EVIL Atones with Drugs and Torture! “Xpiation” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

Atone for Your Sins By Buying “Xpiation” on Blu-ray from Amazon!

An elegantly dressed woman thrones herself into the middle of a grungy corridor, pointing a video camera toward two unconscious men. One man lies face down on the floor while the other is gagged and bound naked to a chair. When both men awake from their slumber, the man from the floor continuously tortures the man confined the chair by beating him, slicing his face open with a knife, scraping his skin open with steel wool, bludgeoning him with a clothes iron, and hammering his scrotum all the while the mysterious woman videotapes. The woman coddles her delusional torturous goon with powerful narcotics and motherly affection to do her bidding. She also participates in a few pain inflicting activities that adds more insult to injury to the beaten to a pulp and humiliated young man hanging onto his life by a thread.

Italian gore and shock filmmaker Domiziano Cristopharo wanted to emulate the notoriously extreme and underground horror series Guinea Pig that originated in Japan and was westernized for North American audiences with their own version of American panorama of sadism. For Italy, Cristopharo set out to create his own compendium of starkly violent and gory films Cristopharo dubs the Trilogy of Death. All three films dealing with a theme of punitive suffering were produced in 2017, beginning with “Sacrifice” that written by Samuel Marolla and directed by Poison Rouge (“A Taste of Phobia”). “Sacrifice” was actually turn Cristopharo’s aspiration into reality when it was picked up by the American Guinea Pig series. The next film, “Torment,” was cowritten by Cristopharo and Likov Milotoskih and directed by Adam Ford (“XXX Dark Web”) that pulled inspiration from the infamous John Wayne Gacy murders. The third and last segment, “Xpiation, was helmed by Cristopharo himself from an Andrea Cavaletto (“Dark Waves”) script that finally placed Cristopharo personal touch upon the series he fully endorsed as creator and producer under his production company, Enchanted Architect.

The principal cast is tightly coiled around just the three individuals in the isolated corridor of a vacant, graffiti painted building.   Right away, we’re intrigued by the opening scene of a sophisticatedly dressed woman with blond hair draped over her left eye.  She’s sitting in an armchair with her exposed legs to the side.  She has forearm length black gloves, lushes red lipstick, a tightfitting low cut short skirt black dress slightly exposed by her short sleeve steel gray jacket with a matching pin hat with a clear veil over her face, a purse around her left forearm resting on her thigh, and a camera clutched in her right hand for viewing the spectacle before her.  The provocative Italian actress Chiara Pavoni is the sharply eye-catching center figure amongst the rumble she sits and the two disheveled men she videotapes. Having had roles in previous obscure horror, such as “Demonium,” “Bad Brains,” and VelvetMorgue,” Pavoni established herself as an Italian scream queen that suited her more domicile, yet underhandedly authoritative, role as the Lady in “Xpiation” that has since been a springboard for her career working with Cristopharo on a number of future projects.  We see what Cristopharo sees in the mature in age actress:  a commanding presence with range and willingness to absorb extreme content for the sake of art.  As the Lady, Pavoni orchestrates the drug-fueled violence of Simone Tolu’s character, the drug addict.   Tolu’s crazed approach to a hallucinating and aggressive, substance abusive druggie is more childlike that crosses the line into overzealous disability.  The addict is supposed to be under the Lady’s narcotic spell, bewitched by her motherly presence in feeding love to him by way of various powders, pills, and penetrating needles of unknown liquid matter and while that is certainly what’s on screen, Tolu oversteps his swiss-cheese child mind into more of just maniacal horseplay that cheapens the desired effect.  One of the easier performances in the film is from Emanuele Delia who has to sit naked in a chair, bound and gagged, and take Tolu’s manhandling beatings for most of the duration.  Delia has a handful of scenes where he’s engaged with the Lady in flashback and an existential representation finish but neither one of his three-sided role squeezes out a smidgen of dialogue, reducing his inked and pierced body to be a model of crime and punishment, or in this theme, sin and atonement.

