EVIL Rap-A-Tap-Taps on its Little Drum. “Caveat” reviewed! (Acorn International Media / Blu-ray)

You’ve Been Warned to Watch “Caveat” on Blu-ray from Acorn Media!

Recently discharged from the hospital after an experience with a nasty fall, Isaac suffers from severe memory loss.  In need of money, he reluctantly accepts a caretaker job from his landlord Barrett who hires him to oversee a traumatized and catatonic spell-ridden niece Olga living in a ramshackle island house.  When Isaac arrives for his five day, $200 per night stay, he’s convinced by Barret to wear a chained harness that limits his access to certain rooms of the house.  Before long, on the very first night, memories of his past begin to flood back when Olga tells him he’s been at this house before, cascading an overwhelming sense of danger over him when the thought of Olga and Barret scheming together at his expense.  As past contracts boil to the surface and the fight for survival extends into the next day, a long thought vanished player lies and waits for the perfect opportunity to resurrect. 

If offered to be the sole caretaker of an unstable teenager four five days the suicidal death of her father and the disappearance of her crazy mother, located on isolated island surrounded by a deep lake only traversable by rowboat, strapped inside a chest harness with a long chain stretching into the basement where its tethered, having brought no food or clothing, and the house is a complete rundown disaster filled with austere essentials and a filthy, menacing rabbit toy that rap-a-tats on a drum when the air is thick of a supernatural presence, would you take the job?  If the answer is yes, then Damian McCarthy’s “Caveat” is the right film for you and you also might want to see a psychotherapist, immediately.  McCarthy debut feature film directorial, as well as the writer is, a supernatural-psychological thriller of existential context about who we really are as a person.  The UK film is released as the first production by the independent filmmaking studio HyneSight Fims, produced by Justin Hyne, and credits executive producers in Tom Black and Mirella Reznic.

A person would have to be out of their right mind to agree to every single warning flag about this situational premise.  In fact, Isaac, a character recovering from head trauma that resulted in short term memory loss, would seem to be the ideal candidate.  Irish actor Jonathan French plays the scruffy-looking Isaac and with little backstory to go upon first meet, we’re stuck with French’s face splayed stuck lost and confused for most of the duration that’s a simultaneous ride for the audience who jump right into first talks of caretaking agreement without living, experience, and visualizing much of anything else before then but in the first instance meeting the man with a radical beard, Isaac is obviously not a long-shore fisherman and is also seems to be mindfully altogether and rational, if not very acute, about with what’s happening around him.   French doesn’t play a brain damaged invalid; instead, Isaac goes reluctantly with the flow as a rather poorly written gawk who thinks giving into another man’s intention of being strapped into a S&M vest is okay and left to rightfully care for a more true-to-form mental case on any level. The further the introduction is into Isaac’s odd assignment, the more we wonder why the hell isn’t he about facing and running across that barrier lake like Christ himself. That other man is Moe Barrett (Ben Caplan, “Band of Brothers“) who also strolls onto the scene in the beginnings of conversing with Isaac as if old pals and though Caplan is very good at Barrett’s normal and persuasive spiels without a hint of abhorrent creepiness behavior, Isaac’s so gullible to a fault that it kills that need for deliverance from protagonists to try their best to avoid an unfavorable situation when they see one. Leila Sykes fills out the main trio as Olga, the on-and-off catatonic teenage niece of Barrett. Again, something’s missing from the character development much in the same way as Isaac. Olga’s just living, if you can call it that, out of her absent parents’ house. Each one of these characters feels abstract, much like the narrative’s story and structure, to offer only incremental oddities one grain at a time to be not too invested in whatever else that might distract from “Caveat’s” mystery.

