van, but his intentions still aren’t made crystal clear, leaving way too much to the imagination and not in a good artistic way. Imwiththemproductions is behind the production of “The Quiet,” that’s supposedly based on a true story about a young girl being kidnapped when walking home with friends, and has a runtime of 21 minutes.
“Merry Little Christmas”
Christina and her mother Lola have lived many years with the scars bestowed upon them by Christina’s father, Lola’s husband. On the Eve of Christmas many years back, Christina’s strikes Lola unprovoked, continuously beating her, slashing her face with a straight edge razor, stabbing her, and raping her. Christina’s inner struggle constantly fights to restrain her internal, monstrous-illustrated hatred and self-destructiveness while Lola’s alcoholism and self-inflicted cutting addiction amplifies every Christmas Eve and this year, the mother and daughter grapple on keeping it together for one more year, but that battle will be lost in a fierce tragedy when they receive a phone call from the man who hurt scarred them for life.
“Merry Little Christmas” is the 20 minute Ignacio Martin Lerma and Manuel Marin visually graphic directed film from Spain. Surprising and suspenseful, “Merry Little Christmas” isn’t your old fashion gay and jolly-filled holiday film where Saint Nick brings all little boy and girls toys. No. In fact, Christmas is defined as a terrible point in time for Christina and Lola, a time when pain and fear are symbolic for tis the season. Lerma and Marin deconstruct the mother and daughter down to reveal their complexity and they’re characters are filled with various demons that become flesh in Christina’s mind when their abuser makes an unexpected phone call. A bravo should be awarded to Blanca Rivera for her bathtub scene, exploring her cutting addiction as well as attempting to learn to lover her body fully in the nude. The demon special effects are downright nasty, frightening and fantastic from “[REC] 2” and “[REC] 3” special effects guru Juan Olmo and the Doug Jones of Spain actor Javier Botet portraying the Demonio, or Demon. “Merry Little Christmas” is callous and cold without any remorse and no apology is needed for the cynicism or the brutally that it portrays.
“The Deviant One”
A young man becomes the victim of a suburban sexual sadist who lives a facade life of scripture and holiness. The atrocities committed might be the misinterpretations of the good Lord’s holy book and no one is safe from the deviant’s hungry claws and thirst for sexual and murderous gratification.
Perhaps my least favorite short from “The Horror Network” anthology, “The Deviant One” is helmed by the anthology’s co-creator Brian Dorton who also starred as the deviant neighborhood sadist. In the 8 minute black and white story of a young man’s death, body desecration, and body disposal, a lack of story glorifies the private life, but just doesn’t tell the tale fully of the deviant’s public church-going life. While the deviant walks up to a church, I wanted scenes of him standing at the pulpit, in front of shoulder-to-shoulder filled pews, opening the bible, and reading from the book, preaching his version of the scripture upon those ears listening. An opportunity was missed to strike at the heart of church hidden hypocrisy. On a positive note, Dorton, as the deviant, plays and looks the part so uncomfortably well that it’ll be hard to distinguish his off-camera self from his on-screen character.
“The Horror Network” material is nitty gritty with loads of passion behind the camera and from the crew of all the shorts. One of my favorite anthology releases of 2015 from Wild Eye Releasing. The DVD contains shorts that were shot in various formats and aspects ratios so I won’t be too harsh on the quality of the picture, but I will say that the noticeable posterization in “The Deviant One” and “Edward” stood out from the rest. The audio tracks do need fine tuning as there was some faint, but obvious feedback and the dialogue tracks were slightly overpowered by the soundtracks. The extras include an extended cut of Dorton’s “The Deviant One” which contains dialogue and additional scenes of Dorton, but the short works better without the clunky, kindergarden dialogue and Dorton’s testicles as he makes love to a severed head – yup, testicles. An image gallery and trailers for the shorts round out the rest of the bonus material. The DVD art, from “Merry Little Christmas’s” demons, amazingly exhibits and sells this release and stays true to form from the disturbing short. I expect volume two to exceed the fear bar!