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!

In the S.H.U., The EVIL Comes From Within. “Caged” reviewed! (Shout! Studios / Digital Screener)

Psychiatrist Dr. Harlow Reid is sentence to life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife.  With his assets frozen and his legal representation dropping him as a client, Reid is forced into being his own legal counsel.  To make matters worse, a female prison guard’s perverse pleasure is to slowly torture him while in her custody at solitary confinement.  His only means to enter general population is to behave and confess to the crime he contests, but he continues to maintain his innocence by refusing to sign the confession, remaining alone and withstanding abuse until he can write a formal plea to a judge to reconsider the facts in his case.  As the days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months, the usually stable minded Dr. Reid, alone with his thoughts, has his fortress of reality buckle under the heavy burden of isolation compounded with the maltreatment and his personal demons that struggle with the actual events in his wife’s sudden death, questioning himself that her death might have been at his hand.

Inside the clink is a maelstrom set in a pressure cooker. Ready to explode at any moment are cons of, mostly, unsavory personalities simmering with pent up anger, desperation, and ill-will positioned by equally fraught guards harried by timebomb temperaments and undervalued in training and payment. In Aaron Fjellman’s written and directed debut feature film, “Caged,” the strain festers toward being hell behind bars in a ruthless determination of survival. Also once known as the working title, “The S.H.U,” Fjellman constrains his American-made, and inspired, big house thriller with a minimalist approach set with a backdrop of chiefly the solitary housing unit to lock up viewers in, as witnessing accomplices, with a protagonist’s downtrodden path of mental degradation as well as being humanly degraded. Aaron Fjellman produces his film for production company Panic House Films and Shifty Eye Productions with the latter a company created by the film’s star, Edi Gathegi, serving on the board as executive producer.

It’s no big surprise that Edi Gathegi dons the prison house jumper and clanking shackles in this social commentary thriller. The “Blacklist” and “X-Men: First Class” actor knows a good role when he sees with, especially inside the body and mind of one Dr. Harlow Reid. Gathegi regularly has to battle with himself filtered through the madness of the S.H.U. mind-breaking solitary with a little fanning of the flames from sadistic prison guard, Officer Sacks. In an extremely ghastly transformation, Melora Hardin goes from a classic beauty with a big smile and high cheek bones to baring an unflattering lumpy posture with hair pulled back in a tight, short ponytail overtop a demonizing trope of a scar down the left side of her face and an assured cockiness symbolized by the gum smacking that’s sometimes becomes the only thing in the camera frame. As Gathegi masters the ideals of a convict presuming himself innocent, Hardin lurks beyond his cell door as the devilish guard over his shoulder. Officer Sacks defines a face with a story and her story has a hard on for power over prisoners, especially affluent ones or, maybe, those of African American descent in a tinge of racist undertones as Fjellman notes on the racial injustices in the prison system. A smidgen of that notion is supported shown in Officer Sacks behind-the-back passive aggressiveness toward Warden Perez. “Annabelle’s” Tony Amendola truly delivers being a heartfelt ally, yet sturdy firm handed warden with Reid. Perez, an expressed Catholic, seeks Reid’s redemption through the admittance of wrongdoing and that becomes the steadfast barrier Reid has to hurtle that will test his convictions and his sanity. “Caged” rounds out with Mick Jagger’s son, James Jagger, as Reid’s unhinged S.H.U. bedfellow who speaks in hyperbole of inmate hauntings in an opaque analogy of guilt mixed with madness, and “Westworld’s” Angela Sarafyan told through flashbacks and supernatural induced psychosis as Reid’s wife, Amber.

To tell an inmate’s nearly yearlong story succumbing to the brutal and segregating abuses surrounding him in solitary confinement is a tremendous feat working into the mental cracks and exploring the fallacies. Yet, Aaron Fjellman made his fictional interpretation look easy by relating a surreal, but telling story in just 80 minutes, gripping with metaphorical concepts of an overcrowded prison system preying on uncontested obedience, even if the lengths taken to obtain complete compliance is trauma exacting torture of draconian policy, by primarily privately funded institutions with little-to-no funding or resources to manage. “Caged” is very fleeting with montage upon montage of Harlow Reid’s day-to-day, but never becomes a monotonous roundabout vivarium of Reid sitting hopelessly-looking in his cell. Gathegi’s put to work as a man determined to challenge the system that engages Reid to keep sharp and in shape by working out in various exercises, entertain an unhinged neighboring inmate with his ramblings and blurbs of crazy talk truths, and feverishly work on his legal case by any extraordinary measures, including using his own blood as ink. Yes, “Caged” can elicit a genuine sense of horror, a perspective on psychological terror, and be an eye-opening gasp of real life prison dread when good versus evil is mirrored in reverse with the good guys not being the prison guards. Fjellman imprisons us all in “Caged” by culminating the fact that no matter your social circumstances, the S.H.U. breaks everyone.