“Caveat,” by the way, is a warning and is the catch that makes Barrett’s deal of $200 per day for five days to watch over his nice seem too good to be true and, honestly, the rabbit hole Isaac doesn’t heed and scuttles down into as being the loose end saw tied up by a transgressor’s flimsy, kooky plan would have been enough to suffice. McCarthy adds another element to the already rough patch of this malicious thriller with an unnecessary, but highly effective, supernatural elements involving a menacing in appearance, drum-rapping, toy rabbit (or is it a hare?) that acts like a bizarro-Toys’R’Us PKE meter and a smiling dead body that has its grand jump moment near the end of the film. These devices are uncomfortably odd, undoubtedly scary, and sorely used too little despite the drumming rabbit’s home release front cover spread. There’s also this perfect circle motif present throughout the story – a front door port hole, a hole cut in dry wall that becomes an important barrier see-through, and Olga’s crazy mother draws white circles on black paper, plus other examples – which, to me, indicates the proverb what comes around, goes around with who commits evil, receives it in the end and visa-versa. McCarthy’s suspense building moments within the gloomy rundown house can leave one peak through the slithered opening between a pair of hands over the eyes. However, McCarthy leans more into the Isaac’s dire dilemma and keystone past which I think comes back to easily. The entire time he wanders the premises, nothing strikes him with familiarity, nothing invokes a recollection, and yet, as soon as it’s mentioned he’s been the house before – circa 1 year ago – a rush of linear memory comes crashing back into flashback frames and everything up to this point is explained during a Mexican standoff with Olga. “Caveat’s” second act dredges slowly along, disinterring up backstory to quickly wrap up Isaac into a neat little package.

Briming with darkness and wrenching with fear, “Caveat” is this strange and unusual angle of reading the signs more carefully, but also stirs in anamnesis to help reign in who we really are and to distance ourselves from the person we were previously. Acorn Media International and Shudder deliver “Caveat” onto a PAL encoded, region B Blu-ray home video in full high definition,1080p resolution, presented in a cinemascope anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. McCarthy and cinematographer Kieran Fitzgerald reel in the wider resolution for tighter shots, keeping the quality contained and detailed within the house’s decrepit interiors and the characters’ textural contrasting between skin and clothing. McCarthy opts out of gel use for night sequences, casting a real stark darkness over everything with only thin outline to express action. Audio is lively enough for the ow level action on “Caveat’s” English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix.  “Caveat” relies heavily on the combination of dead silence and the building instrumentation that resonates reverberations in a soundtrack composed Richard G. Mitchell who knows a thing or two about elevating intensity through his diverse career.  Sound design plays into perfectly the silence as timed precise ambient noise, such as creaking wood under footsteps or the mechanical movements of the bunny, add to “Caveat’s” chilling charm.  The film is UK certified 15 for strong horror, violence injury detail, and domestic abuse with a runtime of 88 minutes.  The Blu-ray is accompanied with two audio commentaries in the special features – a director’s commentary and a producer’s commentary – as well as a split screen between the crude storyboards and the scenes they represent.  There are no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Frankly, and I hate to say this, but the direction “Caveat” went was a bit of a letdown as the hope to extend upon Olga’s mother, a possible practitioner of black magic, but that’s not to say Damian McCarthy’s first feature crashed and burned in the utmost of failures.  “Caveat” is still very much a well-made, you’ve-been-warned, harrowing scare tale that raises every single small hair on the back of your neck.

You’ve Been Warned to Watch “Caveat” on Blu-ray from Acorn Media!

EVIL Cowboys Up! “Ghostriders” reviewed! (Verdugo Entertainment / Blu-ray)

A small Texas town in 1887 took lynch mob tactics upon a jailed outlaw Frank Clements after a prominent resident and his family were slain.  In a last-ditch effort to save their gang boss, Clements’ men come in guns blazing but mob leader, the Reverend Thadeous Sutton, pulls the gallows lever to send Frank Clements to his doom.  Fast forward 100 years later to 1987, renowned historian Professor Jim Sutton researches the notorious murdering bandit, even owning a piece of Clements’ property with a cursed sawed-off double barrel shotgun, but the 100th year anniversary delivers good on the Clements’ curse as he and his men return from the dead and gun down all in the rural Texas backland.  Walking into a supernatural showdown with the undead is the professor’s son Hampton and his friends on a road trip to his father’s isolated estate where surviving the night of continuously respawning malevolent six-shooters will seemingly never happen.

