Astral projection defined per Wikipedia: an interpretation of an out-of-body experience that assumes the existence of an “astral body” separate from the physical body and capable of traveling outside it. The otherworldly experience befalls suddenly upon Jamison Mandao, a young man living off the royalties of his late father’s flailing popular cereal brand, and his recently discovered, and also bewitching, new astral plane exploring powers land him in a macabre laced predicament with his adult squatting nephew, Jackson, and his nephew’s blood hungry, murderous ex-girlfriend, Maeve. With a little help provided by Jamison’s astral enthusiast relative, cousin Andy, and Maeve’s recent victim whose ghost is stuck in limbo, Jamison must use his astral projection to travel back in time, rearranging the series of events in order to not only appease the desperate pleads of a ghost, but to also save his daft, but good natured nephew becoming her next hapless fatality before the stroke of midnight segueing into the Day of the Dead when their chance to live again will rest in peace for eternity.
Here we go again with a time traveling genre film, the horror-comedy “Mandao of the Dead” from writer, director, and star Scott Dunn. Dunn’s sophomore feature film of 2018 dares the chances in being overly and, frankly, unnecessarily lambasted by internet trolls aiming to pick apart the film, hunting vigorously for time travel plot holes, but, and I reiterate this point again, that Dunn’s film is mainly a comedy where the laws of physics and ideas of probability have no bearing on Dunn’s grim fantasy loop. Despite the rather clichéd title suffix implying a facet from the zombie genre, “Mandao of the Dead” refers toward the post-Halloween, more traditionally Hispanic recognized Day of the Dead on November 2nd and while Dunn uses the day typically held for respect of past lives, the “Schlep” director conjures up a lively twist upon deathly circumstances that forms a cut-off date when that slither of twilight time for the dead ceases to be no more.
Alongside Scott Dunn as Jamison Mandao, Sean McBride buddies up as the freeloading nice nephew, Jackson. Dunn and McBride have previously worked together in Dunn’s first feature entitled Schlep and their rapport in “Mandao of the Dead” indubitably confirms a harmonious witty banter and a light-hearted dark comedy in fine, mechanical form. McBride’s spot on heartfelt halfwit Jackson nicely compliments Mandao’s knack for impatient contemplating. Throw a dude name Darth into Jamison and Jackson’s inert existence and things get dire and interesting. “2-Headed Shark Attack’s” David Gallegos isn’t portrayed as your friendly neighborhood ghost nor is he a malevolent one; instead, Darth begs for help and the cosmic universe delivers to him an astral projector and Gallego’s couldn’t be more sharply colorful with his spontaneous humor. Together, the three 30-something year-olds are pitted against the dark horse that is Maeve. Playing an incognito blood drinker, Marisa Hood has an innocence about her that renders a false sense of security and, in Jackson’s case, a pair of weak knees. Alexandre Chen, Sean Liang, and Gina Gomez round out the cast as characters finding their ways into the Day of the Dead debacle.
While we’ve seen where timelines become mangled by the interference of a time traveler and where the theme is fondled with in “Mandao of the Dead,” Dunn doesn’t over knead the narrative with it though certainly a centerpiece of the film as a whole. Mandao’s adventure with astral projection and his middling with the planes are only the beginning that have stirred a frenzy of unhappy campers in the spiritual world. The whole event of Mandao going back in time, twice, to save people is the proverbial tip of the iceberg and a welcoming taste of what’s to come from Dunn and his team. Shot in 10 days with a tight budget, Dunn, who also self-produced and edited the final product, has crystal clear storytelling abilities even with some of the rough, less glamourous edges encompassed within the world indie filmmaking. The characters are well written, from Cousin Andy, to Jackson, and to Darth, as their three various personalities colliding under a thin, blurry gothically influenced omen line.
