Best Friends Trying Their Best to Best EVIL! “The Boy Behind the Door” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Best friends Bobby and Kevin are kidnapped by a stranger and taken to a remote house in the middle of nowhere. After Kevin is removed from the stranger’s trunk and is dragged into the house kicking, screaming, and pleading to be let go, Bobby breaks free of his restraints, but hearing his best friend Kevin’s screams leaves Bobby with no choice but to help him. Working his way through the house and upstairs unnoticed, obstacles stand between him and rescuing Kevin, including the boys’ kidnapper, a paying customer, and Kevin being shackled to the wall, locked inside behind an attic door, but that doesn’t avert Bobby’s intentions from thinking outside the box to save his best friend from a fate far worse than death. However, only a matter time before the kidnapper or the paying customer knows there’s someone else lying low the house and unearthing troubling secrets.

Child sex abuse is, without a double, a disturbing and touching subject to exhibit in cinema.  How to maneuver around the theme with child actors can be a delicate balance of commitment and understanding when considering the cast involved, especially if most would argue that a child’s brain is too immature or not developed appropriately to comprehend the impact of sexual abuse and to expose them indirectly could also be traumatic to their being.  The opposite of that argument has been proved over the decades with child actors having major roles in general with horror films.  Monsters of all shapes and sizes, guts and blood, and violent themes surround them and films such as “The People Under the Stairs” and “IT” have some of the most frightening and disturbing practical effect imagery that would cause sleepless night terrors for months and, yet kids star in them and are key to their success because, as we all know, children are not immune to real world dangers and threats.  So, why should be exempt from the creative imaginary ones? David Charbonier and Justin Powell finesses that line with a massaged contented breakout feature in “The Boy Behind the Door” written-and-directed by the lifelong friends and produced by Ryan Scaringe of Kinogo Pictures. Howard Barish of Kandoo Films, and Rick Rosenthal, Bert Kern, Ryan Lewis of Whitewater Films

***Beware… this section may contain spoilers*** Lonnie Chavis (“This Is Us”) and Ezra Dewey (“The Djinn”) play Bobby and Kevin who find themselves in the worst-case scenario of two unaccompanied pre-teens violently whisked away to an isolated farmhouse near one or two oil well pumps. I commend Chavis and Dewey’s hard fought, emotionally deep performances in battling against the creepiest of odds and feigning injury without being too over-the-top or inauthentic. Either if by being well coached or, more than likely, just good child actors, the level of anxiety maintains a solid 10 throughout with them. Their only scenes together where I thought the fusing of their friendship didn’t quite work was before the abduction where their dialogue and interactions as two young boys drifting across fields and profoundly thinking about their future deemed itself well too mature and far beyond being advanced for boys their age that the moment was a complete misfire for the story. Inevitably, the two friends run into a couple of creeps and exploitative racketeers in Micah Hauptman (“Phobias”) as the paying customer abandoning paid up time to chase down Bobby and Kristen Bauer van Straten (“True Blood”) in a twisted plot point of a white, late 40s to early 50s-year-old woman, who in the film could be someone’s mother, as the ruthless kidnapper of young boys for old man pleasure. Hauptman is more-or-less there in slimy spirit but doesn’t ooze enough egregious behavior to note as that trait falls immensely well upon the shoulders of van Straten with a mean streak that never lets up despite the rather paralleling of a hard R “Home Alone” antics between adults and children.

“The Boy Behind the Door” is a butt-clenching thriller because of the sheer fact children straddle the danger line on either side of spectrum. You have Kevin locked securely away in the summitted play and video room, shackled and waiting in screams, tears, and fears for his sure fate, and then there’s Bobby escaping his restraints and staying in the shadows, out of sight, trying to save his friend before he becomes either chained and exploited like Kevin or executed because of his strong will. Charbonier and Powell offer little-to-no fluff in pretending “The Boy Behind the Door” is anything but a fight for survival, a fight for friendship, and a fight against the utmost evil. The film isn’t full of strong one-liners or momentous moments that keep the story grounded and pure in its vilest state with tiptoeing around the one-woman operated child sex abuse ring without going into the full gross details. Charbonier and Powell’s story has many strengths, but it also has a few weaknesses waned upon the characters’ decision making. For instance, when Bobby has to break into the house, he throws a rock through the mud room door window without knowing where the kidnapper is and if they are in earshot of the window breaking. Later in the film, Bobby is trapped in the upstairs bathroom and when a squad car pulls up, instead of breaking the window he can clearly reach, he tries to yell through it and fiddle with opening the latch. Why does he simply not break the window and then yell for help? That particular scene drove me nuts and there a few other minor instances of the same caliber throughout in a story that well made enough to be compelling, to be horrific, and to be gripping in and around every house interior scene.

