An immigrant cabby named Luz stumbles dazed into a German police station, repeating a profane distortion of a religious prayer to a couple of baffled detectives. Meanwhile, in a nearby bar, a forwardly chatty woman is diving seductively into a spiel about her Catholic schoolgirl friend who just recently jumped out of her moving taxicab to a psychoanalysis specialist on the edge of his seat. Drunk enough to take advantage of, the Doctor falls for the woman’s alluring trap, beguiling him to do her bidding as an unwilling host. As the now possessed doctor arrives to evaluate Nora for the police, he instigates a hypnosis recreation of the details events leading up to Luz’s ravings and disillusions. What happens next goes beyond human comprehension and rational as the doctor desires more from the stupefied Luz than what meets the eye.
Undoubtedly a strong skiff of demonic peculiarity weathering forth against an unforgiving maelstrom of spiffy-glamourous and yacht-sized counterparts is Tilman Singer’s memorizing tale of demigod deception in “Luz.” As the German born filmmaker’s first written-and-directed full length feature film, a film school project shot entirely on 16mm color negative, Singer dazzles with a throwback grindhouse glow set ablaze with a neon flare that adds to the perilous seduction and violation of the mind and primal infatuation. “Luz’s” was filmed in Cologne, Germany, where Singer studied film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, during the production year of 2018 and saw success at various Germany festivals, including it’s debut at the Berlin Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Festival. The Academy of Media Arts Cologne also serves as the production company, as it was, after all, a school project, and listed as Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM).
“Luz” wouldn’t be what as staggering as it is if it wasn’t for the invested cast who brings Singer’s vision to the spectrum. Luana Velis’s seamless grasp of the editing has remarkable wealth when playing a disoriented cab driver coming in off the street and Velis as Luz, in the ebb and flow of reality when Dr. Rosinni (Jan Bluthardt) entrances her with a blend of hypnosis and psychoanalysis techniques, sustains character through various transitions present inside a large police board room, reality, and the subconscious recollection of places and events inside her mind that Singer constructions for visualization, not reality. Singer melds together places, people, and events, throwing audiences for loops and casting misleading signals and just where the hell our characters are gathered. Bluthardt is equally captivating post transformation, coming off like a calculated maniac, resolved in his wild role. Perhaps, my favorite of the cast list goes to Julia Riedler as Nora Vanderkurt, Luz’s icy former bedfellow from Catholic School who slithers into Dr. Rosinni’s ear like a bewitching asp while seeming like a normal bar patron, but Riedler’s spin on Vanderkurt breaks the construct beyond that of the sleazy barfly and into something more conniving, wicked, and alcohol infused while still steamy with sexual emissions. All three performances are keystones to “Luz” success while fellow cast mates Johannes Benecke, Lilli Lorenz, and Nadja Stubiger, offer some spot on support.
“Luz” summits fear with intrinsic performance art of hazy, but colorful, atmospherics and off-kilter shapes and lines, making the most routine settings feel unsettling. It’s a strong cinematography showcase by Paul Faltz who was able to frame and fright a scene from a sterile and fatigued, wood paneled office environment; essentially put, Faltz turned coal into a diamond while Singer brought a keg of European horror to the party. Unconventional, of course, with a profound arthouse quality about it, “Luz” is very much inspired by the European masters of horror, but pulls quite a bit from the vibrancy of American filmmaking too, pulling inspiration more noticeably from John Carpenter’s overwhelming sense of apocalyptic doom from such a scale down narrative and the terror looms like a chandelier hanging by a single thread just waiting from the startling crash of glass and metal. There are themes related Catholicism, homoeroticism, guilt, and obsession through the venomous innate nature of demon, as if unknowingly leaving an open invitation for evil by way of spiritual clairvoyance and Catholic defiance. Full of abstract visuals and melodious dialogue, “Luz” still burns the scary story lantern with a flickering of imminent existential combustion.
