This Relationship is a Complicated EVIL! “Blood-Red Ox” reviewed! (Breaking Glass Pictures / DVD)

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Writer Amir and his boyfriend Amat, whom have a hot-and-cold, off-and-on relationship, travel down to Bolivia on behalf of Amir’s friend seeking an expose on protecting the local endangered rainforest from land developers.  Upon arriving and settling into Amir’s friend’s childhood home set on the outskirts of town, Amat begins to experience reoccurring vivid nightmares that used to plague him prior to meeting Amir.  Disorienting, blood-soaked, and with a vicious-looking therianthropic beast – half-ox and half-human, Amat slowly begins to lose memories and even the memory of Amir fades.  Amir struggles to reconnect with Amat who’s continues his spiraling decent into paranoia and also struggles with juggling timelines as events of the past and present intersect in a surreal pattern of irrepressible madness.

For someone like me who has married into a Bolivian family and culture, you would think I would have been exposed to the entire cache of Bolivian cinema that could utilize the Earth-centric culture, a rich yet tumultuous history, and the vast number of landscapes that stretch from the Andes Mountains to the lush Rainforests to the desert plateaus.  However, the Bolivian film industry is microscopically small, and I’ve only ever experienced two Bolivian produced films in my 10+ years of marriage and my 39+ years of living on this Earth.  Both from 2021, the first was Kiro Russo’s “El Gran Movimient” aka “The Great Movement” about the destructive city life and how an unprincipled young man is saved by connecting himself back to mother earth by way of a Brujo, a male witchcraft practitioner living disconnected from modern society and living off the land.  The second was this film we’re about to cover, “Blood-Red Ox,” that was written and directed by Rodrigo Bellott, co-written alongside Nate Atkins (“Sinister Savior”).  Bellott bounces between native Bolivia and New York, having graduated from Ithaca College, and regularly uses the two locations in a broader sense in his films.  Bellott is also a part of the queer community and reflects a queer theme in much of his repertoire, including “Blood-Red Ox” where the two central characters are gay men in a relationship.  “Blood-Red Ox” is a production of Narrative Engineer, presented by Media Luna New Films, and is produced by Bellott, Andrea Componovo, Rodrigo A. Orozco, Kaolin Bass, and Yasser Casal Moreno with Nate Akins and Bernardo Ratto serving as executive producers.

Lebanese American Mazin Akar stars in his breakout feature length film as journalist Amir whose been called to write a story about the threat of an oil company deforesting and disrupting one of Bolivia’s natural and beautiful preservations, the rainforest.  Akar is accompanied by producer Kaolin Bass in what would be Bass’s debut feature film as well, playing Amir’s complicated love interest Amat.  Akar and Bass make a handsome couple, natural in on screen affections, and there’s a fair amount passion, compassion, and cathartic emotions to understand not only their love for each other, but also their surface issues of trust.  Bass provides an engaging performance as lover moving backwards in time in regard to his relationship with Amir while Amir remains the constant, stuck in the now but disoriented by his consciousness of Amat’s seemingly erratic actions but not conscious of the settings and timeframes that change and only noticeably by the audience.  All the while, Amir is encountering Bolivian and New York-based characters, some strange to them, some with changing personas, and others not terrifyingly abstract, such as the ox-headed naked man huffing and puffing like an ox.  Side principals Amancaya (Andrea Camponovo, “The Shades”), Amaru (Vitorio Lema) and Amro (Julián Mercado) have a parallel story of their own that becomes shadowed by Amir and Amat’s, leaving the story imbalanced by its perhaps narrowed focus on the queer aspect that relates better to Bellott, which the director had mentioned that “Blood-Red Ox” is a personal story to him in other articles.  Performances are raw with intimate and bold love scenes as well as makeup heavy and continuity intense details that really impress from the actors that requires of them full or partial nudity and to be able to be in the mindset of a swirling narrative.  If you haven’t noticed by now, all the character names begin with A that’s either a fun little characteristic or a far more trouble clue about characters as the cast rounds with Miguel Michel, Ana Dominguez, Idalmis Garcia, Shawn Brown, Toto Vaca, and Mary Ellen Liepins.

