A Family of EVIL Walks, Talks, and Comes in a Putrid Shade of Blue! “Super Z” reviewed! (Synergetic / DVD)

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery!  Amazon.com Has it on DVD!

A genetically produced, made-to-order zombie foursome are grown in a private laboratory and continue to be experimented on by a greedy CEO and his team of mad scientists from conception to create a group of governable, intelligent, and unstoppable do-bidders.  The latest batch of untested cultivating serum provides the four with the ability to think and talk, the only severe drawback side-effect is the  foulmouthed and uncivilized behavior makes them spitefully aggressive.  Able to speak for the first time, the zombies are actually a family of four and are able to use their undead abilities to escape with their undead lives to plot a revenge on all of humankind for all the cruelty brought down upon the zombie gene.  Feasting on a nearby couple to stave their hunger and infecting the couple’s white-boy rapper son to join the family as one of their own, a male heir of sorts amongst two older sister siblings, the now nuclear zombie family forages for human flesh while turning a rundown cabin in the woods into a place they can call home and plan their worldwide retribution, but as mother and father work on their relationship issues, a son finding love to become a man, and two sisters with an uncontrollable bloodlust, the impatient CEO hires mercenaries to hunt them down as retrievable property.

Who better to create an absurd, over-the-top zombie comedy than the people of France, the national birthplace of the absurdism philosophy.  That is what the gonzo-gory “Super Z” reflects, a heightened realization of life and intelligence after many years of being a docile dead becomes the basis for French writer-directors Julien de Volte and Arnaud Tabarly in their first feature length film.  Grossly saturated with explicit pejoratives, zany antics, and is hairbrained on a level I never would have thought could be achieved, “Super Z,” short for Super Zombie, is based off the filmmakers’ 17-minute 2014 short film “The Foodies” and now in 2022, the film unlocks yet again a very seldomly explored narrative that walks the same flip-the-script lines on taking the George Romero-style zombie perspective, such as with 2007’s “Aaah! Zombies!!” or 2013’s “Warm Bodies,” and laces it with an unrestrainable absurdist style.  To be honest, “Super Z” will repel the majority of audiences who can’t embrace its border crossing childishness and cartoon consorting pursuance.   Following the success of the short film, Tabarly and Volte’s Orléans, France based La Ruche Productions is the production company’s first feature film outside the regular shorts and documentaries accomplished by the company and is produced Laura Townsend.

The story engrosses us into the ebb and flows of family dynamics, but not just any kind of family dynamics as it’s made up of genetically modified zombies.  Yet, Arnaud Tarably and Julien de Volte don’t divide the extremities of the living and dead too far apart.  Family dinners are still held together around the table, the purpose of existence within the fragile relationship construct comes into question quite about between father and mother, and even a teenage boy coming into manhood when washed over with an overpowering smitten sensation at first sight of a farm girl are all the things the zombie family experience making a life away from human interaction with the only human interacting being the one where the zombies have the upper hand as well as the severed torsos, the castrated genital organs, or the decapitated heads as a full table spread with dad’s special gravy (aka blood) as the secret sauce.  While their performances won’t win any kind of awards, at all, I do believe “High Lane’s” Johan Libéreau as the father Gertre and “Savage State’s” Julien Courbey as the mother Stephana cater to the bloody nub of gnarly passion between two also covered in filth and body fluid zombies lovingly trying to protect their unique family at a normalized primal cost and formulate a monumental revenge against humans.  One question that rises out of Gertre and Stephana’s relationship is is Stephana supposed to be a man actor playing a woman character assigned gender by genetic disposition or a zombified gay man in transition?  It’s never clear but it also doesn’t really matter as it adds to Stephana idiosyncratic comedy as she removes a female corpses breast to sew to her own chest but also pees blood standing up!  It becomes just a curiosity that arises but the crux of the character is nailed down by Courbey who shows a sensitive and savage side being a cabin-wife to three children and providing for Gertre’s quest to queen her zombie world domination.  Gertre and Stephana’s children are played by returning “The Foodies” actors Fabien Ara as the baby boy Yvon and Florence Bebic-Veruin as sister Georgette with the addition of Audrey Giacomini being adopted into the ferociously multifaceted family cast as the second sister Marcelline.  Ara and Bebic-Veruin reprise their colorfully blue necrotic-skinned and blood-red splattered characters as squabbling siblings as the babied Yvon is coddled to the point of seeking love in a local farmer’s verbally abused but carefree and nearly toothless daughter Augustine, another reprised performance by Marion Mezadorian who was also a farm gal in “The Foodies.”  “Super Z” fills out the cast with lots of zombie fodder but also includes Jean-François arises, (“Time Demon”), Ludovic Schoendoerffer (“Crime Scenes”), Jacques Boudet (“Dracula and Son”), Laurent Bouhnik, and Jo Prestia of “Irreversible” as the mercenary’s very much alive cousin and the zombie family’s bodiless uncle!  Wait, and you’ll see what I mean.

“Super Z” will not sate everyone’s thirst of comedy nor will be gripping horror, but the French absurdist film will quench with gore galore with a setup that’s real light on its feet, swiftly making haste through a narrative that if you blink or didn’t hear a certain part of the dialogue, or read the subtitles if you don’t understand French, than you’re left holding the bag trying to play catchup on what the hell is going on.  Not your fault by any means as “Super Z” goes at a super breakneck speed that aggressively aggregates zombie intelligence, a laboratory escape, a zombie-turned-son, and a quiet, secluded abode to make camp all within the first 15 minutes or so.  From there, we ease into the zombie family country life, getting to understand their troubles, their ambitions, and their family squabbles more-and-more while father and his daughters hunt down bypassing humans with a machete and make a smorgasbord of homecooked organs, blood, and flesh out of them that is fit for an undead king while the wife cooks the food and showers the biologically unrelated brat with pet names and adorable little hairdos to much of his disgust.  Zany can’t describe “Super Z’s” overzealous rubbish yet within that zany overzealous rubbish, a thin stream of guilty pleasures can result in keeping attentions from pressing the off button and burning the disc to a crisp.  “Super Z” is not a too terrible horror-comedy as long as understanding the premised background helps focus on the filmmakers’ key conveyances within an absurdist designed paradigm that just happens to have lots of blood and guts. 

