Struggling woman filmmaker Zee Bronson is trying to make what she loves a supportive career. Smoking pot, drinking beer, and living with her grandmother Sam mellows out Bronson’s anxiety of potentially landing a writer-director’s gig one day. When her sleazy producer, Serge, closes a deal with an investor interested in her script, Zee eyes widen with excitement, but her premature celebration quickly turns sour when Serge notes the financer wants someone else to direct her screenplay. A vexed Zee turns to a weird email spam virus that has seemingly appropriated her computer to propose a game of life with superpowers or death. Convincing Serge into joining her, the two unwittingly open a diabolical portal that traps them inside the apartment, subjecting them to battling a demon and persuading them to kill one another. As their relationship dissolves slowly throughout the night, lines a drawn between friend and foe in order to escape the grip of a computer-commanding Game of Power.
There is bottom-of-the-barrel independent schlock done with very half-hearted inspiration and then there’s bottom-of-the-barrel independent film done with A for effort around a difficult to sell single-locale story that includes witty dialogue and humble homemade effects. Some of these mighty, homegrown indies stem from one ultra-eccentric Berlin, Germany physics and prehistoric archeology studied-turned-artful filmmaker Zetkin Yikilmis in her second written and directed feature, “Planet Zee.” Her B-movie, or should I say Z-movie, is the epitome of independent filmmaking in knowing the production’s limits and how to make the most of a film with what little material is available to use, such as a deluging cash flow for big budget grandstanding that’ll get your name on marquees, posters, and regional commercials. Instead, “Planet Zee” is very much meta love and confidence concept toward Zetkin Yikilmis herself, as the title implies, being a woman in a typically projected masculine dominated industry. Yikilmis follows up her sophomore film from an array of micro shorts and her 2019 released debut feature, “Some Smoke and a Red Locker,” incorporating elements of the stoner horror-comedy into her 2021 film that’s self-produced by Yikilmis and her cinematographer husband, Dominic, as well as longtime collaborator S.B. Goldberg.
Zetkin Yikilmis, obviously, stars as Zee Bronson, a bohemian screenwriter attempting her hand at filmic success while having her grandmother live with her in a small apartment. Having surveyed Yikilmis’s micro shorts, her droll act as stoner-chic Zee Bronson imitates far from her other self-applied roles with a sluggish repartee and often tinkering with slapstick with fellow costar Alexander Tsypilev as squalid producer Serge. Yikilmis and Tsypilev’s reconnection after “Some Smoke and a Red Locker” gives way to a natural onscreen dynamic that has experience role reversal, gender role reversal, and to test their association connection. With a tight-fitting shirt that flirts with exposing his slightly protruding belly, Serge fits swimmingly into the cesspool of sexist producers with Tyspilev crafting Serge’s slimy mold with little pinches of details toward the producers first-rate me-first attitude. While Bronson and Serge are the two chief residents of “Planet Zee,” there is often a forgotten third wheel who bookends the narrative. Sam, Zee’s elderly only in looks grandmother played by Trish Osmond who had a small role in Zack Snyder’s “Army of Thieves.” The 1944 born English actress bloomed late in her career that begin in 2014, but that doesn’t stop Osmond from being a dominating player of goodwill toward bizarre films and roles, especially playing ones involving an usually vigorous old woman with underlying uncanniness probably important to the story. Minor characters fill in the rest with small brushes with minor scenes from Roland Bialke and Michael Tietz.
Through the veneer of bare budget and puerile comedy, “Planet Zee” puts together a couple of ugly statements well versed like a stain amongst the film industry but only brought up more recently during the #MeToo movement and seen as ingrained into industry as par for the course. Yikilmis mentions in the dialogue that as a woman filmmaker she fears oppressive struggles in forming a passionate career in creating art, her art being satirical comedy-horror motion-pictures, insinuating female-driven aspirations are often squashed by misogynistic viewpoints akin to the British journalist and author Christopher Hutchinson’s claim that women are not funny because they are pretty and do not need to appeal to men through humor. Yikilmin writes pitting herself, as Zee Bronson, against a sleazy and dismissive producer who exploits her with pretense friendship, mirroring the real-life exploitation of certain long-standing, fundamental moguls who instead of being held responsible for distasteful chauvinistic corruption, held women’s careers in the palms of their hands with a conniving, convincing promise of blacklisted ruinous slander or unfounded gossip if unethical compliance to their advances were denied. In lighter terms of the film’s satire, Yikilmis uses the situation as an allegorical parallel of who really has control over the story – the creator or the producer. As the creator, Zee Bronson yearns to maintain creative rights in telling her tale whereas the producer gives into the meddling whims of the highest bidder, reaching for the dollar signs that illuminate over their eyes. Serge’s me-first persona during the game offers no collaboration as he literally pushes down Zee for the faint prospect of survival and causes more harm than beneficial good. Look past the stock electricity effect visuals, polished lens flares, and the cheaply made demon getups and you’ll see inside “Planet Zee’s” fiery core, a passively seething call to overcome the darker side of a biased film industry.