Tense, harrowing, and an ugly truth, “The Boy Behind the Door” is defensible horror at its best and a righteous strength of friendship. Acorn Media International distributes “The Boy Behind the Door” onto a region 2 Blu-ray in the UK! The PAL encoded release is presented in a widescreen 2.38:1 aspect ratio and, speaking digitally, the picture renders flawlessly the inkling of low-lit hope inside a world of dark fatalism and cynicism under the cinematography eye of Julián Estrada. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is crystal clear that occupies each channel with the right number of decibels to exact the range of sneaking through a creaky wooden floored house. Dialogue is clean and clear, especially at whisper breath. The Shudder original film comes with a pair of special features including a blooper reel of mostly Lonnie Chavis sneezing and goofing off which is nice to see kids being kids on set and a music video to the film which is more like a trailer with Anton Sanko’s dark synth-gripping score being an apogee of suspense. There’s never sympathy for these types of vile exploitation villains on and off screen and in “The Boy Behind the Door,” that fight back mantra resonates loud and clear in an unambiguous do-or-die between guileless innocence and pure evil.

EVIL Hangs Ten! “Surf Nazis Must Die” reviewed! (Troma Films / Blu-ray)



Check Out the New Price Drop for the New “Surf Nazis Must Die” on Blu-ray!

The waves of Power Beach wash ashore red with the blood of territorial gang war.  Wiping out is not an option for the Nazis, the largest and strongest wave riders consisting of new age Neo-Nazis led by Adolf, his lady Eva, and ingenious welding right hand Mengele.  As they surf for turf, the Nazis strong arm the rival gangs into a no choice option of calling a truce amongst themselves to attack and take down the Krauts and regain control over the towering waves and lucrative scores of Power Beach.  Caught in the middle is Leroy, a young black man who becomes gang war collateral damage on the unsafe beaches.  When Eleanor “Mama” Washington gets wind of those responsible for her son’s death, she’s blitzkriegs the surf Nazi’s of Power Beach with her own brand of grenade throwing justice.

Ever since being highly promoted at random on Alex Powers’ wannabe Troma film “Sadistic Eroticism” starring adult film actress Sophie Dee, perhaps as Powers’ favorite Troma release, seeing “Surf Nazis Must Die” tickled the curiosity of the olfactory snout and became one of those must watch titles canonized with outrageous, off-color content that’s routine for the Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz independent shock-and-comedy distributor, Troma Films.  Peter George directed his semi-serious, mostly satirical-toned debut film from a Jon Ayre script based off George’s original story idea of incorporating the territorial surfer scene of California with a laying siege, post-apocalyptic, gang and revenge narrative that’s a delectable smorgasbord buffet of low-budget subgenres.  Perfectly situated in front of deep-water oil rigs and the towering smokestacks of power plants and other various manufactories along California’s graffiti-cladded Huntington Beach, “Surf Nazis Must Die” is a production of Peter George’s The Institute alongside company co-owners in editor Craig A. Colton and producer Robert Tinnell (“Frankenstein and Me”).

Tennessee born actress Gail Neely receives her big break in a lead role of a feature film.  Lamentably, that film was full of bad taste and full of punk surfers with red painted swastikas on their black wetsuits who also paralleled nefariously notorious figures of bigotry and war crimes against anyone not white Anglo-Saxon.  Yes, Neely is a black actress pitted against and taking revenge on a group of racist thugs, a narrative we’ve seen before, but the “Naked Gun 2 ½:  The Smell of Fear” actress took an unjust backseat (an unfortunate and unintended Rosa Parks pun) in sharing the lead with the very Nazis she ruthless takes head on.  Trying to understand why Peter George and Jon Ayre decided to focus more on the strategic overthrows of gangland rather than to journey Mama Washington’s revenge in her death wish arch is beyond comprehension in a lopsided narrative that gives more screen time to Nazis and gangs than it does a grieving, nursing home-residing, mother hellbent on avenging her slain son with vigilantism.  The latter is a much better story that breaks up the stagnant gang mentality unwavering throughout.  Neely does her best to pull audiences back into the revenge fold with a grit and attitude that takes us back to 1970’s blaxploitation films of yore, but ultimately, “Maniac Cop’s” Barry Brenner and “Star Slammers’” Dawn Wildsmith and Michael Sonye inadvertently bleed out Neely’s full potential with their respective Nazi counterparts – Adolf, Eva, and Mengele – and their intercompany squabbles and beach brawls against rival gangs.  “Surf Nazis Must Die’s” cast rounds out with Robert Harden (“Dead Girls”) as Leroy, Joel Hile (“Deadly Friend”) as Hook, Gene Mitchell as Brutus, and Tom Shell (“Hard Rock Nightmare”) as Smeg.

