Obey EVIL’s Every Last Command! “Held” reviewed! (Magnolia Pictures / Digital Screener)

Emma and Henry Barrett celebrate their 9-year marriage anniversary by renting an isolated house complete with modern day automation bells and whistles. On the morning following their first night’s stay, they come to a horrifying realization someone was in the house and has displaced their clothing. As panic begins to set in and the couple try to flee, the house suddenly locks down, barring the windows and doors under the smart home controls, and a Voice commands them to obey every word in order to reveal devastating secrets and fix what’s broken in their splintered marriage by returning to antiquated ideas of a patriarchal system. Implanted with an electroshock device, Emma and Henry have no choice but to comply to every authoritative command, turning their romantic getaway into a house of wringing pawns.

Out of all of fight against misogynism and #MeToo inspired films that have been released in the last few years, Jill Awbrey’s scripted story is the most fascinating with an implausible overkill plot derived from, and this would be the scariest part, actual male frames of mind that were not systemically changed too long ago and are still ineradicably infesting a good chunk of male psyches today. The Fresno, California-shot film is entitled “Held,” a literally captivating suspense-thriller with whispers of James Wan’s “Saw” crisscrossed with, and I may get flak for this, Wes Craven’s “Scream.” “Held” is steered by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, directors of “The Gallows” and the subsequent “Act II”, with a follow up with edgy confines of a pintsize location embellished with hidden rooms and secret passageways bringing normalcy to the forefront of topsy-turvy inequity. Under Cluff and Lofing’s Tremendum Pictures banner, “Held” is also produced by the directors alongside Kyle Gentz and Cody Fletcher.

Jill Awbrey is not only the screenwriter of “Held” but also stars as the Emma Barrett, an internally traumatized woman weary of strange men asking none-of-their-business questions. Her feature film actress debut plays opposite of vet actor Bart Johnson. The television and “Simon Says” actor Johnson puts on his husband hat as Henry Barret frustrated and disheartened by Emma’s recent lack of intimate interest. All of the Henry’s resentment and Emma’s self-reproach fades away when the house comes down on top of them, literally, in a barrage of hidden spy cameras, an uncontrollable to them security system, and by an obscured voice coursing through various wall intercoms with ground rules and instructions. Before trouble finds them in the guise of a vacay rental, Awbrey and Johnson make a fairly convincing seasoned husband and wife with all the rapport familiarity trimmings; Awbrey instills a meekish quality that makes Emma reserved in not being assertive enough to help herself, a condition stemmed from a traumatic event in her past as the opening moment of “Held,” while Johnson follows Awbrey’s lead in an equally good job showing a nurturing and doting husband who wants nothing more than to take care of everything for his wife. When the panic sets in and the possibility of escape seems futile, Awbrey and Johnson have to use separate approaching methods and mindsets that become essential to “Held’s” time warp speeding male chauvinism undertones. The supporting cast is folded into “Held’s” firm two-lead narrative with precision story placement from Rez Kempton (“Stag Night of the Dead”) and Zack Gold (“Fear Lives Here”).

“Held” is a fight in hell for women who feel that there is life bares no choice in the matter, when their voice is silenced by fear, when the prospect of death is as strong as a masculine build, and when an atrocious past experience hinders personal growth. The commanding-to-demanding obedience tale freefalls from worse case scenario to the absolute worst case scenario of a clear cut redeeming need for change and to once and for all extinguish the old-fashioned binary thought of men being stronger, faster, smarter, better, and more dominate then women. Speaking of old-fashioned, Cluff and Lofing incorporate 1950s era technology, such as a tube television set, rotary phone, and computers with nobs and dials, into the vacation rentals’ futuristic hardware as a symbolizing blend of the seemingly evolved present day man being motivated and driven by antiquated thoughts. The filmmakers also work in nicely Awbrey’s misinterpretation of a Biblical paradise by parochial views by warping the fabled beginnings of man and woman for their own selfish desires. The plot point twist was uncomplicatedly easy to predict but wasn’t necessarily unwelcomed either as the turning point layered a crazy subplot involving a radical marketed and hairbrained scheme with such audacity it’s felt unbelievable. And there were a handful of select scenes that did feel unbelievable by computing more a comical reaction than a petrifying one as perhaps intended. What’s probably more even more of a quirk in “Held” is the script’s subdued dialogue that garnished with not one single obscenity, but the action, which includes multiple graphic stabbings, a self-surgery extraction, and one particular scene where Emma is choked slammed through a wall, conveys extreme intensity in a superficial imbalance with the dialogue. Underneath the tender discourse, “Held” has a crupper of brutal violence that never slips.

