Victor, a pioneering and experimental genetic scientist, has done the impossible, cloned a living human baby and named the girl Elizabeth. Obsessed with learning from his creation, Victor works tirelessly, neglecting his wife and two children. He also neglects a dark secret from his past that threatens everything he’s worked for and achieved. Religious group and lawful prosecutors blind him from the underlining and he continues with his research, diving deeper into the mysteries of Elizabeth. When Victor’s dark past catches up with him and reveals itself, he becomes forced into protecting his family and his creation Elizabeth from harm.
The Billy Senese sophomore written and directed film about the inevitable consequences of cloning shares a familiar similarity to being an adult version of Larry Cohen’s monster baby macabre “Its Alive.” Instead of hideous and murderous Davies baby, “A Frankenstein Story” caters more to realism with a deformed, genetically developed child growing up in pain and in secret. Senese tunes into a style that’s comparable to the likes of “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh, soaked in a contrast of composure and slightly solemn.
The “A Frankenstein Story” title is a UK title. In the USA, the film goes more recognizably under “Closer to God,” which is a line withdrawn from the film, and while I do think “Closer to God” is a more suitable title, the gothic-like title has holds water in an off color way. Aside from a man creating a human out of biological genetics instead of using body parts and electricity, the Senese film homages the old Mary Shelley tale in some other respects. Lead actor Jeremy Childs plays Victor and we all know Victor is a the first name to the titular character Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s story. Also, Senese, wether intentionally or not, has envisioned and dressed Childs as the creator and the monster. Victor is toweringly tall, freakishly broad shoulders, and has a square like face, making him appear like The Creature.
Senese’s narrative has promise at the very beginning and the very end with everything else in between being quite stagnant in developing and displaying Victor’s awfully well hidden secret. There also isn’t any exposed motivation between Victor, and some of the other characters, in behind the laboratory conceiving of Elizabeth. The only conclusion that’s explicit is that Victor becomes obsessed with being God, a very fine line between being human and the Almighty, putting the science more in the background and putting his fatherly strides first in defeating nature.
The High Fliers Films DVD hit retail shelves in the UK this past Tuesday, January 25th. The disc was a DVD-R review screener and contained just the film so I can’t speak upon or review the bonus material or the film’s quality. However, we’re not totally sold on Billy Senese take on the mad scientist genre, even with a semi-favorable review. The last 15 minutes is intense, tragic, and compelling that the second act needed so desperately to keep interest and to keep the story developing along.
Max believes he’s found the perfect move-in girlfriend with Evelyn: she’s nice, she’s hot, she loves sex. However, when Evelyn’s over-protective, save the planet, go vegan or go home boorish attitude becomes too much for Max to bare, he attempts to break up their dwindling relationship, but ends up accidentally killing her long after making a solid promise, in front of a mysterious satanic genie figurine, to always be with her. Max’s regrets surge him into a depressive state until he meets the beautiful Olivia, the perfect opposite sex carbon-copy of himself. Everything seems to be coming together for Max until Evelyn digs up and out from her grave and returns to him as a decomposing and clingy zombie girlfriend, picking up right where their relationship left off.
The 2014 romantic horror-comedy “Burying the Ex” is the first feature film from “Gremlins” director Joe Dante since 2009; a six-year stint that resulted in the outcome of this odd, but familiar blended genre film. Dante hasn’t kept his directorial hands too much in the horror genre pot in over two decades with the small exceptions of a “Masters of Horror” short film and 2009’s “The Hole,” the director hasn’t lost his signature touch of dishing out deadpan humor and fusing a knowledgeable palate of horror to go with it making “Burying the Ex” one of the most morbidly fascinating horror releases in the modern zombie age. Another trademark of Dante is casting a familiar face and sure enough, Dick Miller makes a cameo appearance. I swear I thought he was dead.