With a title like “Surf Nazis Must Die,” the expectation bar was high to bequeath audiences guaranteed politically incorrect exploitation and sizable good versus bad mayhem crashing like a cacophonic wave on the surf.  “Surf Nazis Must Die” does meet that brazen bar that associates surf territorialism to the likes of Nazism by way of excluding outsiders from their surf turf and be nasty about it as well.  Would I compare it to Nazism?  Probably not, but in the heat of control and power over others less fortunate in riding waves might draw a vague resemblance.  In a bit of satire and irony, 1940s Nazi Germany was ruled by an extremely authoritarian people running a tight ship in every facet from the meticulous armed ranks to innovative engineering to the ostentatious decorated halls and buildings of propaganda and flag hoisting pageantry, but Peter George’s Nazis, granted the new age variety, plague themselves about the beach, living off stolen goods while driving around in a makeshift shark modified van, tanning their mostly exposed bodies, or dressed in graffiti stylized wetsuits and trench coats with glitter-face painted swastikas.  The characters are cuter in caricatures than they are in terrorizing tyrants of the beach.  What’s even more interesting about “Surf Nazis Must Die” is that none of the gangs carry firearms despite one of the popular Troma cover arts displaying an archetypal lampooned Nazi riding a wave and wielding an Uzi.  The “Clockwork Orange” gangs meandering about with unprovoked violence carry traditional switchblades, nontraditional switchblade surfboards, nunchakus, staffs, a hook for an arm, and there’s even one guy with a speargun.  Only Mama Washington is armed to the teeth with conventional weaponry of grenades and a handgun that makes this film even more unfathomable at times.

Thirty-five years later, “Surf Nazis Must Die” continues to make waves a war zone with a new Blu-ray released from Troma Films and distributed by MVD Visual. The newly restored, newly remastered, high-definition region free Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16×9 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative and is not quite the fully uncut version, running two minutes short at 83 minutes from the director’s cut that circulates overseas. The color matte lacks bounteous vision that fails to give range to the graffiti art amongst other aspects. The transfer has little-to-no blights with some transparent vertical scratches in a single frame but nothing else more to note. George and editor Craig A. Colton work their magic on a remarkable cutting room performance with splicing in Hawaiian surfing footage with the Huntington Beach narrative in a near seamless manner. The English language lossy LPCM 2.0 track doesn’t hook into you with a linear fidelity with no range or depth but does provide fair dialogue clarity and no impeding audible damage. “Terror Eyes” and “Future Shock’s” Jon McCallum has a fantastic synth score that pulsates life into the overabundance of stagnant moments and the film is worth a watch just for McCallum’s soundtrack alone. Gnarly special features include a new introduction by a locked down stricken Lloyd Kaufman diving into his pool to take a bath, a circa late 80s/early 90s interview with Peter Geoge conducted by the enthusiastic Lloyd Kaufman, another circa late 80s/early 90s snippet interview with producer Robin Tinell, a pair of deleted scenes with Peter George commentary, scenes from the Tromaville Cafe, Radiation March Promo against pollution, a pair of archived Troma NOW PSA announcements that are as sexually titillating as they are meaningful in their message, a Soul of Troma promo trailer,” “Latched” short, and various other Troma promos: Indie artists vs cartels, Lloyd Kaufman gets “fucked” by the Hollywood system, and Lloyd Kaufman’s Audiobiography. There’s also mention of a “Gizzard Face” promo, but I did not see it as an option in the bonus content. “Surf Nazis Must Die” inches along and loses a lot of key momentum along the way building around the striking title. Eventually, the undercutting of gang machoism crumbles away to leave an open path for Mama Washington’s full-blown assault as a true cinematic Nazi hunter extraordinaire.

Check Out the New Price Drop for the New “Surf Nazis Must Die” on Blu-ray!

