EVIL Has an Unbreakable Glass Ceiling. “The Five Rules of Success” reviewed (Ambassador Film Group / Digital Screener)

Upon his release from a long prison stint, a man incarcerated into the system since a young boy tries his hand succeeding in the outside world.  Alone with no family or friends for support and looking to keep his nose clean, he designs his own set of rules for success, including responsibly checking in periodically with his hardnose parole officer and saving up enough money and knowledge working at a restaurant to open his own.  When the path seems clear and everything seems to be falling into place for his chances as success, societal temptations gnaw at him as negative influencers tempt to steer him astray and his own goals try to illicitly fast track his efforts.  Will he fall into crooked society’s trap or will he persevere to reach his aspirations? 

Hard knocks.  That’s the simple, raw core theme of Orson Oblowitz’s “The Five Rules of Success.”  The 2021 crime-thriller is the third directorial from the “Corbin Nash” co-producer, but the second penned script following his debut, a seedy L.A. underbelly thriller “The Queen of Hollywood Blvd” from 2017.  The story is the first for co-writer Christian de Gallego who steps out of his international sales executive role to put his ideas onto paper.  As compelling as any story could be mirroring the struggles of a downtrodden ex-con in a society that browbeats and takes advantage of those on good intentions to rebuild, “The Five Rules of Success” is also a visual quest of imagery and color, produced and distributed by the Ambassador Film Group with de Gallego producing and Apurva Patel as executive producer. 

Stepping into his lead man shoes debut is Santiago Segura (“47 Meters Down,” “Scream: The TV Series”) playing the mastermind behind the five rules of success as X, as in X could be anybody.  However, X couldn’t have been more invested into than what Segura put into the story’s character as a man left to his own devices, without support, without a comforting presence, and without much guidance.  Segura’s range is limited to a monotone stare and tough guy attitude that never wavers or breaks and you have to wonder what X is fighting for to make his ambitious dream a reality?  Where does his determination root?  The fact that there is an absence in a grounding, sobering symbol all the more makes X more susceptible to the deeper end of society’s morality pool.  Along his rise up from the ashes, X meets colorfully sordid individuals feeding off his vulnerability due to either being on probation or stereotyped as being inclined to be favorable toward criminal activity…you know, being released from prison and all.  He’s befriended by Danny (Jonathan Howard, “Godzilla:  King of the Monsters”), a drug using goon who works alongside X at his father’s restaurant.  “Crocodile 2:  Death Swamp’s” Jon Sklaroff plays the stark contrasted Greek immigrant father, restaurant owner, and disappointed father to Danny.  Sklaroff and Howard couldn’t be more adversarial as a hardworking immigrant father who struggled to get to where he is today and a silver spoon fed son throwing his life away with riffraff, drugs, and as the restaurant’s cook.  The relationship formed between X and Sklaroff’s character is the wishful dreaming that X couldn’t be the son he never had and all X has to do is be patient and listen to a little friendly advice.  A more brazen and mysterious obstacle in X’s path is his parole officer, Emma, whose uppity authority holds X’s freedom in the palm of her hand played by Isidora Goreshter.  The line is blurry whether Emma has either the hots for X or is secretly a sadist and Goreshter offers to uphold that inscrutable presence with unscrupulous tactics. 

One way to crave out the meaning behind Oblowitz’s film is to not be standing high-and-mighty on greener pastures.  “The Five Rules of Success” sensationalizes real time problems with our prison system and the after effects of walking out a free man after years, if not decades, from a life that’s all you know to a life you know nothing about.  X’s past burdens him immensely as flashbacks, denoted in literal quick flashed cuts, of the downward spiral turning point in his childhood find their way into his determined route to success.  Ultimately, the past and present are one in the same where society sees not a boy, not a man, not a person, but a criminal and how we as a society be contemptuous of former convicts released back into our soicalled perfect public community.  There’s parallelism between each chaptered rule and the downward progression he sustains in his associations with the wrong people that start to twist his mindset, his rules, into the very unlawful reprehensible activities he tries very hard to avoid. Oblowitz does a nice job detailing X’s habits as a loner, working out his pent up frustrations by exercising, shadow boxing, and refining his rules, but the root of all evil is hard to ignore as cold hard cash, easy money for one of Danny’s illicit jobs, begins to lay out the possible steps to skip in order to fulfill his own ambition.  Despite the momentary monotone mishandlings from Segura, the story is well-written and mostly well played out with some scenes more intense than others with the subject material as you begin finding yourself rooting for the ex-con and booing the very society you yourself live in scot-free. 