If the zombie subgenre was becoming too stale as week old bread, then “Super Z” keeps the rotting bags of walking meat fresh with a managing ménage of the uncouth undead. Synergetic distribution goes international with domestic releases with “Super Z” on DVD. The Smart-Ass Zombies are presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a picture quality that renders clean just like many modern-day digital models. The Synergetic DVD has consistent Mbps decoding reliability on the DVD5, decoding at a rate of 8.9 Mbps with hardly a blip on compression. In regard to the coloring, the zombie family’s forest background pops with lush greenery that becomes invariably evident in other mise-en-scene aspects as a higher contrast delineation defines the boundaries super well, materializing emerging imagery with deep shadows and a vibrantly eclectic color palette resembling near comic book visuals that luckily absorb Cyril Féron’s cut-and-paste visual effects into the crass configuration. The French Stereo 2.0 offers free from nuisance tracks but definitely output in a two-dimensional standard that, since there’s more range than one might expect, softens the punch of this madcap zombie mayhem to a par mix that works well enough. The zombified autotune adds a layer of obstruction over the dialogue track but if reading the burned in English subtitles, then there’s nothing lost in that respect. The entire mix is an overall healthy dose of ambient bustle, sprightly dialogue, and lots of buffoonery snaking in between. The Synergetic DVD doesn’t support bonus material with only the feature and a chapter selection on the main menu but there is an after credits stinger of a cow and a severed head that attempts one last quick chuckle out of the viewer. Supporting all region codes, the DVD has a runtime of 80 minutes and is seemingly unrated, there is no stated rating on the back cover. Speaking of which, Synergetic DVD covers skirt the cost with slapdash compositions an eighth grader learning AutoCAD could have completed for a solid C+. The mustard yellow with black, nearly indistinct, vignettes don’t provide any kind of appetizing stimulation and, oppositely, can snuff out any sort of enthusiasm toward checking this French absurdist piece out, but don’t let the lackadaisical cover art dishearten a peak into what could be a considerably wild and gory experience. Just be warned that “Super Z” isn’t for everyone and everyone isn’t for “Super Z” living on a different, bizarro plane of existence.

“Super Z” Has Bites and Baffoonery!  Amazon.com Has it on DVD!

EVIL Terrorizes the Parisian Women of the Night! “A Woman Kills” reviewed! (Radiance / Blu-ray)

“A Woman Kills” Now Available on Blu-ray! Click the Cover Art to Purcahse!

The execution of Hélène Picard, a convicted murderer of prostitutes in Paris, France circa 1960s, is carried forth and thought to have snuffed out a string of brutal killings.  Louis Guilbeau carried out the execution orders that gave Pairs a moment of relief and a sense of safety for the working girls on the streets, but when the similar murders spark public fear and the newspapers compare the scenes as Hélène Picard handywork, Paris is once again thrown turmoil with a serial killer.  Is Hélène Picard really dead?  Is it a copycat?  Or did they not catch the real killer?  Guilbeau, unphased by the recent atrocities, begins an affair with the lead investigator into the murders and continues to always be one step behind the suspected female culprit with no remorse, no shame, and no limits to her brutality against prostitutes.

Thought to be lost in obscurity for forever, the reels for French director Jean-Denis Bonan’s “La femme bourreau,” aka “A Woman Kills” was discovered in 2010.  The master of the unfinished film became destined to be born again with a new home video release as Bonan’s debut directorial embodied parallelisms of the French sociopolitical unrest and protests, known as the Paris economic-stopping May 68 event, during the late 1960s, and hitched a ride on the narrative wave of post-“Psycho” gender identity complexes within the confines of a La Nouvelle Vogue, or the French New Wave movement.  Though “A Woman Kills” was the inaugural film of the young director’s career, Bonan simultaneously also became one of the few to document in real time the May 68 upheaving protests as he and the crew went back-and-forth filming a fiction story and nonfictional protests.  The film incorporates a semi pseudo-doc that treats the script like a mixture between a crime thriller and the experimental qualities of its playful, singsong soundtrack and harsh editing.  The 1968 film is a production of Luna Park Films and is self-produced by Jean-Denis Bonan.

For those casted in film, “A Woman Kills” was there first auteur film if not their first feature film role all together. What could be considered as a blend between New French Wave and Neorealism, Bonan rarely has his cast express their own vocal cords. Lots of action and expressiveness devour the attention but that doesn’t go on to say Bonon completely nixed dialogue altogether with his montage of interviewees, a jest-and-jovial troubadour descriptive songs of the scenes, the narrator’s file readings of victims, the newsboys hawking of murder headlines, all become the dialogue in lieu of the real McCoy. The cast does have their voices heard in rare moments, often in scenes of great exposures and difficult in detail. A case in point is Claude Merlin as the prison executive Louis Guilbeau. Merlin, who went on to be involved in another May 68’s connected film from 2001, “Toutes les nuits” or “Every Night,” is eager and excited in character when going into the medical details of the various way his profession executes prisoners or falls into a somber regarding his mother’s abusive behavior to him when he was just a boy. Guilbeau’s dialogued moments are precise and point plots toward his character and toward the end game. The affair Builbeau has with police investigator Solange Lebas, from Jean Rollin’s “Rape of the Vampire” and Bruno Gantillo’s “Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay’s” Solange Pradel, provides roughly the equal amount of dialogue time in a role that’s typically casted for men, a lead investigator on a high-profile murder case. Gender reversal and identity themes are accentuated by Merlin and Pradel’s tenues of the characters. Myriam Mézières (“Spermula”), Jackie Raynal, Catherine Deville (“Rape of the Vampire”), and Velly Beguard (“Endless Night”) work out the remaining cast.