“Burying the Ex’s” cast is compiled of seriously underrated, but without a double awe-inspiring generating actors and actresses with the reboot of “Star Trek’s” Anton Yelchin headlining the way as the film’s main character Max. Max’s passiveness quality fits perfectly with Yelchin’s dry delivery and awkward mannerism style and Max’s passion for horror feels natural coming from Yelchin with the actor’s similar background work from “Odd Thomas” and the remake of “Fright Night.” However, aside from playing Chekov from “Star Trek,” this character is more of the same from the 26-year-old actor. Yelchin’s antagonist portraying co-star Ashley Greene, from the vampire romance series “Twilight,” marks well being the strong, opposing character against Max, portraying the snobby and overbearing girlfriend Evelyn. Though Greene is usually quite beautiful and stunning in other roles, the Evelyn character is a breath of fresh (or rotten in this case) air with a bit a sassy appeal. Greene casts an already slightly models-like thin appearance with features that strike well with the characters overall gaunt look, creating a well on it’s way decomposing zombie.
The supporting actor and actress completely round out Dante’s playfully twisted take on a stalking ex-lover. Oliver Cooper has Max’s back as his sex-crazed, exploitive half brother Travis. Cooper’s fast talking, negotiating-type personality reminisces his “Project X” work and though Cooper’s range as an actor feels limited, Travis works here as being the yang to Max’s yin. Finally, the absolutely gorgeous Alexandra Daddario’s relieves the, if any, thrilling tension and Max’s shortcomings with a quirky, adorable, and cute as hell horror-inspired malt shop owner. Though Daddario’s role might not spark a social media firestorm like her “True Detective” bare it all role, Daddario’s Olivia attempts and achieves an one-eighty, pulling off a split personality from the standard hot girl part in these types of romantic horror-comedies and showing that even the most nerdy of girls can be the girl of your dreams. Daddario is also almost unrecognizable in this role when compared to her previous works.
The script penned by newcomer Alan Trezza needs some fine tuning. This fantastic hard sell doesn’t fall to fault from with the cast as the story moves along at a roadrunner pace and fails, purposely I’m speculating, to explain the background on the satan genie statue that’s extends the root cause of Max’s problem. Not even a smidgen of background to alleviate any the tiniest inquiries of satan genie is revealed and just leaves the audience wondering just who sent the evil wish granting product. However, the subtle tongue and cheek manner of Trezza’s first feature revels in quirky contentment, leaving the horror and the comedy as equals. “Burying the Ex” shares a similar story we’ve all seen before – “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Life After Beth,” “Warm Bodies” – but each of those tales told have a distinctive quality and a cast of a different caliber.
Since this a screener copy from UK distribution company High Fliers Films, I’m unable to review the picture and audio quality nor comment on the extras, but as far as a distributed film pickup for the company to release, “Burying the Ex” will live, and return, beyond the grave again and again and again. Dante’s romantic horror-comedy feasts on horror homage and dry wit while delivering surprisingly only little gore. “Burying the Ex” is available on UK DVD from High Fliers Films and can be purchased from most UK online retailers.
A young group of people are mysteriously texted an address for an unknown party. When they arrive, the address takes them to a dilapidated mansion with innards displayed as if time has ceased to exists. When the group tries to leave, all the doors to the outside won’t open, condemning them to the horrors of a magician’s vengeful spirit and his very large and frightening assistant who looms around the mansion’s endless corridors. As the group continues to butt against each other in distress and disbelief, one-by-one they fall victim to the magician’s gruesome parlor tricks behind every door and the only way out of the mansion may be dependent on their families’ legacies.
With a premise similar to the 1999 remake of “House on Haunted Hill” where a group of people are mysterious invited to a creepy house and end up in a death trap, I wouldn’t say director Kennedy Goldsby’s “Death’s Door” aka “The Trap Door” is entirely, 100 percent unique. In fact, much of the film is undeniably the same compared to William Malone directed remake, yet less entertaining and without an all-star cast and a vaster budget. “Death Door” lures with the headliners of more attractive and experienced stars with the Jamaican-born movie and television actor Obba Babatundé and the “Friday” franchise actor, and overall a big, badass monster of a man, Tommy “Tiny” Lister. Yet, like most smaller projects, I’m sure Obba’s and Tiny’s handful of scenes were the majority of the budget pie, leaving a few dollar bills at the bottom of the barrel for special effects that were desperately needed for a film about a ghoulish magician.