While the theatrical release has been officially canceled, “Luz” will still live on through the digital world, being released by Sharp Teeth Films, who released the POV slasher horror “You Are Not Alone,” on June 1st in the United Kingdom. With this being now a digital release, critiquing the audio and video quality will be limited to the artistic direction. Video-wise, Singer sought the use of a 16mm film stock with the speckle and grain texture of that beloved, yet enveloping imperfection and shooting in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, using an Arri Alexa and RED cameras that supported an anamorphic lenses. The result is phenomenal to digest with some serious depth when considering how small the sets are, turning mere pockets of space into the likes of grand ball rooms. The German, Spanish, and very little English dialogue tracks are clear and prominently abutted against a well adjusted ambience mix; in all, the audio package has good depth and range. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener. “Luz” is weird, mystifying, and can wriggle into your favor with a chilling essence taking a leisurely stroll along your back, propping up the hairs one strand at a time. Highly recommended.
Among the outskirts of Berlin lies a vacant and dilapidated Heilstätten hospital once used by the World War II Nazis to conducted “mercy deaths” for tuberculosis patients. Over the years, the hospital has remained dormant in its subsequent closure after the war and infamous labeled cursed and haunted during daytime tours, becoming the sole connection between instances of madness and murder through the decades. When a pair of YouTube pranksters and social media influencer gamble against each other on spending 24 hours inside the hospital for viral stardom to gain more followers, they’ll put the hospital’s paranormal notoriety to the test with the help of Heilstätten tour guide Theo as their access onto the grounds. With all the cameras set up and the stage set for an all-nighter spook show, their viral glory campaign becomes a malevolent presence’s bloodbath welcoming.
“Heilstätten,” also known as “Haunted Hospital: Heilstätten” under the North American market, is the gruesomely supernatural found footage horror film from “Potato Salad” director Michael David Pate. Pate, who also co-wrote the script with Ecki Ziedrich, helms his own perspective on the sanatorium (English term for Heilstätten) horror that offers more than just a phantom in hospital wings. Deranged and soulless Nazis performed immoral experiments on not just the Jewish people, but also sought to eradicate the sick for their feverish impurities, such as those afflicted with tuberculosis. “Heilstätten” pits history against the present in a egregious tone of respecting the past and diminishing the importance young social media influencers without a peck of smarts or appreciation.
The 2018 film stars “Tape_13’s” Sonja Gerhardt as Marnie, a social media star who records and implores people to face their worst faces, catching up with the group of YouTubers before they dig themselves deeper into their own graves. Gerhardt’s hard sell of her character doesn’t quite shape the sincerity in stopping the carnage before it happens as Marnie is the proverbial monkey wrench in the overnight blood bath. Marnie is drawn to Theo, an ex-lover that hasn’t quite severed her interests in him, played by Tim Oliver Schultz. As the tour guide breaking all the rules, Theo’s compulsion to help wavers on the idea of being just as renowned on the internet as those he’s helping, but there is more to meet the eye with Theo than the surface level material. The more complex characters revolve around the pranksters, Charly and Finn, played by Emilio Sakraya and Timmi Trinks, who become wedged by social media influencer Betty, Nilam Farooq. Charly’s strive for world wide web fandom drives him blind to the circumstances around him, especially when Finn and Betty become romantically involved, and despite Finn’s willingness to be part of the prank, his conscious breaks beyond Charly’s gimmicky barrier where lives actually do matter over stardom when people end up missing or dead at the hands of an ominous force. “Heilstätten” cast rounds out with Farina Flebbe, Maxine Kazis, Lisa Marie-Koroll, and Davis Schulz.
The trick about “Heilstätten’s” allure is the moments that the ghost film isn’t afraid of the blood and flesh bits founded upon a nicely laid foundation with the Nazis’ extermination activities and all the notorious lore surrounding a hospital. The hospital itself, Heilstätten, wasn’t created out of thin air just for the story sake. Pate and Ziedrick used the withering Beelitz Heilstätten as their base, utilizing actual historical facts, such as Adolf Hilter was treated at the hospital during World War I, to even further demonize the setting, but in reality, Beelitz Heilstätten rehabilitated the war wounded rather than mercy death the Tuberculosis-stricken. Yes, the hospital was Nazi occupied, but so did the Russians after the war. “Heilstätten” has rich backstory that basically breeds itself into a horror film. However, one aspect about what discourages “Heilstättens” effectiveness is the use of soundtrack for a found footage horror film. No found footage horror film should ever have a soundtrack that doesn’t add to the realism and renders the film more closely to William Malone’s “House on Haunted Hill” in more than one similarity.
