Two Out-Of-Town Girls. A Town Full of Depravity. One EVIL Massacree! “Even Lambs Have Teeth” reviewed! (DVD / Syndicado)


It’s True.  “Even Lambs Have Teeth!”  Now On DVD.

Katie and her best friend Sloane volunteer to work on a countryside organic farm for a month in order to have one fabulous shopping spree weekend in New York City.  Taking Katie’s Uncle’s precautions semi-seriously, the two young women play it fast and loose while waiting for the bus that heads straight to the farm as they agree to hitch a ride with local boys, two brothers, who offer a ride instead of taking the bus.  Instead of arriving at the farm to work on the NYC trip, Katie and Sloane wake up chained to shipping containers where they’ve been incorporated into a twisted town’s sex trade systematized by the brothers, their mother, and a local shopkeeper of missing women to provide the local perverts a quality product.  Raped for days and coming to the fatal end of their use, Katie and Sloane barely escape with their lives only to turn back to reign down merciless revenge on the entire community of accomplices. 

When your parents warn to never get into a stranger’s car, this is why!  “Even Lambs Have Teeth” is the 2015 exploitation rape-revenge thriller from “Recoil” director Terry Miles looking to get his hands dirty with a script diving into the unpleasantries of a rural prostitution ring while washing his hands clean of sin with vindictive, vigilante justice antibacterial hand soap.  The Canadian horror film, which embraces a title suggesting not everything cute and fluffy is harmless, meek, and without malice, joins a slew of like-minded films of the last decade in the resurgence of the subgenre from the high profile remakes of the trailblazer rape-revenge pilots of the 1970’s, such as “The Last House on the Left” and “I Spit on your Grave,” to contemporary crafted original works from Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” from 2017 or Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” from 2020 that enacts a woman’s voice on the subject matter of sexual assault and the course the victim ensues to not right a wrong but rather to satisfy an itch for six-feet-under retaliation.  Having one of, if not the, longest pre-title opening sequences ever at a staggery 23 minutes before the title comes up, “Even Lambs Have Teeth” is from the Random Bench Productions’ producing team of Braden Croft’s forgotten sasquatch flick “Feed the Gods” of Elizabeth Levine, Robin Nielsen, Adrian Salpteter, and Danielle Stott-Roy along with Gregory Chambet (Av:  The Hunt”) and Dimitri Stephanides (“Don’t Hang Up”) under the banner companies of WTFilms (“Slaxx”) and the France-based Backup Media (“Piggy”).

In order to be the sweet and promiscuous that oozes innocence and ignorance while also, on the other side of the coin, becoming the subjugated flavor of the week by exploiters craving the almighty dollar at the expense of your body, Katie and Sloane need to be a rock solid, yin and yang energy force to machinate the undoing of their captors and rapists without an ounce of empathy, compassion, and hesitation. Tiera Skovbye (“Summer of 84”) and Kirsten Prout (“Joy Ride 3: Road Kill”) put forward the right foot in Katie and Sloane’s plight and fight for not only to survive but also to make sure what happened to them never happens to any other woman misfortunately stepping one foot into a town full of tongue-lapping wolves by laying waste to the Podunk prostitution syndicate. Skovbye and Prout start invincible as if the world is their oyster that includes Prout gender reversal of stereotyped horny best friend. We don’t see that kind of confidence again in both women until after the dirty deeds are done to them by the likes of distinct, depraved men with one thing in common – their undying perversion for cargo container chained young women. These customers so to speak are played by Craig March (“Suspension”), Graem Beddoes (“Horns”), and Christian Sloane (“Black Christmas” ’06) and go through the entrepreneurship of one demented family business. Hunky bothers Jed (Garrett Black) and Lucas (Jameson Parks) lure the itching to have fun Katie and the always randy Sloane to their isolated house where their mother (Gwynyth Walsh, “The Crush”) drugs them with blueberry pie before meeting the ringleader of the bunch, the unofficial town mayor in Boris (Patrick Gilmore, “Trick ‘r Treat”) who isn’t as dippy or uncivilized in his business practices. Performances are more than solid all around for an under-the-radar Canadian tit-for-tat flip the script. The cast comes complete with Manny Jacinto, Darren Mann, Brittany Willacy, Valerie Tian, Chelah Horsdal, and Michael Karl Richards as the detective uncle.

