When The Earth Goes Silent, EVIL Begins to Conquer. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” reviewed! (Shout Factory! / Digital Screener)


In a distant future, the entire Earth goes dark without warning. Communications are completely severed with no sign of life exists except for those scared and confused inside what is to be called The Circle of Life that has encompassed Moscow and other parts of neighboring countries. Reconnaissance teams venture out into the quarantine zones, discovering dead bodies as well as noticing people have gone missing. A month later, an outpost goes under siege by an army of bloodthirsty bears. These bizarre events go unexplained, leaving military jarred, and to find answers, seven teams are dispatched to various areas surrounding the outpost to locate signs of life. While the teams are scouting, an powerful alien reaches out to the outpost, warning them that Earth is in the middle of a four wave attack by his race looking for a new home. Before their 200,000 year trip ends with destination Earth, the last wave, 160 million mind-enslaved missing humans, will attack the Circle of Life at the command of the alien informant’s counterpart and it’s up to the ravaged scout team to band together to extinguish the extermination of mankind.

Nothing is more frightening than wiping out 95% of the world’s human population in the blink of an eye without so much of a sign of explanation. Welcome to “The Blackout: Invasion Earth,” which depicts just that very unfathomable scary episode of terra-loneliness and free-for-all, fear induced panic amongst the civilian population, tapping into the same vain of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “Arrival.” The big budget, Russian sci-fi action-horror, originally titled “Avanpost” or just “The Blackout,” is penned by television scriber Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov. Released this past November in Russia, “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” touchdowns inside the North American market from genre distributor Shout! Studios come June 2nd, becoming a planet-sized contender for the biggest science fiction film of the year with relentless suspense, alien-on-alien hand-to-hand combat, and an encroaching bear blitz that can’t go unseen! The Moscow based TV-3 and Premier Studios serves as the production companies with studio heads, Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, producing an estimated $4.3 million dollar film.

Unless you’re a no-life film buff whose up to speed with all the latest Russian thespians, many of us in the States will not recognize these Slavic actors; actors such as Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Artyom Tkachenko, or Svetlana Ivanova with no standing in the usual cache of domestic and international circle of ascertain identity that any joe can just look at a cast list and go, “aha!,” and put your index finger right on their name in recognition. However, if you look closer, you’ll unearth titles you might have heard of, such as “The Darkest Hour” (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Night Watch (Aleksey Chadov). Fyodorov and Chadov play Yura and Oleg, military comrades by circumstance who are pitted against an inexplicable and unknown occurrence. Though fighting the same war, the two friends contrast different backgrounds. Yura comes from a long lineage of military blood, but becomes somber in his soldier role as he suffers an immense loss at the moment of blackout and when he discovers love for a field medic, Olya (Svetlana Ivanova), his will to fight survives by a thread. Juxtaposed against Yura is the cab driver turned enlisted man Oleg whose only living relative, his dementia-malady mother, had survived the blackout and the event has given this man in a rut purpose and a fire lit inside him. Artyom Tkachenko plays the stoic alien savior with a nearly human form, all except the three slit vertical mouth, makes him deceptively trustworthy and Tkachenko eats into that cautionary persona of whether this being is actually assisting in saving the human race or angling his prey to work against an adversarial counterpart, Ra (lya Volkov) to gain dominance totality. Performances all around exact a fair amount of rigidness to them, but I blame the forced English dub that can seemingly thwart natural deliveries. The physical and range of action is choreographed with assiduity from the actors, making me believe root cause of the rigidness is certainly the dubbing. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” closes out the cast list with Konstantin Lavronenko, Andrey Mezhulis, Artyom Markaryan, and Lukerya Ilyashenko.

