Believe the Bruja When She Says There’s an EVIL Demon Inside You! “The Old Ways” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Dark Star Pictures)

Drug-addicted and depressed American journalist, Cristina, travels to her ancestral home of Veracruz, Mexico to investigate local folklore and shamanism.  Upon visiting the local feared and shunned caves of La Boca, the next thing Cristina knows she awake locked up in and chained inside a makeshift cell and is told a demon is inside her by an elder Bruja and her assistant who still practice the old ways of exorcism.  Skeptical and scared, Cristina endures the primitive, and sometimes painful, religious rituals to extract the demon out from her soul, hoping they would eventually let her go if she feigns the demons release from her body, but when plagued by strange visions and unexplainable occurrences, Cristina comes to realize the real danger is actually from within.    

Shot on location in Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico, “The Old Ways” clashes good versus evil in one small corner of the world while also enhancing the already enriched central American state known for its cultural brujo, or sorcery, celebrations and activity.  “The Old Ways,” which aims to symbolize spiritual demons to confront personal ones, is the first feature length venture from director Christopher Alender over 20-years since his first feature that was also, too, a horror, an off brand federal holiday themed slasher from 1999 entitled “Memorial Day.”  The 2020 demonic possession thriller reteams the “Memorial Day” writer and director as Marcos Gabriel pens the script that has become a miniscule reflection of himself being a Puerto Rician expat losing his own sense of heritage and culture of his ancestral land.  Full pin drop scares and profound depth of personal complexities, “The Old Ways” is a production of Soapbox Films (“The Wind,” “Southbound”) from Alender and Gabriel as executive producers along with Christa Boarini (“Spree”), David Grove Churchill Viste (“The Voyeurs”), and T. Justin Ross producing.

The lean characters keeps the story intimate and personal, rarely straying away from the rough-and-ready holding cell single location.  Only in Cristina’s backflashes of her Stateside office or the caves of La Boca do we dip into non-linear fractions of the what, when, why, where and how she became a befuddled prisoner to her Bruja host. No white washing here as the main cast is comprised of Latin-American actors and at the lead is “Fear the Walking Dead’s” Brigitte Kali Canales as the journalist with a death wish. You see, when Cristina embarks on her journey down to the La Boca caves of Veracruz, the troubled druggie searches for relief against an emptiness she can’t shake. Most of this narrative is backlogged backstory eventually worked on and worked out through flashbacks and through the excavation by her national residing cousin Miranda (Andrea Cortés). Canales really leans into her Americanized impediment delivering impatience, ignorance, patronization, and scoffing at Miranda and the Bruja teams’ beliefs and cultural responsibilities. The Bruja team, what I like to call it, is comprised of Julia Vera (“All Souls Day”) and Sal Lopez (“Return of the Living Dead III” ) as the last practitioner of primordial exorcism techniques, aka the old ways, and her assisting son, Javi, and the mother-son dynamic teeters of the customs and exercises of combating evil, a task that has been long withstanding against a beaten down and weary Javi. AJ Bowen (“The House of the Devil”), Julian Lerma, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, and Weston Meredith as the demon Postehki.

Now, Postehki is not a real demon from any culture’s cache of fiends. In fact, the whole mythos of “The Old Ways” is entirely fabricated for the sole sake of the story and I find that to be thrilling. Anything is possible with new folklore if done soberly without ostentatiousness and if mixed with some realism of the surrounding area, such as the Bruja element, that grounds the story with that much more of a terrifying blueprint. Plus, the allegories give the story tremendous depth with the demon inside Cristina that mirrors her addiction with drugs that initially obscure the audience from knowing if the evil within is real or is the drug effects the underlining culprit. Cristina’s addiction also plays into her immense sadness after her mother, the last connection to her heritage identity, dies and that melancholy she suffers forms a device that motivates her to return home looking to die herself. Cristina situation resembles being a satellite vessel cut off from the mothership and is lost and alone, leaving it up to Miranda to be that beacon of reconnection with not only her heritage but also her family. The third theme is the carryover of traditions from an older generation to a younger one that becomes very prominent between the Bruja, Luz, and Cristina to come to way of understanding the importance of keeping with the tried and true no matter how beyond crazy it may seem. The first two acts set up perfectly the puzzling nature of Cristina’s imprisonment and unraveling while touching upon subtopics and crowd pulling moments of breath holding terror, but the third act begins to spoil the salivating juiciness of what’s next behind each layer after a couple of false endings, a cheesy transition of character, and an eye-rolling one-liners essentially kill the visceral vibe.