Atmospheric, surrealistic, and elevated horror, Bellot’s “Blood-Red Ox” feels like a labyrinth of the mind that’s partly eco-horror with the motifs of a looming ox figure reoccurring in and out of reality and the backdrop of Tarija’s rainforest threatened by industrial outsiders.  In 2017, Tarija suffered a large-scale forest fire that resulted in 3 deaths. many injured, and severe loss of ecosystem crucial vegetation, a fact that was incorporated into the dialogue and becoming the very foundation for the story built around it with a subtle theme of dependency that translates to the Amir and Amat relationship and we can see how that is all folded together when the finale reveals the truth. Before then, the seemingly straightforward mystery narrative following a rocky-at-best same-sex couple deep diving into the South American jungle, surrounded by unfriendly, perhaps slightly appalled locals that are either wary about outsiders or, what’s typical of South American culture, troubled to see two men in a relationship because of the male-dominated society. Much of the reactions are indirect and ambiguous but there, a hidden jab against noticed only by those being pelted by side-eyed glances, disapproval gestures, or curled lips of disgust. Bellott doesn’t chiefly focus on this nagging undertone but rather takes the narrative off road onto rocky, perilous terrain that increasingly becomes abstract and is riddled with conundrums. Timelines cross over one another as we’re teleported seamlessly, effortlessly back and forth between upstate New York and the colonialized-esque villas and mountain country of Tarija, Boliva. Bellott deconstructs Amir and Amat’s relationship by keeping Amir constant in the current and Amat moving backwards in time, creating friction as well as non-linear disorder leading to something just isn’t right with the whole situation. “Blood-Red Ox” descends into a lurid state that works until Bellott’s envoi of explanation that splits the story unevenly and without sensical justification as the story becomes too wrapped up and complicated where a less is more philosophy would have perfectly sufficed.

Provocative and boundary-pushing independent home release film distributor, Breaking Glass Pictures, strikes a deal with Media Luna New Films to release “Blood-Red Ox” onto DVD.  Presented in an unmated 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the wall-to-wall image is hotly lit gel and tinted for most of the fever dreams and hallucinations with the ox-irritating color – a deep shade of red or otherwise known as oxblood red.  However, there are obvious compression issues with fanned out dithered banding on the primary color and on certain negative spaces.  The feature, shot in 2K on a RED camera, is housed on a DVD5 and while a quite few scenes appear unfazed with measured detail, a DVD 9 would have better suited to render the sizeable color use and enhanced the textures, such as a skin to which there is plenty of in the film.  With any digital recording, the transfer is free from any kind of deterioration, wear, age, and other miscellaneous plights.  The audio is track is a lossy Spanish/English Stereo 2.0.  For a dual channel audio output, the result is reasonable enough with the ancillary ambience and dialogue is clear and clean.  The English subtitles are synched well and flawless up until one spelling error late in third act.  There are no bonus features included with this release and there are no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The physical DVD comes in a standard snapper case with a composite of the two principal men embracing each other from one scene with a large, augmented ox head with glowing red eyes and smoke coming out from the side looming above. Locked in a region 1 code, the DVD runtime is 94 minutes and is not rated. “Blood-Red Ox” can be labeled many things – a mental health story, a queer story, an eco-activist story, an avant-garde psychological thriller story – but what the film really symbolizes is the constant day-to-day struggle, in the thick of surrounding horrors, to live a normal life.

“Blood-Red Ox” on DVD home video!

The Earth is Healing with EVIL Intentions. “The Feast” reviewed (IFC Midnight / Digital Screener)

Glenda is frantically planning a dinner party for seven people at her newly constructed, modern rural home in the Welsh countryside. In order to quickly prepare, Glenda hires a young waitress, Cadi, from the local pub-restaurant as a pair of extra hands, but becomes intertwined with Glenda’s eccentric and dysfunctional family and friends who are drug addicts, sexual deviants, narcissists, and greedily apathetic in respecting local Welsh traditions and lands. However, Cadi keeps her own secret, one that’ll will transform the joyous dinner party into a night of deadly retribution for all their sins upon Earth.

For a language once on the brink of extinction and only spoken by less than a million people, probably even more less than that estimate, director Lee Haven Jones’ debut feature film, “The Feast,” reintroduces the language to many of us with revitalizing the Celtic-tradition Welsh tongue by implementing it as the entire dialect for his introductory from the United Kingdom. Jones’ eco-horror clashes archaic Welsh lore and traditions with the newfangled inattentive and neglectful modernism from a script by Roger Williams, a frequent collaborator with Jones on previous credits such as the split-heritage documentary “Galesa” and the short-lived drama series drama series, “Tir,” about foreign invaders intrusively adding financial hardships Welsh landowners. Also known as “Gwledd” on script in Wales, “The Feast” is executively produced by Jones and Williams as well as Gwenllian Gravelle, and Paul Higgins under an amass of production companies in the British Film Institute (with funds stemming from the national lottery), Ffilm Cymru Wales, S4C, Fields Park and, in association with, Great Point Media and Melville Media Limited.