“Mandao of the Dead” arrives onto Amazon Instant via Prime Video and presented in a widescreen, 2.35:a aspect ratio, and clocking in at a runtime of 74 minutes. No physical media specifications were provided now or for future release. With a budget around $13,000, the English stereo audio track and Panasonic GH5 image quality are finely calibrated and a flat out success for streaming platforms. No bonus features are included with this release. Vampirism, science-fiction, spirits, and astral planes, “Mandao of the Dead” is Scott Dunn’s golden genre-bending film of ghoulish and space and time continuum disproportions! So much so, a sequel has been announced, “Mandao of the Damned,” sparking a positive anticipated interest, by at least this reviewer, for the next chapter of a hapless, macabre adventures that Jay Mandao and Jackson will step into in the next astral plane!
In the midst of a deranged serial killer’s escape from prison, Four Delta Omega sisters enter a school raffle to represent their sorority and end up winning an all expenses paid hotel suite complete with a luxurious hot tub. As student bodies fall in the maniac’s wake, the sisters flight toward fun times before taking notice how many of their friends and fellow students become unfortunate slashed-up victims and just when things are getting wet and carnal, the killer checks in, crashing good times, and making mince meat out of the lucky winners and their boyfriends.
Budget horror filmmaker Chris Greenaway gets his hands into the sisterhood horror genre with his 2016 written and directed tongue-and-cheek horror-comedy “Hot Tub Party Massacre.” Campy. gratuitous. Schlocky. Greenaway has covered all the bases of a satirical slasher sporting a killer wielding a small garden cultivator – “cultivator” is a good title or moniker for another campy slasher as long as you put the proverbial “the” in front of it. Instead, we get the Canadian cult no-so-classic “Hot Tub Party Massacre” because nothing says killer party than an actual killer at your party and here the party is wet and wild with an escaped maniac on the loose, ready to randomly slice and dice the unscrupulous and individualistic sisters of Delta Omega sorority.
While there’s not a sole headliner to Greenaway’s film, like a Jamie Lee Curtis to Laurie Strobe or a Neve Campbell to Scream, the sorority girls attending the bubbly hot tub affair function as a collective headlining mass of alternative women. In alphabetical order, Amanda Nickels, Erin Hyndman, Jynx Vandersteen (“Father’s Day”), and Sarah Foster each represent Delta Omega’s finest in their respective personas as popular, bookworm, party (or slut?), and goth. The quintessential tropes to any routine slasher star as surprisingly benevolent with their upbeat attitudes and gracious acceptance of all kinds of people. When Hyndman’s nerdy Bethany states she probably shouldn’t attend trip, party girl Brandi, aka Vandersteen, counteracts with you’re one of us, a Delta Omega, and only the best become Delta Omegas. Their stalker, the elusive serial killer, is played by Mark Kiazyk trying to do his best Michael Myers impersonation from the chest down, as he’s frequently screened. Kiazyk’s has the look, a face of pure hatred, and I wish that was more prevalent as it’s a face for television. Rounding out the cast are Delta Omega boyfriends Danny Warren and Ken Wright, “Rust’s” Corey Taylor as a school spirited University newscaster, “you’re all doomed” guy Nicholas MacDonald, and the indie scream queen Brinke Stevens making her bit cameo.
“Hot Tub Party Massacre” is essentially one big homage to the enshrined horror flicks and pays it’s respects to, as aforementioned, Halloween with the killer. Also gives a head nod to Friday the 13th Part II in which a couple are jointly impaled in a very similar frame-by-frame sequence. Even one of the official poster concepts is a direct take from “Slumber Party Massacre” and perhaps the Delta Omega is a sign of respect to another Brinke Stevens’ classic, “Die Delta Die!” Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre,” by title alone, is not a serious horror film looking to ripoff the foundational slashers, but relishes in a lighthearted satire that begins in a realm of Zuckeresque that loses the visual gag steam at the tail end. The montage of gratuitous nudity of Amanda Nickela, Jynx Vandersteen, and Sarah Foster notch up the “Hot Tub’s” antics in fleshing out the skin craving viewers who can’t get enough of blood and boobs. Awarding this feature as a good film, as a pivotal staple in horror, is an extreme over exaggeration and a poor case of judgement, but consider only chocking “Hot Tub Party Massacre” up to being Chris Greenaway’s ode to the archetype slasher genre.