Old habits, old feelings, and old origins pry open the emotional armor to a pervading and harbor-seeking evil in “The Old Ways” now on Blu-ray home video from Dark Star Pictures.  The not rated, dual-layer, region A BD25 is a presented in 1080p High-Definition with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Cinematographer Adam Lee shoots a terrene-cladded and flat color incubus with strategically placed shots that trigger strong reactions that go toe-to-toe with a thumping tribal score and piercing ambient track from the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in the English and Spanish language.  Robust and formidable, the score packs a punch with a pulsating drum and pan flute score by “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” composer, Ben Lovett. Dialogue is clean and clear and the errorless subtitles align nicely with the vocals. English SDH subtitles are also optional. Special features include over 2 hours of bonus content with a feature length behind-the-scenes documentary The Old Ways: A Look Beyond that provides cast and crew opinions, history, and everything else in between about “The Old Ways” origins and reactions, a commentary track with director Christopher Alender and writer Nicholas Gabriel, deleted and extended scenes, and storyboards. “The Old Ways” is old world horror for the modern age, poised rightfully so to be a part of the possession genre canon even if coming off the tracks just a tad.

God Hatin’ MMA Fighter Still Has The Power in Him to Fight EVIL! “The Divine Fury” reviewed!


After the sudden and violent death of his police officer father, mixed martial arts champion, Yong-hoo, has a complete disdain for God from a young age now that both his parents have perished. Growing up angry and swarmed with negative thoughts, Yong-hoo goes through life without much of a purpose until he awakes from vivid dream with the wound of stigmata on his hand. Unable to stop the bleeding by means of conventional medicine, he resorts to a shaman who convinces him to seek out Father Ahn, an elder priest experienced at practicing the rite of exorcism, and learns that the wound and Father’s once unwavering benevolence provide a divine weapon against a growing covenant of demons under the black magic of a Dark Bishop. Together, Yong-hoo and Father Ahn combat the forces of evil before the possession runs rampant in the city.

South Korea packs a punch with an action-packed take on possession and exorcism with Kim Joo-hwan’s “The Divine Fury.” The 2019 released film that blends horror with the cinematic formulas of the comic book universe films is written and directed by Joo-hwan and produced by Studio 706, KeyEast, and Lotte Entertainment, the latter being a subsidiary of one of the largest Asia conglomerates and a leader in the Asian film industry. “The Divine Fury” isn’t low-rent horror, providing fans with salt of the earth martial arts, a range of diverse set locations, and a decent grade of special effects that range from stunt men quality to visual monstrosities, including a giant hell worm bristled with millions of arms and hands, and also gives a chance for Joo-hwan to showcase his junior horror-action that succeeds a 2017 buddy-comedy in “Midnight Runners” and a coming to terms drama in his 2013 film, Koala. One motif, and perhaps trademark, that runs through all of Joo-hwan’s written and directed films is the coupling of protagonists element and “The Divine Fury” is not an exception and follows the same coupling, if not slightly altered, mechanism.