Well Go USA Entertainment admits proudly Michael David Pate’s 20th Century Fox International produced “Heilstätten” onto a dual format, DVD and 1080p Blu-ray, release. The Region 1 and A, not rated film is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, that’s relatively free of problems. The second act shadows find definition hard to make out under the quick, stark edits, but the “Predator” heat vision is nice touch to liven things up when the darkness is as black as night. The German language DTS-HD Master Audio lives up to the supernatural maelstrom that cause the covers to be pulled up to your eyeballs with range and depth to personify the gloomy corridors and multi-level death snares. The hard-lined English subtitles are well synced and accurate and the release also offers up an English dub track. The DVD comes with an English language Dolby Digital track too. Bonus features a slim with a just a trailer to it’s name. “Heilstätten” is one effectively spooky, atmospherically creepy, and dreadfully engrossing good time with a full-bodied backstory topped with Blut und Eingeweide.
In the moments before attending a pool party, apparent strangers-to-acquaintances, a distinguished, if not quirky man and a promiscuous, self-involved German woman, withdraw to a secluded building in order for the brazen woman to shave the bikini line exposed excess hairs before strapping on a suit. Their intricately deep discussions about desires, sex, and kinky foreplay fair nothing more but course, blunt banter between two familiarities, but when the woman pretends she must be tied up and punished for playfully biting the man’s ear until bleeding, the next few moments after fall into a state of obscurity of a he said, she said rape accusation. As confounding declarations are made and fingers are being pointed to decimate lives, a sack of deceptions and an abundance of threats accrue through a blackmail scheme and an abduction based vendetta. Nothing can be certain and no one can be trusted between the two, but one thing is definite, a third man watching from afar has nefarious plans of his own.
Like sitting front row at a bastardized version of an off-broadway show, “Open Wound” is an immaculate stage performance of battered psychologies and visceral deceptions from writer-director Jürgen Weber. The thriller, also known as “Time Is Up” or “Open Wound: The Über-Movie,” measures extreme lengths of human bitterness while constantly shapeshifting into plot twist after plot twist aggregated with clusters of popup violence. The Chinese born Weng Menghan, under her moniker Tau Tau, is the financial backer of “Open Wound. The globetrotting author makes her breakthrough imprint into the feature film business that modestly begins with an opening scene about anal sex among other verbal sexual references before man versus woman fisticuffs and a pivoting third act that rapidly alters character compositions into, essentially, a free for all. So metaphorically speaking, a Chinese producer walks into a bar, sits onto a stool next to a German director, and orders one of the more absorbingly chic cocktail thrillers in English. “Open Wound” is a melting pot of cultural influences and a display damaged egos that’s simply brilliant.
“Open Wound” has a short character list comprised of three characters. The first is woman who is introduced first, or rather her lips do when she declares her love anal sex and the parallel criteria for types of cars in one man’s garage, as she’s using a straight razor to trim the dark haired pubes from her bikini line. She oozes eroticism like a bodily fluid that gravitationally seeps from between the legs, spilling innermost desires, whims, and historical sex-capades with in a philosophical prose. #Nippelstatthetze advocate, German podcast expert, and stunning model, Leila Lowfire engrosses herself into the role of fierce, proud, confident, and strong woman. With an established vigorous sexual prowess, Lowfire culminates the femme fatales and breakneck show-stoppers female roles, notably similar in Quentin Tarantino movies, with high-brow tastes and a debasing reprove. Lowfire’s accent is low and thick and can be considered her weakness here as getting your brain to interpret the fluidity of the words, structures, and compositions is undeniable challenging at times, but acts upon fervor while in her lingerie or even topless throughout the film. The contrast against man is stark. His introduction paints him as unequipped, socially inept, and hopeless desperate. Man longs for Woman, but knows he doesn’t have a chance with her until she offers up a random game of role-play that inevitably leads to disarray. Jerry Kwarteng’s man performance is systematically peerless and a complete joy. Even if the character lacks depth, Kwarteng’s range is devilishly good with the only comparison coming to mind would be James McAvoy and his multiple personality disorder in “Glass.” Once Man and Woman comes to terms after a back and forth bout with dominance, the Suicide King’s grand appearance bestows upon the plot an even bigger, clunkier monkey wrench. The Suicide King’s an ex-con, looking for revenge in a small vat of acid, and his mark and him have a long, complicated history which parts personally shock the other. Erik Hanson’s raspy voice, feeble appearing physique, and lofty age has a second row seat to his character’s unwillingness to die, in a slick performance that’s part nihilist and part psychotic to which Hansen pulls off.
