EVIL Strikes at the Stroke of “Midnight” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Severin)

Teenager Nancy searches for forgiveness through reestablishing her faith in God after being dumped by her sexually active boyfriend.  When her alcoholic, police officer stepfather learns of the relationship’s abrupt ending, he moves in quickly to take advantage of Nancy while under the heavy influence of the bottle.  Escaping his grasp, she flles home and hitchhikes a ride with two men travelling South on a getaway from Pennsylvania to sunny Fort Lauderdale, but when facing trouble with small town local law enforcement after attempting to steal groceries, the three find themselves right in the middle of a Satanic cult’s sacrificial ritual that requires the killing of three women for eternal life, one a night at midnight for three days.  Held in a dog cage, Nancy anxiously awaits her turn at the bloodletting alter surrounded by the cloaked-cladded cult and their decomposing mother’s corpse  Praying to God to save her soul, little does Nancy know that her stepfather has tracked down her whereabouts, leading to a bloody showdown of one cop pitted against a family of satanic psychopaths. 

Based of his 1980 novel of the same title, “Midnight” is known to be John Russo’s heart-and-soul project that ended up suffering one mishap after another in the two years of its production and post-production until it’s final release in 1982.  Also known as “Backwoods Massacre,” the “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer Russo helms the low-budget occult slasher out from his usual stomping grounds in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  “Midnight” showcases a story themed with a depraved sense of race intolerance for African Americans and all varieties of religious convictions to be innately false in an atheistic Russo viewpoint amongst a glorified surface level of enrapturing inhumane violence seasoned by brainwashing.  This West Pennsylvanian born and bred grindhouse exploitation found producers in  Sam Sherman and Daniel Q. Kennis of “Blazing Stewardesses” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror”) along with Donald Redinger under the now defunct Independent-International Picture Corp.

In a sea of smaller fish of Pittsburgh actors in “Midnight’s” casting tow is a larger and rougher around the gills grouper embodied by the singular Lawrence Tierney (“Reservoir Dogs,” “The Prowler”) in the Officer Bert Johnson role. Tierney’s no stranger to the horror genre, flaunting his thick New York tough guy accent that typically typecasts the veteran actor into authoritative roles. In being no exception, “Midnight” has Tierney playing a sleazy, alcoholic, police officer who winds up more-or-less unearthing sense in his old age and utilizing his skills for good to fully satisfy his character’s arc, but Tierney alone is wonderful to behold and easy to be disgusted by as he solicits his underage teenage stepdaughter with a perverted proposition. That stepdaughter, Nancy (Melanie Verlin), is the face of “Midnight’s” protagonist whose attempting to get back on track with God after a sinful bedroom relationship with an ex-boyfriend, but her plans are slighted by a brood of young Satanists keen on keeping their now long deceased mother’s irreligious convictions intact. David Marchick, George Romero regular Ted Amplas (“Day of the Dead” 1978, “Martin”), Robin Walsh, and the face of “Midnight” on many of the posters, Greg Besnack, size up as the Satanic terrible and merciless foursome. The cast fills out with Charles Johnson, John Hall, Bob Johnson, Lachele Carl, Jackie Nicoll, Doris Hackney, and Ellie Wyler.

After the success of a collaborated run with George Romero on a handful of projects, John Russo ultimately branches off to do his own creative output after their production company, Latent Image, brought on newcomers’ and the shared ideas on the direction of their company didn’t sit well with Russo – an irk that Russo still harps upon to this day, according to the special features’ new interview from the latest Severin Film’s release.  Yet, I digress into the review of “Midnight” that has feral narrative with an irregular plotted blueprint of teenager exploitation, racial injustice, and backwoods barbarians.  Somehow, Russo’s able to juggle his jotted down on a budget scrambler with a threadbare satanic family baseline that unsettlingly feels snagged in a randomizing generator spitting out scenes to see if they cohesively connect into the next.  Nancy’s traversing into the thicket of terror story cuts into and undermines more of the sibling’s unholy ritual, which the title “Midnight” becomes an important piece to the ceremony, with a subplot of the teen running away from a handsy stepfather and into the Mystery Machine modeled van-driving hands of a pair of cavalier friends on a road trip and then find themselves in an endgame of rotten luck with bad company.  The whole lead up to the two groups running into each other is suddenly dropped like a bad habit, forgoing much of the racial tensions, the youthful subverts, and even the attempt at pedophilia when the main, overarching theme of cult mayhem and religion inadequacies come to the forefront.  “Midnight” inarguably a gargantuan piece of good ole American hicksville victimization with some underappreciated manic performances by John Amplas and Greg Besnak, but there’s difficulty in shaking “Midnight’s” stark story division that leaves much to be desired.