Meir Zarchi Returns With Another Round of EVIL Exploitation! “I Spit On Your Grave Deja Vu” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

Forty long years have passed since the sexual assaulting atrocities of Johnny Stillman and his gang were committed on the young and beautiful Jennifer Hills.  Empowered by her horrific tale of survival with the release of a new tell all book of how she outwitted and took homicidal revenge on her rapists by luring them in with her sexual persuasions, Hills finds herself back in familiar terrorizing territory being kidnapped by Johnny’s devoutly vindictive widow and three living relatives of the gang that once ganged raped and brutally beat her, but she’s not alone.  Captive with her as collateral damage is her famous supermodel daughter, Christy.  Both are caught up in an eye-for-an-eye revenge plot where being lethal is the only means of survival and with a long history of resentment, rooted deep inside Johnny’s kin, fighting back will take every ounce of resilience and strength against a community of hellbent sociopaths. 

Circa 2005-2006 is around the time I first bared witness to Meir Zarchi’s 1978 controversial exploitation shocker, “I Spit on Your Grave.”  Popping in the DVD popped open my eyes to the world of graphic vengeance and the submission to primal, carnal whims inside the human-on-human violence context.  Before Zarchi’s film, which is also known as “Day of the Woman,” and even Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left,” this neophyte’s description and knowledge of horror was limited to the stymies of broadcast television that only aired edited and censored slashers like the “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” series or supernatural presences of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Poltergeist.”  Never has the likes of “I Spit on Your Grave” been a red pill option into the vast horror matrix for this then college kid who glazed over with the façade of sleeping through studies and worrying over trivial matters involving the opposite sex.  In a way, Zarchi was a kind of Morpheus to me when I started purchasing physical media that opened my eyes and my mind to the rape and revenge facet in horror hidden behind the commercial veil.  In 2010, a Zarchi produced reboot saw more light in the commerciality and spawned two sequels in its wake, but not until 2019 did Zarchi get back to writing and sit back in his director’s chair to helm an official, yet less commercial, sequel entitled “I Spit On Your Grave Déjà Vu” or “Day of the Woman Déjà vu” that was produced by his limited company banner, Déjà Vu LLC with son Terry Zarchi and Jan O’Connell producing.

The long-awaited sequel reteamed Zarchi with original lead actress, and also ex-wife, Camille Keaton, distant relative of the famed comedy and stunt actor, Buster Keaton.  Camille Keaton, who looks phenomenal in her 70s during production, steps back into the infamous Jennifer Mills role that made her a household name amongst grindhouse-horror community.  Though completely nude for most of the 1978 film, that part of her performance takes a step back for a new actress to pave a new path in the saga.  Obscure indie scream queen Jamie Bernadette (“Axeman,” “The Bunnyman Massacre”) is ceremoniously passed the torched as the new riches to ragdoll as the Jennifer Mill’s unhappy supermodel daughter, Christy, who becomes haplessly snagged into her mother’s unforgotten past.  Bernadette offers a variable beauty and a diverse poise that doesn’t make Christy a carbon copy of Jennifer Hills, but the actresses deliver the same apathetic venom of a woman scorn.  More of a carbon copy is the four backwoods bumpkins fuming over Jennifer Mills’ vindictive dissecting of their dead relatives.  The gang is spearheaded by Beck, played by Maria Olsen who, like Bernadette, has made a name for herself in low-budget horror having roles in films such as “To Jennifer,” “Starry Eyes,” and “Gore Orphanage.”  Olsen projects Becky as the gas station attendant from Hell, someone you don’t want to interact too long with as you’re pumping gas in the middle of nowhere, but Becky is not a woman of a few words who constantly has to remind us, to the blistering point of annoying, that she must avenge her late husband’s sinful murderess.  The rest of the gang didn’t impress much after that.  Jonathan Peacy has a chance to shine from out of the extra and bit part shadows as the crazed and hyperactive Kevin, brother of Stanley from the original film, and while Peacy channels his best Al Leong look, Kevin is ultimate a big detrimental goof with small dog syndrome than actual menace.    The last two aren’t any better with a lackluster act by Jeremy Ferdman as Andy’s cousin and “Tales of Frankenstein’s” Jim Tavaré’s rather befuddling downplay of Matthew’s mentally disordered father, Herman, who teeters back and forth between morals with a jumbled underlay of piety.  There are not many sane performances in a rather loose and unbridled Zarchi follow up with a cast that rounds out with Alexandra Kenworthy, Roy Allen III, and Holgie Forrester.