I wouldn’t necessarily call “A Woman Kills” avant garde.  In fact, I firmly believe the propagating audio and video experiments and the themes are far from it.  Bonan borrows a little here and there from different techniques and cinematic trends to fashion a stake in the French New Wave movement.  Splashes of eroticism, which are greatly descriptive visually and narratively, don’t warrant “A Woman Kills” to be a full-fledged erotica film.  The same can be said about the crime or investigator angle that too just seems to be woven sporadically through this melee of classification. Pseudo-documentary montages and script narrator push the labeling in another direction as well. “A Woman Kills” doesn’t exactly fit into a mold, wears patchwork pastiche, but also has flare ups of Bonan’s call to add chaos into the traditional scheme of filmmaking. More so linear than not, the narrative transitions between scenes without a care for being comprehensible early on. Heavily relying on the narrator to give exposition on the background of the notorious prostitute murderer Hélène Picard and how she became under the executioner’s thumb, this event provides framework in introducing the executioner Louis Guilbeau and his professional ups-and-downs that ultimately land him working in the prison system. The association that connects the murders, Louis Guilbeau, and Hélène Picard is all very vague during initial proceedings and Gérard de Battista’s freeholding over-the-shoulder camera work provides passim POV shots and agley angles to keep the wheels of motion mysteriously slipping in order to not fully grip the reality of the situation. Bonan borders the edge of German Expressionism toward the third act by disenchanting the way of guilty thinking aesthetics and to root the killer in insanity on various levels, ending with a chase sequence that is seemingly endless amongst a pile of building rubble and ruin.

A provocateur of storytelling and of the celluloid vision, director Jean-Denis Bonan finally has his film, “A Woman Kills,” released onto a limited-edition Blu-ray home video from Radiance Films twelve years as being unearthed. First released on DVD in 2016, distribution for the film was all but easy due to Bonan’s deemed unclassifiable feature by large scale and indie firms. Today, the original reversible 16mm elements have gone through a 2K restoration scan for the feature’s Blu-ray debut and the presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and black and white format. For being undiscovered for four decades, unfinished, and receiving literally no support from any state funds to complete, the image has remained nearly pristine with only a few dust specks and faint scratches being the worse of the wear. The Cinémathèque de Limousin and the restoration by producer Francis Lecomte doesn’t feel to have overcorrected the natural grain or go high on the contrast but rather retain much of the classic, original elements for an honest viewing aside from the liner notes mentioning a few special effects added to remove equipment from out of the picture. Father time has forgotten all about Bonan’s lost relic, staving off age degradation to those with more day-to-day exposure. The French language Dolby Digital mono track also retains a remarkable, near stainless net result. The absence of the camera whirring and lack of electrical interference points to a complete dub track of the actors’ voiceovers to which the dialogue is distinct with only a handful of crackling peppered in throughout. English subtitles are optional on the menu settings and offer an error free, well-paced synchronization. The bonus features include a video introduction to the feature by Virginie Sélavy, an audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Virginie Sélavy, the trailer, and a 37-minute, newly updated 2015 documentary On the Margin: The Cursed Films of Jean-Denis Bonan featuring one-sided interview responses from Bonan, cinematographer Gérard de Battista, editor Mirelille Abramovici, composer Daniel Laloux, and actress Jackie Rynal. There is also Bonan’s short films – “la vie breve de Monsier Meucieu,” “Un crime d’amour,” “Tristesses des Anthropophages,” Mathieu-fou, “and “Une saison chez les hommes.” The limited to 2,000 copies release does not disappointment with tangible material within this clear snapper, untraditional Blu-ray case that doesn’t sport the Blu-ray logo at the top. Much like Bonan’s work, the Blu-ray, too, rebels against marketing norms with cover art that displays the film’s synopsis and documentary bons feature on the front cover. The reversible cover also has the original 2016 DVD art on the inside along with a limited-edition booklet featuring “A Woman Kills” essay by film author and scholar Catherine Wheatley and writer-broadcaster Richard Thomas regarding the film’s themes and Bonan’s short films. The 51-page booklet also includes newly translated interviews and offers film credits as well as black and white stills of “A Woman Kills” and other Bonan credits. The feature has a runtime of 69 minutes, the release is region free, and Unrated. Jean-Denis Bonan disrupts the narrative routine, but his film remains a timeless, psychosomatic portrayal with a contentious backdrop of French sociopolitical unrest that makes the context of “A Woman Kills” that much more engrossing.

“A Woman Kills” Now Available on Blu-ray! Click the Cover Art to Purcahse!

EVIL Packaged Fresh, Never Frozen. “Raw” reviewed! (Second Sight / Blu-ray)

Brought up on a strict vegetarian diet by her parents, Justine became conscious that one swallow of meat down her gullet might start a chain reaction of life-threatening allergies. Her legacy acceptance into the prestigious Saint-Exupéry Veterinary School would have a set of challenges toward retaining that diet but her older sister, Alexia, who is still studying at the school and is also a vegetarian, would protect her from the intense hazing brought down upon the freshman class. When it turns out that Alexia gave into the temptations of peer pressure and egged her own to digest meat in a hazing ritual, Justine learns that her sister’s shielding won’t stand up against the forces of elder student pranks. From then on, a primordial animalistic behavior slowly transforms Justine from a quiet, awkward, and studious teenage girl into a party animal, an explorer of sexual awakening, and a herbivore whose slipping from her regime. Justine’s craving for raw meat digs deeper into the bone as the overwhelming need to consume human flesh spirals her down into an uncontrollable descent, turning the school’s exuberant hazing knaveries all the more dangerous.