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A dinner party fit for the scum of society comes to mind as Jones rounds the horn introducing Glenda’s passively confrontational family whom all are on display for having vices unsuitable for polite society. Beginning with her sons, two brothers shamed by their parents into hiding from out of the public eye by whisking them away to their rural abode, are portrayed by actors Steffan Cennydd as the drug addicted and party loafer Guto and Sion Alun Davies as the an intelligent and sterile sociopath with a sordid past involving accusing women. There’s also her husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones, “Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter”) with a sleazy demeanor and an quenchable thirst for money. The family friend Euros (Rhodri Meilir) lives and breathes squeezing every ouch of worth from the dollar signs he envisions plastered on everything to the point that his pigheadedness will eventually get the better of him. Lastly, there is Glenda (Nia Roberts) herself who is a pursuer of the finer, material things eager to display them proudly no matter the cost of bloodshed. Roger Williams’ characters are written absolutely lush with cancerous class and a vague sense of their surroundings as they stew proudly being one boldly intense personality to the next; however, they become becomes cleaved by the house party help, Cadi, with a shark-circling simplicity by Annes Elwy. Elwy barely has any dialogue as she submerses Cadi, quietly like a submarine silently churning the waters, into the family’s eclectic affairs and studying their every movement with a naïve gaze, but there is nothing naïve about Cadi’s uncomfortable silence that becomes heedlessly unnoticed by, no surprise here, the group of narcissists. “The Feast” rounds out the cast with Lisa Palfrey, the only rational head with surprising little screen time after briefly unveiling a shocking revelation about just exactly who Glenda let in her home.

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2021 has been the year for under-the-radar, but oh so good, eco-horror.  Among the ranks following this years Ben Wheatley’s “In the Earth” and Jaco Bouwer’s “Gaia” comes the all-things-Welsh cautionary outlier that when pushed too far, when disturbed too much, and when reeking virally infused putrid, a vindictive reaper will come calling.  In this case, that harbinger of death takes the form of a landbound spirit rooted in lore with an insidiously coy wolf in sheep’s clothing mounting a strike with subtle, rancorous fangs by smothering them with their own debaucheries and vices.  “The Feast” will take a couple of viewings to fully digest the complete airy extent of Jones’ lax editing, under the cut and paste thumb of Kevin Jones, that can infrequently blur character timelines and presence in the story, as if plot points were forced into an unsure elucidation to connect the dots.  With a simmering horror on a spoke of unsettling imagery, the editing should have slightly been more binding to tighten gray areas; instead, “The Feast” has an abstract quality third act that not only chops up scenes, but also chops up bodies influentially consumed by the already self-destructing aspects. Some time must pass, a few days maybe, to let “The Feast” penetrate an understanding as it’s one of those flicks, wrapped loosely in cultural folklore or maybe told with the assumption non-Welsh viewers will grasp, the more thought about or written about, the more appreciation the film will disclose way after the credits roll.

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Funny how gravitating cultural folklore and nature grow an impeccable theme of doom as if shaping mythologies and a life-growing ecosystem equate to nothing more than a foreboding sense that one day mankind will become extinct at their own hand. “The Feast” portions a slice of that ominous pie, topped with Welsh lore and gore, coming to North America theaters and digital on-demand this November 19th, just in time for America’s feasting activities of Thanksgiving. The 93 minute, unrated film will be distributed by IFC Midnight, the sister label to IFC Films, owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. Bjørn Ståle Bratberg serves as cinematographer who options to start with the fresh-air, blue-sky landscape of the Welsh countryside than slowly guide us, step-by-step into the character delinking from the natural, beautiful world into a more menacing night of harsh darkness and fervent flame to reveal true identities. Bratberg’s dim lighting seemingly imprisons the sordid family in the new and modern home that’s like a prison with a gray brick interior and has a room of relaxation for Glenda that is noted by a guest in resembling a prison cell. The message of revenge resounded loud and clear; “The Feast” lays down coruscating repercussions in reaping the land for one’s own benefit and Lee Haven Jones’ wayward timebomb evokes an upsetting fear and tension for a dinner party finale that is surely to go way-wrong in this different kind of revenge thriller.