Ghost cowboys.  That small and obscure piece of particular subgenre stemmed from the broad western horror pie can be and has been a hard product to peddle, bucking audiences off its hind side faster than a mechanical bull full of amateur rodeo saddlers.  Think about it.  Can one even name a handful of horror westerns involving cowboys, especially gunslingers back from the grave?  There’s Lee Vervoort “Gun Town” that’s more of a saloon town slasher.   “Ghost Brigade” might be the closer to the theme with Civil War soldiers possessed by evil voodoo spirits.  However, the relatively unknown TV movie “Ghost Town” from 2009, surrounding a group of college students pursued by ghostly outlaws in an abandoned western town, hits the nail on the head.  Again, these titles are rare and if you find one that does exists, more than likely the film’s a waste of cinematic space.  In any case, if you’re hellbent on a decent gunslinging ghoul film, Alan Stewart’s “Ghostriders” will saddle up just nicely.  Penned by Clay McBride (“Ghetto Blaster”) and James Desmarais (“Victim of Love”), the debut film of Alan Stewart resurrected a ruthless gang of gunslingers for pure retribution set on location at the Texas Safari Ranch in Clifton, Texas and was self-produced by Stewart, under Alan L. Steward Productions, along with fellow producers in cinematographer Thomas Callaway, who went on to be the DoP of “Slumber Party Massacre II” and “Deep Blue Sea 2,” as well as composer Frank Patterson, and Alan’s wife/production manager Susan Stewart. 

As you’ve probably noticed, the “Ghostriders” crew is small and wears many large brimmed hats by engaging themselves deeply into this 1987 released indie production.  Same can be certainly said about the cast.  Actor turned stunt man Bill Shaw was booked for dual performances between two characters stretching 100 years apart with the zealous Reverend Thadeous Sutton and the reverend’s grandchild, professor Jim Sutton.  The ancillary gunfighters, led by Frank Clements himself, Mike Ammons, are actually members of a roadside replica of a wild west town.  The actors, trained to shoot revolvers, take fake bullet hits, and learn to be rootin-tootin’ cowboys and townsfolk, took to the camera’s key antagonist roles that required them to also do some stunt work.  When considering the other cast, “Ghostriders” struggles to emerge a lead out of the various roles.  In the role of Professor’s Sutton’s son, Hampton, Jim Peters’ often subtle comedic timing, towering stature, and his cool-and-calm intellect as a stunt pilot points to lead man material, yet there are elements and qualities surrounding his young adopted sidekick Cory, played by Ricky Long, who went on to have a very long and extensive career working on the purple dinosaur kid show “Barney,” that qualifies the often inept and lovesick grease monkey to Hampton’s stunt planes as another candidate for lead man.  Even Bill Shaw could be considered principal.  Either way, for an 80’s flick, “Ghostriders” campy characters and dialogue flatten whatever substance McBride and Desmarais tries to wedge into their narrative.  Whether be the tragic bond that glues Hampton and Cory’s strong friendship or Cory’s inability to read his recent court Pam (Cari Powell) and her fascination toward Hampton, those moments of human depth are cannibalized by “Ghostriders’” round’em-up, shoot’em-down gang of ghosts.

Alan Stewart’s “Ghostriders” might be an intelligible film, but it’s certainly not an intellectual one due to budget and inexperience complications.  Pacing is good with the historical backstory opening transitioning into the present’s continued lawlessness of curse-resurrected 19th century killers after building up the prominent players with depth and humanism in order for us to care about their plight, but also in regard to the characters, there’s much left unsaid and undone to nearly every role for a complete and justifiable narrative arc.  Point in case, Clements and his gang’s ability to return 100 years after the hangman’s knot tightened around their throats goes very much unexplained along with their connection to Clements’ shotgun that seemingly holds the key to their supernatural slaying.  A lack of essence towards the titular antagonists’ return from the pine box to wreak havoc on the Sutton bloodline really has no merit to stand on, leaving a void in the crux that doesn’t serve well within the parameters of an imagination reasoning.  We need some sort of resolution for Clements return, whether it’s a deal with the Devil or perhaps stolen Native American necromancy rituals used to cheat an outlaw’s own foretelling of death, to make sense of the senseless driven chaos because, as far as we’re shown, Clements and his gang are no more than just abnormal bad dudes doing normal bad dude things.  “Ghostriders” also won’t knock your boots off with high dollar special effects.  There’s some superimposing of people and items disappearing and some solid stunt work (again – some of these hombres are moonlight as stunt people), but the most impressive practical special effects used are the blood squibs.  If you like firecracker pops making craters and spurting blood off of bodies, “Ghostriders” has you covered with plenty of squibs with a select few in slow-motion.  