Orange may be the new black, but Aaron Fjellman’s bleak fretting “Caged” jars with somber authoritarian power. The new thriller released by Shout! Studios premiers unrated on VOD and digital January 26th. “Caged” is film by director of photography, Jessica Young, with an Arri Amira camera and presented in a widescreen format, 16×9 aspect ratio, and, typically, the Amira camera versatility is in the use for low-budget films, perfect for “Caged” in it’s nearly singular setting and two-tone, steely gray and black, atmospherics that naturally have devoid color vibrancy. CJ Johnson, who will soon see his musical scores in a pair of upcoming Friday the 13th fan films, lines “Caged” with a soft, building industrial score that tunes the disquiet in Reid’s racked inner conflict. With this digital screener, there were no bonus materials or any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Through the use of visual and audible horror tropes and with potent performances from Edi Gathegi and Melora Hardin, “Caged” is a ghost story told for the unspoken voices victim to long-term confinement.

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Pass or Fail Weekend is Evil’s Playground. “Camp Twilight” reviewed! (DarkCoast / Digital Screener)

On the verge of failing and having to repeat a grade, six students are given the opportunity to spend one technology free weekend at Camp Twilight with their homeroom teacher, Ms. Bloom, and principal, Mr. Warner, as chaperones.    Planned with a series of outdoorsy, bonding activities, the weekend will serve to boost their grades to the cutoff line for graduating and, for some, maintaining their spot on the high school sports teams.  A local urban myth has haunted the camp’s reputation based off a grisly scene of murders a few years back, but the revamped park now serves as a community safe zone overseen by three dedicated, and also quirky, park rangers:  Art, Bob, and Chief Tom.  On a weekend where none of the students wanted to attend, forced by the threat of academic failure, an ominous figure revives the camp’s notorious past as one-by-one campers, teachers, and park rangers fall victim to a hooded killer’s impulse for blood.

Summer camps and masked serial killers are as synonymous as the vast ocean is with the dreadful thought of man-eating sharks.  “Friday the 13th, “Camp Blood,” and “Sleepaway Camp” have made a fortune and a franchise off the backs of the hapless summer campers, hacking and slashing away at the pre-martial sex crazed, the love struck wimps, and the overconfident jocks to build a flawless, ultimate killing machine series.  Will director Brandon Amelotte’s debut slasher, a horror-comedy entitled “Camp Twilight,” claim stake in the genre being the next persevering serial killer franchise?  For starters, the USA-made, indie feature releasing later this month has a leg up with “Sleepaway Camp” scream queen Felissa Rose headlining a cast that also includes a few other genre favorites as well as co-written the script with Amelotte.  Shot on the grounds of the palm tree lined Markham Park, “Camp Twilight” trades in mountain bike trails, disc golf, and it’s outdoor weapons range for machetes, lots of machetes, and is a product of Rick Finkelstein and Brandon Amelotte’s Florida based Entertainment Factory productions and, also Amelotte’s, Pelican Films.

As mentioned, genre icon Felissa Rose ditches the awkward teenage camper from the finale traumatizing “Sleepaway Camp” for a hyped-up, goody two shoes high school teacher in Ms. Bloom.  The top billed Rose brings the energetic know-how of her fully present, larger than life, broad range persona who audiences will never know exactly where her character stands until it’s lethally too late!  Rose is joined by more fresh faced, incredibly automaton co-stars in the roles of the six students and principal, played by the executive producer Barry Jay Minoff.  Minoff and Rose are supposed to be a couple concealing an affair, hiding their lustful courtship very poorly around the students, but both roles are completely under written, unexplored, and unfulfilling in the grand scheme of their pivotal plot point.  Little can be said differently about the students with a range of interrelationship intricacies that tried to be fleshed out as psychological terror triggers in lieu of their already conventional teenage sensitivity struggles.  There are other cult genre vets alongside Rose but in minor, more cameo-esque roles.  Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), and Vernon Wells (“Innerspace”) add more or less star power to the fold, supplementing virtually nothing to the narrative but campy slasher fodder for fans to gobble up.  More impressively is Dave Sheridan bringing forth a version of “Scary Movie’s” loveable dimwitted cop, Doofus, with Ranger Bob, adding a great deal of the substantiated comedy toward “Camp Twilight’s” campy ebb and flow.  Cougar MacDowall, Thomas Haley, Hayleigh Hopkins, Harris Sebastian, Dondre Tuck, Brooklyn Haley, and Steven Chase, with “Truth or Dare’s” Jessica Cameron and Sport’s Illustrated model-turned-film producer, Tracy Lear, filling out the troupe lineup.