Performances aside, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” is also a cacophony of yelling as the script, from paper to pronunciation, reaches top of the lung levels with every bit of dialogue from every player in this tussle of who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes down to justifications of killing.  Zarchi’s sequel lacks the tact his first film achieves so delicately with Mills post-assault softer approach to lay waste her assailants.  “Déjà vu” satisfies its own revenge kicks with little subtly in trying to be outrageous, outlandish, and off its rocker as the confrontation between Christy and the gang becomes a rancorous grudge match.  What concerns me most about “Déjà vu” is the year in which this sequel takes place.  Between the 1978 original and the 2019 follow up, 40 years have passed, but the characters don’t fit any of Father Time’s natural aging characteristics on the surface.  Becky looks okay as an early to mid-60s woman despite Maria Olsen’s actual age being early 50s at the time of filming and release.  Herman is another one that sneaks into fathomable constructs as a character living a farmer’s life in the latter half of middle age, but I question whether Kevin and Scotty were even born yet.  The two youngsters barely seem to be out of their 30s and the same can be said for Christy where much more of her life is revealed as the story progresses.   If following the script logic, I would assume the story takes place in the 90s, but certain technologic advances, like modern day touchscreen phones, suggests no earlier than late 2000s.  As a whole, time and space don’t appear to exist on any reasonable plane for the film with characters able to bump into each at random intervals despite being a densely wooded and rural location and, for all you cinematographers out there, if your location is supposed to be rural, don’t shoot in at a cemetery with a massive grave footprint with a stream of cars speeding down a busy suburban street.  You instantly lose the illusion.  Zarchi’s intentions were clear to only echo the original while allowing for individuality with a brasher onslaught of right versus wrong, eye for an eye, and misguided righteousness for injustice, but the execution crumbles with excruciating results, never reaching the same poetic justice the first film accomplishes so graphically grafted. 

As far as rape and revenge exploitation is considered, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” gets about as down and dirty and ugly as they come.  Cult movie curator, Ronin Flix, delivers the Meir Zarchi sequel onto Blu-ray home video, presented in 1080p, full high definition, with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  A+ for natural lighting, skin tones, and overall appeal, Pedja Radenkovic’s cinematography is about as uninspiring as they come artistically, but, as a personal preference, the shots are more organic, raw, and less distracting from the content that’s much more abrasive and interesting.  A more natural framework also more time for Russell FX’s practical effects to be showcased without enhanced imagery.  As long as the details are there (they are), no damage is concerning (there wasn’t), and the framing made sense (for the most part), “Déjà vu” can be considered a win for Radenkovic.  The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack for “Déjà vu” is a blessing and a curse.  Dialogue clarity is excellent and there’s a wide range to exploit, forgive the punned term, each channel with great balance, but remember what I said about all the character yelling?  Also, with the higher bitrate DTS, the quality is too good for some of the applied ambient effects like the exhaust sputtering of an old Ford pickup that sounds way too fake and way too close despite its positioning in the scene. The region A, not rated Blu-ray is stored on a BD50 due in part to the film’s massive 148 runtime and the inclusion of special features that include a new audio commentary with film critic and “The Last Drive-In” host Joe Bob Briggs, select cast interviews, the making of the film, behind the scenes footage from producer Terry Zarchi, and the theatrical trailer. Is “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” the long-awaited sequel to Meir Zarchi’s first film? I’d say they’re two totally different exploitation entities cut from the same cloth with ties only in names and some flashbacks alone, but both films would make for a great double bill that starts with a harrowing, nothing-to-lose, woebegone toned, revenge thriller complimented with a lukewarm and unfocused follow up to help come down off the original’s gripping ultra-violence high.

Ronin Flix’s “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” Blu-ray available at Amazon.com!

EVIL Strikes at the Stroke of “Midnight” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Severin)

Teenager Nancy searches for forgiveness through reestablishing her faith in God after being dumped by her sexually active boyfriend.  When her alcoholic, police officer stepfather learns of the relationship’s abrupt ending, he moves in quickly to take advantage of Nancy while under the heavy influence of the bottle.  Escaping his grasp, she flles home and hitchhikes a ride with two men travelling South on a getaway from Pennsylvania to sunny Fort Lauderdale, but when facing trouble with small town local law enforcement after attempting to steal groceries, the three find themselves right in the middle of a Satanic cult’s sacrificial ritual that requires the killing of three women for eternal life, one a night at midnight for three days.  Held in a dog cage, Nancy anxiously awaits her turn at the bloodletting alter surrounded by the cloaked-cladded cult and their decomposing mother’s corpse  Praying to God to save her soul, little does Nancy know that her stepfather has tracked down her whereabouts, leading to a bloody showdown of one cop pitted against a family of satanic psychopaths. 