“Ghostriders” rides into the black sunset with a rare cowboy horror from Alan Stewart and the film is receiving new life on an unrated Blu-ray from Verdugo Entertainment and MVD Visual.  Verdugo Entertainment’s an independent cult film distributor seeking to release forgotten retro features of the 70s and 80s, centralizing themselves mainly around westerns, horror, or in this case, a blend of both.   The region free Blu-ray converts the 16mm A & B negative into a 4K scan resolution that maintains impeccable image quality with little to fuss about, such as extremely faint and seldom vertical scratches.  There wasn’t any noticed forced enhancement or cropping which provides logical evidence to a pristine original negative. Though the original English language mono soundtrack bears the same unblemished qualities as the video, the difference lies within the soundtrack’s weak decibel levels that leaves the dialogue corridor stuffy and muddled behind a curtain a fairly perceivable static interference through the duration. The release labels the audio as remastered, and I’m certain the audio was spruced up from a worser quality, resulting in a much more palpable and persistent outcome that works at your attention rather than leaving caution to the wind. Verdugo offers up a nice selection of special features with an audio commentary with cinematographer-producer Thomas L. Calloway, writer-producer James Desmarais, and moderator Steve Latshaw, a brand-new original documentary “Bringing Out the Ghosts: The Making of “Ghostriders” with Desmarais and Calloway recollecting memories of being on set and talking about the cast and crew, an archived documentary “Low Budget Films: On the Set of “Ghostriders” is a Baylor University funded vintage doc about the makings of independent film, more so about this particular one, feature stills and behind-the-scenes photo gallery, the original trailer, and a new reissued trailer, which you can see below, all packaged nicely in a Blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcover with a cheeky illustration of three skeleton desperados cladded in cowboy attire and brandishing Winchester rifles. Nowhere near what the film is like but the comicbook-esque cover is eye-catching and whimsical enough to draw you in. Verdugo Entertainment could have easily chewed up this unknown cult film and spat it out with cheap distribution ease into the marketplace spittoon. Yet, the indie distributor dressed the late Alan Stewart film with respect, properly showcasing a neater, cleaner, and far from forgotten meaner spirited square off against the living and the dead.

Tune In to EVIL’s Frequency. “99.9” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

Lara, a paranormal radio show host, learns her close friend and former lover has been tragically killed in an accident at small village of Jimena.  Determined to find out what happened after a mysteriously mailed tape unveils disturbing images of her friend, Lara travels to Jimena to investigate the accident she believes was intentional.  Entangled amongst the village’s strange residents, suspicions are high on just about everyone who had contact with the deceased, but Lara is certain about one thing, at the center of her investigation is an abandoned house with a ghastly urban legend, afflicted by the entombment of murdered women and children souls and, one-by-one, the faces of the torture souls are manifestly etched out from within the walls onto the surface.  As Lara inches closer to the truth of her friend’s research of the phenomenon, the shocking truth will reveal a dark power trying to keep the house’s secrets contained.

Estranged lover.  Tortured souls.  Witchcraft.  Secret experiments.  Murder mystery.  Agustí Villaronga’s “99.9” depicts a loaded, shrouded ethereal thriller with a thin translucent layer of homosexuality draped over so delicately you almost don’t realize the Spanish filmmaker’s subtle exhibition of lifestyle exile.  The 1997 film, also known as “99.9:  The Frequency of Terror,” a subtitle moved from the main title to tagline status, is shot primarily in Madrid as well as certain exterior shots in La Vereda, Guadalajara to provide the intimate essence of a small village’s ever-watching glower.  Villaronga, along with cowriters Lourdes Iglesias and Jesús Regueira, stitch an argyle style narrative sweater of consistent checkered behavior inside an ostentatious presentation of simmering hostility toward foreigners and homosexuals, stirring an isolating heroine into a mixture of local animus and lingering occultism.   “The Black Moon” and “Ninth Gate” executive producer Antonio Cardenal solely funds “99.9” and with Impala and Origen Producciones Cinematograficas serving as co-productions. 