Sin and atonement.  “Xpiation” is simply that.  A minor reconstructing toward a more panache play on the word expiation, the act of making right for wrongdoing, to home in on concluding Cristapharo’s Trilogy of Death.  “Xpiation” expresses this message in the form of vengeance in an exploitation playground of brutality where eye-for-an-eye is a steep slide toward grinding a sinner into the rubber mulch of penitence.  Cristpharo directs a straight up torture film that aims to avoid a fanciful apathetic and really divulges itself into humanizing the torturer with flashbacks of far-from-comfortable life.  Multitudes of abuse fester in the Lady’s past until it suppurates outward after one final act of transgression pushes the Lady beyond the point of enough-is-enough and every ounce of anger and hate that’s been bottled up tightly all the years is shook so hard the cap finally explodes into a meticulously premeditated plan for revenge and relief. Non-linear avant garde is Cristpharo’s go-to storytelling weapon, one that provides “Xpiation” with more layers than just surface level brutality as the director spoon feeds the audience with little bits and pieces of the Lady’s background. As he accomplished with his breakout film, “House of Flesh Mannequins,” the filmmaker is a master at commanding the pace, a maestro del ritmo!

You can now own a piece of the trinity or conclude Domiziano Cristopharo’s trilogy of death with a Blu-ray release of the last installment, “Xpiation,” as the director attempts to revive erotic-horror and institute extreme horror in his home country of Italy. Unearthed Films, a leading distributor in gore, arthouse, and horror films, releases an AVC encode full high definition, 1080p, Blu-ray in a standard widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Distributed by MVD Visual, I tested the Region A release on a Region B setting and was able to play the not rated film in its 73-minute entirety. Image looks consistently good and more gruesome with the closeup mauling of skin. Colors are vivid enough in the blood and in the contrast, through good lighting, of the lady’s aristocratically lush and starkly colored outfits compared to the bleak rubble that surrounds her. Often, during the flashbacks, does the coloring dull or reduce to indicate flashback. The English dubbed PCM 2.0 stereo is where most of the inconsistencies lie with an uneven dialogue track due to the forced English upon English dub, as the actors are basically whispering their lines in English, and “Sick Sock Monsters from Outer Space’s” Antony Cola’s industrial hum and brood soundtrack masks the dialogue to a muddled intelligibility. I wonder why if the plan was to always dub the film in English, why even bother with dense accents? The bonus features include a decent blooper reel that showcases a lot of the dubbed dialogue, an interview with director Domiziano Cristopharo as he goes into the construction and issues of his seeing his trilogy to fruition, a still gallery of the film, and trailers. With “Xpiation,” Cristopharo continues to amaze and impress with small bubble stories that seldomly traipse to new locations, sticking to a confinement and cruelty disposition, and still be able to build interesting, layered characters trounced in pain and dripping with blood.

Atone for Your Sins By Buying “Xpiation” on Blu-ray from Amazon!

EVIL Slums In The Company of Others. “Hausen” reviewed! (Sky Atlantic / Eps. 1-4 / Digital Screeners)

Jaschek moves into a property supervisor position of a slum housing complex with his 16-year-old son, Juri, after the tragic fiery death of his wife. Trying to rebuild and rebound on what’s left of his and his son’s life and waiting for the insurance money to pay out, Jascheck tends to the decrepit building maintenance and, over time, meeting the cold, strung out, and peculiar tenants while Juri attends school and becomes interested with the building’s discretionary drug pushing youths. When a young couple’s baby goes missing, the mysterious disappearance motivates Juri into an investigation, leading his curiosity to discover that the building itself, and the insidious sludge that oozes nearly from every crevice, feeds on the suffering and pain of the inhabitants.