Having been a meat eater all my life, the transition to vegetarian would be a hard-fought war that would likely shed years off my life just as much as eating a thick, juicy cut of a steak seasoned to perfection and medium cooked. After all, the human race is born with tapered canines that rip through the tough flesh and meat first and then pass along the now tendered feed to our molars, our mashers, that would handle the soft, chewy substance for an easy ride down toward our stomach. “Raw” takes that approach one step further, or maybe two or three steps further, by coupling the sudden discourse from meatless to meaty meals that expands into cannibalism with a coming of age and finding one’s place in life story that can be relatable to us all. The French film is written-and-directed by Julia Ducournau, who reprised herself with another body horror sensation with last year’s acclaimed “Titane,” and was shot at an actual veterinary school in Belgium, the University of Liège. Originally titled “Grave” before being upgraded to “Raw,” the film is a production from a conglomeration of studio labels, including the first horror production for Petit Film. Rouge International (“Murder Me, Monster”), Frakas Productions (“Sea Fever”), Ezekiel Film Production and Wild Bunch (“Martyr”) serve as a few of the film’s other coproduction companies with Jean des Forêts, Julie Gayet, Jean-Yves Roubin, Nadia Turincev, and Cassandre Warnauts as producers.

“Raw” is not your typical girl journeying through the trials and tribulations of normal self-discovery.  For this, you need not your typical girl to play centric character Justine.  Enters 16-17 year-old Garance Marillier, the Paris-born actress with an established bond on and off screen with director Julia Ducournau having debut her acting in Ducournau’s 2011 short film “Junior” as a tomboy going through a strange corporeal transformation.  Fun fact:  Marillier has been cast as a different Justine in all three of her collaborations with Julia Ducournau – “Junior,” “Raw,” and “Titane” since 2011.  Marillier soaks into “Raw’s” Justine with not only a transcending behavior pattern performance that takes the freshman from stifled to uninhibited, but the young actress also overhauls a complete body language transformation that sheds Justine’s meek skin, literally displayed on screen, for a more confident and abrasive veneer.  Ella Rumpf (“Tiger Girl”) receives Justine’s inexperienced blossom-hood with an the older, already initiated, sibling having been fostered by rambunctious peers to break the sheltering chains her parents had shackled with and just like true to life sisters, there’s contention.  The vehemence venom between them when they’re on bad terms on screen can stop one’s breath, you can hear a pin drop, yet you still understand their sisterly connection and love no matter how messed up a situation might be, especially when involving boys, such as the pansexual fluidity of Justine’s freshman roommate Adrien, played by Rabah Nait Oufella.  “Raw” rounds out the small cast surrounded by a slew of extras with Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss as mom and dad.

Julia Ducournau has the body horror genre down to the molecular level.  It’s as if the filmmaker studied every film and playbook of David Cronenberg just from researching her various work credits that target to restructure and regress the human condition into something far worse and watching “Raw” unravel a symbiotic relationship between natural and unnatural human development blurs that line of what is considered to be normal so disturbingly good.  Exteriorly, we notice the changes and can almost set a clock to way our bodies react and change over time, biologically and socially, within the context of our environment.  Internally, a whole unexplored set of conditions apply to the unpredictable mindset of transfiguration and that’s where Justine paves an unfounded roadmap for her sudden kick from being a veggie lover to a flesh craver. “Raw’s” undoubtedly an allegory of a young girl’s pubescence and coming of age into her own from, essentially, being on her own exploring her sexuality and exploring new interests as is such with going into university. Ducournau casually strolls through Justine’s drama and tension as much of the body horror overwhelms our morbid curiosity but her angsty complications, still very much underlined even being overshadows, retain a constant line of parallelism in a symbolic reality. Delicate touches of indelicate gore really spice up “Raw’s” entrenching story not for the faint of heart as well as vegetarians.

Hot off the heels of their now out of print limited edition release of “Raw,” Second Sight Films offers a second, standard release on Blu-ray home video. The UK label offers a single disc packaged, region B encoded, BD-50 of a 1080p, high-definition, 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation, listed at running an average frame bitrate of ~24Mbps. Highly accurate on its bitrate average, the image is well diverse in discerning details without an ambiguous scene or spot in sight. The color often feels muted, dreary, like one long continuous overclouded day that presents an everlasting feeling of dismay. Yet, that isn’t all cinematographer Ruben Impens has to offer with arthouse framing of disturbing imagery and an opening freshman party scene that takes us through the cramp pockets of sweaty, half-naked partygoers in one lengthy, single shot that expels just about everything Justine will face at her time in veterinary school. The French DTS-HD 5.1 master audio superbly distributes the audio tracks with just right levels to accommodate each scene. If there’s a noisy, bass blaring party, the score rightly takes over and the dialogue takes a muted backseat but still clear and intelligible – or so I believe since I don’t understand French, but I can make out the syllables and inflections. Otherwise, dialogue is king and clear alongside an eclectic soundtrack of English indie rock and experimental tracks as well as Jim Williams guitar and industrial synth trek across that’s beautiful and, simultaneously, disconcerting disharmonic. If you missed out on the limited edition, don’t bite yourself as the standard edition as plenty of extra features, including an interview with actress Garance Marillier The Girl Can’t Help It, an interview with producer Jean des Forêts Making Ends Meat, an audio commentary by film critic Alexander West, an audio commentary with director Julia Ducournau and critic Emma Westwood, an interview with Ducournau A Family Affair, the featurette Raw A Votre Gout with Ducournau and Emma Westwood, a conversation between Ducournau and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas Quick Bites, a genre matters panel discussion, an Australian premier introduction and post screen Q&A with Ducournau and Kier-La Janise, and a handful of deleted scenes. The film runs at 99 minutes, comes with well synced English subtitles, and is certified 18 for strong gory images and injury detail. Taste “Raw’s” unseasoned, unadulterated, pure and simple line of hidden truths and manifesting urges that once crossed there’s no turning back as the person you once were, is no longer akin to an impossible burger but a fully tendered hunk of mouthwatering meat freshly cut and ready to sink your teeth into.