The effects were completely inadequate and can’t even equate to the same stature used for “House on Haunted Hill.” Off screen deaths, quick edits and cuts, camera angles, shoddy CGI, the over use of red tints, shaky camera, flash backs, and a prop skeleton tried to sell plausibility when really just added to absurdity. Aside from the lackluster effects, the Goldsby penned script logically doesn’t flow and fails to develop acts. While seeking for an exit, separate groups of characters aimlessly wander the house, trying door after door, and then the next scene could be one of those characters mixed in with another separate group, creating some continuity confusion. Also, much of the script settles to a stagnate, housing an unnecessary long montage of the group being bored, napping, looking glum, or walking from one part of the room to another. To put the cherry on top, a random nude scene is oddly inserted into a montage into the magician backstory portion. There’s no telling who the naked breasts belong to or why they’re naked to even begin with as the exploitive and titillating shot crops out the head and the setting is awfully generic, not placing the body in any familiar surroundings related to the mansion.
I will say that very few of the acting skill sets were not at a total loss. The fast-talking, wise-crackin’ Bruce played by Chico Benymon was entertaining; the character’s angst-fllled stand-up-comic style character goes against the grain, fleeting any ideas of ghosts or any form of malevolency. Tommy “Tiny” Lister is always top notch. The big man doesn’t even have to say a word and he’s downright menacing, even if his character, Jomo, stuffs emotionless Latina’s into tight spaces and fails to soil the pants of the mansion’s guest when quietly walking around them. Sarah Wagenvoord, who I was hoping had the mysterious naked breasts scene due to her massive…well, you know, should have played a more prominent role du in part to her character’s outcome. Actors Michael Bernardi, Felix Ryan, and Danielle Lilley maintained an average performance through a mirco-budget production. The rest foundered to capture any kind of terror or despair or just even trying to be a normal character, overacting the parts as if trying to put passion into reading straight from the script.
The video quality of the MVDVisual DVD comes with hardly any flaws in the video stock or any loss in the natural coloring. The stereo audio is a bit unbalanced between the LFE and the dialogue tracks, deducing to some loss dialogue over the pounding hammering sounds. The extras includes the Kennedy Goldsby directed music video of “Shorty Wassup” by Hip-Hop artist Sizzol Pop. The last piece of bonus material is a behind-the-scenes featurette from the actual haunted house set where the crew has personal encounters with the spirits. “Death’s Door” is a fools gold, a trap, that promises deadly snares, haunting ghoul, and many scares. The ending comes to a complete halt with only tall tales of what might have dastardly happened to most of the characters in the rickety mansion. I would recommend far better old mansion spook stories.
A troop of cub scouts set out on a camping trip in the deep forests near an abandoned bus factory. At the helm are three scout masters overseeing a handful of lively young cub scouts. One of children, Sam, has been through a troubled and violent past and has been labeled the outcast amongst the rest of the troop. Sam encounters a feral young boy, who has been trained by a murderous psychopath whom has made the woods his deadly home. As nobody believes Sam’s run-in with the wild boy whose been stealing around camp, the troop hastily concludes that Sam is lying and stealing, resulting in the trop disliking him even more all the while setting up their fate for something far much worse: a killer camping trip.
Booby traps. Children vs. Children. Outside nude showering. An ingenious killer. Fun and newfangled horror has made it’s grand return since “The Collector!” Freshman director Jonas Govaerts, with a boat load of crowd funded money, has brought a keen eye to the campy, wooded survival genre with his independent film “Cub” aka “Welp” in the films original French/Flemish language. Going through the motions of setting up character development and moving the characters seamlessly into a ominous situation is what seems to come natural to director Govaerts. Unnaturally, Govaerts doesn’t explore the psychotic background of such an interesting, yet mysterious killer, leaving everything about the antagonist’s intentions to the imagination. This villain, only known as the “psychopathic mentor” on the Artsploitation Films Blu-ray back cover, maintains a dated, yet marathon technique killing spree operation underground in the dark woods, setting up crafty and deadly traps for those who embark on his land. There’s a little tidbit of setup on the killer from an officer explaining to the scout masters that the vacant nearby factory has made some previous employees disgruntled, making the land a cursed hotspot.