Bearing most of the story’s weight is lead actress María Barranco (“Witching and Bitching”) in an unfamiliar to her thriller role polar opposite of her profound previous work as a comedienne in the vocational genre.  Yet, Barranco grabs the role with undue hesitation or eager to professional please Villaronga with her character entering a spurning atmosphere seething with mistrust and ill-intent.  Playing a single mother enduring the unknown status of her estranged lover, also the father of her fatherless child, it isn’t until a package containing a VHS tape of mostly recorded static and a naked man, her estranged lover Victor (Gustavo Salmerón, “V/H/S Viral”), briefly seen fleeing for his life instills a strong uncompromising need to find the truth.  Barranco captures being rocked and shaken by Victor’s footage so much so that her tension and fear contagiously transmit to the viewer and that hardly lets up in a deluge of suspicious and dread curiousness compelling her to investigate the gruff and oddly civil villagers.  One of those village inhabitants, Juan Márquez, reeks of nervous energy that’s poured into his hunky local mechanic Mauri who becomes the mystery’s weakest link amongst the unbreakable locals, especially under the rigid impatience of Mauri’s girlfriend Julia (Ruth Gabriel), house owner Lázaro (Ángel de Andrés López, “Sexy Killer: You’ll Die for Her “), and the creepy committed bruha mother Dolores (Terele Pávez, “The Day of the Beast,” “Witching and Bitching”).  Pávez stamps her presence into “99.9’s” grim resolve that links Dolores to the souls trapped in the house with fanatical obsession.  The cast rounds out with Simón Andreu (“Flesh+Blood”), Pedro Mari Sánchez (“Creation of the Damned”), Maite Brik, and Paula Soldevila (“Immortal Sins”).

If I had to compare another film to “99.9’s” persistent bleak atmospherics and a singular principle quietly poking around to solve a cryptic scene-turner, a more widely known and recognizable title with a familiar cast, I would put up Villaronga’s film against Robert Zemeckis’s circa 2000 Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer thriller “What Lies Below.”  Both works are saturated with melancholy stuffing and are beautifully shot in their own stylistic right, but Villaronga adds an undercurrent of homosexual persecution as well as a xenophobic aspect that seeks to discourage, dismay, and disconcert nosy foreigners poking around in local business with a gray area of a big city versus little community vibe and scientific fact versus yokel superstition.  Yet, the script renders omission at more pivotal character junctures that go in-depth about backstory, such as the case with the forgotten Victor who, despite being a major plotpoint in the opening scene of the movie, is more a name thrown around as device to stir commotion amongst the locals.  Victor’s experiments in capturing the images and sounds of tortured souls aimlessly floating inside an ethereal plane in the electronic noise of television broadcast during his very much alive subjects’ REM sleep practically dissipates faster than a bottom burp with the window open and the breeze blowing. As loose as the script may be, Villaronga makes up for it with a tone of stern pall, a delicate theme of bigotry mitigated by the tortured souls and mischievous plot ingredients, and the timorous determination exuding from Maria Barranco’s portrayal.

“99.9” is Lara’s radio station frequency; a frequency in the story that nurtures and embraces the abnormal paranormal from callers night in, night out. Instead of sitting comfortably behind a mic and headphones, cozy in her sound proof studio, her frequency is a barrier that is flipped on it’s head as she becomes involved in like the stories of her callers. Speaking of flipping, in more of a “99.9” is Lara’s radio station frequency; a frequency in the story that nurtures and embraces the abnormal paranormal from callers night in, night out. Instead of sitting comfortably behind a mic and headphones, cozy in her sound proof studio, her frequency is a barrier that is flipped on it’s head as she becomes involved in like the stories of her callers. Speaking of flipping, in more of a layman, satanic sense, “99.9” inverted is also the sign of the beast. Either way, two solid possible metaphors for “99.9” give meaning to the tuning title that’s now available on a dual-layer Blu-ray and DVD combo from Cult Epics who present the film in the original European preferred widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative. Villaronga’s chromatic vision finds unadulterated success in the crisp, clean picture of the Cult Epics release with almost no damage from the original transfer. There’s a slight, and extremely brief, scratch noticeable in the first half of the film, but the amount of grain is perfection and no evidence of manipulation of enhancing. Details are insanely delicate on every tactile texture, even the skin. Aforesaid, Villaronga expresses in color, using a cool blue tints, which is actually toned down some with the transfer, and implementing different lighting techniques to reinforce Javier Aguirresarobe’s breathtaking scenic wide wide shot cinematography. The Spanish language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on the Blu-ray packs a punch with balanced channels funneling not only clean, unobstructed dialogue, but also “Pan’s Labyrinth” composer, Javier Navarrete,’s brooding baritone, chordophone score. There are two other audio options for the DVD: a LPCM 2.0 Stereo and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Optional English subtitles are available and do match up well with no faults. Special features include a new-ish interview with director Agusti Villaronga conducted by Cult Epic’s Nico B, the making of 99.9 that has archival interviews with the director, María Barranco, and other cast and crew, an isolated Javier Navarrete score, and Agusti Villaronga trailers. Both formats are region free and not rated with a runtime of 111 minutes. Back in the 90’s when Spanish supernatural thrillers peaked, “99.9” was right there with a captivating ghostly gossamer from Spain.