“Midnight” is the particular video nasty that’s surpassing all of it’s other formatted counterparts with a Severin Film’s 4K scanned Blu-ray of the full uncut negative.  The 1080p Full High Definition, region free BD50 is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a respectable color correction, but the correction sees unstable moments regressing near the cuts revealing the lifeless yellow tinge of unmastered quality. A right amount of grain, a great amount of detail, and hardly any damage to the thought-lost uncut negative proves Severin found buried treasure of the John Russo shocker. Two audio options grace the release with an English language DTS-HD 5.1 surround and an English 2.0 Stereo. While the 5.1 offers a more robust audio option of funneling individual tracks through their respective channels, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Midnight” has an overwhelming yield for audiophiles. Soundtrack comes across just enough to know it’s there, the dialogue is clean and unimpeded, but what unfolds out of clarity is the wonky foley ambience that just render solemn scenes silly. Severin offers up a new interviews under “Midnight’s” mediocre cult status with director John Russo – Making Midnight – as top bill in a lengthy discussion about his long career, his acquaintances including George Romero, and, of course, his recollections about “Midnight.” Other interviews include producer Samuel Sherman – Producing Midnight, actor John Amplas – The Midnight Killer, and special makeup effects artist Tom Savini – Small Favors – who barely remembers working very little on this film by providing pre-fabricated headshots and sliced throat prosthetics. An isolated score selection with audio interview with Mike Mazzei, an alternate title card for “Backwoods Massacre,” the trailer, and radio spot round out the bonus content inside the blackout snapcase. Prolific as John Russo may be in horror literature, filmmaking, and in legendary regards with his work alongside Romero, “Midnight” reflects poorly on his cinematic vocation and while many problems plagued production and post-production, Russo somehow managed to root out a passable working cut of crazed satanic panic.

“MIDNIGHT” available on Blu-ray from Severin!

EVIL’s Confessional Will Be Their Rex-oning! “The VelociPastor” reviewed!


Father Doug Jones witnesses his parent’s murder by a violent car explosion and begins to question his devotion to God. At the advice of his friend, Father Stewart, Jones travels the world to rediscover his faith, landing him in the deep forests of China where he comes in contact with an ancient, mystical artifact. His discovery is life changing, or rather physically changing, as the power of the relic enables him to transform into a vicious dinosaur. The horrifying thought of his transformation and killing of an armed and dangerous thug has the priest scrambling to recollect himself as the man of the cloth, but the prostitute, who witnesses his true calling of vigilantism, convinces him to use his newfound powers against the swarm of crime. A secret clan of ninjas, acquainted with Jones’ abilities, seek to destroy his unofficial denomination to progress their diabolical plan for domination.

Full disclosure. There in lies a soft spot for bad, sometimes off-script, horror movies involving the prehistoric reptilians. On the USA Network, decades ago when USA Network had late night horror films, “Carnosaur” trilogy was enjoyable to watch, hooking and reeling me into the dino horror subgenre. The categorically offbeat genre even unearthed my celebrity crush even before I knew who she was with “Tammy and the T-Rex.” Even in the heavily edited form, Denise Richards still stunned me with her dino-riffic dynamics. Plus, Vinegar Syndrome is releasing an unedited version! ItsBlogginEvil just posted a review, not too long ago, for another Wild Eye releasing, “Jurassic Dead!” Steven Spielberg and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, of course, laid the foundation of critically acclaimed Triassic and Cretaceous thrillers, but the crude complexion of the indie market feels more at home, more uninhibited, and, definitely, more spirited and that’s what writer-director Brendan Steere and his team breathes new life into with the horror-comedy “The Velocipastor!”

The man behind the titular “The VelociPastor” character is Greg Cohan, a television actor regular, who dons the clerical collar and endeavors through the practical special effects of “The First Purge’s” Jennifer Suarez. Young, fit, and a good sport, Doug Jones is perfect for a clergyman turned velociraptor who dismembers the wicked and karate kicks ninjas while also sporting a pink mini dress in a scene of self revelation and also doing hand-to-hand combat in whitey-tighties. Opposite Jones, playing the love interest, is Alyssa Kempinski as the hooking for tuition pre-law med student, Carol, who becomes the facilitator of Father Jones prehistoric predicament. Jones and Kempinksi charisma shine through the absurdity as their keenest for each other develops into a full fledge fighting duo. Kempinski’s softer touch compared to Cohan’s zany comedy levels out, if that’s even possible, a film about a priest with a dino-lycanthrope complex. “The VelociPastor” supporting cast are equally as sharp with the farcical, pulpy vibe, rounding out with some really fantastic performance from amateur actors, including Aurelio Voltaire (“Model Hunger”), Brendan Steere’s father Daniel Steere, Jesse Turtis, Jiechang Yang, and a pulsating rendition of a worst-of-the-worst pimp with Fernando Pacheco de Castro.