A pair of actors from Bong Joon-ho’s award nomination buzzing “Parasite” also have a role “The Divine Fury,” one of them, Seo-joon Park, being the lead star of the Joo-hwan film as the MMA Godsend, Yong-hoo, with hate in his heart for the Lord Almighty. Yong-hoo’s a joy to watch on the screen as a character with an arch’s beginning as a young man, a mindless fighter, being verbally influenced over his shoulders by demon puppeteers to finding his lost father figure in a man who has an unflinching amount of faith. Seo-joon captures the defined struggle Yong-hoo has with God even in the face of pure demonic evil before him. An evil battled by Father Ahn, dolefully portrayed by “Sector 7’s” Sung-Ki Ahn. Sung-Ki fatherly performance places Yong-hoo into a role of humility, not only as a mentor, but with experience and patiences that resigns to trust rather than action. However, the dynamic goes both ways. Seo-joon shows lot of physical strength becoming unwittingly the “divine” warrior to thwart an insidious malevolency when Father Ahn is taken out of action due to Yong-hoo’s haste. Seo-joon had to quickly and naturally grow up his character to be the leading, brute force of experience and physicality and did just that as character faces off with the Dark Bishop, Ji-sin. Ji-sin invokes demons to inhabit those in a weak state of mind. This devilishness wouldn’t have been made possible without Do-Hwan Woo’s stoically sly and slimy confidence behind the character. The remaining cast rounds out with another “Parasite” actor, Woo-sik Choi, and Seung-Joon Lee.

“The Divine Fury” is fundamentally an essential oil extracted from the widely popular comic book universe money-making machines, that are sometimes also called movies from time-to-time, but “The Divine Fury” doesn’t have that monstrous platform of a narrative pulled directly from the illustrated pages of comic book franchise. Yet, the story builds a downtrodden, seeking-answers Seo-Joon with a tragic past and an ability to pulverize people – a winningly similar combination to any pre-defined hero in the Marvel character evolution. There’s also this theme of fatherhood and mentorship, like seen in “X-Men” with Professor X or “Blade” with Abraham Whistler. The latter of those two examples perhaps more closely resembles Father Ahn as the relation to the horror-action genre is similar in nature, but instead of abstaining from blood thirst, Seo-Joon is abstaining from letting God into his heart. Of course, “Blade” was ultra-violent and bloody and “The Divine Fury” is grossly more toned down with the exception of a few key moments of blood regurgitation. Speaking of effects, the visual effects waned from expectation and teetered more toward a rushed and unpolished look. They weren’t terrible, but not the best looking visual effects demons in the industry.

Well Go USA Entertainment brings the action of exorcism to Blu-ray and DVD home video with a dual format, two-disc release of “The Divine Fury.” Presented in a 1080p widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio and sheathed in a slipcover, “The Divine Fury” feels necessarily gritty in comparison to the subject material with a clean, almost sterile image that defines the blacks and colors, despite a short range of vivid hues the hues that are dominant are profoundly thick and dark. The limited color palette won’t be a problem as demons hide in the shadows and that’s where the story takes domain in scaffolding-laden churches, orphanage basements, and even a swanky neon-glowing club with a well of damnation beneath in the dungeon. The skin tones have a natural feel about them, but going against the grain of naturalism is the visual effects as aforementioned as they don’t render properly to exude the right viewer reaction. The Korean language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has ample weight. Whispering shadows of slithering speak and the bubbling of the, again, well of damnation emit the right kind of range and depth needed to descent into doom and gloom atmospherics. Dialogue is crystal clear and in prominent. An English dub is available, as well as English subtitles that errorless and well synced to the Korean dialogue track. There is some English during a MMA fight on the Korean track. Bonus material includes a rather generally spiced together making of featurette that includes mini segments such as prop commentary, special effects, behind-the-scenes look, and the construction of the antagonist world in “The Divine Fury. There are also a couple of trailer variants and a U.S. trailer for the film. Ultimately, “The Divine Fury” intrigues on the fray, desiring more into the backstory of Father Ahn and delving further into Seo-Joon’s weaponized stigmata and director Joo-hwan Kim teases just that with a taste of things to come with a short pre-credit scene that sets up “The Divine Fury” for more themes, perhaps, on a love-hate relationship with God, more, perhaps, finding suitable father figures, but, of course, there will be for sure more exorcizing ass-kicking of demons.

Purchase the dual format release by clicking the above image! “The Divine Fury”

Being a Gracious Host Goes Well with an Accompaniment of Corkscrew Evil! “The House” review!