Clocking in with a runtime at 83 minutes, “The Five Rules of Success” symbolizes the ups and mostly downs in the here and now game of chutes and ladders.  Having been released last month, July 30, be sure to check out the unrated feature available for purchase on your preferred platform of either iTunes or Amazon released by the Ambassador Film Group.  Oblowitz doesn’t just write-and-direct the film, but he also serves as cinematographer dabbling in a Kafkaesque arranged world with hints of tint, hints of different lenses, hints at overexposures, hints at strobe, and more.  Nearly every scene is comprised of a different shooting technique or editing visual that may or may not possibly induce a seizure as forewarned during the preface.  Stylistically, I can only compare and describe “The Five Rules of Success” as this:  Stanley Kubrick’s “2001:  A Space Odyssey” meets Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream.”  As far as extras go, there’s a quaint, no major dialogue memorandum scene after the end credits that speaks to vicious circles and permanency.  For a L.A. shot film that has more technique than bite, “The Five Rule of Success” is a success of an auteur’s written storytelling as well as the visual understanding of just how to tell that story in a surrealistic context. 

Rent or Buy “The Five Rules of Success” on Prime Video!

EVIL’s Brush Stroke of Genius in “Art of the Dead” reviewed!


The Wilsons’ are the perfect portrait of a nice family; they’re wealthy but charitable and kind without exploiting the humility of others. However, when Dylan and Gina Wilson bid and win on the SinSational art collection at auction and hang the enchanted paintings strewn through their mansion estate, a strange succumbing to sin overwhelms their moral fiber. The paintings of Dorian Wilde, an eccentric and obsessive 1890’s painter who achieved eternal soul longevity by making a pact with the devil, created the art, depicting primal animals symbolic of the seven deadly sins, by using canvas and paint out of flesh and blood of his victims. The Wilsons’ become corrupted and carry out the sins of Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, Envy, and Wrath and the only way to save the family from damnation lies in the hands of a former priest, Father Mendale, and a girlfriend, Kim, of the oldest Wilson boy engulfed by Wrath.

“Art of the Dead” is what people call when art comes to life, or in this case, death. From the selective “Emmanuelle” film series and “There’s Nothing Out There” writer-director, Rolfe Kanefsky comes a story woven with the seven deadly sins theme as a foundation that approximates a 90’s grade thriller of epically gory proportions. With a catchy, yet dead horse beaten “of the Dead” title, “Art of the Dead” uses the seven deadly sin theme and blends it with an obvious homage to the gothic literary novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde. The main antagonist, Dorian Wilde, is the merging of the author and his fictional creation. Oscar Wilde wrote the novel in 1891, the same era the story enlightens in which Dorian Wilde makes a pact with the devil. Unlike another notable film, “Se7en,” where a practical killer exploits the capital vices to thwart a pair of detectives, “Art of the Dead” introduces dark, supernatural forces of Oscar Wilde’s work into the fold that are not only abject in what makes us human, but also biblically condemning, spearheaded by a satanic maniac who will do everything and anything to maintain his precious work and eternal soul, Produced by Michael and Sonny Mahal of Mahal Empire productions, the financial investors have also backed a previous Kanefsky film, another occult gone astray thriller entitled “Party Bus to Hell,” and in association with Nicholas George Productions and Slaughtercore Presentations.