A Mushroom Cloud of DNA Altering EVIL Proportions! “Mutant Blast” reviewed! (Troma / Blu-ray)

“Mutant Blast” is a BLAST!  Now available at Amazon.com

A top-secret military unit conducts human experiments to create the perfect super-soldier. Their illegal and amoral work has proven more difficult than desired with only one subject, TS-347, being deemed functional and fit for dutiful purpose. Maria, operating incognito with an adversarial paramilitary group, infiltrates the cell section where TS-347 is being held to either purloin the property or destroy it in order to not have the DNA be replicated. There’s only one problem – the failed superhuman experimental trials that transformed people into flesh-eating zombies have escaped confinement to begin the apocalypse. Barely escaping with their lives, Maria and TS-347 run into Pedro, a simple, low ambitious man with no clue to what is happening after awaking from a party-induced hangover. Together, they trek to the ocean for safety, but multiple nuclear bombs send their journey into a tailspin of mutant hostiles along their path.

A nuclear orgasm within every minute, the Portugal-made post-apocalyptic comedy-adventure-horror “Mutant Blast” is crazy fun and certifiably crazy. Produced in 2014 but not released until 2018, the Fernando Alle written-and-directed debut radioactive-to-rendezvous through a zombie infested and freakshow continent leaves no stone unturned with an unbridled and practical effects-laden story that’s reminiscent of early 90’s splatter-comedies. Being one of the select more recent films to be actually produced instead of distributed by Troma Films (“The Toxic Avenger,” “The Class of Nuk’Em High”), “Mutant Blast” doesn’t have to work too hard to be granted passage into Tromaville’s sophisticated affinity catalogue. Troma’s masterminds Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, who has a zombified bit part in the film, coproduce “Mutant Blast” alongside Alle and Matt Manjouridas, executive producer of Shudder’s “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, also financially supports Alle’s film that should one day, hopefully, be on the docket for Joe Bob Briggs to introduce its rat-fu, seafood-fu, and titty-shot-fu to the rest of the horror fanbase.

Living her best imitation of Ellen Ripley with a shaved dome from “Alien 3” is Maria Leite as the infiltrating noble cause soldier aiming to stop the experimental creation of human super soldiers by any means necessary.  Leite makes looking like a badass action hero pretty convincing and her comedic timing is wonderfully contrasted with Pedro, “Blarghaaahrgarg’s” Pedro Barão Dias in his introductory role into feature films, as a lighthearted and bewildered man strikingly outside his element and out classed what’s about to face him.  If you haven’t noticed, the characters names don’t stray far from the actor’s and that makes the chemistry a little easier, especially on “Mutant Blast’s” ambitious post-apocalypse and kooky freakshow façade.  Dias has the charming qualities of a gleefully lost puppy in a world that has everything trying to kill his character Pedro where previously the carefree partying fool was left alone, if not also insignificantly thought of, to his own devices.  If hitting the notes on the “Alien” franchise notes a part of the Fernando Alle’s must-have adulation check list then “The Terminator” is another box the filmmaker sought to check off as well with the TS-347 cyborg-ish super solider played by the then nearly 50-year-old professional bodybuilder Joaquim Guerreiro doing double duty as also the evil counterpart TS-504, splitting his obvious presence except with a prosthetic mask, makeup, and way more clothing overtop his shirtless glistening pectorals and deltas.  Their odyssey to the ocean has them cross paths with other survivors, sprouting various fission bomb mutated genes as if seeds were sowed in their skin.  Mário Oliveira, Hugo Cássimo, Andreia Brito, Joao Gualdino, Pedro Caseiro, Mauro Herminio, Francisco Alfonso Lopes, Basco Ferreira, Paulo Alexandre Firmino, and João Vilas fill the colorful shoes playing one, or sometimes multiple, mutants.

If you like gooey and explosive foot-to-head smashes, then “Mutant Blast” is for you.  If you like single punch decapitations, then “Mutant Blast” is for you.  If you like baby rat hands, third ear growths, melted faces, horn protrusions, zombie head backpacks, giant rats squirting highly acidic teat milk, Dolphinman versus a French speaking Lobster man, then “Mutant Blast” is definitively in your very best interest. Past all that juvenile jazz that, if done right like Alle did it, transforms a lobotomizing spectacle into a complete cherry of cinema, underneath the liberating layers of free, self-made movies, lies a subtle message weaved into the very fabric of “Mutant Blast’s” nuclear core story. Alle’s undoubted wants audiences to take away from his film not only riotous laughter and an appreciation for tangible gore effects but also to take away a sense of how we, people of Earth, seek to self-destruct. Life is precious yet experiments turn into crazed maniacs, we nuke ourselves in an ironic act of fighting fire with fire in cleaning up our messes, and with the lobster who turned into man names Jean-Pierre, wears a suit, speaks French, and hates “motherfucking” dolphins delivers a monologue served up on a platter of overfishing, environmental indifference and destruction, and a general apathy overview for life in general conceptualizes as the vertex of the Alle’s entire theme before the one-on-one with the James Gunn created Dolphinman who makes a very special appearance.

