Bite Sized Evil With a Real Bite! “Ghastlies” review!


Four sorority sisters embark on a isolated cabin vacation for an all girls’ weekend in the quiet woods. Through all the booze and the trips to the lakeside beach, Sloane, Abby, Margot, and Lulu reap the benefits of solitude and sisterhood and just when everything seems to be going delightfully swell, even when Sloane’s perverse boyfriend and his friend show up unexpectedly, trouble brews beneath their feet, under the leaf-riddled surface, when Abby unwittingly unleashes three space originated, pint-sized ghastly ghouls. As the miniature and ferocious creatures rip through unlucky victims, nobody knows how to stop, let alone escape, their woodland carnage, especially when they’re being aided and abetted by human caretakers.

In the filmmaking fashion of Brett Piper (“Queen Crab”) or Mike Lyddon (“First Man on Mars”), Brett Kelly offers his low-rent talents in construction an 80s-esque creature feature on a pygmy scale in more ways than one. The Ontario born director has helmed a vast amount of independent b-horror prior to, including such great titled credits as “The Bonesetter,” “Attack of the Jurassic Shark,” and “Raiders of the Lost Shark.” Now, released for the very first time on any format, anywhere, is “Ghastlies,” a “Gremlines” or “Critters” creature feature that aims to rain down terror when all hell breaks loose with ankle biters running around and while the low budget production or creature value doesn’t par with the more popular Joe Dante or Stephen Herek films, the heartfelt attempt in this modern day feature accomplishes the intended effect of a 1980’s horror comedy, complete with synthesized score and era correlating attired.

“Ghastlies'” lineup consists of Brett Kelly regulars such as Jessica Huether and Kendra Summerfield from “Raiders of the Lost Shark.” Huether’s and Summerfield’s performance as the nerdy, yet overall good girl Abby and the snobby, superficially rich bitch Lulu, instilling the yin and yang personas of the group, and their joined by Julie Mainville and Kim Valentine as the unforgettably clueless Margot and the sisterhood leader in Sloane. Mainville more memorable out of the four sisters as she has spot on timing and delivery with the witless and likable Margot. John Migliore, known more for slabbing on the prosthetics and makeup to be a zombie, has a minor costarring role as a dimwitted bike cop Officer Vinnie and Migliore, whose donned zombie wear in films like “Land of the Dead” and “Ninjas vs Monsters,” filled multi-faceted shoes for the Kelly film by dappling into the spaceship special effects and providing the Ghastlies puppetry. Migliore’s Officer Vinnie is paired with another similar goofy character in Peter Whittaker as Officer Frank as well as Joel Elliott “Countrycide,” Eric Deniverville, Stephanie Moran, and Kyle Martellacci who also co-star in the zany trope-ladened homage. As his first feature credit, Chris Bavota’s script creates no real dynamic between the characters who all pertain to a self-serving purpose under a guise of slapped together dialogue that’s no more substantial than a boulder in outer space.

And there in lies the rub. “Ghastlies” inability to click together to fulfill the allusion of was what-once-was is the film’s weakness. The cartoonish hand puppets, the implausible effects, and the technical inconsistencies can all be overlooked as campy charm, passed aside to enjoy “Ghastlies” for what it’s worth, but what can’t subside is the wonky connection between the cast that doesn’t favor well that’s diluted at the end by the starkly questionable and abrupt editing, resulting in a presumed unfinished film that seeks to either be an open ended invitation for a potential sequel, defined by one of the characters standing up with a makeshift mini-gun and garbed in Rambo-like gear, or a hasty cut that provides a lukewarm, satisfactory, and budget friendly finale that actually invokes more confusion than viewership appeasement. Shortly following the live-action wrap up, a short animated comedy, illustrated by the multitalented John Migliore, in the same vain as the quirky Looney Tunes but with Ghastlies.

The lovely, cuddly, and ghoulish “Ghastlies” is released onto DVD and Blu-ray combo from Camp Motion Pictures. Image quality for the Blu-ray format is by far stunning for a low-budget feature presented in 1080p encoded MPEG-4 AVC BD 25. The coloring naturally displays and even the darks had great depth without distortion or inconsistencies. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 is another story as, unlike the image quality, the presentation is inconsistent with imbalanced levels that make a few scenes difficult to comprehend. Clarity isn’t necessarily an issue with no blights on the tracks, but the technical placements could have been smoother. The electric score score by Tomb Dragomir, the composers first score ever, manages to engross and re-illuminate the decade that inspires “Ghastlies.” Bonus material includes a special effects interview with john Migliore’s helping hand into Ghastlies’ FX, Tomb Dragomir discusses his experience scoring his first feature, “Ghastlies'” music video, the trailer and Camp Motion Pictures’ trailers, and an audio commentary with director Brett Kelly. “Ghastlies” is part “Gremlins,” part Lovecraftian, and all borderline shlock-y fun, but the loose character interactions and out of kilter editing embargo the full bodied experience.