Another pair of producers are also a couple of headlining actors who are household names – “Sharknado’s” Tara Reid and “21 Jump Street” actor and avid painter, Richard Grieco. Reid plays a snooty and shallow art gallery curator who sells willingly the Dorian Wilde set knowing well enough of their malignant history, but Grieco has a personal connection toward a film regarding art more so than the dolled up Reid because of his nearly 20 year passion as an painter of Abstract Emotionalism. His character, Douglas Winter, is obsessed with the SinSational collection to the point where it uses him as an instrument to kill his artistically unappreciative family; a sensation washed over as parallel and broad among all artists alike fore sure. Jessica Morris (“Evil Bong 666”) and Lukas Hassel (“The Black Room”) also headline. Morris provides the sultry and lustful-influenced mother, Gina, and her golden hair and blue eyes has a fitting innocence that’s is tainted and provocatively shields the cruel intentions of lust and power while Hassel, a giant of a man, immediately becomes capitulated to greeds’ warty influence. Each actor renders a version of their paintings and each dons the sinful presence gorgeously with individual personalties and traits; those other actors include Cynthia Aileen Strahan (“Dead End”), Sheila Krause, Jonah Gilkerson, and Zachary Chyz as well as “The Black Room’s” Alex Rinehart and Robert Donovan along with Danny Tesla playing the demonic proxy of Dorian Wilde.

“Art of the Dead” embodies an innovated spin on a classic tale of self-absorption and deferring one’s own detrimental sins upon others to carry the burden. Kanefsky grasps the concept well and visually sustains a contextualized 98 minute feature that carries a straightforward connection to the Gothicism of Oscar Wilde while cascading a family tree (pun intended) of problems that pinpoint each sin’s affecting destruction upon the soul through a wide burst of dispersive poison. While the idea is sound enough, the script and narrative channelling hardly carries the equivalent weight of the idea and comes off clunky, cheap, and sometimes uncharismatic. “The Black Room” was the last Kanefsky film critiqued at ItsBlogginEvil.com and the script was noted with the characters that hardly progress up toward and out of the despondent and deviant muck and it was the filmmaker’s softcore cinema background that attributed to the characters over-saturated girth of lust, which elevated and hindered “The Black Room’s” incubus storyline. With “Art of the Dead,” Kanefsky redresses the lust to quench just the respective sin with the right amount of perversion, represented by the mythical, sex driven Satyr that was created beyond being a nice touch of storytelling, disturbance, and meta kinkiness. Kanefsky continues to proportionally feed each sin the same manner with the exception of Pride that lures in a specific victim; however, the paintings’ insidious nature wonders to a circumstantial level at best with Kanefsky’s tongue-and-cheek dialogue and uncouth playfulness of Dorian Wilde while possessing the flesh of a black-laced, Fredrick’s of Hollywood-cladded Gina.

Umbrella Entertainment and ITN distribution release “Art of the Dead” onto a region 4 DVD home video and is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The sterile and polished look of the image renders doesn’t invite stimuli to visual senses, but is superbly clean and free of blotchiness that can routinely be a contrast issues with darker, indie productions; however, the digital source is nicely maintained and the darker scenes and colorfully deep portions of the paintings, the viscous blood, the modernized Wilson house, and the anywhere else have quality caliber. Visual and practical effects are necessarily key for “Art of the Dead” to be successful and the film scores a combination of talent to enhance the ho-hum photography with renaissance man Clint Carney, whose visual effects work on his own written and starred in film “Dry Blood” was flawless and who also painted Dorian Wilde’s works of art, and some solid practical and Satyr creature effects work by “Child Play’s 3” Victor Guastini and the VGP Effects team. The English language Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio is clear, precise, and no inkling of issues with the range and depth of ambient sound. Like most standard DVD releases from Umbrella Entertainment, this release comes with no bonus material or even a static menu. To observe his work as a whole, filmmaker Rolfe Kanefsky has nothing to prove with a body of work spanning over nearly three decades, but in reducing “Art of the Dead as a singular film, there in lies a double edged sword. A true sin is to headline a film with actors with brief roles just to draw in investors and an audience, yet “Art of the Dead” also finds innovated modernism out of classical creativity, giving new life by homage, and displaying some maximum carnage fun with plenty oil and water color.

“Art of the Dead” available to own and rent!