Own 99.9 on Blu-ray DVD Combine from Amazon.Com!

Tribes at War makes for Eternal EVIL. “The Secret of Sinchanee” reviewed! (Vertical Entertainment / Digital Screener)



Watch “The Secret of Sinchanee” on Amazon Prime Video

Deerfield, Massachusetts – 1995 – a young boy becomes the sole survivor after a drifter senselessly massacres his mother and sister during the Christmas holiday while his father was out of town.  25 years later, Will Stark, that once little surviving boy now haunted by his past, bothers not live outside expectations and to be left alone to a life of normalcy, even working at the same industrial towing company his father once worked managed, but when the untimely death of mentally unstable father, who battled dissociative identity disorder and depression, among other psychological problems stemmed by the tragic loss of a wife and daughter, leaves Will inheriting his childhood home, the same home where the gruesome murders took place, Will’s life becomes anything but mundane with a house pulsating with malevolent paranormal energy connected to the sacred land it’s built on.  Searching for an ancient talisman, unyielding entities exploit Will to stop at nothing and kill anyone to get back what is theirs lost 25 years ago.

Shot on location around the snowy banks of Deerfield, Massachusetts comes the Steven Grayhm written and directed “The Secret of Sinchanee with a folkloric backstory set in New England about a feud between an invulnerable indigenous people versus malicious pagan settlers stretching over time into present day with an ancient artifact as the centerpiece to possession and murder.  The “House of Dust” and “Crash Site” actor steps into his first feature directorial and writing project with a story that crosses paths the hereditary burden of lineage bred mental issues with the tribalistic supernatural forces, opening with text origins of the longstanding rival feud between the selfless mysticism and disease immune Sinchanee people and the black magic disciples of Atlantow who seek to snuff out the Sinchanee bloodline.  The 2021 American made film is the first product of the Steven Grayhm and Nate Boyer co-founded, military veteran empowering Team House Studios and presented by Truth Entertainment. 

Not only does Steven Grayhm write and direct “The Secret of Sinchanee,” the Canadian actor also helms the lead as Will Stark, the town-talked recluse troubled by his grisly past.  Quiet and unphased by the strange nightmares and powerful visions inside his father’s house, Stark gradually becomes an entranced pawn and Grayhm poses a lifeless, wandering shell of a man honestly enough but on paper, Stark never questions the housebound oddities or even shed a lick of emotion when his dog, his only companion, vanishes.  Grayhm just kind of sleepwalks through the performance which I’m sure was his intended purpose since, you know, he wrote and directed the film.  In a parallel plane, detectives and marital exes, Carrie Donovan (Tamara Austin, “The Walking Dead”) and Drew Carter (Nate Boyer), embroil themselves into a Deerfield homicide case despite their past differences and their shared preteen daughter (Laila Lockhart Kraner).  Though not playing a footballer or someone in the armed forces, Carter steps into law enforcement as Boston PD and though Massachusetts is not a big state, I’m not sure a Boston detective would travel 120 miles outside of the city to continuing investigating a Boston murder in the rural sticks of Deerfield.  The entire dynamic between the local Donovan and the big city Carter plays to unresolved subversive tune of Carter taking advantage of the moment in order to rekindle the spark with his ex-wife or, perhaps, just be close to this daughter.  Obviously some personal tension between them but rarely does that tension surface to endorse strife as Donovan is carried away the homicide case, taking her investigation to an unlawful next level by trespassing onto Stark’s land and inside his house to be spooked by the spirits’ distorted reflection of herself.  Somewhere in the trio of leads lie a more meaningful connection that’s more muddled by individual character, side story offshoots, leaving what’s most important to the film scattered profoundly thin to meet the bar.  What also doesn’t bode well for Grayhm’s debut is the late introduction of a key Sinchanee descendent, Solomon Goodblood, played by Rudy Reyes who starred alongside our horror community gal pal, Diana Prince, in “Beach Massacre at Kill Devil Hills,” who intercedes for his fading bloodline as a shaman against Atlantow. 