What separates “Even Lambs Have Teeth” from the rest of the pack?  That’s the million-dollar question that helps us select a title amongst a sea of sordid rape-revengers and provides different angling lures that can draw interest and elevate beyond the material that has just been recycling the mold every so often. What generates an enjoyable watch is the well-written dialogue with witty, provocative banter from Kirsten Prout that can blush her best friend to near unbearable shame. The exchanges throughout feel fresh enough to keep our ears tuned into the action and the actors do a phenomenal job keeping up the character acts that evoke a rightfully root for or a rightfully despise against. Not everything about the characters is entirely copasetic with a wavering integrity in what they do. Katie and Sloane revenge spree buckles the knees of nearly every individual involved, reducing them down to a sniveling murderee for the sole sake of a money offering gag device. While the gag greatly points out a commonly used trope in these types of stories, there’s an immense let down with the way a group of predators go down with virtually no fight or no dignity. The starkness of the sudden turn of events might unmask who they really are on the inside, weak stomached sociopathic and chauvinistic control freaks with a hankering for either quick cash or to get their rocks off. Comparing “Even Lambs Have Teeth” with other rape-revenge flicks, the Terry Miles production is on the lighter side of explicit material, for a lack of a better way to describe. Usually, audience bear witness and endure in shared disgusts to the unspeakable acts of violence, torture, and sexual assault to not only shock the viewers but also directly force them into a role of surefire support for the woman so when she ultimately escapes and goes postal with a no holds barred policy against her violator(s), we clap and cheer for when the rusty nailed and sharp object rod is plunged in a fit of rectal sodomy retaliation. “Even Lambs Have Teeth’s” third act is the cleanest with a familiar territory of a quick and dirty barrage of brutality, an expected recourse handed down for all the pain and suffering that doesn’t stop until these hopeful girls, who are now forced to be pragmatic women, kill every last person involved.

A punishable by death dose of executions without the judge, jury, or trial in Terry Miles “Even Lambs Have Teeth,” now released on DVD home video from the once VOD emerging Syndicado who have now entered the physical release game. The single-sided, single-layered DVD5 presents the film in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a rather remarkable picture quality that’s able to capture the minute objects like floating dust and differentiate between assorted lighting. Skin tones appear textural and natural and the organically lit tone leaves noir at the door and the glossiness of hyperviolence unneeded as the premise itself is satisfyingly unfeigned to be dolled up as something else. The English language Dolby (though not listed as such) surround sound caters to mostly every whim with clear dialogue, good enough depth, and a soundtrack with fidelity albeit the same song stuck on repeat. What’s essentially a feature only release, bonus material only includes the theatrical trailer of the film with a final product package not terribly appealing with a colorless tawdry cover of a dirtied Tiera Skovbye and Kirsten Prout glaring stoical outward with weapons in hand. The unrated feature has a straightforward and brisk three act structure within the confines of 78 minutes. Not as vile as most but undoubtedly slimy, “Even Lambs Have Teeth” bites down hard with a respectable rape-revenge thriller in a subgenre that has yet to hit a wall.


It’s True.  “Even Lambs Have Teeth!”  Now On DVD.

Become Wrapped Up in EVIL with “The Shroud” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

Centuries before, an evil witch is brutally tortured and killed while covered in a white shroud. In present day, a nun, part of a special sect vowed to never let the unholiness of the shroud deviltries be unearthed from the forgotten rubble of a divine stupa, is raped by two men wearing masks. With the help of a hired obtainer, the nun will stop at nothing to get her hands on, even at the defiance of her brother’s advice, but the shroud’s a bewitching mistress and its power are intoxicating. Breaking her piety pact with God and her sworn duty to protect man from wickedness, the nun succumbs to the sin that drips from the shroud’s blood-soaked fabric and exploits its personification powers of evil doings by not only exacting revenge on her attackers, sending the shroud to assassinate her attackers without an ounce of mercy, but also converting her devout habit to a shameless, promiscuous one of immorality.