When a black, wet stain on the wall embodies a biological presence of asexual spores and elicits the instinctual first thought of alarm sounding bells ringing to back away in your mind, this is how Till Kleinert and Anna Stoeva injects fear and biotic crud with their new horror television series, “Hausen.” It’s Bloggin’ Evil got to sample the first four episodes of the German 8-episode series that showcases director Thomas Stuber’s dank complexion of anthropomorphized leeching of the lower class, filmed partially inside an East Germany, 20 plus year abandoned hospital, once known as the GDR Hospital, located in Berlin. Kleinert is the writer and director of 2014’s “Der Samurai,” pulling from his film the lingering disembodied or dreamlike and integrating that surrealism imagery for the new series, and collaborates with first time writer, long time producer Anna Stoeva, one half of the boutique film production company, Tanuki Films. “Hausen” is a production of the Berlin-based company Lago Film, who co-coordinated the production on David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” under department head, producer Marco Mehlitz.

“Hausen” primarily focuses around a reestablishing father and son, Jaschek and Juri, after a tragic house fire that claimed the life of Juri’s mother. The series starts off with the two driving up to the housing complex and breaking themselves right away into a runaway rundown building that needs more than just a sprucing up. “Transporter: The Series'” Charly Hübner plays the handy father, Jaschek, with non-expressive can-do attitude that becomes a block of interrelation between him and his son Juri in another unreadable performance from Tristan Göbel of Lago Film’s “Goodbye Berlin. That inexpression is the intentional tone of “Hausen’s” entire cast of tenant characters who float through a barely-living existence, most living grubbily, few living in humble comfort, but all being exploited by the organic narcotic that’s living, breathing, and striving from the inhabitant suffering. Hübner and Göbel impassively shepherd along the story along that introduces new characters into new episodes that digs deeper into the complex’s black, oozy, heart symbiotically connected to a caretaker known as Kater, the very first character Juri and Jaschek meet upon arriving at the building for the first time. The autodidact Alexander Scheer touts an unkempt, dirtied, and made to look like a complete hobo in Kater who, unlike his onscreen cohorts, vitalizes the screen with wild-eye expressions and an unsurmountable jocularity and puckish wit. The series rounds out with stars Lilith Stangenberg (“Bloodsuckers – A Marxist Vampire Comedy”), Stefan Haschke (“Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill”), Daniel Sträßer, and Andrea Guo.

“Hausen’s” intended aloof pulse courses consistently throughout, at least in the first four episodes, that piece together and induce layers of grayscale personalities that have been cross affected by the building’s malevolent life force and the subjugating delinquent class that feel no need to make their surroundings better as their stuck in a vicious cycle rut of drugs and despondency. “Hausen” allegorically uses horror to intensify the already tragic aspects of corrupted ethical life choices people make when drugs are prioritized as more important than others and even their own lives. The first episode features a young couple with an infant and as they attempt to stay clean and withhold what little money saved for a new and better apartment, the building reacts by taking measures in the form of tormenting the husband’s brittle sobriety as he’s caring for the baby alone. He passes out and wakes to find the familiar narcotic he can’t seem to escape on his person. The scene mirrors good intentions of abusers who fall into withdraw with the withdraws being symbolically displayed as the building’s evil doings to keep the pain profit flowing. Overall, “Hausen” drips with underbelly exploitation that doesn’t stop with just the adverse, malignant housing as it spreads into Juri and Jaschek’s tense relationship and into the ounce of good left inside them, fleshed out in scenes that become a crossroad of choices where choice A) is to do the worst thing possible to compromise the smidgen of hope left or choice B) to reserve themselves into taking the harder, but good moral standing, road and work at rekindling a tattered bond that would go against everything the “Hausen” has thrown at them.

A skyscraper of bleak and austere horror, “Hausen” houses a slick secretion of mystery in every crevice. The Sky Germany produced horrifying mystery-thriller is now out in the UK on Sky Germany’s sister-programming, Sky Atlantic. A statically lit doom and gloom scenes never venture away from the tinted battleship gray and blue color scheme that goes hand-and-hand with a cleaned up GDR hospital shots from cinematographer, Peter Matjasko, that’s reminiscent of David Fincher films = think “Alien 3” but with way less yellows. The black sludge is a satisfying unnatural pigment of midnight black that contrasts nicely against said tinted lens coloring, providing a catheter of continuously streaming tenebrosity. We’ll have to wait and see how Juri, Jaschek, and the rest of the tenants fair in the last four episodes that shafted us with a plummeting cliffhanger midway through and, hopefully, ItsBlogginEvil.com can provide more coverage on the unnerving new television series that will put a stain your soul.