“The VelociPastor” doesn’t take itself seriously, paralleling the similarities to other martial art parodies like “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist,” but Steere incorporates a healthy appreciation for pulp writing and independent filmmaking for his crowdfunded venture. While the “The VelociPastor” might have a trashy, kitschy name to draw in audience and also heavily lined pocket patrons, the film itself isn’t all that trashy, schlocky, or shoddy. Much of the action is not Father Doug Jones as a skin-shredding Dinosaur wreaking havoc amongst the lowlifes and crime syndicates, the very vibrant montage takes care of that, but rather runs a baseline story of a man and a woman, from two separate worlds of prostitution and a man of faith fall in love, has fairly simple and conventional means once all the idiosyncratic glitter and glam is removed; a notion that can be said to be the foundational basis for many other movies. Even director Brendan Steere admitted during a Q and A session that “The VelociPastor” isn’t a jab at the Church, closing the door on conjecture and blasphemous intentions with the ending remark that velocipastor just sounded cool from a harmless auto-correct error.

Wild Eye Releasing and Cyfuno Ventures presents “The VelociPastor” onto a unrated DVD home video. Based off Brendan Steere’s 2011 faux grindhouse trailer of the same title which the director used 16mm Kodak stock, the feature film loses a fair amount of that particular grindhouse appeal, but Steere still manages to manufacture grindhouse attributes by creating scratches on the floor of his dark bathroom and also baking the film in his oven to obtain a warm, dry coloring to give the film age and deterioration. Details in the 2018 film are ten times more distinguishable than in his 2011 trailer and the since being garnished almost completely with practical effects, nothing detailed has grand poise and exhibits every uncouth knook and cranny that only adds to the horror-comedy’s charm. The 2.0 stereo mix has an even keel about it and doesn’t embark on the same grindhouse wear Steere attempts to develop on the image, but the dialogue is prominent and ambience, from the fighting hits to the roar, is on point with depth and range. English closed captioning subtitles are available. Bonus features include a commentary track, gag reel, a Texas Frightmare Cast and Crew question and answer with Greg Cohan, Brendan Steere, and Jesse Gouldsbury, and the theatrical trailer. As about as B-movie as a feature can get, “The VelociPastor” rekindles the jurassic age’s primal instincts and unleashes a new and ferocious cult icon, one that’ll not only bite your head clean off, but will exact the last rites before doing so! Amen!

The VelociPastor on DVD! Click the DVD to buy!

Edna is EVIL According to the “Reform School Girls!” Reviewed!


After being apprehended for robbery, underage Jenny is sentenced to 3 years at Pridemore reform school where she immediately clashes with an iron fisted dorm administrator named Edna and her intimate inmate enforcer Charlie Chambliss. With a few friends on the inside, Jenny’s group becomes the target of Edna’s biased infraction system and Charlie sets her domineering sights on breaking the girls’ wills into submissive followers. The school is controlled by an equally sadistic, evangelically abusive Warden Sutter and Jenny’s multiple attempts at reforming the reform school with the assistance of a sympathetic psychologist staff member, and even her attempt to escape, have failed with torturous consequences. As Edna tightens her grip, Jenny and the girls seethe more violently as the weeks pass up to an inevitable uprising, snapping the young girls’ spirits when enough is enough.

Wet, wild, and womanizing, Tom DeSimone’s 1986 satirically women in prison film, “Reform School Girls,” is a cavity invasive good time all around! DeSimone, who also penned the script, has a revolutionary background as a male gay porn filmmaker, but made the crossover into cult genre films after his successful runs with “Chatterbox” featuring exploitation starlet Candice Rialson and “Hell Night,” starring “Exorcist’s” Linda Blair. Yet, “Reform School Girls” is hardly separation from the director’s once moonlit experiences other than the cast is almost entirely made up of beautiful, naked women showering together and when they’re not fully nude and wet, they might as well be wearing nothing while cladded in skimpy outfits and lingerie as a few characters copulate insinuatingly instead of explicitly. The only thing DeSimone was probably uncomfortable with was his last two WIP features, “Concrete Jungle” and “Prison Girls,” as they struggled to find an appreciative audience and thus “Reform School Girls” was constructed to be a mockery of the whole WIP market, exploding it violently, and sensationally, with the genre tropes that, ironically, skyrockets this film’s cult success.