I wish I could say that “Camp Twilight” is a campsite of entertainment, a paradisal slasher of genius design, offering up a new breed of deranged psychopathy to the likes we’ve never seen.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of Brandon Amelotte’s derivative and tired trope-laden slasher rippled with loose and forgotten subplots and characters while at the same time being a heap of longwinded exposition that still way after viewing can’t fully explain the turbulent core of the story.  I hate to knock anything Felissa Rose touches, but I would be doing an injustice and a disservice if I tried to play up a slack script that starts off picturizing a campy horror-comedy but plays out the third act with critical revelations without a hint of funny bone material. The kills follow the trend of a lighthearted horror comedy, albeit the pelting of F-bombs, with “Camp Twilight’s” holdall of off screen deaths, barely scratching the surface with on screen kills rendered only by closeups, and not particularly bloody, intense, or nearly as menacing by a black hooded killer in jeans creeping up on prey in a well-lit campground with lots of room to run. The same company, Entertainment Factory, behind the horror icon drenched disappointment, “Death House,” should have been a clue into “Camp Twilight” critical success, but much like the “Death House,” both films are a totality of mess.

Not a fan of the outdoors? Hate bugs, snakes, and all things that go bump in the night? Does your fear of an unclear, inaccessible toilet seize you up? DarkCoast has you covered with their digital release of “Camp Twilight,” arriving onto digital platforms come November 1st, 2020 – Day of the Dead. The release platforms will include InDemand, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vudu & Fandango. The A/V qualities will not be reviewed due to the digital screener provided for this new film release, but I will say much of the soundtrack sounds stock file-ish (and there is no composer listed which would be a dead giveaway) and the Adam Beck cinematography is too well-lit, benumbing any kind of intense emotions that would correlate with the action. There were no bonus features included with the release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Camp Twilight” plays into it’s own title as a dim denticulated slasher that’s far too breathy and far less spirited and so the question stands, will “Camp Twilight” be the next slasher hit to spawn a lengthy, decade spanning franchise? The answer is no.

EVIL Watches from the Shadows. “The Lurker” reviewed! (Indican Pictures / Screener)


A gruesome murder has brought a looming shadow over a high school. However, the shadow is not great enough to thwart the spirits of a group of thespian high school seniors in the throes of their last Shakespearian performances of the year of Romeo and Juliet. Determined to excel, the peer admired Taylor Wilson keeps her college acceptance hopes high on her well-received nightly performances as Juliet, but when a terrible secret involving Taylor begins to circulate through the school body, friendship and enemy ties begin become taut with tension. Simultaneously, those with knowledge of Taylor’s secret are being killed off one-by-one by a deranged killer in a black, long nose masquerade mask.

“The Lurker” is a 2019 American slasher film from the first attempt at horror-director Eric Liberacki, whose legs have been grounded in short film cinematography work over the past 2010 decade with “The Pale Man” being his sole feature length credit. Liberacki’s sophomore directorial is written by the “The Pale Man” screenwriter and short film director, John Lerchen, who’s scribes the slasher version of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” starring hormone-driven and backstabbing high school seniors on a thespian high. “The Lurker” re-imagines the high school dramatics to further dig into taboo subtexts worthy of a Jerry Springer talk show episode and interweaves a non-linear narrative, filled with flashback mystery, due suspicion, and the utmost desire to know what secret Taylor Wilson is being exploited against her preservability. “The Lurker” is a joint venture between John Lerchen’s production company, Forever Safe Productions, and Silva Shots.