Ron Bonk and his Sub Rosa Studios, along with MVDVisual, proudly present “Hot Tub Party Massacre” onto DVD that absolutely belongs right in SRS’s arsenal of cheap and outrageous horror. The Full Screen 1.33:1 presentation is what it is, an unmatted sign of low resolution and blotchy, patchy image quality. The 2.0 audio track is a seesaw of fidelity where some aspects of the dialogue are barely audible and then the high pitched shrieks, and their are many shrieks, could pierce ear drums through popping static noise. There wasn’t an expectation of par level video-audio quality, but the due diligence is to publicize, not necessarily criticize, that of the DVD technical contents. The DVD cover is straight out of a photo shoot with a round, thong-cladded booty and long legs very shapely in front of an in ground hot tub. FYI – the hot tub in the movie is above ground and in a hotel. Bonus features include commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes footage (that contains more nudity, by the way), and trailers. Chris Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre” has a premise of a short-lived concept that has been run through the kitty-grinder more than once over, but unquestionably is a honoring low-rent tributing spoof of cult classic works that obviously inspired the Canadian horror filmmaker.
From being stuck in stand still Floridian hurricane traffic to waking up in a hospital without any recollection of how she got there, Amy Barrett finds herself in a seemingly evacuated sanitarium on the verge of being hit by a category 5 hurricane. When she finally makes contact with the limited hospital staff, Amy discovers that the staff are not in the position to help, but desire to perform unnecessary surgeries. Then, she finds herself in traffic again. Then, she wakes up in hospital…again. Amy, and other patients, find themselves trapped in a nightmare loop forged by the powers of the massive hurricane. Before the storm passes over, Amy must find a way to end the corkscrew of timelines that propel her limbo hell or else she will be trapped in the hospital forever.
To the O.R. stat! From writer-director Christopher Lawrence Chapman comes “Inoperable,” the horror equivalent to Bill Murray’s exceptional dark comedy “Groundhog Day.” As Chapman’s sophomore directorial, first in the realm of horror, the director takes “Inoperable” to rebrand the quantum paradoxical plight by introducing a medical butchers with hours upon hours, days upon days, years upon years of experience with exploratory surgery and ghastly invasion procedures. Behind the wormhole of terror script with Chapman is co-writer, the b-horror screenwriter, Jeff Miller whose extensive credits include “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” and “Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove.” In this go-around, Miller explores the space-time-continuum, or does he, with Amy reliving the same moment, experienced slightly differently, in an endless loop of grisliness.
Starring in “Inoperable” is the “Halloween’s” franchise third favorite star, behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleseance, being Danielle Harris (“Halloween 4,” “Halloween 5,” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remakes). Harris keeps and maintains the tension, supplementing an increasing annoying and frustrating tone with each and every reset, and does superbly in extended takes running through the hospital’s dark corridors. Amy’s center storied character really puts Harris to work on her ability to flex in sequentially illogical scenes that go in various tangents and come to a dead halt in the end, flipping the script that forces the modern day scream queen to relive some of those killer “Halloween” moments. Harris is accompanied by Katie Keene and Jeff Denton, both whom worked with Chapman previously on the clownsploitation slasher “ClownTown.” Keene and Denton’s characters are also caught up in the same situation as a Denton plays a beefy good looking cop named Ryan who brings in a witness, Keene’s JenArdsen, a dolled up blonde who while in his custody, to the hospital following a multi-vehicle pile up; the very exact incident Amy in which Amy was involved. The two fall for each other more and more with each and every restart and that pain coldly passes over when to bare witness to each other’s demise over and over again is disturbingly twisted. Rounding out the cast is Chris Hahn “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan”), Cher Hubsher (“The Amityville Terror”), Michelle Marin (“Bloody 27”), Philip Schene, and Crystal Cordero.