The incarcerated characters offer a wide variety of individualities that are ultimately filled by big personalities themselves. Sometimes, those personalities come with a little head scratching questions. Such is the case with lead actress Linda Carol who isn’t the headliner of the “Reform School Girls,” but she’s certainly one of the main leaders, Jenny, of an imprisoned pack. Born in 1970, Carol had to be no more than 14 to 16 years of age at filming and was cleared for a number of nude scenes, especially around other nude women, but Carol had fire in her performance; in fact, the cast from specified roles to the undesignated titled roles were all highly stimulating in their presence and demeanor. When first entering dorm 14, teased hair and underwear was the unofficial name of the scene that spoke about the genre of the decade in a matter of a few minutes. This is where we meet Charlie Chambliss, a buff, scantily-cladded, totalitarian gang leader of dormitory 14, played fluorescently by rocker Wendy O. Williams. The then mid-30-year-old Williams was a bit of a duck out of water in a role that was for a teenage girl, but the front woman of The Plasmatics was awfully charismatic, brash, and a real illustrated performer who exaggerated dramatics to the next welcoming level in her knee high platform boots. While Williams had sexy hot-to-trot flair, Pat Ast leisurewear offered nothing more than a dull white coat over matron garb, but Ast punctures through anything matriarchal and goes full blown maniacal as dorm keeper Edna. Ast goes over the top and beyond with a love to hate – scratch that – kill character. If you think the evil that embodies Charlie and Edna ends there, you’re wrong! “The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf’s” Sybil Danning’s apex of evil, Warden Sutter, struts around the school like a German commandant with a soapbox of vile and wretched women in a perverted Biblical sense and mastermind behind the abusive culture at Pridemore. The cast concludes with Charlotte McGinnis, Sheri Stoner, Denise Gordy, Laurie Schwartz, Tiffany Helm (“Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”), Darcy DeMoss (“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”), and Winnifred Freedman.

Shooting from the hip on first viewing impressions, “Reform School Girls” is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. Sure, we’ve all see women in prison films, from “Big Bird Cage” to even making an argument on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” and we’ve also see cheeky 1980’s comedy that if made today would be grossly lambasted with politically incorrect protestors. Yet, DeSimone’s satire take undercuts the stern nature of the WIP genre with great flamboyancy toward institutional exploitation and the ugly invasive issue of sodomy and rape that the themes can be easily pushed aside without so much of an inkling of consideration. Explosions, gunfire, skimpily dressed women, shower sequences, bitter tongue and cheek, and anything and everything that was omitted from grindhouse market place in this film constructs a smoke and mirrors effect that pivots sharply before getting ankle deep into the issues, no matter the severity just as long as Pat Ast crunches her face into a luffa shape and appoints a barely clothed inmate to a mandatory cavity search and the viewers would be just as captivated.

Umbrella Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment release the International Cinevision and New World Pictures production of “Reform School Girls” on a PAL 4 region DVD, presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio; a slightly cropped version of the original film format. Whatever is cropped out is too trivial and the image picture supplies a palatable presentation with bold hues and bare, but naturally colored, skin tones, despite some fake tanning. One noticeable fleeting moment of an 35mm stock cigarette burn in the upper left corner of a scene, but in-and-out in a blink of an eye. The stereo 2.0 Dolby Audio mono track has balance that singles out the robust dialogue against a leveled down ambient and score recording. The range is good amongst all the reform girl chatter in the dorm rooms. A handful of shower and bathroom scenes have some muffled echoed moments, but the discord in these moments is still extremely low. Surprisingly, there isn’t one single bonus material on this disc, not even a static menu as the film goes right into play feature mode. “Reform School Girls” makes light of wretchedness, revels in the fun of unsavory fraternizing, and is unapologetic of a carnal and wicked tone on and off the screen, harboring one hell of a women in prison cinematic guilty pleasure.

Umbrella’s DVD is available for purchase at Amazon.com!

Revenge is an Evil Dish Best Served Cold! “Gelosia – Vendetta D’amore” review!