One thing, right off the bat, that heedlessly seems erroneous for the story is casting Scout Taylor-Compton in the lead role of Taylor Wilson. And here’s why. From 2007 to 2019, the now 30-year-old actress has played a high school student in Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween” and in “The Lurker.” While Taylor-Compton is a natural beauty who seemingly defies all physics of aging and her performance is solid, the once Laurie Strode portraying actress from Long Beach, California emits a now mature glow in life and rehashing another character in a high school slasher is ultimately beneath and behind her. Aside from her counterpart co-star Michael Emery being roughly the same age, the rest of Taylor Wilson’s entourage are in their internship-status, post-college years of the early 20s, including Kali Skatchke, Casey Tutton, Isabel Thompson, Emmaline Skillicorn, and Marissa Banker. Juxtaposing against a young cast, as a sort of out with the old and in with new or to brighten with short strands of genre highlights, is the minor roles and cameos of recognizable faces and film royalty, such as Ari Lehman (“Friday the 13th), Naomi Grossman (“American Horror Story: Asylum”), and, most surprisingly, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, the daughter of Martin Scorsese, playing Taylor’s mother. The cast rounds out with Charles Johnston, Rikki Lee Travolta, Eddie Huchro, Bruce Spielbauer, Roy Rainey, Josh Morris, and Walter S. Bernard.

“The Lurker” has textbook aspects going for it in the case of an above par production value of fancy editing and set locations, a cache of young and seasoned talented actors, and a story with a twist ending, but that nagging itch gnawing from the back of my skull, slowly inching one molecule at a time, toward the core of my brain informs me that the Liberacki’s slasher misses the intended mark if only by a fingertip attached to a severed pinky. The story tries to sell an alternate version of itself that becomes inane from predictability at the very starting gate and continues trucking an exemplum despite giving away too much, too early. Surrounding the conundrum of calamity building to the potential proverb of shit hitting the fan is a paradigmatic slasher flick with a masked killer murdering toward the technique of a final girl narrative. Yet, “The Lurker’s” kills weren’t terribly flashy and were really met with an uninspired creativity to assist in drawing and sustaining captivation of a ruthless assailant over an abundance the teenage melodramatics, which essentially ran amok. We really shouldn’t have been surprised at the narrative’s untroubled tone because the first kill in the opening scene was inside the school and the school was open the very next day; in today’s day and age, school would have been closed for the rest of the week, if not the rest of the academic year, for bereavement and investigation.

Come down with a serious case of stage fright with “The Lurker” coming to DVD home video and now out on various digital platforms, including renting and buying options on Amazon, distributed by Indican Pictures. The visual and audio review portion for this release will not be covered since a screener copy was provided; however, the DVD will be presented in the original widescreen presentation of an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. With a check disc, there were also no bonus material to review as well as no bonus material before the credits and before or after the credits. John Lerchen and Eric Liberacki’s first crack at full length horror is a win in my book with a complex web streamed of lies, deceits, and snuff, but, with a little fine tuning, “The Lurker” could have sheered to a bigger, better 80 minutes.

Rent or Buy “The Lurker” on Prime Video!!!

Beware EVIL’s Lair! “Rust” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)


Hotel Fear is a dilapidated shell of a once thriving horror attraction with labyrinths chockful of replica grisly terrors. Isolated in a rural area outside Las Vegas, Hotel Fear becomes the meetup place for best friends Heather and Morgan who drive to the forlorn theme park to unite with a couple of male friends. However, Hotel Fear houses a notorious urban legend that includes the deranged killer, Travis McLennan, a barbaric, cannibalistic madman who abducts young women for his pleasure. When Morgan is captured and Heather barely escapes with her life, it’s up to a battered and traumatized Heather to return with the police to rescue Morgan from the merciless grips of Travis McLennan.

Can “Rust” be the next much-admired slasher franchise this side of the last ten decade? That’s what will be discussed when analyzing Joe Lujan’s written and directed “Rust,” a survival-slasher surrounding a mute-masked killer named Travis McLennan, birthed by a nefarious anecdotal urban legend of a unhinged boy who murdered his parents and wears his father’s face. Lujan, whose become something of a low-budget horror factory filmmaker with short and feature film credits including “It Followed Me,” “Atelophobia,” and their respective sequels, helms what could be the director’s bread and butter legacy that crosses “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with some aspects from a Rob Zombie filmmaking handbook. What makes “Rust” unique, or at least in the Wild Eye Releasing DVD, is the feature is comprised of two short films, “Rust” and “Rust 2,” spliced together to make a full length film that would ignite the fervor for third entry, “Rust 3” in 2020 currently in post-production, and all produced by Lujan’s production company, Carcass Films.