“The Blackout: Invasion Earth” is a special effects juggernaut; some of the best, awe-inspiring visual effects I’ve ever witness has come from Russia, with love, that’s a projectile explosion of a thriller and, in true Russian fashion, a slew military grade heavy duty vehicles are heavily showcased through as if they’re on parade as modified tanks, BTR-70’s, and triple rotor attack helicopters for answers and rescue recovery. Being that the film is set in the future Moscow, Baranov didn’t oversell the evolution of technology and, in fact, made a stark contrast that hindered humanity still in the throes of a primitivism culture when up against otherworldly powers. Yet, there were still boots on the ground soldiers tossed into the meat-grinder that is the quarantine zone. Sure, there were some sentinel machine guns that shredded the enemy at the first sign of sensor, but despite all the flying gizmos, armed to the teeth choppers, and nifty gear, mankind had not strayed far into development. The stagnancy of man’s evolution became the highlighted theme as their deconstructed to being simply a virus that loves, hates, mates, etc. and without all that man has technically progressed throughout the years, man, itself, stays the same. The 160 million people caught in the blackout, turned into mindless slaves, and even before the war against an unknown force, rebellious and fearful groups pit brother against brother. The message suffers slightly from the cut-and-dry rigidness as aforementioned, but more so with the main characters with try to digest the alien’s, perhaps, too complicated plan of usurpation that has been 200,000 years in the works. While the story might be clunky and kind of claggy in the middle, the intensity clings to you from the moment of the alarming sound, troop mobilizing opening credits to to those BRT-70 trucks mowing down a horde of slaved individuals and never ceases with jaw-dropping, effects-driven cinematography to let you re-catch your breath for 128 minutes.

Witness mankind’s last stand against it’s first form in “The Black: Invasion Earth” being distributed on June 2nd by Shout! Studios onto DVD, Blu-ray, On-Demand, and digital streaming from these streaming services: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since a digital screener was reviewed, the video and audio technical aspects will not be reviewed, but for the record, while the English dubbing is less desired and still hinders the story slightly, the dubbing isn’t all that terrible with crafty timing to stay in sync and maintaining some natural exposition deliveries. There were no bonus materials accompanying the release and there were no extra scenes during or after the credits. No bonus features were listed on the press release either. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” bedevils with a population consuming reset laced with existential philosophies and the ups and downs of human nature set up behind the curtain of an impressive visual menagerie of brilliantly detailed special effects on the most grandest of scales.

Available on Blu-ray!

And Prime Video!!!

EVIL is the Carousal Centerpiece of Hell! “The Devil’s Fairground” reviewed! (MGI Films and ITN Distribution / Screener)


A pair of struggling paranormal investigator groups have been reduced to the gimmicky capturing and recording pay schemes of alleged ghost and spirit interactions, but when a hack actor is hired to setup a meet and greet with an apparent demon possessed girl, their investigation leads Freaky Link’s Jacob and Shawn and Spooky Links’ Lace and Rob to an abandoned and dilapidated fairground as the source of the girl’s possession. Upon arrival, they’re immediately sucked into the epicenter of Hell to battle for their very souls.

Jacob and Shawn return to confront the ruthless terrors of supernatural forces once again in “Anna 2: Freaky Links,” aka, ITN distributed titled “The Devil’s Fairground,” and aka, better known as simply, “Anna 2,” in this low-key horror-comedy sequel from the Crum brothers, director Michael and screenwriter Gerald, delivering infernal Hell straight out of the Lonestar state of Texas. Honestly, I’ve never seen the prior film, “Anna,” and at first glance, “Anna” was seemingly a rip from the successful coattails of “The Conjuring’s” universe sub story, “Annabelle,” involving a doll embodying the forces of evil. However, despite the comparable titles and a shade of the narrative, “Anna” and “The Devil’s Fairground” veer into a novel realm of the deep and ultra-surreal that became the basic construction materials needed for lush nightmares. The Dallas-Fort Worth based production company, MGI Films, founded by Michael Crum, backed the film saw fit to update the title form “Anna 2: Freaky Links” to “The Devil’s Fairground,” a simple, yet improved title change that landed some viewing confusion when the original title graced the scree when the original title graced the screen, like for myself who enjoys going into a movie knowing nothing. MGI Films has also produced “Lake Fear” and “Blood Vow.”