Explore the terrain of Zetkin Yikilmis’s “Planet Zee” now on Blu-ray home video a part of the Darkside Releasing, as feature #24 on their Darkside Collection line, and distributed by MVD Visual. Shot and released in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, “Planet Zee” isn’t breathtaking with nearly the full 97-minute runtime inside Zee’s tight apartment living room, aka Yikilmis apartment where many of her shorts were filmed, and so the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is overkill or wasted on nothing spectacular aside from the trippy wallpaper or the bone-curtain that linger the background. In truth, “Planet Zee” could have been shot in a 4:3 for better framing inside a vertical inclined ratio. The full high definition, 1080p output does look good in the details. The trippy-cladded apartment and warm toned outfits pop with robust color. Though not labeled on the Blu-ray back cover, the release offers a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix and despite being produced in Germany with Germany actors, the original language track is in English thick with a dialect accent but overall adequate and clean in delivering dialogue. Ambient effects often feel just as distant or separated from the visual trunk as their digitally rotoscoped onto the frame. Special features include a behind-the-scenes that actually isn’t anything relevant to behind-the-scenes material with a couple of rehearsed statements on set from Alexander Tsypilev pretending to be scared of Zetkin Yikilmis’s feigned dictator-like direction. Other bonus content includes a string through of Zetkin Yikilmis’s micro-shorts with Yikilmis serving as a host in between and a woman in horror trailer reel. “Planet Zee” is an unpretentious good time. Small, yes. Limited in budget, yes. Unknown cast, yes. Yet, where the film lacks with high dollar density it makes up for in free reign creativity and breezy humor that becomes a middle finger to inequality and duplicity.
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.
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.
Two killers are employed to do what they do best, to make a snuff tape. Brokering the deal is Brand, a middleman serving on the behalf of a unknown client and relaying the job’s details to his contracted filmmakers. The casted stars of their next production is a young pregnant woman who works at the home for the disabled and one of the residents, a 15-year-old deaf-mute girl who can’t utter a single sound due to her extreme incapacitated condition. Pretending to be making a documentary about the disabled, the two killers were able to gain the women’s trust, easily drug them, and move them to a secluded location where the sadistic torture and affectionless murder show begins.
Straight torture and gore with no cinematic style or undertone depth is not every moviegoers preferred cup of tea. For this gore hound, I can take it or leave it but would enjoy the darkest recesses of human sadisms and fantasies more if something was more germane to the reason for gore, but as far as Juval Marlon’s “Snuff Tape Massacre” is concerned, what you receive is a single perspective propelled by unsympathetic maliciousness, nihilism, and a taste for that metallic sweetness of blood. The Germans are fairly well known for their insensitive, uncouth, and extreme films from the likes of directors Olaf Ittanbach and Jörg Buttgereit. Does Juval Marlon have the blood and guts to be on the same level? His written and directed 60-minute independent feature, also known as “Stermgewehr,” (“rifle” in German), aims to be a gruesome shocker under Marlon’s own befitting Beheading Films banner.