Weber’s choice toward “Open Wound’s” narrative layout conflicts with how the DVD release is specifically marketed. “Open Wound” rides the dark comedy pine that is peppered with black tongue-and-cheek dialogue and violence and as will be noted later in the review, the advertising depicts something far more extreme and graphic. On the shock value scale of one to ten, “Open Wound” hovers around a solid five and maybe a seven or eight for the casual popcorn viewer and, personally, I don’t believe “Open Wound” was intended to be a source of utter distress and visual barbarity. There’s brisk lighthearted comedy that softens the blunt force. For example, in the room with the Man and Woman, a record player will every so often, to comically assist in explaining the actions, play the cheesy tune of lounge background music with a singer narrating the character’s every move and also be the voice of between chapter contention or bewilderment. The singing is privy to only the audience just as the twelve chapter titles that offer a mixed bag of sequences that interchange between English, German, and Chinese title introductions, a toilet paper title card in reverse action, and an artistic rendering of chapters titles and just like his title card introductions, Weber also utilizes an assortment of styles to tell his story, whether be a 5 minute sepia, nitrate film burn effect, or day dream sequence, that peers the sudden twists and eruptive chaos between the characters. While the effects work to sensationalize the context, they tend to be equally be nauseating and annoying as a disruptive structure that seemingly doesn’t make sense to the naked eye.
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing distributes Jürgen Weber’s “Open Wound” onto DVD home video as the the 11th spine feature under the Wild Eye Raw & Extreme sub-label. The DVD is presented in a widescreen format and the image quality holds up well, withstanding Weber’s bombardment of stylistic techniques of distortion, over exposure, sepia, and contrast. There’s a little softness around the skin, more noticeably during facial close ups, with a slightly lower bit rate in the compression but still very agreeable detail. The stereo two channel audio channel does the job, but has flaws with Weber’s score have an equal playing field with the dialogue tracks. The audience already has to manage Leila Lowfire’s thick German accent and their ears will also need to try and filter out the soundtrack that’s invasive upon the colloquy. Not much range to warrant mentioning, but the depth was well tweaked amongst Weber’s visual compliments. There are unfortunately no bonus material with the feature, but the DVD reversible insert is graced with a semi-naked and bound Leila Lowfire. “Open Wound” is dangerous, sexy, thrilling, and complicated to say the least, but stamped as a Raw & Extreme film it should not; however, see this film! Director Jürgen Weber’s visionary molotov cocktail of a story is an underground must for arthouse lovers and noir enthusiasts.
An absent Séverine wants to take a holiday away from her boyfriend Tom after she awakes from a dream where she has fallen in love with a man in a top open, white car. Frustrated and desperately in love with her, Tom agrees to a pact with a bar room stranger to stage a faux kidnapping of his lovely girlfriend and Tom would her hero, swooping in to rescue her from “evildoers” and hoping to rekindle her passion for him, but the Tom’s newfound stranger friend has a more devious agenda up his nicely tailored coat and white collared shirt sleeves; one that involves kidnapping young women to star in their snuff movie productions. When the plan begins the unravel and actual intentions are exposed, Séverine’s forced into a deadly cat-and-mouse game against unsympathetic sadists who have laid the prep work foundation into getting to know their victim and know every inch of her youthful body, but Séverine won’t submit without an unflinching, vicious fight as she trudges through areas of an old villa compound, looking for to escape or kill her captors.