Troma’s newly upgraded, upscaled, and likely high on uppers release of “Mutant Blast” is not available on a director’s cut Blu-ray that wouldn’t be complete or official with a Lloyd Kaufman introduction from the COVID bunker. Released in high definition 1080p, the region free, 2-disc, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with an 83-minute runtime. I’m genuinely impressed by the compression of this Troma release as the image quality looks quite good with little-to-no compression afflictions in the digital video, displaying an above par codec in the ballpark of 24-26 megabytes. Granted, “Mutant Blast” isn’t perfect with signal aliasing infractions, but the overall image stands out amongst the catalogue as one of the best from Tromaville. Offering two dual audio options – a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a LPCM 2.0 stereo track – you’ll get to enjoy every squish, squash, and squirt on the effects track to compliment to head bashing assaults. The Portuguese and French language dialogue tracks render no issues with clarity and the English subtitles keep things smooth and easy with ample timing and errorfree. There are a slew of dubbed languages including English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and, if you want to be precise, Brazilian Portuguese. Troma also offers up some fantoxically futuristic extras with a making of featurette Lobsterman Caws, the giant rat pre-production test, a doc about “Mutant Blast” heading to Korea over a three-day coverage span, Portugual audiences’ reactions to “Mutant Blast,” the film’s special effects, blooper reel, bottlecap challenge, the original theatrical trailer, international trailer, 30 second trailer, and see how Lloyd Kaufman transformed into a flesh-eating Portuguese zombie. In the gloriously objectionable essence of all that makes Troma Troma, “Mutant Blast” is textbook Troma, a modern new face for the company, and is radiantly glowing from the same toxic waste that gave birth to the beloved Toxie.

“Mutant Blast” is a BLAST!  Now available at Amazon.com

A Snapshot Celebration, Averting the EVILs of Typecasting, for the Iconic Actress “Sylvia Kristel: The 1970s Collection” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

The “Sylvia Kristel:  1970s Collection” Available on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon.com!  Currently on Sale!

Sylvia Kristel.  A name that is synonymous to eroticism.  Kristel paved the way in mainstreaming seductive romances of softcore exploits, helping to elevate the provocative genre out of the depths of sleaze and into a more exotic trashy novel for the big screen.   In her titular role in the “Emmanuelle” franchise coursed an arousing path of sexual freedom, uninhibition, and became the sumptuous and worldly window in private fantasies. Playing the role for nearly two decades didn’t stop Kristel from other high profile and lucrative projects with an array of filmmakers as well as her roles pre-“Emmanuelle” that molded the Netherlands actress into a sexual icon rather than object of male fantasies. Cult Epics acquires four films – “Playing with Fire,” “Pastorale 1943,” “Mysteries,” and “Julia” – that even though didn’t have Kristel set as a principal lead still showcased her range within the constraints of a minor, but certainly not insignificant, performance.

“Playing With Fire”

In a madcap Paris where sex trafficking is something of a sport, a wealthy French banker learns his daughter has been kidnap and threatened to be tricked out or burned alive if the kidnappers’ ransom isn’t paid.  Quickly learning that another woman has been mistaken for his daughter, a wave of relief bestows him to be cautious about future attempts on his daughter’s safety.  The banker hires a private detective to protect his loveliest of assets, offering to escort her to a local safehouse with the promise of sanctuary, but the P.I. is operating incognito being really one of the leaders of a surreal and lavish brothel who now has the banker’s beautiful daughter in his possession.  Or is it her who possesses him? 

Unlike any other exploitation-comedy you’ve likely ever seen, the 1975 released “Playing with Fire,” aka “Le jeu avec le feu,” is a wacky deep-dive of surrealistic sex trafficking from French writer-director Alain Robbe-Grillet whose obsession with prostitution rings and other filmic eroticism pursuits extends back within a decade later with “L’Immortelle,” aka “The Immortal One,” and “Successive Slidings of Pleasure.”  A French production of Arcadie Productions, Madeleine Films, and Cinecompany, “Playing with Fire” masters the avant-garde art of making light of a grim topic that results in a pull of emotions.  Robbe-Grillet draws out the shocking aspects of sex slavery while also encouraging a smirk or a chuckle at the whimsical characters and shooting techniques weaved throughout a burlesque narrative.  Robbe-Grillet also plays with the theme of dualities with a number of the principal characters having two or more versions of themselves:  Philippe Noriet plays not only the banker father Georges de Saxe but also a voiceless sleaze erotically interacting with the banker’s daughter in a very Freudian concept between father-daughter relations.  His daughter, Carolina (Anicée Alvina), disguises herself as the thin-mustached private detective to thwart future any attempt at an abduction and there’s also the identity mishap with the similar looking woman mistakenly kidnapped by the ringleader.  Leading us into Jean-Louis Trintignant as the ringleader Franz constantly in a revolving door switch-a-roo façade into the private detective.  The presence of duality doesn’t stop being a present throughout, continuing with the banker’s butler who is also a whorehouse patron without affirmation that they’re the one and same person.  Before their illegal banishment in the mid-20th century, Brothels were widely dispersed throughout Paris, but not until the Nazi occupation absorbed the houses of ill-repute that seared a bad taste of deviant humiliation and sordid disgust into the mouths’ of the French populace and Robbe-Grillet taps into that once time of unrest by splicing in a pair of isolating scenes of goose-stepping Nazi soldiers with one of the moments garmenting Anicée Alvina in uniform and marching in the ranks, suggesting a more sinister subplot afoot in the storyline.  Kristel plays one of the women snatched by Trintignant’s efficiently devious Franz with virtual a voiceless performance in what’s only a symbol of strength and beauty that sets perversion ablaze as she’s taken through the motions of essentially onboarding her into slavery whoredom. “Playing With Fire” can be at times difficult to keep up with the Alice in Wonderland-like surrealism and the character dualism but persists unwaveringly with a multi-faceted narration of deceit, eroticism, and comedy full of perversions and random outbursts akin to satirical skits that make this film unpredictable yet enjoyable to behold.