“Ghastlies” available on Blu-ray!

There’s Astronomical Evil in Them Mountains of Mars! “First Man on Mars” review!

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The Cologne Space Labs launch their project billionaire sponsor and gold-greedy astronaut Eli Cologne into a two-year journey in hopes for a beneficial Mars expedition. Cologne, being the first man on the red planet, encounters a shiny gold-like object that infects him with a foreign organism. As mission control rashly make the decisive decision to abort the expedition and leave Cologne stranded on the wasteland that is Mars, the brazen astronaut plans not to die on the alien planet, fleeting back to the return module, and blasting off back into space where he becomes lost for one year until his return module crash lands on Earth under the massive cloak of Hurricane Katrina. His human form ceases to exists, transformed into a flesh feasting, hideous extraterrestrial in a space suit who wreaks havoc and terror for years in a podunk Louisiana bayou where the nearby local Sheriff, Dick Ruffman, attempts to save from ultimate destruction.
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When Tempe Video and TomCat Releasing dropped the news of “First Man on Mars” feature on my e-doorstep in a Tempe Video press release, something very deep in the cavernous, unholy part of me wanted to screen the film’s trailer. After witnessing a primo homage of super-8 b-horror schlock, I immediately brought my finger tips to my laptop’s keys and typed ferociously, requesting a press coverage copy for a film that had me instantly reminisce of “Lobster Man of Mars,” a 1989 sci-fi comedy directed by Stanley Sheff. As weeks passed, no response of my request was returned from the distributor. However, when the film’s director Mike T. Lyddon, an experienced independent filmmaker with more than two decades worth of low-budget films under his belt, e-mails Its Bloggin’ Evil and wonders if the site could review his latest project, a satirical sci-fi comedy, by forwarding over a screener link, I gladly jumped at the opportunity and, low and behold, I wasn’t disappointed when the end credits started to roll!
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Under a massive umbrella of pop cultural science fiction references, “First Man on Mars” oversteps many plot conventions, exaggerating to the fullest extent a simple story of one man’s plight of an unquenchable desire for shiny gold that literally consumes him and, consequently, consumes others surrounding him in a cauldron of cannibalistic campiness. Even though the lesser part of Benjamin Wood’s dual role shows his mug as a friendly bar patron, his Eli Cologne performance never shows character face beyond the golden shield of his space helmet or before his pre-gruesome transformation into a hideous, razor-teethed, otherworldly beast, providing anonymity to an important character much similar to that of the character V in “V for Vendetta,” if you don’t consider the stock footage prior to the film’s title. Okay, so I might be comparing caviar to spam, but nonetheless, Lyddon uses comedy and a jerry-built space suit to create an ambiguity villainous character.
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Trust me, “First Man on Mars” is not at all serious as the feature is comprised of zany rednecks, birdbrain scientists, and gratuitous violent hilarity garnished with suitably colorful dialogue that can be funny while being extremely crude, can be smart in it’s admiration, and can be juvenile with bathroom-riddled humor where appropriately scened. Every actor executes the swallowing of pride process to extend verbal and physical indirect comedy that purely goes hand-in-hand with this sort of satirical storyline constructed from the certifiable portions of Mike Lyddon’s brain that might or might not be sizzling on an illegal and dangerous narcotic. Gavin Ferrara, Kirk Jordan, Marcelle Shaneyfelt, Roy “Rusty” Jackson, Jr., Kelly Murtagh, Joey Harmon, Sam Cobean, and Tresslar Burton round out the comically darling cast.
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“First Man on Mars” is an absurd blast from low-budget director Mike Lyddon and his team of willing actor and crew participants, putting everything on the proverbial line to make this ambitious project first and put their seemingly absent shame second. The TomCat Releasing was presented to me as a screener link, therefore I can’t officially review the audio and video quality nor any bonus features that might have accompanied the release, but as a soft judgment, the 16mm stock that “First Man on Mars” is shot on revels in the hokey dialogue, the substantial monster violence, and the utter gore as a remembrance of the once larger than life creature feature movies from the drive-in theater era.

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