Speaking of Atlantow, there is hardly a sense or a tangibility to the sect God plaguing the Stark family going on for decades now and that sides more with the mental instability theme of a family with a history of mental illness coinciding the allusions of one’s own internalized battle with trauma, insomnia, and past down disorders to manifest tragedy into a shared psychosis of Atlantow’s sinister and manipulative craft.  Perceived heinous actions, such as modern day scalping or wielding a tomahawk, can be seen as someone possessed with incoherent malintent because that traumatized person’s survival’s guilt warps them so.  Unfortunately, the story’s jumble beyond one aortic premise and spreads the whole concept thin without hardly touching upon the Sinchanee and Atlantow quarrel as noted in the opening text that laid out the intentions of a contentious war between good versus evil.  In the film’s reality, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is about two cops stumbling into Atlantow’s business in trying to find a sacred artifact.  We’re not even granted the reason why this talisman, a decently sized arrowhead, is terribly significant to the dark forces of Atlantow aside from vocal desperation in the object’s return to sacred ground.  Is “The Secret of Sinchanee” more aligned with themes of desecration of sacred land?  The meddling of a once proud culture now lost?  Not much clarity among the variety of circumstances happening inside Grayhm’s runtime lengthy debut picture other than the surface level possession and the cops’ investigation that motivates them into the paranormal situation.

Under the executive producer team of Joe Newcomb (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Jose Martinez Jr, “The Secret of Sinchanee” is now available on Digital HD and On Demand this month of October, released by Vertical Entertainment.  With a runtime just shy of two hours, 115 minutes, the film will be available on all major cable and digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum, as well as playing in select theaters. Though an indie picture, production value pinnacles the budget, shot cleanly by Logan Fulton using an ARRI Alexa camera to capture the serene snow covered wooded landscapes of typical rural New England while succumbing to remain steady in the clean-cut darkness and warmer hues when things go bump in the night. Definitely not much camera movement, but the still shots, mostly medium to closeup, are framed properly without an any abnormality, providing just enough evidences to keep viewers on edge, while sprinkling in a Dutch angle or two to encourage anxiety where due. No special features included with this digital screener nor were any bonus scenes present during or after the credits. “The Secret of Sinchanee” remains private under a lock and key guise of mental illness and consigned to oblivion of parentage without breaking through those cognizant barriers to fully grasp a ancient tribal hatred that spills beyond normal time and space.

EVIL Says Lights Out! “The Power” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



East London, January 1974 – a young nurse starts her first day at a stringent hospital during a political war between the government and mining union workers.  Resulting form the conflict is a nightly shutdown of electricity across the entire country.  As the hospital falls into darkness, the young nurse is forced to work the nightshift at the behest of the hospital’s stern matron, ordering her care for the unresponsive in the intensive care unit that’s receiving a limited feed of generator power.  Afraid of the dark, the nurse finds herself short of pleasant company who are knowledgeable of her sordid past, making her feel more alone in an already isolating and gloomy environment.  When she feels an aggressive presence surrounding her, watching her every movement, and even possessing her for short periods of time, dark hospital secrets come to light and her past connects her to be the key to it all.

Partially based off the 1974 Three-Day Week measure implemented on January 1st to battle inflation and avoid an economic collapse in the UK, Corinna Faith’s things that go bump in the dark ghostly feature, “The Power,” pulls inspiration from the government versus trade union war political contest as a backdrop set for the Shudder exclusive release.  To briefly catch inform you, part of the plan was to have Britain’s private sector pay was capped and bonuses eliminated to cutoff high rate inflation, infuriating much of the coal mining industry who were responsible for a good percentage of fueling much of Britain’s energy at that time.  During the month of January 1974, nightly blackouts were issued for all commercial use to conserve coal stocks.  Inspired by this short-lived UK struggle, the 2021 English film became the sophomore written and directed project for Faith, but is chiefly her breakout film following the over a decade and half, father and son Irish drama, “Ashes,” released in 2005.  “The Power” has topical supremacy with a strong parallel of, as the title suggests, power and a delicate allegorical presence of women taking back control of their lives after being suppressed by wicked and disregarding men and their collaborators.  Conglomerating production companies are behind Corinna Faith’s “The Power,” including “Cargo’s” Head Gear Films and Kreo Films, the prolific British Film Institute, Stigma Films (“Double Date”), and Air Street Films.