Pastorale 1943

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, a quaint Dutch farming village lives day-to-day alongside soldiers and German sympathizers known as National Socialists (NSB) to the Nazis, traitors to their fellow Dutch countrymen.  When the Nazis learn of and round up all the dissidents and Jewish heritage people living in hiding on an adjacent, ferryboat island, a small band of unorganized resistant fighters determine the local pharmacist, a NSB member, to be the Nazi collaborator responsible for the treacherous leaking of information because his son impregnates an island village girl, teetering toward the fascist movement when mocked by her peers for her involvement with the pharmacist’s son.  Inexperienced in the execution of traitors, the bungling resistance fighters learn just how difficult planning a murder can be when their scheme falls apart in a small village where everybody knows everybody.

On this second of four Sylvia Kristel features is the Spieghel Filmproductiemaatschaappij of “Pastorale 1943” which makes more prominent the Nazi regime, is set with a backdrop of a Nazi occupied Netherland town and has a cameo role of young and dashing Rutger Hauer (“Blind Fury,” “The Hitcher”).  Netherland writer-director Wim Verstappen, whose had a few titles released previously from Cult Epics, such as “Obsessions” and “Blue Movie,” develops a script out of the World War II drama novel from author Simon Vestdijk with black comedic undertones and a tinge of corrosive sexuality and released the film in 1978.  Pastorale, or Pastoral, refers to the typically calm and idyllic country life which the complete opposite in 1943 Netherlands with all of Europe and East Asia engulfed in war; however, this story takes place in its own corner of the world with a mini, damn near microscopic, war waged between the Nazis occupation along with domestic NSB collaborators and the inhabitants resisting against the encroaching fascism that has plagued revenue crops and instilled an authoritarian culture, such as mandating the teaching of the German language to students in Dutch schools. Kristel’s involvement with Verstappen’s “Pastorale 1943” is about as much as her involvement in “Playing With Fire” with a minor role that’s still a keystone piece to the narrative. She plays Miep Algera, a local schoolteacher disparaged by her neighbors and colleagues for having romantic relations with a Nazi officer, but has she really fallen for the officer or is she secretly conducting counterintelligence for the resistance? “Pastorale 1943’s” two-part story plays heavily embroiling and embroidering characters in the first half to the point of instituting a cornerstone character but when the narrative pivots, to the darker side of implied Nazi exterminations and the fumbling through the execution of a rightfully innocent man, Verstappen homes in on Frederik de Groot as the artist Johan Schults whose Germanic surname causes him much strife amongst his Dutch brethren but to prove himself, Schults takes charge, along with an equally green execution squad of resistance politicians, to murder the NSB collaborator, a local pharmacist Poerstamper (Bernard Droog). The Academy Award submitted “Pastorale 1943” can be light and funny then turn quickly on a dime into wartime darkness and director Wim Verstappen’s vision pops with epic World War II fascism atrocities, confined to one part of the world and without the explicit voyeurism of genocide.


After the strange suicidal death of a man named Karlson, Johan Nagel arrives to the coastal town where the death occurred.  Immediately, Nagel stands out from the supercilious eccentric residents with his mustard yellow suit and fur coat, dispensing small cigars and money to everyone and every service as if they were infinite, and exhibits his own brand of strange behavior, especially with amorous feelings between two women and an unlikely friendship with a dwarf who has accepted his neighbors’ belittling jabs for humorous pleasure.  As his behavior declines, Nagel’s presence unravels the coiled, seemingly impenetrable, barriers around his friends, his enemies, and his romantic pursuits that reshape their properties for the better at the dangers of his own sanity and life.

Finally, we’re at a point in the Sylvia Kristel collection where the titular star is in a lead role with this demolition of concrete idiosyncratic personalities melodrama entitled “Mysteries” from Dutch filmmaker Paul de Lussanet, based off a novel “Mysterier” by Knut Hamsun, with Sigma Film Productions as the production company.  Kristel plays the steely Dany Kielland who becomes the infatuation of Nagel in an oppositional performance beautifully deranged and conducted by Rutger Hauer.  The hot-and-cold and on the brink of frustration relationship between Kielland and Nagel is as resolved as an unfinished breakfast left to waste and void of complete nutrition as both characters digest morsels of desire only to explode in a frenzy of loathsome disgust in an unsavory, brittle dynamic only Hauer and Kristel could produce on screen.  The other love interest involved, yet hardly feels as such until the last half hour, is an aged and more humble Martha Gude portrayed by “Last Night in Soho” British actress Rita Tushingham complete with a poor-looking frosty-colored wig.  Kielland and Gude represent the two-side of society – rich and poor respectively – stuck mastering a stanch stance of an indeterminate state that Nagel barrels into and knocks down the status quo, like a bowling ball to ten pins, for the better of the coastal town.  None of what Nagel does seemingly makes any sense and that’s very true to Hamsun’s novel in the unconventional, and probably unintentional, methods of Nagel’s erratic influence.  “Time Bandit’s” David Rappaport debuts in his first feature film as Grogard, an achondroplasia character bulled by most of the town’s residents due to his disorder.  Grogard anecdotally tells the story as “Mysteries” narrator, as if reading straight from Hamsun’s novel, the recollection of Nagel’s dichotomic behavior and, at the same time, Nagel also being a mentor, protector, and a friend that pained Grogard to watch his friend whither to death in fit of emotional exhaustion.  “Mysteries” borders arthouse cinema, adaptive faithfulness, and pristine melodramatic performance that sound good in theory but not always translate well to the screen, leaving more of a perplexing impression on the whole purpose of rendering Knut Hamsun’s novel into film in the first place.