Shooting Up EVIL May Cause Hellish-Hallucinations! “Ozone” reviewed! (Temp Digital / Blu-ay and DVD)


On a stakeout to meet an informant, Detectives Eddie Boone and Mike Weitz are ambushed by a drug dealer named Richter and become separated in the fierce firefight. While detective Weitz tracks down their traitorous informant into a decrepit druggie den, Boone wrangles with Richter who injects him with a new street drug called Ozone. Unable to locate his missing partner for days, Eddie breaks standard police protocols to find his longtime friend and partner by digging into Ozone’s grimy underworld filled with powerful hallucinogenic manifestations from the drug that turns users into mindless mutated addicts and killing machines. Eddie will have to go through Hell to stop the distribution of Ozone and to rescue his partner from an elevated and fully transformed drug lord with unconventional powers that believes Eddie is key to his world dominance.

First, “The Dead Next Door.” Then, “Robot Ninja.” Now, TempVideo and MakeFlix present the next super-duper, 2-disc collector’s release from the visionary B-movie director, J.R. Bookwalter, with his 1995 horror film, “Ozone.” Co-written with the visual effects artist from “The Talisman” and “Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm, David A. Wagner pens his one and only option in which Bookwalter immediately took a shining to following a string of very taxing and bargain titles for a flyby label. Able to by clairvoyant with how “Ozone” should be constructed, deep inside the creative process of his auteur mind, Bookwalter felt desire to oversee the production, taking the helm on just how he would make an ambitious project come to a life on a microbudget. “Ozone” parallels the subculture of powerful narcotics, like heroin or cocaine, and amplifies the conditions of the euphoria side effects to monstrous, unpredictable heights through a labyrinth of what the hell is going to happen next? Mostly shot in Akron, Ohio, “Ozone” is a production of Bookwatler’s own company, Suburban Tempe Company aka TempeVideo, on an astonishingly low-budget of $3500 and a handpicked cast and crew.

Comprised mainly of Ohio based actors, “Ozone” finds it’s star in James Black who has previously worked with Bookwalter on “Zombie Cop” and “Chickboxer.” Black went on to stardom, making a living off of the Hollywood limelight by having roles in such films as “Soldier” alongside Kurt Russell and “Out of Sight” with George Clooney among many other television and movie roles, but Black’s humble beginnings shouldn’t be overlooked. His performance as the lead character, Eddie Boone, highlights his attributes as a leading man. The physicality of the former professional football player with good looks catches the corners of eyes that the man from Lima, Ohio can act as well as do action scenes professionally and effectively despite budget limitations. However, “Ozone’s” talent doesn’t end there with Black’s co-stars who wear multiple hats in other roles or behind the camera. Case in point is Bill Morrison and James L. Edwards as the two makeup a total of five characters in the film as well as serving to be critical components as crew. Morrison dons two roles plus crafting the special makeup effects and miniatures. Edwards supports three roles, including the main antagonist in what looks like a hefty body suit. Morrison and Edwards going through the rigors of makeup to pull off various characters with polar personalities provide “Ozone’s” well-rounded, always interesting, idiosyncratic individuals Eddie encounters through his misadventures of drug-fueled nightscapes. Tom Hoover, Michael Cagnoli, Michael Beatty, Jerry Camp, Mark S. Bosko, Wayne Alan Harold, Neil Graf, Leo Anastasio, Parris Washington, and Lori Scarlett in an unforgettable birth of a mutant baby scene rounds out this cast of colorful characters.