Returning as paranormal private eyes, Jacob and Shawn, are Justin Duncan and Gerald Crum as the hapless duo who barely survived the first demonic doll encounter and team up with the Spooky Links investigators Lace (Mercedes Peterson) and Rob (John Charles Dickson, “Meathook Massacre 3: First Hunt”) to combine their joint efforts and their holy water filled water guns up against an unknown evil. Initially, Jacob and Shawn are written without much consideration of the first happenstance with only brief hints that mean little to the layman toward the Crum pagan pageantry. There’s obvious history between the two groups beyond being competitive supernatural sleuths that’s difficult to sift through to make a full, clearer picture on their quarrelsome nature, but one thing is certain, both Freaky Link and Spooky Links are desperate to be validated ghost hunters. Gerald Crum’s script might have dissected the thick tension between the characters, but the poor audio quality and the loose preface that dots the eyes between both predecessor and sequel is about as abstract as the Hell they find themselves swallowed in. Daniel Frank, Kenzie Pallone, Shannon Snedden, and Vandi Clark fill out the cast list.

“The Fair Ground” is a tricky trickster when judgement comes during the credit roll. With all the audio issues during the story setup, as aforementioned, connecting with the characters and the story proved dreadfully challenging conjoining against the fact that I have never seen the film’s antecedent, “Anna.” I was lost, confused, and struggling to keep up with the exposition that didn’t circulate visibly a perfect picture of “Anna” to bring the viewer up to speed. Also, the very fact “Anna 2: Freaky Links” title is displayed and not “The Devil’s Fairground” threw me for a loop; I had to pause and look back at the press release to see if I was watching the correct feature. However, in the end, “The Fair Ground” became an absolute diamond in the rough with a delectably profound scare factory of terror imagery, wallowing in the timely executions in Michael Crum’s editing and Gerald Crum’s imaginative visual and special effects. Though some will see the effects being rough around the edges, the shock-horror discordances work without question with a pack of ghoulish bug-eyed zombies, a carousal of shuttering specters, a foreboding carnival PA system, an aborted past lurking in dark waters, and an overgrown monster with the biggest butcher blade you’ve ever seen while peppering with scenes of powerful gore interjections. It’s something very reminiscent of the cinema adaptations of “Silent Hill.” A lot of the imagery doesn’t make sense, like the jarring slivers of a bad dream, but I wouldn’t expect Hell to be or need to be a place of complete rational and our minds are able to grasp the nuts and bolts of it. “The Devil’s Fairground’s” interpretation is just as real, as scary, and as aptly damning without the grounded laws of physics to ease the dispiriting attitude of multi-faceted and gratifying torture and soul swallowing the investigators are subjected to. Whatever was left of a meaningful plot is whittled down to a more basic posture, a group of people engulfed by the fiery Abyss, and the movie is all better for it.

Get sucked into the depths of the blazing inferno thrill ride with “The Devil’s Fairground” on DVD home video, announced by MGI Films and distributed by ITN Distribution. Unfortunately, the video and audio specs won’t be reviewed due to being an online screener, but I did mention the dialogue is limited, capturing very little of the softly laid discourse leading up to all hell breaking loose. There are no special features included with the screener or incorporated within the feature itself. There were times I knew the jump scare was coming and, still, I couldn’t contain the tension as a little part of me died from the inside. “The Devil’s Fairground” is an up and down roller coaster of feeble and fright with a weak story abutted against concentrated horror and gore in a must-see film.

A Must-Buy! “The Devil’s Fairground” on DVD!

Run And Hid When Yuletide EVIL Comes A Calling! “Pagan Warrior” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


In Medieval times of Sussex, England, a powerful English king, who has kept the seething Viking savages at bay for decades, has died, vacating the throne to his son, Rollo. The Vikings seize the opportunity during this time of transition and storm the Saxon Castle, nearly killing the monarchy and all of throne’s subjects left to oppose them. With their daughter Avery kidnapped and themselves on the brink of death, King Rollo and Queen Silvia are revived by two women of the woods, a pair of witch sisters known as Constance and Millicent, who use their mystical healing powers and offer the king retribution by summoning the Yuletide monster, Krampus. In return for slaughtering the Viking usurpers, the Krampus will collect his debt in exactly 10 years, taking whatever is precious and dear as payment from the vengeful King Rollo.