Every year, Patrick departs his boarding school for a short holiday with his father and relatives at his grandmother’s idyllic lakeside house.  While riding the train en route to his grandmother’s, he encounters an older, yet beautiful, blonde woman inside the passenger carriage car and before he can firm up courage to act upon his sexual brimming hormones, the blonde is swept up by an older gentleman right from under his nose.  Come to find out, the blonde woman is actually his father’s girlfriend in a completely open relationship when it boils down to sex.  Anxious about his own insecure sexual appetite, Patrick finds himself surrounded by the perversions of his family and friends, leaving the young man hesitant and nearly impotent in bedding the woman he actually cares about, a longtime friend Julia who lives next door to his grandmother.

On the heels of “Emmanuelle,” Sylvia Kristel follows up with another licentious freedom film in Sigi Rothemund’s “Julia.” Also known as “Summer Girl” or “Die Nichte der O,” the German production from the Lisa-Film company is the earliest film on the 1970s collection with a release in 1974 and is the only other screenplay on the collection next to “Playing with Fire” that is not adapted from literature. Instead, “Julia” is a wild romp ride of young sexual exploration and the anxieties that accompany it from an outlandish and witty script by Wolfgang Bauer. “Julia” might not be based off a book, but the story is certainly an unapologetically open book about the insignificance of virginity, polyamorous affairs, lesbianism, voyeurism, and the sexual rite of passage into adulthood with the young and naive principal Patrick, or Pauli as credited, played by the late Ekkehardt Belle who passed away in January of this year. Opposite Belle, Sylvia Kristel obviously dons the titular role of Julia. Inexplicably voluptuously different from the other three films on the collection, Kristel radiates a sexual aurora perhaps infected by proxy of its release soon after “Emmanuelle” as Kristel obvious branches out to more sensible dramatic roles rather than the decor of a German sex comedy such as “Julia” that galvanized by its free-for-all eccentric caricatures including an operatic, overweight, and perverse uncle Uncle Alex (Peter Berling, “When Women Were Called Virgins”), a highly aggressive lesbian in Aunt Myriam (Gisela Hahn, “Devil Hunter”), the house maid Silvana who Myrian seduces with whipped cream and has piano-top sex (Christine Glasner), and his polyamorous father Ralph (Jean-Claude Bouillion, “The Sextorvert”) and girlfriend Yvonne (Teri Tordai, “She Lost Her…You Know What”). Comparatively flimsy next to “Emmanuelle” as a sexual journey and coming of age film but “Julia” is a hot-to-trot sex comedy with funny bits as well as sultry naught bits too.

Beautifully curated for the first time ever release in the United States of all four films is Cult Epics’ “Sylvia Kristel: 1970s Collection” on Blu-ray and DVD. The 4-disc, uncut Blu-ray, which was provided for coverage, is region free, limited to 2500 copies, and perfectly packaging to extol praise upon the robust early career of Sylvia Kristel. Presented in European widescreen 1:66:1 (with the exception of “Playing with Fire” which is displayed in an anamorphic 2:35:1), each film is newly scanned in 2K from the original 35mm elements as well as been restored. Transfers for the most part are exquisitely pristine, each harboring their own mise-en-scene mélange, but some are better than others with “Mysteries” sitting at the bottom rung of showing slightly a few more scratches and one-or-two single frame damages that flame up through the reel briefly. “Julia” also has minor scratches, but that’s really the extent of the issues with the image quality on this restored visual released with a rich color palette and textures redefined for a better palpability. Compression issues are virtually non-existent and there are no tinkering enhancements or cropping used to skirt transfer limitations. I am in awe of the audio output of the 1920kps bitrate, transmitting the highest audio quality possible for each release through either DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 or a LCPM 2.0. Dialogue clarity comes through cleanly with French in “Playing with Fire,” Dutch and German in “Pastorale 1943,” and German in “Julia.” “Mysteries” sounds a bit muddle sometimes due to the consistently background popping interference, but the Dutch language still pulls through strongly and discernibly. Each film comes with optional English subtitles. Special features are aplenty with audio commentaries by Tim Lucas, Jeremy Richey, and Peter W. Verstraten, new and vintage interviews and promotional footage with cast and crew on ‘Playing with Fire,” “Pastorale 1943,” and “Mysteries,” a poster and still gallery on each release, and original theatrical trailers. Outside the disc contents, the collection’s rugged cardboard boxset housing unit consists of a 4-disc snapper case with vintage-still collage cover art, a 40-page illustrated booklet with color pictures and an essay on all four films written by Jeremy Richey, and a cover art poster by Gilles Vranckx. Total runtime is 429 minutes, enough to get your Syliva Kristel fill and then want more…much more. The “Sylvia Kristel: 1970s Collection” lauds the actress’s versatility of performances and ability to work with any director from any country and fans who love “Emmanuelle,” or of just Kristel, will undoubtedly fall in love with this Cult Epics comprehensive look at the Dutch icon’s outermost filmography.

The “Sylvia Kristel:  1970s Collection” Available on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon.com!  Currently on Sale!