“Ozone” is a gooey, gory, gumshoe of a horror film baked on narcotics laced with nightmares and for the budget price of a dime bag, J.R. Bookwalter injects a full-fledged, black tar, down the rabbit hole thriller that’s akin to a Clive Barker Faustian concept. “Ozone” draws similarities from “Hellraiser” as well as could find strong congruence with “Lords of Illusions,” a film which was released the same year as “Ozone” in 1995. Instead of magicians of the occult, the use of a more salt of the Earth drug is a powerful, tangible substance that reflects relevance more so than of fantasy. Audiences can relate more to the idea of the twisted wrenching of habitual use of not only illegal drugs, but with perhaps medications, alcohol, or any number of other addictions that seemingly take over one’s life and replaces it with the worst part of themselves. The mysterious encounters Eddie Boone is subjected to during his tour of the drug enlightens the hardnose detective to an out of body horror experience wretched with disfigured humanoid shells and countless mutants determined on cornering the market on living not sober not on their own volition. The use of the new morph special effects merged with the respectable practice effects by Bill Morrison and his team gorge on body modification and overpowering death as synonymous to being high.

Just like “The Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja,” “Ozone” receives the king’s treatment into a duel format, 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD Signature edition release. Shot on Super-VHS C videotape in 1995 and then transferred to DVCAM in 2002 for the DVD remastering, the 2020 upgrade used the DVDCAM masters were captured as ProRes 442 HQ QuickTime video files for a new and comprehensive color upgrade, additional deinterlacing, and amend any other Super-VHS C tape imperfections. What resulted for the Blu-ray release is a super clean and enhanced look presented in the original 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio of perfectly color corrected hues, brilliantly effusing various colors to coincide with the artistic storytelling of Eddie Boone’s trippy trek through “Ozone’s” chthonic evil. Seldom do minor blemishes pop up; in fact, you won’t even really notice when godsmacked on “Ozone’s” uncanny use of budgetary limitations. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix is equally as impressive. Pulled from the DA-8 tape achieve of the original audio masters on an eight-track cassettes, all of the dialogue and some original sound effects were used as the basis for the new restoration in which Maui Holcomb and director, J.R. Bookwalter enhanced over the course of 18 years. Dialogue cuts to the front of the line, mixed and balanced well with the explosions, gunfire, and other skirmishes, delivering a flawless and discernable product. Depth and range render nicely throughout. The DVD specs are the original 1994 VHS version also in the original aspect ratio with an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. Jens C. Moller grand score elevates “Ozone” to the “next stage,” as the street mutates would coin it, offering up a bountiful, robust score that simultaneous blends action and horror seamlessly. If you’re looking for every nook and cranny bonus material on “Ozone,” you got it with an extensive bonus package on the Blu-ray disc that include a 2020 audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, a 2003 commentary with the director and star, James Black, 2003 commentary, entitled “Street Zombies” from Bookwalter, bloopers and outtakes, production art and stills, news’ topic reels from 1993, promotional gallery, “Ozone’s origins explained through “Paying for Your Past Sins” with J.R. Bookwalter, “Into the Black” with star James Black and how he became involved, a 2003 location tour with actor James L. Edwards, behind the scenes footage with the only audio available is a commentary by J.R. Bookwalter, early test footage, and Tempe trailers. The DVD has additional material, such as awesomely isolating the musical score, 2020 audio commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of the No-Budget Nightmares Podcast, scenes from the Spanish dubbed version, the 1992 B’s Nest Video Magazine Intro, the original trailer, the Japanese trailer, the “Street Zombies” trailer, and more Tempe DVD trailers. The not rated, 81 minute, region free release also has optional English and Spanish subtitles. Inside the casing, which has a reversible wrap cover with the original VHS cover, housed inside a cardboard slipcover of revamped artwork by graphic designer Timothy Rooker includes an eight-page color booklet with liner notes by Tempe historian Ross Synder; it’s a good read up on “Ozone’s” conceiving and a little history on SOV of the 1990’s. Exquisitely enhanced and lush with material, the Signature Edition of “Ozone” just might be the definitive one of the wildly insane and bloodied occult cop fiction of independent horror ingenuity.