Starring in her first lead role, Rose Williams plays the mild-mannered and meek young nurse, Val, with an enigmatic and subversive past that has seemingly caused some controversary at a private school.  Williams turns on the docile humility, laying on thick Val’s readiness to submit to any command without contest despite the young nurses visible cues of uneasiness and bumbling hesitation.  Val’s qualities purposefully pose her mindset molded by a system she has shunned her for an unspeakable act that’s skirted around persistently throughout the story.  Faith really puts emphasis on having Val feeling extremely isolated and alone in the old, dark hospital with antagonist characters who some are familiar with Val and others who are new faces to the young nurse, but still exude an uncomfortable impression, such as the strict matron nurse (Diveen Henry, “Black Mirror”) and bizarrely skeevy maintenance man Neville (Theo Barklem-Biggs, “Make Up”).  Even a familiar face in fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby, “Demons Never Die”) strives to make her not forget about her unpleasant past.  Only in foreigner child, a patient named Saba, an introductory performance by Shakira Rahman, Val discovers a kindred spirit of an equally alone and frightened prisoner of the hospital.  For the two sole apprehensive souls, I really couldn’t pinpoint the trembling fear in their eyes or understand how they’re not crippled by the immense inky blackness that seems to engulf everything and everyone with an enshrouding sinister presence.  Gbemisola Ikumelo, Charlie Carrick, Sarah Hoare, and Clara Read make up the remaining cast.

The electricity backout is merely more for harrowing effect, creating lifeless atmospheres of bleak corridors and dank basements that swallow securities with meticulous ease, but “The Power” is more than just a lights out, afraid of the dark, paranormal picture as Faith pens a parallel theme that fashions the title in double entendre stitches.  Audiences are not immediately privy to the backstory that disturbs Val to the core as she finds consternation in the dark’s unknown possibilities.  This we can clearly see in her scattered imaged nightmares and her reluctance to forcibly work the night shift with little-to-no illumination.  As the story unravels, Faith drops breadcrumb hints and misdirection indicators that not only reveal more into Val’s background but also the background of Saba’s and the presence that is targeting them both in playful manner as if an invisible “Jaws” shark was tugging and pulling in all different directions in the tightly confined hospital setting, leading up to what and whose power truly presides over them.  Dark becomes light in the water shedding moment that defines Val’s lightning rod purpose in being a ragdoll puppet for a ghost’s whims and while the story successfully builds up to that climatic moment with blank eye possessions and unconscious grim mischief told in reverse order, “The Power” ultimately tapers off with a finale that falls apart on the precipice of something significantly special for the voices of traumatized women everywhere in recovering the power over themselves.  Though abundant with tension-filled jump scare frights during the puzzling mystery, the horror element also suffers a misaligning derailment in the end with a happy-go-lucky procession of no longer being afraid of the dark, dropping the bulk of scares like a sack of unwanted potatoes no longer ripe for a tasty reward.

Still, “The Power” is a single-setting period horror with potent scares along with an even more compelling subtext significance. The region 2, PAL encoded, 83 minute feature is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a single disc BD25 with a 15 rating for strong supernatural threat, violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual threat. Perfectly capturing the precise black levels, the Blu-ray renders a nice clean and detailed image, leaving the negative space viscerally agitating while waiting for something to pop out of the dark. The color is reduced, and slightly flat, to de-age the filmic look for a 1970’s bleaker of cold, sterile atmospherics. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is a chocked full of robust fidelity. The jump scare ambience and short flash of up-tempo works along with the rest of the solemn score. Where “The Power” lacks is with the dialogue and not within the confines of prominence; instead, capturing the dialect cleanly was challenge to undertake as most of the cast mumbles through most of the Liverpool-esque dialect and dialogue. Special features on the release include an audio commentary with director Corinna Faith and Rose Williams and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. A feminist noteworthy horror, “The Power” connotes powerful and uncomfortable contexts that’ll surely make you squirm far more violently than being alone in the ill-boding dark.