Set inside the conflict of World War II, a strayed former SS lieutenant and a German paratrooper must band together and escort a Norwegian captive through the snow covered forest of the frigid Norwegian mountains. Venturing through the cold and soulless landscape, the lieutenant is baffled by his bearings as his map doesn’t correlate with his surroundings, the sun is positioned at the opposite direction, and their compass points in the wrong direction. Faced with the possibility of gangrene and hypothermia, the lost combatants are forced to take up camp in a seemingly abandoned house that fly’s a hoisted Norwegian flag and has a pot of stew left simmering on a stove burner. Their already puzzling arrival into the residence is also met with unexplainable occurrences that place the extremely cold and weary soldiers even more so on an overwrought edge as they continuously search the house of presence telling life signs. Shadows and sounds trick their senses, soon realizing that the cozy confines are an inhospitable prison and with the deadly cold nipping at the doorstep, the soldiers are left with no choice but to face a sinister absence of time inside a hostile house that toys with their psyche and questions their own mortal existence.

Quickly becoming Norway’s prominent horror filmmaker, Reinert Kiil found success with his controversial and provocative “Whore” films and had a well-received review at Its Bloggin’ Evil for his cheerfully grisly, holiday slasher classic, “Christmas Blood.” Artsploitation Films continues to wholeheartedly support the Norway born director with his next venture, the supernaturally-charged possession of a home-sweet-home feature entitled simply “The House’ or “Huset” as titled in the original tongue. Kiil typically trends with shock horror, but with “The House,” there is an expansion upon his range as a filmmaker while remaining in a field he’s finds most endearing, pulling inspiration from his childhood memory vault of B-movie horror schlock and nostalgia grandeur, and dapples with replacing his guts and gory showmanship with slowly developing and instilling fear, especially with fear of the unknown and fear of change. Audiences are going to be attached to the hip and entrenched with the German soldiers, clueless to their predicament and anxious for them with the house’s uncanny and perplexing animosity, and Kiil doesn’t show much right away, slowly simmering the taut chills lined meticulously in the story.

Paratrooper Andres Fleiss is introduced in the preface attempting to save his mortally wounded friend and brother in arms, Max. Fleiss’s passion greatly motivates him as he jump out of a plane first rather than assess whether he has a parachute on first, willing to assign blame and kill Rune, Norwegian captive, right away without any provocation as instant relief and gratification. You see, Rune didn’t kill Max and, in fact, no exposition is provided about how the three men arrived at preface’s point in time, standing on a snowy side of a mountain just on the outskirts of a forest edge. Frederik von Luttichau (“A Room to Die For”) incites the paratrooper’s sense of duty and sense of irrationality. Luttichau’s able to quickly switch gears from confident combatant to a frightened bumbling idiot whose trapped inside a complete mind scramble of a situation. Fleiss is juxtaposed against the cooler head of a commissioned officer, Lieutenant Jurgen Kreiner. The former architect from Munich uses his SS training to tranquil the anxiety; so much so that Kreiner has a strange habit of protecting Rune from expiring much to the displeasure of Fleiss. Mats Reinhardt, in his sophomore film, is a juggernaut of emotional suppression. The rigid actor perfectly suits Kreiner’s stoic rationality toward not only the malevolent shelter, but also to Fleiss’s thin patience. Both characters’ melancholy is confounding as you start to feel for these Nazi soldiers stuck in a state of limbo and Kiil writes their roles down a personal level that expresses guilt, sadness, and shame that lets you know that they’re human too, humans who have done terrible things that have become their undoing. The Norway solider, Rune, is an important piece to the puzzlement. With his background unexplained and role in the house’s occurrences, Rune becomes an integrated symbol of subtle vengeance; even Rune, in the origin sense of the word, is defined as a secret mystery. Rune, or Runes, can also imply a set of symbols in archaic German languages much like the ones used on the closet door in the house or at the title screen. The mysterious Norwegian is subjected to being always hurt, whether a bout with gangrene or being shot, Rune ceases to cease. “Christman Blood’s” Sondre Krogtoft Larsen perforates the two opposes forces as a well-executed deceitful key to the mystery and though Rune doesn’t fully explain the entirety of the house’s backstory, Larsen simply quantifies the a potential reason with his the character’s simplicity role in it all. Other character flow in and out of the story as either a flashback or a vision and they include performances from Evy Kasseth Rosten (“Dead Snow”), Sigmund Saeverud (“Christmas Blood”), Ingvild Flikkerud, and Espen Edvartsen (“Dead Snow 2”).