Available for pre-order. Hit shelves August 11th!

EVIL’s a Face-Off to the Death! “Guns Akimbo” reviewed! (Saban Films / Screener)


Miles, a thirtysomething video game developer, remains stuck in an unfulfilling and lonely existence where being an internet troll gives him his only taste of dominance over those who normally succeed above him in all other life aspects. When he pokes and prods a popular and sadistic underground death match known as Schism, the virally trending sensation sweeping the internet nation comes knocking at his apartment door to officially install him into the next melee bout. With guns crudely surgically bolted to both hands, Miles, whose used to running from just about everything, now has to nut up against Schism’s most prolific killer, Nix, and save his kidnapped ex-girlfriend from the deviants behind the game.

Social commentary runs amok in this grisly balls to the wall, gunplay stimulating action-comedy, “Guns Akimbo,” from the New Zealander, “Deathgasm” writer-director Jason Lei Howden. Trading in doom metal horror for a crass bullet ruckus, Howden barrels down with an on fleek supercharged story like a runaway freight train or a 6,000 round per minute minigun, shredding through a high body count like in a high occupancy round of a first person shooter. Under the production wing of Occupant Entertainment and distributed by Saban Films, who released films such as “The Girl with All the Gifts” and Rob Zombie’s “31” and “3 From Hell”, “Guns Akimbo’s” edgy dystopian air gangling along nerdy humor scraps “Robocop” utilitarian veneer for a fresh coat of millennial trivialities, fleshing out, in a ream of firepower, relevant societal topics and facing their adversarial shades head on in a barrage of blood soaked bullets.

Spearheading “Guns Akimbo” is Daniel Radcliffe, who seemingly continues to distance himself from the world of wizardry of “Harry Potter” and focusing his current career on off-Hollywood and chic films that has gained Radcliffe a cult following alongside his cache of wizards and witches fandom. Feeling content stagnant, Miles lounges comfortably in the power of being a keyboard warrior and Radcliffe leads the non-exuberant charge until pushes comes to guns bolted to my and someone is trying to kill me-shove. Opposite Radcliffe is Samara Weaving as a brashly confident and hard-hitting character of familiar skin that’s similar to her Melanie Cross role in Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem.” Instead of being a mild-mannered woman infected to be a savage, floor-clearing combat artist, Weaving bares no dissuasion embodying another uncaged killer becoming the nitty-gritty, tattooed, and uncouth Nix, hard-nosed with violent tendencies stemmed by the fiery murder of her family. Together, Weaving and Radcliffe make engaging adversaries and friendlies who both end up on working on themselves while working with each other in a do-or-die game. Ned Dennehy plays the creator of Schism and overall bad guy Riktor. The Irish actor, who recently had a role in Nicholas Cage’s “Mandy,” finds himself just as tatted up as Nix, waving a nihilistic-revolutionist banner like its something to be proud of, but despite Dennehy’s best efforts in alleviating his cynical nature with a few sarcastic quips, Riktor comes off as bland and unfulfilled as a story’s aortic villain; instead, I found myself more curious about his fascinating short-lived henchmen played by Mark Rowley as a Zangief Street Fighter doppelganger, Racheal Ofori shelling out with double barrels, and Set Sjöstrand as a gimp mask wearing Fuckface. The international cast rounds out with Natasha Liu Bordizzo (“Hotel Mumbai”), a once in a lifetime hilarious homeless man act by funny man Rhys Darby, Grant Bowler, and Edwin Wright (“Turbo Kid”).