If you search for a combination of the classic Hitchcockian style with a smidgen of cold blooded savagery, Mathieu Seiler’s “True Love Ways” would be at the top of the search result. The 2015 German, black and white thriller surpasses being a surprising sleeper film and goes directly into a notorious favorite category helmed by the Switzerland born director who integrates a complex lead character into an unfathomable story of selfishness, unscrupulous power, and sheer determination. Despite the sepia overlay, the colorful venomous of the characters explodes brilliantly, adding vim and vigor to a story that begins with a slow burn to quickly escalating in an anxiety-riddled and captivating narrative pivoting to one harrowing moment to the next. Seiler, who also wrote the script, blends a detailed art house thriller with feminist undertones that surface the severe ugliness in man whose either selfish with his needs, sexually deviant, or insecure. There’s even a case where Séverine’s father isn’t safe from being scrutinized. Séverine’s the strongest character in the bunch by overcoming one obstacle over another while managing each male driven situation with disregard and hostile improvisation.
Steering Séverine’s reactive and survivalist rampage is Berlin native Anna Hausburg. The then 25 year old actress embodies a major milestone in maturity for her physical performance. The entire film is driven by physicality, not dialogue, and Hausburg prove her grit and sexuality seemingly effortless. Hausburg is joined by Kai Michael Müller as Séverine’s unassertive husband Tom. Together, Hausburg and Müller couldn’t be more distant from each other while David C. Bunners interjects with a sly director of snuff film operations. Bunners has a modest performance, but if you accept it, let it sink in, you’ll experience his devilishly, rugged good looks and sophisticated business intelligences just ooze out into a white collar sleaze, perfectly suitable with Bunners’ method on his character. His production crew, played by Michael Greiling, Axel Hartwig, Beat Marti, and Marcel Schneider, are equally skeezy in a choreographic manner whom each have a role to play. Rounding out the cast is Christian Samuel Weber, Anja Margoni, Alina Sophia Wiegert, and Margarita Ruhl.
Seiler’s “True Love Ways” is open to many different interpretations. One that seems to bubble up over and over again in the analytical gear works is that could the entire ordeal, Séverine’s ordeal, be all a lie. Not just a single cell lie, but a couple of angles that undercut the linear option laid before the viewers. For instance, the first lie would be that the dark, heinous snuff producers are all in Séverine’s head. Too many coincidences from the specifics from her dreams to come true in such a manner and she always has this mysterious ailment, near the beginning, that’s never explicitly explained. Second lie would be is this Séverine embraces the darkness of her captors; is she herself unstable after the ordeal that the very sever boredom of regular life? The predictability of it all from her vivid dreams have turned her to seek the man who wants to exploit her and who “freed” her from the incompetent men in her life – Tom, her father, etc. Seiler’s abstract bookends shed light upon slithered clues that reveal potential possibilities of where Séverine’s stands as a hero or anti-hero lead character.
MVDVisual and Synergetic Distribution present “True Love Ways” onto home video DVD. Like the monochrome tone, the DVD cover is elegantly simple with blood covered Anna Hausburg, looking disheveled and holding a blood stained axe, standing in front of a white background encasing the 95 minute film. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the black and white appears absolutely timeless, especially with Mathieu Seiler’s directorial style. However, slight aliasing can be detected in fast paced scenes that liquify the detailing and there’s a bit of digital noise amongst the black objects, like the Old Villa door. The German 2.1 stereo has slightly lower fidelity, but has a still absolute and manageable to understand. There wasn’t really much to test for dialogue depth or range as the film progresses physically rather than with dialogue so many woodsy chase sequences, running through the Villa house, and cars speeding down an isolated road to which all ambient nicely enough. There are no extras included on this release. What starts out as a melodrama between a withering couple turns barbaric under a perennial style of filmmaking. “True Love Ways” provides two-tone carnage with some gore, some sexuality, and a lot of inhuman nature that signifies what’s great about this German indie picture with cascading undertones.
An ambivalent group of people are under the relentless rampaging attack of a half man, half bunny. Kidnapped and given an unknown chemical cocktail, one man looking for creative inspiration in a quiet snowy woodland becomes forced to be the object of experimentation by armed and dangerous thugs, transforming him into a vicious hybrid seeking only one desire…fresh pussy. Shredding through every single body who stands in the beast’s path, the chances of surviving the snowy night dims rapidly in the isolated Finnish Mountainside. Under the sheath of dirty fur, the unstoppable creature runs wildly with large limp genitalia flailing about, ready to stick it anywhere and into everyone with, what constitutes as, a fleshy hole.