Obviously, none of the following names will be a part of a familiar, household cast fixture. These types of gorging gore films usually have a small and conversant with each other cast of at approximately a hand full of willing actors and actresses to possibly mar, or better yet castrate, their acting aspirations with needless disturbing content that’s ironically overstated as well as understated. “Snuff Tape Massacre” has a total of five members in the cast and out of the five members, only one uses a first and last name. The others go essentially dark with their real or full names anonymous to the world because who would ever in their right mind want to be associated with a movie about a snuff film? Thomas Goersch is the only full name credited and the only actor who a respectable credit list. However, Goersch has had many publicly and critically panned low-rent features with “The Curse of the White Woman,” “Bloody Shadows,” and “Poltergeister Experiment” being just some of his most recent samples that fallen into the depths of unsalvageable dumpster fires (and this has perked my darkly morbid and unusual curiosity in bad, bad movies!). As businessman Brand, Goersch never gets his hands dirty, leaving the role and his name unscathed and to leave all death-dealings to his hired hands in a pair of automaton teenage terminators including the head Snuff Filmer (Navarro) and his unnamed companion on the trail of blood. At least Goersch has a bit of Bill Zebub underground star power in Germany, Navarro exists only in this film as the one of the two mostly shaded and masked killers who kidnap actresses Tanja and Maria V. to exploit. The ruse surrounding the kidnapping leaves what ever little effort there was to be, to make the ordeal more engaging and exciting, was left back on Brand’s phone call as the Snuff Filmer’s plan to be pseudo-interviewers for a documentary goes off without a hitch. Maria V. does find as an interviewee of a second-year social worker enthusiastic about helping but her fellow co-kidnappee in binds Tanja literally serves as a second body to humiliate, torture, and execute by two desensitized individuals that isn’t a far stretch from their rigid performances as high and tight killers.
The crux of the problem with “Snuff Tape Massacre” is that the movie is just too long. Right now, you’re sitting there, reading this, cross-eyed by confusion, and thinking to yourself, “Steven, didn’t you say this was a 60-minute movie?” The answer is, yes, I did say that, but Marlon’s previous work, of similar extreme fetishisms, have been short films and “Snuff Tape Massacre” feels very much like a short film that’s been mishappened by a rack, stretched beyond its limits to where the possibility of being recognized for what it is, an orthodox gore and shocker, no longer factors into the equation. Scenes run too long and are over kneaded to the point of losing its impactful rise. For instance, when the young 15-year-old mute-deaf girl is being threatened by the Snuff Filmer’s automatic rifle barrel as he stuffs it into her mouth in an unspoken, simulated act of fellatio, the scene drags on for minutes upon minutes. As aforementioned, “Stermgewehr” in Germain is rifle and so these scenes should have some significance importance but overall feels juvenile and executed with poor time management. Marlon obviously doesn’t have two Nickels to rub together to fund this film, using old compact, pocket-sized digital cameras to record the varying levels of video and audio quality, but the one thing us gore hunds can appreciate is the gore. We can certainly tell a fake leg, arm, and even penis when one comes on screen and “Snuff Tape Massacre” is not exempt from using more-so than obvious inner details with no arterial or vascular details whenever a leg or arm is chopped (or even sawed) off with a dull hatchet, but what can be admired is the seamless look of the leg and the arm to the actresses. We’re not talking about a mannequin’s appendages or a plastique digits here when the dragged-on interview has finally wrapped, and the real raw material begins with decent prosthetics and blood pumping mechanisms that squirt blood longer and for the duration. The most effective effect is dick-hole jab stuck on repeat until the snuffer hits what we all presume is the back off the prosthetic piece but in the back of our mind, we’re really thinking bone. It’s a crotch-grabbing, leg-crossing, dick mangling moment no guy will ever forget.
SRS Cinema is well-known for bringing schlocky shockers to the table under the guise of really fantastic and detailed artwork for the banner’s DVD covers. “Snuff Tape Massacre” is no exception here as Juval Marlon’s film is juicy enough to make the company’s Nightmare Fuel line with an unrated and extreme release presented in widescreen 1.85:1 (16:9) aspect ratio in a lower resolution of 720 pixels (due to the compact digital cameras). Though unable to tell what cameras are being utilized, there are two different cameras are being used based on the vast difference in picture compressions with one looking stronger and more detailed than the other. The onboard microphone for the English language dual channel stereo mix is a lossy MPEG audio format that really takes a hit with the inconsistent background noise and electronic interference with a straight hum throughout when Marlon’s industrial sampler score is not substituted for sole audio dominance. Like many other SRS titles, the only special features included are SRS trailers for their catalogue unless you count the aforesaid artwork design of an illustrated half-naked bathtub victim with eyes of kitchen knife-stricken terror as part of the special features package – see below. “Snuff Take Massacre” is considerably low for a repeat viewing, but there are enough scenes that will undoubtedly make you recoil and squirm and that, my gory compadres, is worth the sole price of admission.