Based of his 1980 novel of the same title, “Midnight” is known to be John Russo’s heart-and-soul project that ended up suffering one mishap after another in the two years of its production and post-production until it’s final release in 1982.  Also known as “Backwoods Massacre,” the “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer Russo helms the low-budget occult slasher out from his usual stomping grounds in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  “Midnight” showcases a story themed with a depraved sense of race intolerance for African Americans and all varieties of religious convictions to be innately false in an atheistic Russo viewpoint amongst a glorified surface level of enrapturing inhumane violence seasoned by brainwashing.  This West Pennsylvanian born and bred grindhouse exploitation found producers in  Sam Sherman and Daniel Q. Kennis of “Blazing Stewardesses” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror”) along with Donald Redinger under the now defunct Independent-International Picture Corp.

In a sea of smaller fish of Pittsburgh actors in “Midnight’s” casting tow is a larger and rougher around the gills grouper embodied by the singular Lawrence Tierney (“Reservoir Dogs,” “The Prowler”) in the Officer Bert Johnson role. Tierney’s no stranger to the horror genre, flaunting his thick New York tough guy accent that typically typecasts the veteran actor into authoritative roles. In being no exception, “Midnight” has Tierney playing a sleazy, alcoholic, police officer who winds up more-or-less unearthing sense in his old age and utilizing his skills for good to fully satisfy his character’s arc, but Tierney alone is wonderful to behold and easy to be disgusted by as he solicits his underage teenage stepdaughter with a perverted proposition. That stepdaughter, Nancy (Melanie Verlin), is the face of “Midnight’s” protagonist whose attempting to get back on track with God after a sinful bedroom relationship with an ex-boyfriend, but her plans are slighted by a brood of young Satanists keen on keeping their now long deceased mother’s irreligious convictions intact. David Marchick, George Romero regular Ted Amplas (“Day of the Dead” 1978, “Martin”), Robin Walsh, and the face of “Midnight” on many of the posters, Greg Besnack, size up as the Satanic terrible and merciless foursome. The cast fills out with Charles Johnson, John Hall, Bob Johnson, Lachele Carl, Jackie Nicoll, Doris Hackney, and Ellie Wyler.

After the success of a collaborated run with George Romero on a handful of projects, John Russo ultimately branches off to do his own creative output after their production company, Latent Image, brought on newcomers’ and the shared ideas on the direction of their company didn’t sit well with Russo – an irk that Russo still harps upon to this day, according to the special features’ new interview from the latest Severin Film’s release.  Yet, I digress into the review of “Midnight” that has feral narrative with an irregular plotted blueprint of teenager exploitation, racial injustice, and backwoods barbarians.  Somehow, Russo’s able to juggle his jotted down on a budget scrambler with a threadbare satanic family baseline that unsettlingly feels snagged in a randomizing generator spitting out scenes to see if they cohesively connect into the next.  Nancy’s traversing into the thicket of terror story cuts into and undermines more of the sibling’s unholy ritual, which the title “Midnight” becomes an important piece to the ceremony, with a subplot of the teen running away from a handsy stepfather and into the Mystery Machine modeled van-driving hands of a pair of cavalier friends on a road trip and then find themselves in an endgame of rotten luck with bad company.  The whole lead up to the two groups running into each other is suddenly dropped like a bad habit, forgoing much of the racial tensions, the youthful subverts, and even the attempt at pedophilia when the main, overarching theme of cult mayhem and religion inadequacies come to the forefront.  “Midnight” inarguably a gargantuan piece of good ole American hicksville victimization with some underappreciated manic performances by John Amplas and Greg Besnak, but there’s difficulty in shaking “Midnight’s” stark story division that leaves much to be desired.