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After Thomas’ voluptuous wife’s immaculate beauty falls victim to a horrifying and scarring fiery car accident, the sex-addicted womanizer, fueled by a constant stream of strong alcohol, dumps his maimed wife and obsessively hops from one unchaste woman to next, but in the darkest shadows lurks a hidden danger toward his newfound, unrestricted fast and loose lifestyle. A sinister plot of revenge against him begins to quickly unravel and Thomas’ stretch of unscrupulous carnal behavior is about to be ‘cut’ short because, as the ancient saying goes, “hell has no fury like a woman scored.”
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Alberto Barone’s vengeful sex-thriller “Gelosia: Vendetta D’Amore” is a short film laced with irrepressible desires and consequences, doused in pure hatred and nihilism, and packaged as a vibrant grindhouse homage garnished with a tightly-knotted black bow. Milton Welsh stars as Thomas, a man on a bulldozing sexcapade, and with Welsh’s raspy, baritone voice and slick back, greasy hair makes him, on screen, the perfect, middle-aged creep, hooking up with the shameless, uninhibited women. The German born Welsh has indistinguishable looks and talents with the impeccable “Doom” and Rob Zombie “31” actor Richard Brake that brings a lot of despicable enjoyment to not only the performance, but also with the monologue by Welsh throughout the short film. Welsh’s previous credits include the 2011 remake of “Conan the Barbarian,” “Aeon Flux,” and, one of my personal favorite Norman Reedus films, “Antibodies.”
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Welsh’s performing cohorts makeup solely of very well-endowed, very offensive-embracing women that include a porn star, a dominatrix, and a couple of veteran genre actresses starting with the Southern France born Manoush (actress in Marian Dora’s “Cannibal,” “Philosophy of a Knife,” and, most recently, “The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein”) as Heidi, Thomas’ discarded wife. This dominating role didn’t feel quite right, slightly forced, from the possibility of this role not being in Manoush’s native tongue, constraining the gushes of violent emotions that should be exploding from within the character outward. Manoush directly interacts alongside “German Angst’s” Kristina Kostiv, as a very seductive Eastern European escort girl in a manner that blurs the motivations of the characters, but we’ll discuss that later in this review. Rest of the cast fills every man’s, sometime woman’s, prominent fantasy with sacrilegious Nunspolitation and naughty nerd girl scenario roles, respectively donned by Tara Rubin and German porn star Lana Vegas. Both Rubin and Vegas steal from “Gelosia’s” root message with their provocative performances that leave almost nothing to the imagination. Tattoo model Alexa van Unique gets kinky in a brief scene of dominance that’s short and sweet and gets the message across.
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“Gelosia” is Italian for Jealousy, but Alberto Barone’s written and directed film doesn’t hit hard with one of humanities irrational and vile attributes. More in line with the subtitle of “Vendetta d’Amore,” aka Revenge of Love, Barone tells two-stories: One of the monologuing, sex addict that objectifies women more than he wishes to understand them and a vengeful wife with a dastardly plot of deadly retribution against him. I just don’t see jealousy as the major player this short film is titled after and that, at least for me, dilutes much of the radical content supporting the story including the naked women, the gruesome violence, and the admirable cinematography.
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“Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is sexy with shock value. Produced by Ingravisione, the exploitation thriller seeks to debut in late 2017! Overall, Barone’s ultra-exploitation leaves an indifferent residue with me as I’m still hung up on a few difficult to ignore hiccups, but I love the short’s perverse freedom as a whole that’s vivid and modern while staying classic in style. “Gelosia: Vendetta d’Amore” is starting to hit festivals as I type this, bringing all the castrations and sex to an arthouse theater near you!
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Sofia Vergara’s Big Evil Guns! Machete Kills poster!

To be honest with you, I was not a very big fan of Machete. Robert Rodriguez’s concept of a vengeful former Mexican Federale out for blood came off as a neat idea when previewed as a spoof trailer from Grindhouse. And having the hard-ridden look of Danny Trejo portray the character is a match made in hell! What was not to love when the news broke that Rodriquez would actually be writing and directing a feature film a few years later. Yet, I was let down and the sort of slap-stick, roughly edited film just didn’t hold the same thrill as the trailer had spun into me.

Machete must have done well enough to warrant a sequel that I will surely grant audience, but the new poster feature Sofia Vergara and her machine gun tits just screams bland, same old exploitation by Robert Rodriequez, feeling the same similarity with From Dusk till Dawn and the crotch gun worn by Tom Savini. Does Robert Rodriguez feel that privates are ultimately dangerous and should be considered hands off in the eyes of a good Catholic? See the poster below.

Sofia Vergara and her heavy artillery.

Sofia Vergara and her heavy artillery.

Machete Kills does sport a motley crew of a cast that includes fallen angels as Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson. Also appearing would be William Sadler, Cuba Gooding Jr, Amber Heard and Lady Gaga. But of course this would not be a Robert Rodriguez film without his usual cast of actors such as Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Tom Savini, Antonio Banderas, and Electra and Elise Avellan. Machete Kills is slated for a September 13, 2013 release.