A made-in-Italia possession film about a killer burial garment and a nun with big guns giving out the last rites. What could go wrong? The immediate impression arises a lot of interest in this 2022 released inanimate killer object flick from writer-director Fabrizio Spurio. As Spurio’s third feature in the horror genre, “The Shroud” envelopes the 50-year-old, Rome-born director’s first ambitious single story length venture behind the more episodic anthology, “Innesti,” and the more obscure “Vanity,” that taps into the willingness participation to do anything for stardom. “The Shroud” embarks into a more religious and supernatural discourse that clashes the sin and the sinner with a blurry line of empowerment. Made with pennies, or rather made on the Italian centismos on the Euro, “The Shroud,” or “Sindome,” is a production of the Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci inspired Goreproduction company, cofounded by Spurio with Francesco Lagonigro tacked on as a fulltime collaborator in shooting low-budget, independent, free-thinking cinema of underground horror.

The last time I saw the sultry lead Italian actress and extreme indie horror luminary, Chiara Pavoni, was in the avant garde “Xpiation” helmed by one of, if not the dominant, underground horror filmmaker, Domiziano Cristopharo.  In her motherly-voyeuristic role, Pavoni radiated with dark, sphinxlike desire in her well-dressed, pin-up sex-symbol performance of longing and control.  Pavoni doesn’t stray far from that archetype with her latest role in Spurio’s “The Shroud” as she plays a woman of virtue, a nun to be more exact, who has quickly turned lubricious and vindictive after her being raped.  Pavoni is certainly bodacious on screen as she adorns tight-fitting outfits that barely contain her snugly-packed large chest, exposing a Mariana Trench deep cleavage in a Spirit Halloween sexy nun getup for much of her role’s sordid side.  As a thespian performer, Pavoni has the subtle moves of a temptress who knows what she wants but dialogue deliveries are something left to be desired as the “Demonium” actress goes through the motions of plain speak as does much of the other cast, including the Goreproduction producer costar Francesco Lagonigro. Lagonigro plays her object obtainer who, by the seducing forces of the shroud, turns into her sex-slave or gothic lackey as visions of death please feed him the sensation of guilty pleasures. Lagonigro’s version of a factotum is about as cheesy as they come with a glaring lowered brow and white and black face paint to embellish something that looks nowhere near sinisterism. If we’re supposed to take Lagonigro’s maniacal manservant role seriously than Spurio, and Lagonigro for that matter, misses the mark badly in a poorly sized up rendition of a Renfield like stooge. “The Shroud” rounds out the cast with many miniscule, nearly nonspeaking roles with Paolo Di Gialluca (“7 Sins”), Andrea Pucci, Allesandro Massari, Giuseppe Andreozzi, Sara Lagonigro, Monica Rondino, and Andrea Pacilli and Samuele Lagonigro who composed the score for the film under the moniker, Sam and Andy.

As you can see, “The Shroud” is a family production for the Lagonigros who won’t hesitate to pitch in to make Francesco’s lewd and crude extreme horror on a bar tab’s worth. Conceptually, “The Shroud’s” an appealing idea of religious hypocrisy and the natural human desire to be immoral. Rules are meant to be broken as Spurio seizes control the very one thing a woman should have control over – her body. By introducing rape by two masked men, Spurio rips away that control and for a nun who whole schtick is to abide by God by maintaining purity in keeping her holy temple intact, she must seethe with humiliation in front of her Lord and inevitable turn away from him because there is nothing left unadulterated to give. She has sinned, whether intentional or not, and so the tainted nun must keep on sinning in various ways: lust, revenge, and murder. Despite being on a budget, Spurio’s ability to liven up a plain white tablecloth is what making movies is all about as the shroud lives and breathes on screen, moving in an agile manner, and becomes a physical presence that can gore a man through. Sleight of hand scene reversals bestows the shroud with a life of its own, creating a slithering dolman of death that looks great in the humble presentation. That kind of DIY special effects translates the same across the slender 76-minute with practical gore gags that rest above mediocracy, and I can say that with a straight face. “The Shroud” will have very few claims to cult fame with a slew of sloppiness that takes the zero-dollar expenditure and makes it appear even cheaper than pocket change. There’s even a scene where the director is clearly reflected into the frame, not even an attempt to hide or review for need to reshoot.