“Midnight” is the particular video nasty that’s surpassing all of it’s other formatted counterparts with a Severin Film’s 4K scanned Blu-ray of the full uncut negative.  The 1080p Full High Definition, region free BD50 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a respectable color correction, but the correction sees unstable moments regressing near the cuts revealing the lifeless yellow tinge of unmastered quality. A right amount of grain, a great amount of detail, and hardly any damage to the thought-lost uncut negative proves Severin found buried treasure of the John Russo shocker. Two audio options grace the release with an English language DTS-HD 5.1 surround and an English 2.0 Stereo. While the 5.1 offers a more robust audio option of funneling individual tracks through their respective channels, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Midnight” has an overwhelming yield for audiophiles. Soundtrack comes across just enough to know it’s there, the dialogue is clean and unimpeded, but what unfolds out of clarity is the wonky foley ambience that just render solemn scenes silly. Severin offers up a new interviews under “Midnight’s” mediocre cult status with director John Russo – Making Midnight – as top bill in a lengthy discussion about his long career, his acquaintances including George Romero, and, of course, his recollections about “Midnight.” Other interviews include producer Samuel Sherman – Producing Midnight, actor John Amplas – The Midnight Killer, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini – Small Favors – who barely remembers working very little on this film by providing pre-fabricated headshots and sliced throat prosthetics. An isolated score selection with audio interview with Mike Mazzei, an alternate title card for “Backwoods Massacre,” the trailer, and radio spot round out the bonus content inside the blackout snapcase. Prolific as John Russo may be in horror literature, filmmaking, and in legendary regards with his work alongside Romero, “Midnight” reflects poorly on his cinematic vocation and while many problems plagued production and post-production, Russo somehow managed to root out a passable working cut of crazed satanic panic.

“MIDNIGHT” available on Blu-ray from Severin!

A Concentration Camp of Desecrated Flesh and Pure EVIL. “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” reviewed (Blu-ray / 88 Films)

After nearly escaping war criminal charges for his role as Commander of a bordello operated Nazi concentration camp that mistreated and murdered multiple thousands of Jewish women, former office Conrad Starker meets his lover Lise Cohen, a former Jewish prisoner of his he fell fond of during their time of occupation, at the same barbaric camp now in vacant ruin. Alone together and wandering the grounds, Lise recalls her first arrival at the camp and how the then ruthless Starker made it his mission to break Lise of her guilt-based nihilism by exacting cruel torture upon her and those close to her in camp. Commander Starker’s direct reports, a dominatrix SS officer named Alma and a sordid Lt. Weissman, serve as his deviant and sadistic right arm, assisting him in striking fear into his new pet project. While troves of Jewish women are being raped by a slew of German soldiers on leave, as well as being tortured and even tested as a source of delicacy, Lise’s alleviated guilt turns her to play Starker’s game, making her become his own mistress, but Lise will never forget the camp atrocities at the hands of the Gestapo.

Never in my life would there be the time I salivated over the thought – dang, what a poignantly awesome title. Far from a generic, uninspired appellation that has completely captured my attention, lured me in like a fish by a dangling sex and exploitation worm, is the 1977 Italian-made Naziploitation “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy.” Understanding that the Cesare Canevari written-and-directed exploitation extravaganza is fabricated fiction from the mind of the Italian filmmaker sexploitation films such as “The Nude Princess” and “A Man for Emmanuelle,” and amongst other popular genres of that particular Italian era, there still lies a contrite underlayer deep inside my bowels for knowing “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is inspired by a baseline of truths – aka – the rounding up of Jewish people, forcing them into work and slavery in some sort of servitude compacity, and ending their lives as many were murdered in concentration or extermination camps by incinerations while still alive; all of which are displayed in graphic detail by Canevari in his film. Also known as the “Last Orgy of the Third Reich” and co-written with fellow “The Nude Princess” collaborator, Antonio Lucarella, no words can describe the depictions of Aryan abomination better than Canevari with a display of a wide-range of depravities from the master race in this shocking Cine Lu.Ce. production that Canevari produces.

Only two main characters span the narrative’s timeline between the active war and in the post-war clampdown of former Nazi officers.  We’re first introduced to Commander Conrad Starker (Andriano Micantoni aka Marc Loud, “LSD Flesh of Devil”) in an unofficial capacity as a voice over of a heated war crime trial rages over his driving around a small village before arriving at a dilapidated camp to meet with his beautiful lover, Lise Cohen, an introductory feature film role for then model, and presently a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Daniela Poggi (aka Daniela Levy, “Olga O’s Strange Story”).  From then on, the story goes back-and-forth between the camp horrors from most of Lise’s perspective and her present day melancholy strolling through the now empty camp.  Just between these two, a burdensome and destructive self-contained bubble ignites a prudent connection for a means to an end, whether be Commander Starker’s from merciless lust to love or Lise’s reversal of her exploitation to gain a survivalist’s upper hand by playing right into Micantoni’s sadistic impulses.  Micantoni and Poggi, despite their vast difference in age with Micantoni in his mid-50’s and Poggi in her early 20’s, have shuddering, knee-buckling chemistry in the more abhorrent scenes, one particular involving the fellatio act on a German Lugar.  There are other various scummy characters and if you like girls in uniform, the Doberman-loving Alma (“The Stepdaughter’s” Maristella Greco) is as beautiful as she is a gestapo femme fatale.  Greco’s domineering performance matches her male counterparts in enthusiasm but with a bonus side dish of sultry sadomasochism that can’t be forgotten as Alma whispers her viperous tongue into the camp Commander’s ear (while also sticking the blunt side of her whip into his rectum – ooph!).  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is a perverse party with respectable size cast, including roles played by Fulvio Ricciardi (“Killing of the Flesh”), Vittorio Jorderi (“Gang War in Milan”), and Caterina Barbero (“Raptus”), enlarged by a grand amount of extras from German soldiers to the Jewish women creating the allusion of an inhuman love camp.