There are other “House” reviews that compare Kiil’s film to the likes of “The Exorcist” or an exorcist type film and while the German soldier’s narrative is spliced with a flashback sub-story of a priest performance the rites of exorcism on a young girl inside the “House,” labeling the film as such warrants a rebranding. These flashback scenes, that are not consecutive, sluggishly rolls out a bit piece in the house’s backstory that almost predates the 20th century (the trailer suggests 1901), but doesn’t, in my opinion, obviously explain all that’s happening to the soldiers forty years later. Fleiss said it best during a frantic moment when the paratrooper comes to a full realization that the reason their stuck in an unescapable phenomena is because he and Lt. Kreiner are dead. Sometimes the more blatant reason is perhaps the more conclusive as Kiil offers a breadcrumb trail to point out these two Nazi soldiers are in oblivion of atonement. From the very beginning, the three men couldn’t explain how they came together, every facet of direction is obscured, time ceases to exist, their most inner desires and offenses bubble to the surface, and even Fleiss mentions the soup, the one simmer on the burner upon their arrive, is bland to the taste for the dead have no need for senses. In short, the momentary exorcist scenes are fathomable, perhaps in-depth more with the dated slideshow series of events in the Scandes, but, in context, cheapens the film slightly and could go easily as “The House” is inherently soul crushing and effectively atmospheric.

Artsploitation Films and Reel Suspects presents Rinert Kiil’s “House,” a product of Sanctum Films, onto DVD home video. The release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot digitally that idyllically compositions Norway’s Norefjell snowy mountain range of the Scandes. The opening title sequence has some image instability with faint pixel fluttery in the compression, but doesn’t seem to go beyond the barely visible stage. “House” isn’t a flashy conceived concept that renders a lot of texture or detail warranted scenes, but darker scenes are overly rich with black that interpreting the visuals more difficult and as a note on one of Kiil’s visional techniques on being outside in or at night, like when Fleiss is hoisting the Nazi flag, the obvious tinted lens isn’t a reasonable substitute for dusk, dawn, and night. Skin tones are a pleasantly raw in appearance and, hey, the lighting in the snow is great for obvious reasons. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is hands down the past technical feature with an engrossing atmosphere track that has depth and range to send the audible senses hiding in fear underneath the comfy blanket. The intertwining German, Norwegian, and English language tracks holds strong and upfront with clear and precise synchronization of paralleling subtitles, offered solely in English, and Kim Berg and and Levi Gawrock Troite’s powerful score portrays a film bigger than it’s budget. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes segment, an interview with Reinert Kiil who discusses his trek through Norway film and delves a little in each of his projects, a commentary track with Kiil, a short film by the director entitled “The Voice of One’s Conscience” (aka “Samvittighetens Rost”), and Artsploitation trailers. Reinert Kiil’s “The House” is non-exuberant horror diverging toward exploring the filmmaker’s unlimited possibilities and with “The House’s” diabolical descent into invigorating terror, Norway cinema has an abundance of sheer promise for the future of horror.

Exorcising Evil Takes a Toll. “Accidental Exorcist” review!