“The Shroud” is warm and cozy when it’s not trying to kill you! SRS Cinema, a leading purveying of underground cinema, releases Fabrizio Spurio’s “The Shroud” on DVD as part of the company’s extreme and unrated nightmare fuel label. Distributed through MVD Visual, the region free DVD5 is presented in an unmatted widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a commercial grade quality of a standard definition camcorder that maxes out on the higher side of output of a 720p resolution and so the final result looks fairly okay for DVD. For much of the natural lighting, the high contrast works extremely well, creating deep shadows that make the film feel richer than its actual value, but the details and textures are often soft and bleary, washing out any kind of tactile material. Luminescence of green and blue gels as well as double overlays are used to symbolize nightmares and shroud vision are more headache inducing than a stylish solution when mingled with an industrial engine rumble or high-pitched and stretched vocal score with some piano keys tossed in to mix it up. The Italian language dual-channel stereo is a lossy, unbridled catchall. As much as the audio is purely soundtrack, there is still an insurmountable of sounds being captured by the camcorder mic that softens the desired prominent audiles, such as dialogue which becomes trapped in a cavernous state of echos and various levels of pitch inconsistences. The subtitles on the SRS DVD appear to be translated by a person with English as not their primary language as a tone of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and absolutely zero capitalization tarnish an already low-rent feature. If you can work your way through the strangely designed menu options to the bonus features, you’ll find included raw take bloopers, photo gallery, music videos starring Chiara Povani and Francesco Lagonigro, and SRS trailers. The physical package is perhaps the best part of “The Shroud” with a true-to-form beautifully dark illustration of the most memorable character faces to exhibit in the film, crafted and designed by Avery Guerro. “The Shroud” is an estimable underground piece of the extreme horror art pie but slacks in unnecessary places and becomes an exemplar of a shoddy and careless production that ultimately hurts the overall value of its genus.

“The Shroud” now available on DVD from SRS Cinema!

Open Up Your Mind to EVIL! “Conjuring the Beyond” reviewed! (DVD / Breaking Glass Pictures)

“Conjuring the Beyond” on DVD at Amazon.com!

Divorced and left to wallow in her own self-pity, Wanda Fulcia moves into her brother and wife’s house but her inability to secure a job and act responsible has proved difficult with her hosts as she continues to ask for favors, such as borrowing her brother’s car to drive to a paid sleep study in the middle of a nearly deserted small town.  Dr. Pretorious, the head clinician of the study, seeks to hypnotize his four, sleep paralysis unaffected, participants to open their portion of the brain to produce night terrors and sleepwalking in order to treat the condition.  What the participants are really opened to is a nightmare state of being paralyzed while aware of an old, animalistic hag surveying them as they lie powerless to move.  At dawn, they all convey recalling the same dream and realize one of them is missing.  The recorded video shows the missing participant sleepwalking from his room without a trace of where they’ve gone.  The next night, the ordeal repeats itself and another member of their party goes missing.  Wanda and those left must uncover the mystery behind their night terrors before they back to sleep again. 

Borrowing from the tall story superstitions that sleep paralysis was the work of demons while also plucking ideas from Stuart Gordon’s perceptually other-dimensional horror film, “From Beyond” and James Wan’s spirit-investigating “The Conjuring,” Calvin Morie McCarthy writes and directs his own unofficial, unauthorized, and unsanctioned sublevel spinoff with “Conjuring the Beyond.” The Vancouver, Washington born 30-year-old filmmaker has been through his fair share of direct-to-video horror refuse, even etching himself into the running joke of “Amityville” titled cheapies with his entry “The Amityville Poltergeist” that has garnered a general public rating of 2.2 on IMDB.com. That low score doesn’t tarnish our objective goal to look at “Conjuring the Beyond” impartially without the blatant cash-in title affecting our sound judgement because, trust me, we’ve seen our lion’s share of reused, reworked, and rehashed titles. The film marks the first 2022 release for McCarthy and is produced by Chad Buffet of the Renton, Washington based special effects and props company, Raptor FX Studio, along with Joe Dietrich’s co-created company 7th Street Productions with McCarthy and Richard Wolff of Breaking Glass Pictures who distributes the film with an at-home release.