“Bunny und sein Killerding,” otherwise known in English as “Bunny the Killer Thing,” is an insanely phallic and deranged creature feature with special needs under the madness of director Joonas Makkonen. Based off of Makkonen’s short film of the same name with a noticeably different storyline, both inhabit a mythically outlandish villain with a raging hard on and mouth agape to swallow any bulbous genitalia that’s ready for the taking. If you couldn’t tell already, Joonas Makkonen is a Finnish native and, thus, the film comes straight from Finland’s snowy landscape. München, Germany distribution company Tiberius Films releases Makkonne’s pet Bunny project onto a region 2 DVD given the reason for the German title “Bunny und sein Killerding.”
Makkonen’s unorthodox and unpredictable story scratches at being bold and unprecedented with a maniacal furry woodland animal while still being relative with the typical tropes when creating a horrific atmosphere. When dissecting what the director does best, not one character has been penned to stand above amongst the group that continues a revolving door of hero and heroine perceptions, opening up possibilities for each character on all fronts to come forth for glory. A killer bunny with a veiny stiffy looking for the freshest of the snatches doesn’t even explain the absurd juvenility that went through the creation of this film. Yet at the same time, something has to be said about the endless amount of sleazy enjoyment being had into the viewing experience. A slimy guilt residue overtakes just one piece more of your remaining morality and innocence every time Matti Kiviniemi, in a shamelessly shoddy adult bunny outfit, twirls clockwise the at least ten-inch lifelike dildo in such a menacing and manic manner that it makes turning away from the screen that much HARDer.
However, there’s plenty to dislike about this particular release and none of the negativity originates from the 2015 Finnish film. The Tiberius Films’ heavily edited treatment of this release has been reworked toward a more anti gun violence propaganda film rather than a bunny rocking out with a large cock out. About four minutes, most of it gun violence, has been purposefully omitted, resulting in a slew of choppy scenes that are attempting to piece together a coherent story. If you’re like me and never seen “Bunny the Killer Thing” before, then you may not know much better, construing a mental story about how foreign films sometimes just like to be too artsy. I did have an inkling that an edited disc was in my possession and I was unfortunately correct. The first two acts are passable in the reassembled manner, but the last act has been reduced to nothing more than shambles of it’s true, gory self and, disappointingly enough, the edit loses the required connectivity tissue needed to fire up the necessary neurons of associating scenes with one another. Pivotal scenes are harshly given the editorial boot to remove any type of explicit gun violence, leaving all overly graphic and icky parts of “Bunny und sein Killerding” involving firearms are solely on the Germany theatrical trailer.
“Bunny the Killer Thing” runs the horror comedy at an uncut 88 minutes, but the Tiberius Films upcoming Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray December release will clock in at a shocking 84 minutes. Fortunately, the DVD and Blu-ray will be presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a German and Finnish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a German DTS option. I won’t be able to critique either the audio or video qualities as I was sent a press screener only; however the Ari Savonen and Janne Andberg special effects and the creations by the visual effects teams along with Makkonen’s directorial style dares to be big production and reminds me a lot of what the Spierig brothers accomplished with their Aussie zombie film “Undead” in 2003. Bonus features consists of a theatrical trailer, behind the scenes featurette, and Makkonen’s 17-minute plus short film of the same title. A remarkable class act of Finland and British actors comprises the film’s lineup in this raunchy and violent horror comedy including a stunning, on-point beauty in Enni Ojutkangas, Jari Manninen, Orwi Manny Ameh, Veera W. Vilo, Roope Olenius, Hiski Hämäläinen, Vincent Tsang, Marcus Massey, Katja Jaskari, Olli Saarenpää, Maria Kunnari, and Matti Kiviniemi as Bunny the killer thing. British actors, you say? Yes! Much like the Bunny creature, the film’s a bit a hybrid itself when on the topic of dialogue. The DVD and Blu-ray will have German or Finland audio tracks with German subtitles, but the natural dialogue track will be a combination of Finnish and English! In conclusion, I watched the film, but, at the same time, I didn’t because of the extreme cuts, whether to discourage gun violence or for whatever reason, made to the original runtime that reduced the intended gruesome firefight ending to nothing more than incomprehensible scenes resembling an intense slap fight.