The trio of resetters formulate a wildly speculated theory that a nearby military compound, experimenting in spatial physics, was ravaged by the hurricane that oozed out their experiments that disrupted timelines, affecting this particular hospital, and the only way to escape the madness is by displacing the same energy that was put into it; so for example, since Ryan and JenArdsen arrived together, they would have to escape together. As long as Amy doesn’t die, every trapped soul is eligible for escape. Wait, what? Like aforementioned, Amy is the centerpiece to the puzzle and the whole entire situation actually revolves around Amy, intentional or not. Even though clues try to put a monkey wrench in that notion, the story always seems to revert back to Amy much like the loop she’s caught in. That in itself is the biggest hint of all that funnels to a underwhelming ending in null and voids the rest of the story.
ITN Distribution presents “Inoperable” onto DVD and VOD. The DVD is presented in a widescreen to “preserve the aspect ratio of its original exhibition” and, yes, this was done so. Nothing too particularly to note about the image quality being a modern release, but the color palette is balanced and vivid. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital track has some good range and clear dialogue that effective communicate all theories and explanations on why this is happen to Amy, Ryan, and JenArdsen. Extras are slim that include a cast and crew commentary and the theatrical trailer. The Zorya Films and Millman Productions’ “Inoperable” is open heart surgery gory and is unique in a deadfall environment that’s sublimely refreshing for the over saturated genre, but culminates flaccidly with a conventional finale too predictable for comfort.
Mike, a mild mannered, middle-aged man, notices a young couple moving into the vacant house next door. His mundane marriage roots out a curiosity infatuation with Jenna, a young and beautiful woman, next moving in. Jenna and her husband Scott, a fast talking exotic car salesman, have recently only have been married for the short time of four months and Mike feels something isn’t quite normal with Scott when he witnesses and overhears violent behavior from his new neighbor toward his wife. Concerned for her wellbeing, Mike, at first, attempts to interject the best way he can without over stepping his bounds by offering to assist with Jenna’s work-in- progress garden or just chatting over the yard dividing wall when Scott isn’t around, but when he assumes things become physically abusive between them, Mike is forced to do more than just mind his own business at the request of his wife and friends. Is Mike willing to risk everything, such as his long term marriage, in order to help a complete and total stranger he barely knows?
“The Neighbor” is a dramatic thriller from the 2011 crime drama “Catch .44” writer-director Aaron Harvey co-written with first time writer, long time editor, Richard Byard. Harvey and Byard attempt to explore the very common situation of what do you do when you’re exposed to marital violence and how much involvement one should put themselves into assisting the battered party. In short, you’re morally obliged to dial call 9-1-1 and report spousal abuse, but to ensure entertainment value for us viewers, the filmmakers pen Mike as something far worse – a concerned spectator. Instead, Mike wallows about by attending to his garden, working on his technical writing from home, or slicing tomatoes in the kitchen all the while being a part of the problem of the domestic violence next door and it’s not as if the violence is even in question as Jenna flat out tells Mike that Scott has a behavior problem whenever he drinks too much. Right then and there, Mike should be ringing the police the next moment a flare up occurs. Mike is the epitomized reason audiences would be vacuumed into the story as each and every one of us could potentially be a passive Mike in a similar situation.
One of the more underrated actors in the industry today, William Fichtner, steps into the comfy slippers of the garden trowel wielding Mike. The “Armageddon” and “Drive Angry” Fichtner’s chiseled and unique facial features typically casts him as hard nose characters – military types, villains, etc., – but “The Neighbor” offers Fichnter a chance to play normalcy. However, Fichtner’s approach to a house husband bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Myers from John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” With stiff, straight arms by his sides, soulless eyes, and an absent personality, Mike has the gait and the expressions of the William Shatner masked psychopath that’s churns out an awkward performance that blurs the character’s intentions between either being righteous and obsessed. The good looking couple next door are played by Australian born Jessica McNamme and Michael Rosenbaum, also of “Catch .44.” Rosenbaum plays an impeccable dick so well there’s a surefire chance that his character, the fast talking exotic car salesman, will be disliked and as a stark contrast, Namee’s channels a sweet disposition that surfaces the question, why these two are even together? Yet, the Jenna wish-washy stance with Scott makes her frustrating which Mike takes with an astonishing grain of salt. Jean Louisa Kelly, Colin Woodell, and Erich Anderson “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” costar.