At the heart of the story is Wanda Fulcia played by Victoria Grace Borrello in her feature film debut. The Loyola University graduate of the arts, Borrello offers a new face and a serious craft performance toward a recently divorced person who has become lost in themselves. Wanda’s written to be entrenched into any kind situation that befalls her whether be with her own troubles of self-discovery or the beleaguering troubles of a cerebral doorway opened to let a malevolent entity into her subconscious. Who opened that mental gateway is the potentially guileful psyche-physician, Dr. Richard Pretorious. Pretorious, as all horror fans know, is a homage to “From Beyond’s” Dr. Edward Pretorious, the main antagonist who used a machine called The Resonator to expand a person’s mind into other dimensions. “Mutant Vampire from the Planet Neptune’s” Steve Larkin certainly does not portray the diabolism in her version of a Pretorious Doctor but there is this underlining itch that can’t exactly be scratched regarding the character’s true intentions. This unfinished business happens between both Wanda Fulcia and Dr. Richard Pretorious and that takes away from completing well-rounded characters who never see themselves cross that arc finish line. Essentially, both are stuck in a disappointing stasis of unfulfillment, and their morals and their emotional baggage are carelessly left to the wind. I found the secondary principals more impressive and a little more understandable with tidbits of themselves being dropped like breadcrumbs through the variable time on screen. Cocky boxer Porter (Jon Meggison, “The Haunting of Ravenwood”), a tarot card floozie Margo (Jax Kellington, “Cross Hollow”), and midwestern drunkard Theo (Tim Coyle, “I Need You Dead!”) are the other three participants of the sleep study and each provide a unique image that continues to keep us interested and where they possible might end up retired on the runtime scale. Neil Green, Erik Skybak, and Chynna Rae Shurts as the skulking Sleep Demon.

With an amusing banter of well-written dialogue, a passable night terror demoness, and a nodding homage or two to a couple of horror powerhouse films, “Conjuring the Beyond” has scrappy potential to be something a touch more than just a capitalizer of better and already completed novel ideas. “Conjuring the Beyond” ends like an unfinished thought that asks more questions than provides answers in its thematic night terror framework. Shurts’ Sleep Demon is sorely underused and mostly not present to be invoking scares from the feature. Shurts is cladded on a budget but well adequate to eerie up the antagonist enough with fake long nails, fake gnarly teeth, and a dark shawl or robe attire that slinks and creeps in-and-out of alert sleep paralysis patients. McCarthy also dives into another theme of shared experiences or mutual dreams that then send a shiver of petrifying terror zipping through a collective’s inner being. More precisely in that theme is one’s person’s affliction affects or infects the surrounding others; we also see this at the beginning with a Wanda’s brother Nick and his wife negatively feeling Wanda’s ability to rebound from an ugly divorce. However, not all scenes make complete sense. The prologue of a man trembling in his bed and watching the Sleep Demon slither into his room before snatching him from his bed is detached from the trunk of the story much like a dead branch lying next to not it’s tree provenance. Yes, the branch part of a tree, just not this tree. Other aspects of the film also don’t make much sense or lack explanation is the participants who disappear reappear as sleep walking zombies under the control, possession, or will of the Sleep Demon and to what purpose is far from being seen.

“Conjuring the Beyond” evokes images of demons and terror onto a DVD home video from the Philadelphia based, provocative independent film distributor Breaking Glass Pictures.  The MPEG-4 encoded DVD5 is a NTSC, region 1, unrated U.S. release presented in a CinemaScope widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The lossy codec compression appears to sustain a relatively good picture throughout the 90-minute runtime with little-to-no banding or issues and toned-down artifacts concentrated more so around darker scenes around the delineation of objects in the background. Noticeable post-production issues don’t go unnoticed when the visual effect of compositing CCTV footage on a computer screen was left undone and so there is a scene where the sleep study participants and Dr. Pretorious are huddled around a laptop staring at a blank, black screen while providing commentary on the disappearance of a fellow member of their group. The lossy English dual-channel stereo mix offers a mediocre, yet still strongly inclusive, audio output that has slight issues maintaining consistent decibel levels at times. Dialogue can sound muted at times or distant and then suddenly be more robust in the same breath. English subtitles are available if opted. Depth and range work well with the fear atmospherics and environments. The release is feature only with only a static menu on the DVD that’s encased in a normal black snapper case with egregiously deceptive artwork of a woman floating above her bed; no floating happens in the film. Perhaps less misrepresentative if titled something more original, “Conjuring the Beyond” holds tightly to the coattails of other iconic horror films but tweaks the story just enough to tease a fresh take toward the unharnessed and terrifying dimensions stemmed by the power of the mind.

“Conjuring the Beyond” on DVD at Amazon.com!