Before the fall of the angel Lucifer, Premutos was the very first angel to fall from heaven. More wicked and desirous for power, Premutos resurrects legions of the undead to conquer mankind on Earth and throughout the centuries, the ruthless former angel of Hell casts his conduit son to build his army of the dead, but has failed again and again to squash the spirit of man into servitude submission, discarding Premutos back to the depths of Hell to try again at another time. This time being present day Germany when a young man discovers a book that chooses him to be the emissary of death, paving the way for the rebirth of Premutos, but an arms and ammunition’s enthusiast and his party guests must fight to survive and kill every last zombie and underworld creature thrown at them.
After having reviewed his 2010 existential horror “No Reason,” a need to dive into and experience more the splattering Armageddon of Olaf Ittenbach’s gore shows has been gnawing on my fairly acutely demented subconscious and this past week, I was fortunate enough to receive a newly released extended director’s cut of the director’s late nineties, pseudo creed, blood berserker “Premutos: The Fallen Angel” and get my corneas dirtied by its unholy high body count. Doom-estically translated from “Premutos – Der gefallene Engel” and more commonly known in the States as “Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead,” relies very little on the unrefined visual special effects that were going through a massive evolution with computer advancements pre the turn of the millennium. “Premutos” is a big practical effects enchilada with exploding bodies, gallons upon gallons of blood, and there’s even a real tank painting the walls and everything surrounding the walls red with a detonation of blood and gut splatter! Kaboom! Ittenbach mind-to-movie visualization goes from zero to 1,000 in a blink of a plucked-out eye and nothing stops the filmmaker from his warped creativity and comedy that can take the more puritanical few back a few steps and cause a ruckus of disgust. “Premutos” is produced by Ittenbach, stars Anke Fabré and André Stryi, and cinematographer Michael Müller with IMAS Filmproduktion serving as principal the production company.
“Premutos” begins with an epic epilogue, historizing the horrific mythos alongside equally horrifying visual components of Premuto’s death and destruction attempts to conquer man. When the history lesson ends a transition begins with Olaf Ittenbach himself as a bumbling mama’s boy Matthias coming across the ancient resurrection incantations of Premutos his gun nut father Walter (Christopher Stacey) unearths in his backyard. Ittenbach plays a wonderful pitiful thumb sucker in contrast to Stacey, who doesn’t look that much older to Ittenbach, as a rugged, hardnose, hard=working ammosexual. Before we can bask in what could have been a good diatribe, Matthias goes through a painfully metamorphosis of wrapping barbed wire and impaling steel rods to become Premuto’s death commencing son. Corpses exhume themselves and attack the living to form an army of the fleshing eating undead and descend upon Walter’s birthday party and his wide-ranging personalities in attendance with the snobbish and loud Tanja (Ella Wellmann), Walter’s oblivious wife Rosina (Heike Münstermann), the drunkard Christian (Fidelis Atuma), Hugo’s ex-love Edith (Anke Fabré), and Edith’s ex-love Hugo (André Stryi) who has gone into a meek shell as he marries Tanya to fill the gap in his heart Edith had left. The whole dynamic is an ostentatious display of vulgarity, a hyper overextension of behaviors that clash in one room before clashing with another over and beyond presences, beyond being the key word in being those beyond our plane of existence. A blood gushing fight for survival ensues as the partygoers become trapped and only Walter’s arsenal of weapons can blow away the undead into slimy bits of smithereens.