“Guns Akimbo” could have been pulled straight from the crimson flashy illustrated pages of a popular graphic novel and, most definitely, would have worked as one too, soon to come for sure, but as a feature film is concerned, as fun as Howden drapers it with explosions, expletives, and executions, “Guns Akimbo” ultimately shakes at the knees with acute breakneck, 24-hour speed that clocks in at a 95 minute runtime. While that’s the standard runtime of choice for movies, average around 90 to 100 minutes, consequences from flying through backstories (Miles, Schism, Riktor, Nix) in a blink of an eye at the story’s expense to hastily push for gun blazing glory puts all the pressure on the viewer to keep up. The story’s non-linear moments also factor into being an onerous barrier for audiences which are shiplapped together egregiously just for the sake of going against the atypical plot structure design and interspersed with flash backs and wishful thinking near death pipe dreams all jam and crammed packed into the sardine can that is the very eye-candy combat of “Guns Akimbo.” Yet, enough time was mustered for symbolism where Miles finds himself ensnared in the sticky negativity that is the social media sludge, fueled by the sadistic voyeurs enjoying the show in a violence-porn tapestry. From troll to titan, Miles rises as the unlikely gladiator presence in Schism, pushing him toward being a viral sensation from which he can’t escape despite the lack of enthusiasm to anything related to Schism and his skyrocketing social media status. The whole showdown thrusts him into controlling his own life whether he likes it or not, a kick in the ass for a lack of a better phrase, to get him motivated.

Come February 28th, Saban Films’ “Gun Akimbo,” produced by Occupant Films’ Joe Neurauter, Felipe Marino, and New Zealand film producer Tom Hern, will go full blown trigger happy into select theaters, on demand, and on digital. Since this movie is yet to be officially released, is a screener, and doesn’t have a home video release just quite yet, there will be no audio and video critique portion of this review nor were there bonus material. There have been many great dual wielding action heros in our lifetime, including John Weston from “Equilibrium,” Selene from “Underworld,” and even that Counter-Strike terrorist avatar with the option to wield Dual Berettas. Now, we have Miles from “Guns Akimbo,” an immense ball of New Zealand vitality, un-tapered exploitation, and twofold in gun fun.

Pre-Order “Guns Akimbo” on Amazon Prime!

Death Fears No EVIL in Takashi Miike’s “First Love” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)


Orphaned boxer Leo grows up to be an up-and-coming star in the sport. After losing a match by TKO from a soft punch, Leo is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that sends himself into despair. In another part of town, the established yakuza and the imported Chinese mafia boil toward an inevitable war over turf and drugs. When Kase, a junior enforcer, betrays his yakuza family, scheming with a crooked cop to steal drugs for profitable gain, the tide turns blood red as the yakuza naively blames the Chinese. Caught in the middle is a drug addicted prostitute named Monica, a slave to the yakuza for her father’s past mishaps, who is kept locked away in a small apartment overseen by a yakuza lackeys, romantic couple Yasu and Julie, that also use the apartment to control drug flow. When Kase plan to raid the apartment and steal the drugs goes array, Yasu winds up dead and Monica escapes, running into Leo who has nothing left to live for except to protect Monica. A distraught-induced psychotic Julie, the deadly yakuza, the Chinese Mafia, a double-crosser and his crooked cop partner, a delusional girl of the night, and one apathetic boxer clash in a single night’s ultraviolet web.

Extreme Japanese auteur Takashi Miike fastens a lively tongue-and-cheek and supremely savage crime thriller in his latest mad yakuza film, amiably entitled, “First Love,” also known “Hatsukoi.” “First Love” is anything but friendly and pleasant as the street of Tokyo run red with blood or else the 2019 released film wouldn’t be a Takashi Miike trademark special. Penned by Miike’s long time collaborator, Masa Nakamura, the filmmaker’s affection for horror eludes this title that hones more toward the unpleasantries of clan betrayals, snarky criminal shenanigans, and, of course, a flavor for mega violence that become a maelstrom angrily surrounding a demoralized boxer and the victimized forced-into-prostitution young woman he aims to selfishly protect while in his mental clout regarding his mortality. Produced by OLM, Inc production company headquartered in Tokyo takes a step away from manga with “First Love,” a step that has been evolved over the last few years, but may have contributed to some of the illustrated content that seemingly has infiltrated into the third act with an initial explosiveness in the beginning portions of a car chase scene.