All You Will See is EVIL if Blinded by Grief. “They Live in the Grey” reviewed! (Acorn Media / DVD)

Not the Blue, Not the Red, but the Grey!  “They Live in the Grey” on DVD!

CPS investigator, Claire Yang, struggles to cope with the untimely loss of her young son.  The tragedy forces her to push away her husband and have suicidal thoughts.  What’s also driving Claire further from the edge of sanity is her ability to see glimpses unhinged, and sometimes physically harmful, spirits.  When a child-protective case comes across her desk to look into the possible abuse of a young girl, Claire learns quickly that it might not be girl’s parents abusing her.  Tormented by an angry supernatural entity, Claire walks careful and hesitant thin line of keeping the girl with her family and attempt to prove that the parents are not responsible for the bruises and cuts, but when upper management pressures her to close the case at the school’s behest and a variety of ghastly come and go across her path, the churning burn of hurt and guilt grows inside her as she confronts her personal demons while trying to do the right thing for the abused girl in the middle of it all. 

“The Sixth Sense” meets “The Conjuring” in The Vang Brothers’ 2022 supernatural thriller, “They Live in the Dark.”  As the sophomore written-and-directed project for the Fresno, California raised Abel and Burlee Vang, following up on their 2016 release of the moderately successful supernatural and social media mashup debut, “Bedeviled,” continuing to venture off their solo work and into a collaborating unit, “They Live in the Dark” tackles various topical concepts and troubles with overwhelming grief and how it manifests negatively on an individual and family level.  Previously once titled as “The Uncanny,” the story is set in nowheresville, U.S.A., the brothers really set the tone that this story, or more realistically its themes and messages, are broad and non-exclusive and we also see that in the cast for the film, a segment that we’ll dive into further in the next paragraph.  The Shudder exclusive film, “They Live in the Grey,” is a production from Standoff Pictures in association with Whiskey Stream Productions with the Vang Brothers producing alongside former filmmaker-turned-film academic-turned-filmmaker Stephen Stanley.

Coming from Hmong ancestry, The Vang Brothers found personal importance to cast mostly Asian-Americans for the film.  Taiwan born Michelle Krusiec (“The Invitation,” “The Bone Box”) plays the lead and is the very first character we meet in an awkward and frightful position as a woman attempting suicide by hanging herself near the home staircase.  Immediately, we don’t know what we’re exactly in for, but we know when we’re introduced to the threadbare Clair, she has a major depressive factor that beleaguers her existence to the point of removing it from the equation all together.  The Vang Brothers thoughtfully shroud details into exactly what’s devouring Claire from the inside out and keep close to the chest in securing that ace of revelation in the back pocket until the time is just right in the story to unveil the dealt bad hand.  As the details trickle and we learn more about Claire’s disintegrating family life, we also learn of her ability to see lost spirits and how she handles those more than often visceral visions is dose up on medication that ultimately factors into her current state of mind.  Though I wouldn’t say the performance pops offscreen, but Krusiec does cruise through the role with meticulous character conditioning and the actress can tremble and look scared with the best in the business, anchoring Claire as the rooted principal and establishing a tone that works with the casted cohort.  Ken Kirby, who plays Clair’s estranged beat cop officer husband Peter, goes outside the usual comedy element for the Vancouver-born actor-comedian, walking the emotional pathway of a husband on the ousts by no fault of his own.  The heartbreaking tension that’s both expressed outward and internalized between the teetering from loss parents, husband and wife, fills the scenes with raw and relatable emotion and barrier-laden endeavor to fix what is thought hopeless. As Claire becomes closer to the case of Sophie Lang (Madelyn Grace, “Don’t Breathe 2”), nothing is as it seems from a family already on shaky ground with not only the school system’s case of suspected abuse, but also inwardly as past troubles fester toward a frenzy. Ellen Wroe (“Final Destination 5”), J.R. Garcia, Willie S. Hosea, and Mercedes Manning fill out the cast.