Krampus has become a major media trend over the last decade, popping up in all forms of popular culture that compounded lore inside the leafy pages of books and magazines to the beast’s frighteningly half-goat, half-man exterior making for great big screen monster entertainment. The inverse icon of jolly Saint Nicholas offers punitive measures for bad little girls and boys and is sometimes referred as a companion to Saint Nicholas who probably turned a decisive blind eye to little brat Johnny’s enjoyably thievery and torture of chickens from a neighboring farm. “Pagan Warrior” is yet another narrative of the Christmas creature spun with different fabric and woven into a bitter feud of two contending enemies told modestly by director Louisa Warren (“Tooth Fairy”), produced by Warren’s London, UK based production company, ChampDog Films, a creative outlet for independent film ventures that are mostly in the horror genre and are sometimes inferior versions of bigger budget films, in the same vein as Asylum Entertainment. The script comes from Shannon Holiday (“Bride of Scarecrow”) that conveys an ageless theme of beware of what you wish for and the price of blind vengeance.

“Pagan Warrior” hones in on numerous character stories, never clearly defining a single perspective. King Rollo, played by “Escape from Cannibal Farm’s Peter Cosgrove, becomes the royal fate sealer as what he deems necessary and right is, in fact, the worst possible scenario a mad king could bestow upon himself by calling upon the supernatural death dealers for revenge. Cosgrove cleans up nicely as an English blue blood whose bequest incorporates a lineage of fighting kings with Cosgrove taking his role with due importance despite a humbling filmmaking production. King Rollo’s counterpart, the merciless Viking Ubbe fitted for Carey Thring (“Scarecrow’s Revenge”), combats a war on two fronts – the contentious bout with King Rollo and an internal family squabble that beleaguer the bond between him and his wife (Kate Milner Evans, “Pet Graveyard”) and child (Adam Sugawara, “Virtual Death Match”) as he tries to court princess Avery with a crude sexual advances. Thring’s vision of Ubbe is a classically depicted villain whose stronger with allies and a whimpering coward when alone in a fight, especially when the Krampus comes calling for his head. Darrell Griggs dons the makeup, prosthetics, and wardrobe of the horned beast, becoming the folklore of a cursed death who not only pursues the 12 month progression of horrible children, but also the appointed damned when conjured for a hit. Krampus’ outward appearance is pleasing and Griggs provides the lumbering and slight preternatural motions that give Krampus that dreaded paranormal mysticism. “Pagan Warrior” rounds out with Sarah T. Cohen (“ClownDoll”), Jessica O’Toole (“Pet Graveyard”), Mike Kelson (“Scarecrow’s Revenge”), Hattie Willow (“The Mermaid’s Curse”), Will Todd (“Mummy Reborn”), and Tara MacGowran (“Mother Krampus”) and director Louisa Warren as the women of the woods.

ChampDog Films uses a tightknit group of actors and filmmakers to sell archaic swordplay action fastened against demonic folklore and despite the underwhelming band of Vikings versus an equally small English contingent squaring off in front of a historic English castle with virtually no ample practical or CGI era enhanced presentations, the production just barely eeks by with Feudal times. Wisely, Warren shoots a number of character closeup shots, avoiding much of the surrounding modern elements and forcing audiences to focus just on the characters who are dolled up for Medieval times roleplay. Where the battle scenes and smart camera work flourish, the Shannon Holiday script becomes the ultimate weak link in the chain with a predictable plot storied with terribly cliched and uninteresting characters that couldn’t grip a sword let alone one’s attention. The story begins with its most shocking ending scene, thwarting any possibility of surprise for even the most dense and cinematically uneducated individual for the ruse play out. There is also this millennium goof in the opening backstory credits indicating events take place in 812 AD and in the same breath, mentioned also is the three days of December 1812 that this episode occurs. Since 1812 England was all about redcoats, guns, and war with America colonies, I would assume 812 AD would be the correct time period against a Viking invasion.