Those following Ephesians 5:22-24, reading wives should “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the LORD,” will find “Held” as a blasphemous counterattack of disobedience against the strong arming of a behind-the-times complementarian marriage. “Held” will be released by Magnolia Pictures as a Magnet released film, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a runtime of 94 minutes. The Frightfest 2020 film is a perfect union of imperfect times and feminism fight back and director of photography, Kyle Gentz (“The Gallows Act II,” “Zombies 2”) captures it all with a bright, nearly sterile, perspective full from closed circuit voyeurism, to aerial shots of isolation, and to shaky cam with flashing lights to produce ear splitting pain effect. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The Garden of Eden has been man and woman’s place of paradise and destruction but for Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s “Held,” the battle of the sexes is more barbaric than it is biblical when Adam’s machoism stakes claim to Eve’s forbidden fruit.

Pray EVIL Isn’t This Cruel. “Suffering Bible” reviewed! (Sub Rosa Studios/DVD)


Welcome to the Suffering Bible, a collection of violating and gory interpreted religious allegories digging into stark contrasts of sin and piety and illuminating the darker side of these allegories with a lacerating gruesome perspective. These short stories include the internal strife of a psychopaths strong urge for forbidden lesbian companionship with the contentious, bigoted teachings of finding forever friends inside God’s eyes, a visceral performing depiction of the Incredulity of St. Thomas, an extreme mortification of the flesh, the prideful consequences with a Devil’s pact, and the murderous portrayals of lost souls needing redemption into God’s good graces.

Right in time for the Easter holiday, where Jesus Christ has risen back from the dead for our salvation, comes Davide Pesca’s written and directed “Suffering Bible” of sinfully derived tales of reverent and irreverent perfervid images. The Italian made and produced anthology that’s a contexture of stories is forged together with a wraparound story of the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden apologue. “Suffering Bible” begins with a title card excerpt, Tear thy neighbor as thyself, from an unknown storyteller named saamang Ruinees with a skewed version of the second commandment, Love thy neighbor as thyself, subtly denouncing the evils in popular religious culture and then slithering them, not so subtly, into the shorts of those suffering at behest of the bible. Pesca’s shock efforts have come across ItsBlogginEvil.com’s radar once before with another short framed macabre tale, “Hemophobia,” from Artsploitation’s home distributed release of “A Taste of Phobia” anthology and “Hemophobia” is and feels more commercialized with less than salutary toward mutilation and variety body meat, but the filmmaker does fly on a parallel body horror plane and has had his shorts featured alongside with fellow Italian auteur and shock director, Domiziano Cristophario (“House of Flesh Manniquins,” “Red Krokodil”) with a more rudimentary, analogue-video-feel approach. “Suffering Bible” is self-produced by his independent production and distribution company – Demented Gore Productions.