The closest movie Ittenbach’s “Premutos” reminds me of, with all the zany and quirky hijinks, insanely high body count, a geyser explosion of pouring down blood, and all the unbelievably bilious hoopla yet, all that nonsensical napalm draws you in like a moth to the sweet-smelling flame, is Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead.” “Premutos” has that exact same tactless tone and a soaking bloodbath quality with a major stark difference in the comedy style as Ittenbach leans more to a cruder-crass approach with setups involving boogers, penis injuries, and BDSM gags. Somewhere in there I want to say that’s typical German flare, to shock and disgust audiences with eye-adverting and head-turning taboos. The rest of Ittenbach’s is an up-and-down rollercoaster of highs and lows that begins with an expositional illustration, highly detailed and greatly edited, to showcase Premutos’ barbaric backstory up until the title card “Premutos” to where we’re dumped into half-assed cosplay battles still rendering excellent practical effect kills. Ittenbach is supposed to play a man, or rather a man-child, who is the reincarnated wicked herald who begins the end of days for his dark master, Pemutos., but the way Ittenbach structures the aforesaid concept falls upon more experimental means than literal ones and Matthias randomly succumbs to flashbacks of a former life in what looks like medieval times or maybe even early 20th century Europe – hard to tell – where he’s persecuted without reasonable justification until he turns into a large snaggle tooth and demonic monster in his visions. The latter half is where all the action is at with a horde of zombies laying sieged to a ragtag bunch of Germans drinking beer and ridiculing each other. Somewhere in there is also the rekindle of a former love life between Hugo and Edith who have to first regain their lost backbone in a rampage of mowing down the dead by any means possible before the two love-struck lovers rekindle a long-thought-lost relationship. That struggle is Ittenbach’s, about as elegant as he knows how to be, show of an obstacle between the power of love, to put the world facing the destruction of slavery in their path to deliver a blood, sweat, and tears of flesh robust connection of attraction between them that can’t be stopped.
ItsBlogginEvil says check it out, the extended director’s cut of “Premutos: The Fallen Angel” on a 2-disc Blu-ray released by Unearthed Films and distributed from MVD Visual. Coming in at number 6 on the Unearthed Classics banner, “Premutos” is neatly packed and presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a region A BD50. Full high definition and 1080p specs apply to the now 24-year-old feature shot on an Arriflex with 16mm stock and the results are immaculate from a pristine transfer. Palpable, yet palatable, amount of grain over top a sustainable image that sees almost zero artefact issues and the tactile textures are greatly fine in the details. Hues don’t exactly pop but display more naturally up until Ittenbach’s gothic and surreal side envelopes him into the swirling of smoke and backlighting to create otherworldly glows and Cenobite-like torments. The release comes with two audio options: a German DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound and a German 2.0 PCM. The 5.1 has excellent fidelity and outputs a work into all channels as the background chattering, especially in the bar scene, gives off the sensation that people are talking behind you. That signal flows every explosion and weapon discharge with strength and prevalence throughout. Dialogue is also strong and prevalent despite much of the gibberish that comes out of the characters’ mouths. English subtitles are available and sync well with accuracy intact but can be fleeting at times and hard to keep up with. The second disc is a compact disc of A.G. Striedl soundtrack which I found to be the most disappointing and lossy aspect in listening to lo-fi grunge and hard rock that provides no boost to chaos on screen. Other special features included on the Blu-ray alone are the original cut of the film with an English dub and original German language, the extended making of “Premutos,” the early years of Olaf Ittenbach, a photo gallery, and trailers all stowed inside a new cardboard slipcover. “Premutos” may be soaking in its meaningless, hellish narrative but it’s an unforgettable slaughter-ride through body, blood, and bone, a genuine practical effects wet dream made into gruesome reality and keeps surprising you at every frame.
A.I. terminates their dependency from its creators and war has ravaged mankind as armed to the teeth, towering tripod machines and maneuverable mechanical air vessels are locked onto a search and destroy mode, targeting all human life. To avoid and evade detection, survivors must keep quiet as the machines hunt by sound and use the limited technology available to protect themselves. That’s how one military combat soldier has been surviving after deserting his overran and decimated post before bumping into enraged civilian resistance fighter who’s determined to strike back with a fatal blow in a heavy causality and seemingly unwinnable war against the merciless machines. When the civilian determines a way to stop the machines with a salvaged nuclear device, the deserter must decide whether to keep meagerly living in the shadows or sacrifice everything for humanity.
“The Terminator” meets “A Quiet Place” meets “War of the Worlds” in this German produced independent science-fiction battlefront thriller, “A New World Order,” as the Berlin born Daniel Raboldt ‘s first feature length directorial. Raboldt pens an action heavy story with only two lines of dialogue alongside fellow short film partner, Thomas Franzen, following their developments of satirical and puppeteer-propped comedies of the web series “Tubeheads” and their short film “Furple Reign,” with Raboldt having been in the writer-director chair for both and Franzen as part of the crew on both projects with a role in the art department and constructing cinematographically shots as DoP. Alternatively known more worldwide by the original title, “A Living Dog,” as I assume in the idiomatic expression of a dog’s life of sorrow and hunger, the Finland shot “A New World Order” is a production of Raboldt and Franzen’s Nocturnus Film that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which raised over €12,085 by patrons from its €10,000 goal.