Cast as Leo Katsuragi, the boxer, is Masataka Kubota, a familiar face from another Miike film, “13 Assassins,” and most recently from the heavily Japanese cultured specter feature, ‘Tokyo Ghoul.” Leo’s lighter weight physique and fresh face has Masataka look the part of a promising fighter whose positioned for fame early into the story, but that framework comes to a screeching halt when he’s destined for a tumorous death. When Leo is coupled with Monica, a drug addicted forced in prostitution plagued with crippling hallucinations side effects, the repressed Leo finds himself sheltering someone with more burden on her shoulders than upon his own. Monica’s portrayed by Sakurako Konishi in what’s essentially her first major role and being paired as a scared, lonely, and crazy character coupled with a stoic vet in Masataka makes for an easy dynamic. Shôta Sometani’s chin deep in trouble Kase goes without saying that Sometani’s unfathomable range and charisma adds an aloof comic relief along with Kase’s dishonest detective slipped covertly into by “Ichi the Killer” himself, Nao Ohmori and pursued by a retribution spirited girlfriend, Julie, of her slain yakuza boyfriend; a role spearheaded with such energy and gusto from Rebecca Eri Rabone, credited solely as Becky, who has a slight Cynthia Rothrock vibe. “First Love” is no slave to boorish performances from Takahiro Miura (“Shin Godzilla”), Cheng-Kuo Yen, Sansei Shiomi, and Mami Fujioka.

“First Love” emerges as a smart and fun battle royal of decimation in the anarchist criterion. One would think a prolific director such as Takashi Miike would wear out his welcome with tired and stale filmic bread, crumbling with every soggy rinse and repeat. That’s not the case with “First Love.” Why is it entitled “First Love” anyway, you ask? The question’s open for viewer interpretation, much like most of Miike’s suggestive elegant style, and presents an illuminating unexplored journey in itself. A ventured guess would be that Leo and Monica have never experienced the feeling previously in either content or a labored life with Leo being an impassive athlete and Monica an escort since high school. The corollary of bumping into each other by chance results in the unorthodox dismantling of two rival criminal organizations, baring then an age-old theme of love conquers all and renders the mystics of destiny fueled from from within all the way easter egging sexual taboos inside his brazen, sometimes insane, transgression storyline. Either way, Takashi Miike helms a tremendous brutal-comedy that brands him as being the Martin Scorsese of Japanese filmmaking.

Blades, guns, and a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, “First Love” has mainstream aptitude with a carnage driven crime syndicate finesse and is now available on a two-disc, dual format Blu-ray and DVD release from Well Go USA Entertainment. Encased in a slipcover, the not rated feature is presented in full HD, 1080p, and in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio. This review will focus it’s review on the Blu-ray quality. Much of Miike’s style is neo-noir basking in very grounded color palette that’s occasionally adorned by the neon brights of Tokyo. Often does Miike composite in his work and “First Love” is no exception with a brief manga nearly a rallying ending; the illustration is super sharp, a visual pop of blue and white, and, obviously, clean. Ultra-fine details add to a prizing fatalism and even the tasteful gore, on a granular level, passes the screen test. Some scenes appear sleeker than others inside a dark scope coded with darker shades of green and yellow, but the overall result smothers any kind of inconsistency. The Japanese and Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks savor every last audiophile morsel. The clear dialogue renders nicely, big effects and action sequences offer a wide range, and the depth covers more than enough ground surrounded by hustle and bustle of the urban element. Kôji Endô’s enchantingly lethal score will immerse you right into the mix and provide a slick culture twist upon classical composition. The English subtitles are well paced and mostly accurate as I did catch one grammatical mistake. Incased inside a slight embossed titled cardboard slipcover, the release also offers a teaser and a theatrical run trailer. Cynical on the surface and romantically submersible to the core, “First Love” is a Takashi Miike instant favorite of amusing antagonism and shorn almost completely of genial garments.

Own Takashi Miike’s “First Love” on Blu-ray+DVD combo set!