Being an Italian made cast functioning on the performances grounds of a heel budget writing up about “Suffering Bible’s” actors and actresses past credits, influences, methods and so on is proving to be a challenging task. Most of the cast is comprised of alternative, half-naked women, such as Nicola Fugazza and Mary Rubes who are the sole credited on IMDB.com. Rubes, an erotic model, becomes “Suffering Bible’s” inadvertent poster girl that graces the Sub Rosa Studio’s DVD cover and static menu as her seductively deceptive solo performance of body and genital self-mutilation is the most unsettling story revolving around mortification of the flesh. Rubes has previously worked with Pesca on a 2017 short film entitled “Fame de Vampira,” which also co-stars Beata Walewska. Both Rubes and Walewska sizzle in the Italian action scene with “Rage Killers” by director Roger A. Fratter, who co-directed “Fame de Vampira.” As you can see, a casting inner circle is starting to form, but that’s the extent of the network with Simon Rocca, Simon Macleod, Catlin Strange, Pate Douce, Paolo Salvadeo, Emilio Stangalini, Paolo Borsa, Emanuela La Neve, Chiara Digonzelli, and Marilena Marmo.

On the surface, “Suffering Bible” has a unwieldly, pigeonhole affect that places the impervious shutters around one’s peepers and thinking cap for the pleasures of gore and nudity that run continuously rampant, but Davide Pesca has a connect-the-dot vision that aims to unveil the worst of religious culture, using graphic imagery in a reverse psychological and divinity experience that’s wildly novel inside a less commercialized parameters and the more I stew on this film, the more I like it. Without this review not seeming to be a theoretical paper on Davide Pesca and the “Suffering Bible,” examples of the filmmaker using gore as the pain and suffering vessel for those struggling to be closer to God can be modeled from the first short, “My Only God” aka “Friends Forever,” in which a woman stitches herself to her now dead friend to be closer to her, as if their friendship, which was severed insinuated by the dead woman, will continue in the afterlife. Same can be said about the last, if not more potently gristly, short, “The Redemption of Last Souls,” where a druggie, a terminal ill person, and a homeless man who has lost family connectivity have nothing left to lose, have lost faith, and seek redemption through being chair strapped subjects of a snuff film. While “My Only God” and “The Redemption of Lost Souls” caters to the barbaric rite of celestial passage, Davide Pesca’s specialty falls more within the lines of body horror as the filmmaker has saturated himself in the infatuation of the Body Modification culture, reflected in his “St. Thomas” and “In The Name of The Father” that include Doubting Thomas reaching protractedly into a crucified Jesus’s side slit and include the extreme mortification of the sinful flesh – eyes, breasts, and clitoris – by a devout devotee.

“Suffering Bible” is a throwback moxie livid on sin and body destruction and it’s a title coming to you on DVD home vide like a disastrous, break faith, miracle from SRS Home Video and MVDVisual. Though listed as a retro release by SRS, “Suffering Bible” released in 2018, shooting over the course of a few years prior more than likely, with a combination sepia-color approach and the result outputted a strained and digitally cursed image of a widescreen, 1.78:1 presentation that suffers from severe compression artifacts in conjunction with digital interference. The errs are absolved by the very label of a throwback “erotic art house horror” gracing the retro, faux-VHS DVD back cover. The single channel stereo has limited flexibility with some ostentatious, if not laughable, Foley work. Aside from a little dialogue in two of the shorts, “Suffering Bible” takes a vow of silence and speaks volumes in actions alone; this creative choice, along with some probable glitch art, saves much of the technical woes already plaguing Pesca’s stain on profane. The robust grunge-brood style of OKY’s prolong guitar distortions, delicate strum and percussion echoing, and reverse melodies bedazzles in a cathartic relief that no dense, run of the mill metal band is attached to the soundtrack. Special features include a short interview with Davide Pesca, which turned out to be more of a behind-the-scenes look at handful of shorts for the film, a lengthy ultra violent and gory showreel for Pesca’s “Tales from the Deep Hell,” and SRS trailers. More grimly poetic than sleazy gore-porn, the book of the “Suffering Bible” can open eyes to the unsettling infernal of holy virtue with transfixing horrid death rooms.

Shock, gore, profane! “Suffering Bible” DVD has it all!