With just over €12,000, pocket change like that can’t afford you megastars Tom Cruise or Emily Blunt, but can buy superb unknowns with heart in their lead roles. Such as the case with Stefan Ebel and Siri Nase as Tomazs and Lilja, two unlike survivors of machine dominated cataclysm with distinct positions on where they stand in their war-torn world. There’s no short change in performances that warrant Ebel and Nase to feign the presence of large and looming cybernetic tripods that vaporize humans to dust upon sound. “A New World Order” seems gimmicky with the absence of dialogue, but I think it’s more tricky to act against a computer generated special effect, much like Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s inventive terror playing against actors or stuntmen in motion capturing suits. Raboldt and his team more than likely did not have access to or have funds for motion capturing suits. Instead, the actors engaged imagination, creativity, and relied on their experience and training, such stage crafting from Theater der Keller in Cologne where Siri Nase performed from 2007 to 2011. Ebel makes his on screen debut by diving into the complexed Tomasz, a deserter just trying to survive over top anything else, and Tomasz comes across pitched perfectly desperate and paranoid while being borderline selfish with a sheathed good nature heart lying in wait. Aside from bit roles of human refugees and characters in flashbacks, the two leads embody the entire cast list.
“A New World Order” derives and parallels from a variety of iconic Sci-Fi cinematic inspirations, but at the core, Raboldt courses a theme of repelling human behavioral reactions toward a major calamitic event and threat through the current wartime arterial capillaries, unclogging the blockage between Tomasz’s tail between his leg survival approach and Lilja’s reckless desperation to destroy the machines on her own to form a unity of calculated patience to not only stab revenge into the soulless machines, but also maybe, just maybe, live through obliteration. Yet, Raboldt misses the mark slightly by having too late the characters circle back and fix what’s broken with themselves, leaving mere morsels to mend before one character’s arc ends before it can even fully begin. There’s also the no dialogue gimmick/aspect/touch, whatever is your opinion to label it, that fails to naturally flourish because unlike “A Quiet Place” where “A New World Order” only indulges the more character-driven drama, the fiery back and forth dogfight delivers empty promises due to budget constraints, resembling more along the lines of Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” in its distant tone with a delimited appearance, but with a film that has nearly no dialogue, the action should be guaranteed in your face, heart-racing, and on the edge of your seat to compensate. “A New World Order” whittles down the hero concept, peeling off the rotten layers that make us weak and defenseless alone, to unearth the perfect kill switch on the machines to save Earth for humanity.
Don’t speak if you want to live in “A New World Order” now on DVD home video from Reel 2 Reel Films (R2R) in the UK. The Region 2, PAL encoded, DVD5 presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen 2:40:1 aspect ratio under a 15 rating for strong violence and bloody images. The violence is more the lasers vaporizing people to smoke in Thomas Franzen’s landscape assemblage of Finland foliage that becomes the base layer to Raboldt and his visual effects crew CGI monstrosities and rotoscoping composites that make “A New World Order” feel like a science fiction graphic novel. Blacks are starkly deep, but there’s no awestriking visual pops to really juxtapose with in a bleak color reduction to reflect bleak war. Details are not spectacular in this 720p format, but do the job in reality rather than in a rotoscope flashback. The English Language Dolby Digital stereo AC3, surround sound 5.1 mix, can kick hard when lulls in the character stories are because the kill bots has made audible contact and “A New World Order” is a LFE machine, pun intended, as the nuts and bolts hunters blare in vast quantities their resonating automaton bellow. Since this is a DVD5 with a feature running at 94 minutes, there is no room for special features to speak to, leaving just the antistatic menu and a white snapper case. “A New World Order” is a big concept on a little budget, but for director Daniel Raboldt, a new world spawns a man versus machine campaign from inspirational passions and ideas into understanding which innate reaction is an internal struggle to embrace with all that you have or to die by with little you have left.