“Cub’s” success mainly stems from it’s actors. Gill Eeckelaert, who has only “Cub” credited under his name, phenomenally creates a superbly feral and masked boy, surviving on the land and in the trees. With a scrawny physique and zero dialogue, Eeckelaert has formed a eerily scary character, more so than the actual menacing mentor. In all honesty, the feral boy should have been the main antagonist pitted against the troop. This character’s counterpart, Sam, played by Maurice Luijten is the epitome of good, yet something is off with the character as told with seldom sharing of the information about his past, his foster parents, his damaged photograph, and the list goes on. While a clear picture of Sam never fully emerges until the finale, the good that bubbles up from his character couldn’t be any more prominent as he’s contrast next to the constant bully shadow of a scout master named Baloo and his mindless troop of followers, looking to be cool in the Baloo’s perverted and unorthodox eyes. With only a handful of ally accompaniments on this trip, those who wish Sam harm outweigh those who want to protect him.
With the “Lord of the Flies” similar attitude and with more than half your cast under the puberty requirement age, Govaerts ruthlessly places every single person in danger and places every single character on the chopping block. There’s no sugar-coated dancing around the innocent minors, making them actually part of the organic story instead of pussyfooting around them as if they’re made of fragile, non-tempered glass. However, I do feel the opportunity was completely wasted or missed to take out each individual character one-by-one with a signature death scene, but I don’t believe the effect of certain character or characters being dispatched watered down the “oh my god” value.
The Artsploitation Blu-ray has a beautiful 2.35:1 ratio, widescreen presentation with only very little aliasing detected and the night scenes just as clear as the day scenes. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix flawlessly contributes to the overall impact of the story, creating a great balance between LFE and HFE, dialogue, soundtrack, and ambient tracks while providing accurate and well-timed English subtitles. The superb giallo-esque score by Steve Moore, who goes under the pseudo name of Gianni Rossi and worked on “Gutterballs”, delivers an intense, on the edge of your seat synth rendition of danger and chase. “Cub” director Jonas Govaerts and his crew earns their merit badges for constructing a bloody and innovative film. Another winning release for Artsploitation Films and another recommendation from this reviewer.
What if there were multiple universes and only one time line? Then, what if time breaks down? Being aware of, in theory, the coming lapse of time, Miska uses her talents in physics to calculate the days of when exactly the rare event will occur; she brings along her boyfriend Akçay and together they experience, not an immaculate and breathtaking event, but a horrifying phenomena that intertwines parallel universes and opens the door to our world to mind manipulative beings known as The Others or Shadows. When Miska misjudges the occurrence date, the lovers find themselves trapped in a vicious loop, unable to tell the difference between what’s reality and what’s a realistically terrifying nightmare.
“Reminiscence: The Beginning” is the screenplay written by musical artist and Blue Arc Studios founder Akçay Karaazmak, who also directs film and stars as, you guessed it, the male lead named Akçay. The concept of time breaking down and releasing horrifying entities is intriguing to captivate audiences, like a moth to a bright night light, toward noticing the estimated $500,000 budgeted independent feature that has an exotic filming location on the crystal clear water beaches of Çeşme, Turkey. Alternate realities have an unique appeal since the lot of such films haven’t been saturated by previously exploration and their ventures, unlike the recycled storyline of the zombie genre, can always be varied because time is tangible; we see the parallel time lines within the established stories of popular sci-fi franchises such as “Star Trek” and “Terminator”. Karaazmak’s film, his first ever venture into the movie biz, has similarities to other works such as Stephen King’s film adapted novel “The Mist” or in “Silent Hill,” the video game adapted into film where two universes collide and ferocious monsters seep into the human world, blending time and worlds into one existence. Can we expect the same type of viscera innards from Karaazmak that resulted very favorably for the other recent genre-related films?