In what is not exactly a Christmas holiday horror movie, the malediction of the “Pagan Warrior” spread little holiday cheer and more yesterday fear onto an ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment DVD. Presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ration, on a single layer DVD, sheathed inside a DVD cover that looks cooler than the actual movie itself, the lower end production avoids stylizing a historical based feature with tinted mattes, computer imagery, or any other miscellaneous camera effects seeking more toward a naturalistic cinematography that utilizes the hues at hand. Pastel blacks jump with noise and posterization from the electronic interference whereas the existing hues exhibit a less than rich approach of a more vapid green, brown, and stonewall beige. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio mix maintains a level of consistency. Sometimes, Krampus’ dialogue is murky because of the extra gnarling effect parroting an LFE emitting voice; however, dialogue is mainly clear and prominent. English SDH is an available option. For a time period action-horror, the lack of rudimentary range and depth troubles with little sense into the effort of adding skirmishing swords and Krampus’ reverberating growls always seem to be right next to the camera. The only bonus feature available is the trailer. With conventional means of dispatching people, “Pagan Warrior” shadows more of the slasher concept conjured by the breath of the desperate who misfires judgment rather than being an omnipotent being summoned like a djinn for total annihilation in exchange for a debt in this good faith effort by Louisa Warren of Krampus diabolism.

Purchase “Pagan Warrior on DVD!

“Pagan Warrior” is also included with Amazon Prime!

EVIL Waited 30 Years. Now It’s Unleashed! “Zombie Rampage II” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


A zombie ravaged world divides survivors into gangs. In this case, two warring rivals, a group of decent folk versus cannibalistic savages, spar over little territory left untouched by the undead. Seeking tactical advantage, the contentious factions either scheme a plan for appropriating the land while the other recruits and trains an inexpert survivalist to better their odds against one another. Leave it to humanity to still be the most dangerous animal on Earth during a zombie apocalypse when an armed showdown opens the doors for death and the undead to wreak havoc on the best and worst parts of being human.

Full disclosure. I have never seen or even sought out Todd Sheets’ renown direct-to-video, zombie epic, “Zombie Rampage,” from 1989. So, when the opportunity came around to check out the sequel, “Zombie Rampage II,” presented on a Wild Eye Releasing DVD, I jumped at the chance to witness the anticipated follow-up despite the sequel not being steered by Sheets himself. The “Bonehill Road” director’s involvement extends to the credit of producer and co-writer of the aborted 1990 sequel, which had unearthed VHS footage repurposed for the 2019 release, while Alexander Brotherton makes his directorial and script debut the new material and Mike Hellman and Charles Gooseman, who were a heavily involved duo of the original discovered footage, are credited as co-directors. In the last few years, Brotherton’s been a staple of Sheets’ films in some skeleton cast and crew capacity from the satirically bonkers “Clownado” to the narcotically world toppling chaos of “Dreaming Purple Neon” and with full confidence in Brotherton, therein lies sanctions for the filmmaker to pay homage to the 1989 original with its own shot-on-video rendition that maintains that gritty VHS integrity, continuing to be a financial churned out by Todd Sheets’ production company, Extreme Entertainment, which has been goring out content since 1988 and that makes “Zombie Rampage” and “Zombie Rampage II” larger than life, honorary bookends to Sheets’ continued indie success.

Cast is comprised of Sheets’ entourage of actors and actresses, starting off with Antwoine Steele whose reprising the afro-sporting, smooth talking, lady loving, ass-kicking Durville Sweet from “Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon.” Steele steals the show with his indifferently foul mouth Sam Jackson approach that somehow manages to spin into a favorable personality trait. Another show stealer is Dilynn Fawn Harvey serving a plate of scantily-cladded roughness with the sexually suggestive Hot Stuff. Harvey jumps at the opportunity to show off her chest again while being the sultry lass who never has to be the dame in distress. Both Steele and Harvey are bigger than life on screen and that trend continues with other key players in Jack Mccord as the cross-dressed Mr. Hyde, leader of the cannibal gang, Eve Smith as an androgynous warrior for the good side, Jay Perkaple as the inept survivor recruit, and Skyler Roberts as a psychotic cannibal with a severed finger partner in crime. The supporting cast is made up of Daniell Bell, Carol Word, and Jenny McCarty.