Typically, popular slasher will center mostly around the chased protagonists that naturally produces an ominous villain, examples would be Alice in “Friday the 13th,” Laurie Strobe in “Halloween,” Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street, but “Rust” shares the focal responsibilities between protagonist duo of Heather and Morgan and an antagonist duo of Travis McLennan and his Stockholm syndrome sex slave, Valkyrie. Not only do we wonder about the bloody-cladded rooms of Hotel Hell with Heather and Morgan, but also see some dynamics and curiosities from their stalker. “Hot Tub Party Massacre’s” Corey Taylor and “Afflict’s” Taylor Kilgore become the besties Heather and Morgan and are staple actors in Lujan’s ensemble cache he’s collaborated extensively throughout his career. As an exposed midriff Kilgore loses out on Morgan’s weak character development that’s nothing more than an elevated whimper, Corey Taylor by default lifts up to be a quasi-strong female lead, but neither actress steps into that final girl role and are extremely overshadowed by Morlon Greenwood’s towering-might that converts to being the black-hearted killer Travis McLennan. The Jamaican born, former NFL linebacker has that “See No Evil,” Kane-like violence that bears an austere ravager who would make anybody crap their pants when going into full-throttle chase mode with machete in hand. Lindsey Cruz (“Meathook Massacre 4”), Raul Limon (“The Immortal Wars”), Isaac Rhino (“Blood Runs Thick”), Meek Ruiz, Paul Tumpson, Nycolle Buss, Lordis DePiazza, Brittany Enos, and Brittany Hoza round out the cast.

So, does “Rust” make for good silver screen slashery? One would need to snake between the rough McLennan backstory that doesn’t clearly sink in, the whimsical premise of a teen meet-up and wander through an abandoned horror theme attraction, and the hollow characters to declare that “Rust” doesn’t make the cut across the throat. Finding reasons to be concerned for characters was at a great time nil because of their bland design with nothing to strive or live for in a complete and total arc-less folly of development. Perhaps the purest form of a slasher is in Travis McLennan’s brutality which warrants some positive lighting as a more machine than man killer, wearing a fleshy mask skinned from his father, as he hoards young women for his unknown kicks, but whether the funds weren’t in the budget or an artistic preference was applied, all the kills were mostly done off-screen and implied. There were a couple of knife blows to the head and the neck areas that barely had discernible quality that subjected no veering of the eyes or garnished any dread into the full brunt of the kill blow. Lujan pens an obscured rape scene that has more oomph than the killing itself. We’ve seen box store horror films with scream attractions before, such as like “Hell Fest,” and even some enticing independent ventures, such as “Talon Falls,” both of which have filled the need for urban myth, meta-horror – horror actually happening in a horror theme park – but most of these films don’t pan out as expected and “Rust” simply falls into that latter unfortunate category.

Right on the coattails of a third film comes “Rust” onto DVD home video courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing that’s presented not rated and in a full frame 16:9 aspect ratio that’s varies in quality being two shorts combined into one. “Rust” first half suffers from an extremely low bitrate so much so that you can see pinpoint each frame. The coloring is faded beyond the brown on a Las Vegas desert and, at times, difficult to discern exactly what’s happening mise-en-scene, especially in the darker scenes as you can see in the screencaps. The second half fairs better with a higher bitrate, smoother frame transitions, and a cleaner, less muddle twitching inside the frame. The English language dual channel stereo sound mix also splits the difference, most notably with a shield and muffled dialogue track being drowned out by ambient and the Eric Dryer’s score, a score that’s possibly a highlight in “Rust’s” legacy. Again, audio regains some control over the levels, providing more efficient range and depth but still can’t overcome of the powerful score. Bonus features include an interview with Joe Lujan about the fabrication from beginning to end of “Rust,” the original Rust 1 and 2 shorts, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. One bonus I was vying for was the Eric Dryer score, but no such luck. “Rust” might be more of tetanus hazard than a budding slasher ripe for the viewing, but director Joe Lujan has the potential if the filmmaker can chug foward gaining experience along the way and, perhaps, recap his Travis McLennan nightmare on a bigger, badder scale with a sharper machete.

“Rust” is included with Prime Video!

 

“Rust available on DVD”