The answer to this time bending film is: don’t waste your time. Here’s why…
On a pitch black night, with no street lights, Akçay and Miska barrel down an isolated road; their seemingly anxious and intense conversation annoyingly underwhelms, nearly beneath the wave lengths of the human ear. Miska, in the passenger seat, examines through numerous pages of physic notes and while Akçay drives erratically fast through the thickness of night, she’s communicating something to him but the dialogue track is, frankly, inaudible. The fault lies at the feet of a couple of major issues: shoddy post-production audio work as the soundtrack severely steps up to become an unintentional focus point above the dialogue tracks and actors Akçay Karaazmak and Michaela Rexova mumbling horribly through the bland dialogue due to their heavily broken English and immature acting status. Our ears inevitably have a chance to relax once the two finally reach the Çeşme beach after a near accident.
The beach scenes turn out to have just as much post-productions issues as the superficial opening. The editing work will require an heavy dosage of Dramamine pills to suspend any nauseating effects from the tirelessly and pointlessly shot and edited scenes. Karaazmak’s film feels unsure on how to convey each scene appropriately, cutting and splicing two and three second scenes together. Karaazmak’s editing process resembles something close to tossing contents of a mixed bag of options and seeing what sticks to sort of fit. Also, If I’m going camping in the natural elements of a beach, dressing the occasion might heighten Akçay’s and Miska’s characters’ authenticity; instead, the lovers, cladded in dance club clothing, doesn’t speak highly of our hero and heroine as black hole researchers seriously. Michaela Rexova, starring in her only credited film according to IMDB.com, has the beauty, but her dull persona and monotonous speech makes her instantly unlikeable to which her beauty can’t rekindle and if I would have heard the word “baby” one more time between them under that low breath of either one of them, my brain would have created it’s own timeless black hole and void itself into non-existence as if some kind of mindless suicide.
However, there are moments, brief moments, during the film’s latter that peak through the unwatchable, indigestible blitzkrieg that is “Reminiscence: The Beginning.” Surprisingly, the scenes I’m referencing satisfy some kind sexual aesthetic while managing to remain a lasting and haunting impression. In one of Akçay’s nightmarish visions, a blonde lays facedown and prone across the hall of a vacant and dark structure. She suddenly awakes, stands with only one ripped above knee stocking on, and backs against the wall, sensually moving up and down, caressing her thigh and a knife with her bloody hands, and dripping blood on the ground from the only piece of clothing covering her chest – a male’s white button down shirt stained at the abdomen. With the knife she holds in her hand, she suddenly thrusts it into her crotch and begins to masturbate. Karaazmak manages to create a visually interesting scene in a creepily sexy or psychosexual fashion and there are other just above mediocre short scenes that glimmer, but these scenes would value more as short films rather than as a whole.
Once again, Karaazmak, has his hands in another department and this time it’s with the waffling special effects. You have to give the musician credit for multi-tasking, but when one person helms many departments, the tasks become overbearing, causing multiple areas foundering as if cables from a suspension bridge are snapping one by one to the point that the bridge begins to wobble. That’s how I feel the effects played out by wobbling, but the effects are par for the limited-budgetary course as being not terribly horrific on a modest budget, but nothing stellar beyond fantastic that would be worth bragging about to promote enthusiastic interest in the film. Karaazmak majorly implements CGI to spookily distort the faces of the other-dimensional shadow people, especially when the leads meet their dopplegangers; a comparison draws from when Ash meets Evil Ash in the 1992 horror-comedy “Army of Darkness” after having buckshot spread blasted point blank into Evil Ash’s face. “I’m bad Akcay and you’re good Akcay,” if only.
Blue Arc Studios and SGL Entertainment, a well-established cult and horror distribution company, along with MVD distribution release “Reminiscence: The Beginning” on a region 1 DVD, presented in a widescreen format. Be prepared for 107 minutes of one of the few sci-fi, alternate reality, horror concoction genre film projects to come out of Turkey, but also be warned of director Karaazmak’s migraine inducing editing technique and a dialogue drowning soundtrack that might condemn the viewing ability. Will Karaazmak take “The Beginning” to the sequel level? Time is, hopefully, on our side.