“Zombie Rampage II” is a rough, SOV mix of black-to-satirical humor and a healthy amount of zombie carnage that isn’t a direct sequel. Don’t expect the carnage to be overwhelming complete and gory as the low budget bullet flatlines the realism of any kind of flesh-eating horde violence, but that lack of zombie realism is to be expected from the kitschy quality that seals in air tight the stank of the 30-year-old VHS predecessor. Yes, mistakes and miscues will be a natural condition of a penny-pinched film, such as a conspicuous train passing by in the background during a supposed zombie desolated world, fight sequences that will be hilariously and horrendously overstated, and the gore would be nothing more than quick explosive flashes of red matted paint and be about as Wharferin thin to the point of being limpid clear. Yet, what bothers me the most out of everything is the drifting flimsy and anorexic plot that initially emphases on finding Stewart and his assimilation into the gang of well-versed survivalist, but then grossly upends more for a battle of territory between gang one and gang two with a final showdown involving Durville swinging a colossally fluorescent, two-sided dildo as a num-chuk and the bashing of heads in with foam covered kids’ toy bat that you can purchase offline for $10. There’s a crude and abnormal sense of poetry in that scene involving an adult’s orifice stuffing sex toy with a children’s athletic plaything being combative instruments in the same scene, but for the sake of not going off on a tangent, “Zombie Rampage II” bares little plot growth that flaunts more tasteless humor than rampaging a zombie chorus and the destruction that leaves in it’s wake.

For fans sworn to be loyal acolytes of Todd Sheets, take a long, hard gander at “Zombie Rampage II” on DVD home video from Wild Eye Releasing on their Raw and Extreme banner. Those who’ve waited for a sequel will be pleasantly surprised in how the video presentation and quality are comprised of two similar but distinct formats with a letterbox 16:9 in the recently shot video that bookends the letterbox 4:3 footage from 1990. Both formats are heavily lossy in providing a detailed presentation and express vapid color that comes to not surprise inside a production value cost little-to-nothing at all. “Zombie Rampage II” definitely harks back to the demeanor of a shot on video film where quality is but an intangible illusion compared to the unfathomable gore that fills the quality caliber void, but to my shock, there is just not enough fake blood in the sequel to justify a purchase of a subpar quality pardon. The English language single channel stereo output caters to the same lossy conditions of a low bitrate amplitude with a stiffened dialogue track and poorly edited stock foley inserts. Again, all telltale attributes of an indie video recorded classic that’ll certainly get SOV and Todd Sheets’ fans rocks off. The only special feature amongst a model static menu available is the film’s trailer, but the visceral DVD cover, distributed by MVDVisual, has a milky eyed zombie grotesquely chowing down viscera that’s very poignant of a Raw and Extreme title and very welcoming, eye-catching package feature. There are bonus features before and after the feature with a fake trailer for “Durville Sweet and the Lost Temple of Ass Pirates” and bloopers during the rolling credits. “Zombie Rampage II” covers 30-years of ground, breaking the laws of time, and giving retrograde VHS and Todd Sheets aficionados what they want – blood, boobs, and butchery.

“Zombie Rampage II” on DVD!

Beware EVIL’s Lair! “Rust” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Hotel Fear is a dilapidated shell of a once thriving horror attraction with labyrinths chockful of replica grisly terrors. Isolated in a rural area outside Las Vegas, Hotel Fear becomes the meetup place for best friends Heather and Morgan who drive to the forlorn theme park to unite with a couple of male friends. However, Hotel Fear houses a notorious urban legend that includes the deranged killer, Travis McLennan, a barbaric, cannibalistic madman who abducts young women for his pleasure. When Morgan is captured and Heather barely escapes with her life, it’s up to a battered and traumatized Heather to return with the police to rescue Morgan from the merciless grips of Travis McLennan.

Can “Rust” be the next much-admired slasher franchise this side of the last ten decade? That’s what will be discussed when analyzing Joe Lujan’s written and directed “Rust,” a survival-slasher surrounding a mute-masked killer named Travis McLennan, birthed by a nefarious anecdotal urban legend of a unhinged boy who murdered his parents and wears his father’s face. Lujan, whose become something of a low-budget horror factory filmmaker with short and feature film credits including “It Followed Me,” “Atelophobia,” and their respective sequels, helms what could be the director’s bread and butter legacy that crosses “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with some aspects from a Rob Zombie filmmaking handbook. What makes “Rust” unique, or at least in the Wild Eye Releasing DVD, is the feature is comprised of two short films, “Rust” and “Rust 2,” spliced together to make a full length film that would ignite the fervor for third entry, “Rust 3” in 2020 currently in post-production, and all produced by Lujan’s production company, Carcass Films.