The Vang Brothers accomplish phenomenal representation in a female leading role with the talented Michelle Krusiec. Reaching back into my mind to access the cache of catalogued films I’ve watched over the decades, I find myself in extreme difficulty in recalling an American made story where an Asian woman female lead is not a martial arts expert. The Vang Brothers with “They Live in the Grey” expand the palette with a supernatural scenario that could curse not just the single white female rearing and protecting their child from a plethora of supernatural predators, but also afflict a person of color who has already suffered tremendously and who has to still have to find and work on themselves in the muck of overcoming a millstone. Instead of a double whammy, “They Live in the Grey” is a triple whammy of pitfalls that rival similar grief-stricken genre films like “The Babadook” and “The Orphanage.” “The Vang Brothers elicit a stillness in their shooting of an extremely melancholic yarn by not being too fancy with their camera footwork that doesn’t track or follow, no hand-held or drone, and is allowed to have a more natural tone with an unfiltered gravitate toward the austere and the tormented. Though nothing too striking to make a spectacle from Jimmy Jung Lu’s cinematography but each shot is carefully setup and the slow zoom in and out is effective enough in breath-holding moments. Early into the story, the first can be choppy and disorganized with the back and forth of present and past and though heavily focus or strict on the narrative’s virgin veneer, there’s distinguishable indication to the audience that we’re looking into the present viewfinder or the past’s. As a whole, the scenes blend together in a seamless patchwork that hinders more than helps.

“They Live in the Grey” extends that lack of light and vitality for the living and the dead. Now, you yourself can experience the saturnine of atmosphere of the film that lives on DVD from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, 124-minute DVD comes from our overseas friends in the United Kingdom with an 18 certification for strong injury detail – aka – stabbing and blood. Presented in a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the 2-hour runtime coupled with a compressed presentation appears to have shepherd in some compression issues, such as banding and fuzzy details. The picture is not the sharpest it should be with old wooden house’s textures could have added texture to the nerve-wracking tension builds. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track represents a solid audio inlay with clear dialogue and a diverse depth and range. The musical soundtrack is subtle but works hand-in-hand with the story. Optional English subtitles are available. Bonus features include only a behind-the-scenes photo gallery. When it comes down to brass tacks, a strong story is a good story and “They Live in the Grey” may miss a few technical marks, but the horrid truth of grief is personal, potent, and packed full of demons.

Not the Blue, Not the Red, but the Grey!  “They Live in the Grey” on DVD!

When the EVIL Novice Becomes the EVIL Master. “Assault! 13th hour!) reviewed! (Impulse Pictures / DVD)

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!

A gas station attendant is beguiled by the culpable bad boy antics of a serial rapist in a red jacket. As the attendant becomes more enthralled by the sociopath’s life-altering school of assault and apprenticeship, he attempts a solo flight to turn his women victims into loving his deplorable acts of sexual misconducts. His emulation of sprouting a decadent rape fantasy fails as the connective alternative sexual experience between the powerful and the powerless only induces complete fear. Curious to how the connoisseur of forced copulation gets away with women paying him for ravishment again, the novice learner of lechery aims to seek as much knowledge as possible without hesitation and without question but a homosexual gang hunts down his master in the crimson jacket for an unspecified act that warrants retribution. Caught in the middle, the gas station attendant must fight for his life if he wants to continue the legacy of violation.

Better known as “Rape! 13th Hour,” Yasuharu Hasebe’s “Assault! 13th Hour” is a perhaps a more marketable film for many western distributors with the world rape kicking off as an exclamational in the title. One of Japan’s well-known exploitation and pinku filmmakers, having directed a slew of films with a combination of action, crime, and sexual dysphoria and kink with the Stray Cat Rock film series (“Sex Hunter,” “Delinquent Girl Boss”) as well as “Rape!,” “Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train,” and “Raping!” Yeah, I would say Hasebe had a deviant fantasy for the subject. Released in 1977, “Assault! 13th Hour” comes from the same mind of “Hausu” screenwriter Chiho Katsura and Toshiro Masuda’s “The Perfect Game,” a Criterion release film, screenwriter Yoshio Shirasaka. Now, the 73-minute narrative rapt in the idea of women throwing themselves, as well as their yen, at the attacker in a twisted reaction to forceful violation with a greenhorn being trained-to-inherit the practice is by no means as surreally horrifying as “Hausu” or as complicatedly thrilling as the gambling-gone-awry “The Perfect Game.” Still, an underlying, nagging feeling of the patriarchal power that is deeply engrained into Japanese culture can be digested with this pinku-production under the company eye of Nikkatsu Corporation, releasing the film under its pinku eiga subsidiary, the Nikkatsu Roman Porn banner, with Ryoji Ito (“Cruel High School Girls: Sex Lynch”) producing.