“Ilsa:  She Wolf of the SS,” “Love Camp 7,” “S.S. Experiment Camp,” “Nazi Love Camp 27,” “Achtung! The Desert Tigers,” S.S. Hell Camp.”   I’ve seen my fair share of Nazisploitation and, aside from Tinto Brass’s erotica-elegant “Salon Kitty,” Cesare Canevari’s wartime rape and ravager hails to be one of the more distressingly twisted and disturbingly beautiful entries in the exploitation subgenre.  For Canevari, every scene counts by not making every scene gratuitous.  Yes, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” has it’s preposterous moments where sex-crazed Nazis aggressively dominate unarmed, vulnerable women, especially when they decide to soak an unconscious naked woman in brandy and set her on fire to taste pork-like flesh; however, even in that instance of out of left field cannibalism, the atrocities are all in the name of progressing Germany in the wake of victory and to leave nothing to waste in Germany efficiency when utilizing inferior races, whether for labor or food, after Germany has conquered opposing forces.  Most of the second and third acts returns back to Earth with smaller scale plot devices surrounding Lise and Conrad locking horns in a battle of wills to extract fear from Lise’s, mostly nakeda nd suspended, fearless body.  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” can be said to be a film about challenging will power, enduring strength, and patience and for when the opportunity is right for the taking, strike while the iron is hot.  Or, for many, Canevari’s lopsided carnal lark can be viewed as a wicked sex fest reaped from the backs of other the people.   Canevari rides that thin line and never pushes the gratuitous full monty  down our throats.

For the first time on Blu-ray, anywhere, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” arrive onto a remastered in 2K transfer scan Blu-ray from UK distributor 88 Films who have crossed regions with one of their first North American releases!  Still currently banned in the UK, the stored film’s Blu-ray, remastered from the original print negatives, is region free and in full 1080 high definition, presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The restoration is frankly flawless.  The composition of skin tones and textures and contrasting hue scheme offer a perceptible palate of every shadowy contrast and infinitesimal detail, especially in the impeccable facial diversities.  The release has offers two restored audio options:  An English dub 2.0 DTS-HD master audio and an Italian DTS-HD master audio with in-built English subtitles.  Both tracks share an ambient and soundtrack equality quality through the dual channel stereo; however the original Italian track is inherently smoother with the dialogue with accurately synched English subtitles. The Blu-ray snap case comes with reversible cover art, original poster art are in the inside along with a mini poster of the same art as one of two inserts. The other insert is a 21 page booklet brimming with stills, different country posters, and an essay from film historian Barry Foreshaw entitled Taking on the Censors: Italian Excess. All of this limited edition tangible goodness is housed under a limited edition cardboard slip cover with new art by illustrated Richard Davies. Inside the coding on the BD50 is also a work of art with audio commentaries by Italian film experts Tony Howarth and Nathaniel Thomason as well as a separate commentary with critic and author Samm Deighan. Special features also include an alternate Italian ending (rather an extension of the feature cut), an interview with Pierpaolo de Sanctis on Remembering Alberto Baldan Bembo the soundtrack composer, an interview with Luigi Cozzi in One Thing on His Mind in regards to director Cesare Canevari, and the English trailer. Movies like “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” are completely in bad taste beyond a shadow of doubt. Luckily for me, and perhaps those reading this review, we’re a tasteless bunch of sleazy celluloid purveyors glad to see 88 Films praise Cesare Canevari’s most controversial and infamous film with a snazzy new Blu-ray treatment.

Don’t Miss Out on Owning 88 Films’ “The Gastapo’s Last Orgy” on Blu-ray!