Evil’s Crimes Against Nature Will Not Go Unpunished! “Long Weekend” review!


Peter coerces his begrudging wife, Marcia, to forgo the luxurious hotels and chauffeured holidays for a long weekend of camping on a remote beach in Australia. An enthusiastic Peter packs the jeep with thousands of dollars worth of outdoor gear, including a surf board, a spear gun, and a hunting rifle. Marcia loathes the outdoors, can’t stomach the very thought, and she lets Peter know her distaste of his plan every other second while on holiday. Yet, this trip for them isn’t just a routine getaway, but, instead, a trip to get away from the swinging friction of close and very intimate friends, to rekindle their relationship, and save what little is left at a frayed string. The already awkward and complaint-riddle holiday turns from bad to worse when nature looms a foreboding shadow over the estranged couple, unleashing one ill-fated omen to the next that checks their nonchalant attitude toward nature with eco-radical discipline.

“Long Weekend” is an eco-horror film by “Innocent Prey” director Colin Eggleston. Alfred Hitchcock, perhaps, birthed the horror subgenre with his 1963 film “The Birds” that led to such films as “Day of the Animals” and “Grizzly.” Nearly 15-years later, Eggleston hones in on his inner Hitchcock by expanding the background on why nature turns cold and unsettlingly supernatural like. Working off a powerfully detailed and haunting script by “Razorback’s” Everett De Roche that circles around two characters like a hungry vultures, Eggleston vitalizes De Roche’s script with a paper to screen bleak, unsettling imagery on a monumentally minimalistic scale. “Long Weekend” could be considered a Hitchcockian film, and most likely is, but can stand firmly by itself as an extension on how mother nature can be a bitch when push comes to shove.

Two characters and the wilderness. That’s all “Long Weekend” boils down to on brass tacks, leaving two actors on the line to act off each other and off of the ominous presence that has fully engulfed them on an isolated stretch of beach and shoreside forestry. “The One Angry Shot’s” John Hargreaves tackles the conceited Peter with a full-bodied combination of heedless gusto and desperation that Hargreaves can seamlessly become lost in Peter’s self-worth. The Sydney born actor is paired with an English actress by way of Briony Behets from the 1980 film “Stage Fright,” a film also co-written by Colin Eggleston. Behets’ Marcia epitomizes the stereotypical enigma that men all think is the inner workings of a woman’s brain; Marcia is hot and cold with fleeting moments of passion for Peter, yet ready to kill him in the next scene. Behets converts the baffling intertwinement of Marica’s energy and channels it well into the dynamic that is their failing marriage.

What’s really special about Eggleston and De Roche’s film is the overloading symbolism. From subtle to simple, “Long Weekend” has the money betted on working on an underlying moment-to-moment, scene-to-scene in each act; a method tirelessly schlepped through with many modern features of today. Using non-threatening animals, such as a small possum and a sea cow or dugong, to be part of a menacing force driving the ominous presence across the narrative just sets the feng shui mindset of an unadulterated evil genius. Instead relying heavily on a physical entity, Eggleston heavily coincides creature imagery with the use of audible creature cues, whether a baby-like wail in the distance or the overpowering cacophony of animal growls and sneers, to invoke panic, fear, and paranoia to divide the already fragile pair into an atomic disaster of their undoing. “Long Weekend” will overshoot some viewers as piecing the puzzle together can be a slow and long process, but one aspect is certain, the off-camera animalistic stare has a powerful affect.

Second Sight delivers the ozploitation classic, “Long Weekend,” onto Blu-ray home video for the first time in the UK this November. Unfortunately, a review DVD-R disc was provided for this critique and audio and visuals components will not be covered. Bonus material was included on the review disc with audio commentary with executive product Richard Brennan and Cinematographer Vincent Monton, an Umbrella Entertainment produced panel discussion with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood, and Sally Christie, Uncut “Not Quite Hollywood” interviews with Briony Behets, Vincent Monton, and Everett De Rocha, an extensive still gallery with an John Hargreaves audio interview, and original theatrical trailer. “Long weekend” is man versus nature at it’s best with sheer, unrivaled terror in a quaint eco-horror thriller package with a powerful message that nature will seek extreme judgement against Mother Earth criminals.