Now, whether “Assault! 13th Hour” is a sequel to either Hasebe’s “Rape!” or “Assault!” is not clear from this reviewer’s eyes – I have yet to see either one of those particular previously films – but there lies one commonality between all of them, Akira Takahashi. A lifer in the pinku eiga industry, Takahashi has collaborated with Hasebe on a number of films that run the gamut of exploitation. For his role of Crimson, a serial rapist and delinquent who sports a red bomber jacket, the principal predator is more mysterious in not only his actions but his backstory involving the homosexual gang boss and his two equally sapphic goons and this is where I suspect “Assault! 13th Hour” might be a follow up film as Crimson’s historical transgressions don’t come to light. Hence, the gang’s manhunt never fleshes out to a warranted chase down and the unsuspected sexual tension that produces from it between Crimson and the gang boss. Takahashi brings a confident and suave creep to the lead but doesn’t necessarily have the charisma to make Crimson stand out on his own as a memorable character. Crimson’s accomplice, and the story’s perspective primary, played by Yûdai Ishiyama (“Izo”), fits snuggly into the part of curious in his character who takes uninitiated baby steps into wanting to be a part of this cabal of beastly baroque bedfellows that can persuade Stockholm syndrome upon their victims before they zip up their pants. Ishiyama’s role provides more depth as a low-end gas station attendant with a pent-up perversion and who’s better to exploit and nurture his willingness more than his equivocal new best friend, Crimson. The story’s unpublicized character list provides the story with a nebulous pall to make a statement that this can happen to anyone and can even happen to this cast list of Yuri Yamashina, Tamaki Katsura, Naomi Oka, and Rei Okamoto.

I’m still wrapping my head around the plot’s sudden drop into mid-story without a callback to Crimson’s sordid history that weaves between his seemingly magical persuasion of perversion and his tumultuous involvement with the homosexual gang who want more than just to beat him to pulp. The chance stance Hasebe has to fashion into a comprehensible story, based off the script’s limiting section of a whole, is turned into a wildly suitable and often alternate universe viewed milieu where corruption and immorality goes without proper attention or justice. There are no detectives tracking down the rapists’ rampage or even the display of just a single police vehicle at the aftermath of the crimes. Judgements are contained within the confines of the criminal underworld from a twisted perspective of vigilante justice and, you know, it works! The one-sided standpoint immerses the viewer into a filthy, degrading, and perversely fantastical sea of immorality where lawlessness is the law, but as far as pink films are concerned, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tame entry that doesn’t shockingly exploit the senses. Likely, that reserved jolt from the jarring material stems from decades of repetitive similar films of the same genre and/or nature and we, those fans drowning in fascination of the pink film category, might feel a little numb to its debauchery though the ending’s infringing necrophilia onto nearly every possible orifice on the victim’s body can be an eye-opener, or an eye-closer depending on your level of comfort and intrigue. Assault! 13th Hour” explores a trade far less trodden in its unusual master and pupil dynamic and subjugates any ambiguities over the blurry line between heterosexuality and homosexually with a slightly biased preconceived notion that heterosexual assault leads to viable passion whereas the counter only offers brutality and bloodshed.

Arriving onto DVD from Impulse Pictures, the XXX and erotica sublabel of Synapse Films, is the Nikkatsu Roman released “Assault! 13th Hour!” The anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation renders a respectable transfer of the 35mm film despite the noticeable age and wear of the warm, inferior negative stock that often appears dark and detailed indiscernible, unlike the stylish use of high contrast. The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 dual channel casts a better-than-expected dialogue track and general ambient score albeit the overplayed audio bytes for cars revs and screeching tires. The constant low whir never goes above a whisper, leaving alone the dialogue to remain clear and free of obstructions and that also goes for the absence of pops and hissing. The newly translated and removable English subtitles pace well, display without typos, and are synchronously consistent. The 1977 Japanese erotica and roughie is a feature only release for Impulse Pictures with no bonus material included. The tight and taut, rough and dirty, “Assault! 13th Hour” is a tinderbox of ferocity as well as a tender box of far out fantasies that makes this dichotomy of sexuality and violence an interesting slice of Japanese erotic cinema.

“Assault!  13th Hour” on DVD from Impulse Pictures!