Typically, popular slasher will center mostly around the chased protagonists that naturally produces an ominous villain, examples would be Alice in “Friday the 13th,” Laurie Strobe in “Halloween,” Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street, but “Rust” shares the focal responsibilities between protagonist duo of Heather and Morgan and an antagonist duo of Travis McLennan and his Stockholm syndrome sex slave, Valkyrie. Not only do we wonder about the bloody-cladded rooms of Hotel Hell with Heather and Morgan, but also see some dynamics and curiosities from their stalker. “Hot Tub Party Massacre’s” Corey Taylor and “Afflict’s” Taylor Kilgore become the besties Heather and Morgan and are staple actors in Lujan’s ensemble cache he’s collaborated extensively throughout his career. As an exposed midriff Kilgore loses out on Morgan’s weak character development that’s nothing more than an elevated whimper, Corey Taylor by default lifts up to be a quasi-strong female lead, but neither actress steps into that final girl role and are extremely overshadowed by Morlon Greenwood’s towering-might that converts to being the black-hearted killer Travis McLennan. The Jamaican born, former NFL linebacker has that “See No Evil,” Kane-like violence that bears an austere ravager who would make anybody crap their pants when going into full-throttle chase mode with machete in hand. Lindsey Cruz (“Meathook Massacre 4”), Raul Limon (“The Immortal Wars”), Isaac Rhino (“Blood Runs Thick”), Meek Ruiz, Paul Tumpson, Nycolle Buss, Lordis DePiazza, Brittany Enos, and Brittany Hoza round out the cast.

So, does “Rust” make for good silver screen slashery? One would need to snake between the rough McLennan backstory that doesn’t clearly sink in, the whimsical premise of a teen meet-up and wander through an abandoned horror theme attraction, and the hollow characters to declare that “Rust” doesn’t make the cut across the throat. Finding reasons to be concerned for characters was at a great time nil because of their bland design with nothing to strive or live for in a complete and total arc-less folly of development. Perhaps the purest form of a slasher is in Travis McLennan’s brutality which warrants some positive lighting as a more machine than man killer, wearing a fleshy mask skinned from his father, as he hoards young women for his unknown kicks, but whether the funds weren’t in the budget or an artistic preference was applied, all the kills were mostly done off-screen and implied. There were a couple of knife blows to the head and the neck areas that barely had discernible quality that subjected no veering of the eyes or garnished any dread into the full brunt of the kill blow. Lujan pens an obscured rape scene that has more oomph than the killing itself. We’ve seen box store horror films with scream attractions before, such as like “Hell Fest,” and even some enticing independent ventures, such as “Talon Falls,” both of which have filled the need for urban myth, meta-horror – horror actually happening in a horror theme park – but most of these films don’t pan out as expected and “Rust” simply falls into that latter unfortunate category.

Right on the coattails of a third film comes “Rust” onto DVD home video courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing that’s presented not rated and in a full frame 16:9 aspect ratio that’s varies in quality being two shorts combined into one. “Rust” first half suffers from an extremely low bitrate so much so that you can see pinpoint each frame. The coloring is faded beyond the brown on a Las Vegas desert and, at times, difficult to discern exactly what’s happening mise-en-scene, especially in the darker scenes as you can see in the screencaps. The second half fairs better with a higher bitrate, smoother frame transitions, and a cleaner, less muddle twitching inside the frame. The English language dual channel stereo sound mix also splits the difference, most notably with a shield and muffled dialogue track being drowned out by ambient and the Eric Dryer’s score, a score that’s possibly a highlight in “Rust’s” legacy. Again, audio regains some control over the levels, providing more efficient range and depth but still can’t overcome of the powerful score. Bonus features include an interview with Joe Lujan about the fabrication from beginning to end of “Rust,” the original Rust 1 and 2 shorts, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. One bonus I was vying for was the Eric Dryer score, but no such luck. “Rust” might be more of tetanus hazard than a budding slasher ripe for the viewing, but director Joe Lujan has the potential if the filmmaker can chug foward gaining experience along the way and, perhaps, recap his Travis McLennan nightmare on a bigger, badder scale with a sharper machete.

“Rust” is included with Prime Video!

 

“Rust available on DVD”