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Unorthodox exorcist and hobby writer Richard Vanuk lives a depressing and humble life full of endless booze and filthy altruism. Driven by the need for alcohol and an underline desire to help possessed strangers for a small fee, Vanuk barely maintains his own sustainability. With each challenging case of demonic inhabitance, the poor full time exorcist, and part time writer, expels demons from their misfortunate hosts into his own wretched soul, draining his self-respecting humanity out of him one demon-expulsion job at a time. The deeper Vanuk spirals downward into nihilism and the deeper he goes into severe debt, the choice to withdrawal from the toll of exorcising demons becomes no longer an option, but a fruitlessly fateful venture to just surviving in a world that’s scarce of good people.
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My second undertaking into a Daniel Falicki horror film has the “Awaken The Devil” director batting a solid hundred percent on the ever honest critique block, going a strong two-for-two with his latest film, 2016’s “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s drenched with a despair atmosphere that swallows the intentionally pathetic character who is granted only a glimmer of unattainable hope for a good life. The writer-director has a keen eye for developing horror in various comedic, dramatic, and absurdly berserk formatted segments, delicately defining details to capture memorable moments. Falicki also stars as his own character, Richard Vanuk, and Falicki charms the audience by creating a likable anti-protagonist whose cavalier about demonic possessions and begrudged by a “corporate” employer who pays very little for the precision of demon banishment; this same company performs a stigmata on him after every exhausting job, discarding his limp, unconscious body in a different snow covered park afterwards.
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Falicki drowns Vanuk in vices and addictions. Aside from the obvious alcohol and constant inebriation, Vanuk needs the pain of performing exorcisms as much as he loathes the process and the people who employs him. The character can’t reform, can’t function properly in normality, as witnessed when his successful brother offers Richard a once-in-a-lifetime position at his mundane company of pigmentation for sports equipment. When the exorcism well runs dry, Vanuk goes into full blown, borderline psychotic detox as he’s cut off from his, one and only, natural born skill and the ceasing of his per diem position sends him into frantically gulping down bottles of cold medicine to get a soothing fix. Falicki punishes the audience beloved, unconventional exorcist by having Vanuk fall to the bottom by not being unlucky or plotted against, but by simply self destruction and having God turn his back on his loyal servant when the promise, or a test, of a favorable outlook reveals itself.
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The casting couldn’t be much more perfect with a cast of talented b-movie stars such as Jason Roth (“Awaken The Devil”), Chris Kotcher, and Jeffrey Goodrich to quickly name a few. Falicki owns Richard Vanuk, embodying the character so brilliantly that I would have a hard time relinquishing Richard Vanuk from Daniel Falicki’s face. Falicki pulls out all the stops by putting every once of degradation the director can muster into the downtrodden exorcist with a performance that sells his hapless nature and spew-filled gigs. Every client Vanuk attends to is portrayed honestly and earnestly from Sherryl Despress’s role of a desperate mother turned possessed super sewer to Patrick Hendren’s blind and levitating demonic being who goes on to have a heart-to-heart with Vanuk after an exorcism recovery.
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“Accidental Exorcist” is unapologetic and shameless; a real nasty bitch to love unconditionally. The fun soars above the summit and the ingrained heart bursts beyond the restrictive seams of the reel. The film is nothing I’ve ever scene before; yet, still manages to homage legendary films that “Accidental Exorcist” built it’s bones upon. Similarities to, of course, the iconic William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” are apparent throughout with the almost beautifully grim and isolated atmospheric exterior scenes of foreboding destiny. Falicki’s film contains special effects so convincing by leaps and bounds when compared to other modern independent horror, portraying Vanuk so well within the confines of his dank and dejected existence that it’s as if he’s sharing his grime and his loneliness with us that’ll result with a quick shower when the credits roll.
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Sector 5 Films and Rotomation Studios courtesy produces “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s not related to the Joshua Graham novel, but the audio and video will not be critically reviewed since I received and viewed a press screener and the film has yet to be released onto a home entertainment platform. However, make no mistake that “Accidental Exorcist” strides cockily into the first half of 2016 horror season, flying unnoticed, under the radar, as sleeper agent dangerous to demonic possession film competitors. Director Daniel Falicki is on the up and coming watch list like a high target terrorist, striking the heart of modern day horror and putting fear, and comedy, into a cynical cauldron.