With a solid cast with a few quirks, “The Neighbor,” under the directorial eye of Aaron Harvey, should have shaped up to be an apprehensive, nail-biting thriller. Instead, some aspects of the Harvey’s film didn’t feel right. For instance, Lisa (Jean Louisa Kelly) and Mike’s marriage was never rocky; the union might have been stagnant from just the day-in-day-out repetitiveness and the longevity of knowing someone from an extended period of time, but there’s a scene when Lisa abruptly decides to throw Mike out of their house. The moment is so random and so unexpected the momentum and the weight of the story changes, pivoting too acutely to compute why Lisa would doghouse Mike over his justifiable concerns over Jenna’s safety without prior marital complexities between them. The entire film almost feels like it’s from Mike’s perspective as everyone, from his friends to his wife and son, seem to unacknowledged his presence whereas Jenna brightens, smiles, and welcomes him in conversation, advice, and even a little intimacy, but that may or may not have transpired.
The Michael Bruce Pictures and Blood Moon Creative produced “The Neighbor” is currently in select theaters from Vertical Entertainment. With a runtime of 105 minutes, “The Neighbor” will drag out under an engaging plot that ultimately goes sluggish at the tail end and even though brilliant and colorful in his prior work, Fichtner is a complete shell of his former characters as a expressionless zombie softly hellbent on saving a train wreck of a young woman from her volatile husband. Overall, “The Neighbor” falls flat to technically write how to right a situation without being caught in the middle of the situation.
Julia Trent is left orphaned after the fatal accident of her parents that involved them falling to their fiery deaths when their car careens off a cliff attempting to drive their housekeeper home. The only family Julia has left is the Bryant family whom she hasn’t seen in over 15 years. The Bryants welcome their niece with consolation and open arms, inviting her to room with her cousin, Rachel. Rachel has the perfect life: a loving mother and father, a cute boyfriend, and the ability to ride and compete in horse competitions. However, Rachel’s world is upended when Julia enters her life and something just doesn’t seem right when Julia slowly begins to push Rachel out of her comfy position, bewitching the men in her life to turn against her and being the center of a number of considerable accidents. As Rachel suspicions grow and she becomes further attached from all those that surround her, an investigation ensues with Rachel at helm to retrieve what’s rightfully her’s from an underlying evil.
The late Wes Craven made for television movie “Summer of Fear,” also known as “Stranger in the House,” is a living relic; a time capsule type horror this generation will find difficult to grasp, like Nintendo’s Gameboy or music tape cassettes, with thrilling suspense unlike today’s cookie cutter product. After he shocked audiences with the controversial “The Last House on the Left” and crafted a shifty dream killer in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” director Wes Craven embarked on a venture into the television movie scene that didn’t spur graphic content, but focused putting the supernatural in the forefront of reality with a similarity to that of “Tales of the Darkside” or “The Twilight Zone,” captivating audiences sitting in front of the boobtube with twists and thrills in a Halloween premiered NBC movie. Based on Lois Duncan’s novel of the same title and written for television by Glenn Benest (who also wrote another Craven directed picture “Deadly Blessings”) and Max Keller, Wes Craven greatly accepted the challenge of reaching a broad audience without being subversive and explicit, sharing his vision with another living horror icon in the starring role.
“The Exorcist’s” Linda Blair has a role that’s certainly a far cry from the possessed Reagan, but the 1978 “Summer of Fear” had opened up a sleuth-type role for Blair that made her more of the hunter than the victim. Blair’s raspy voice and spoiled girl attitude completes the privileged daughter of the household compared to her tall and charming rival, Julia Trent, in “Necromancy’s” Lee Purcell. Purcell compliments Blair all too well and, together, the on screen tension is ever present, even if slightly over exaggerated. From that point on, “Summer of Fear” was filled in by other great talent such as Jeremy Slate (“True Grit” ’69), Carol Lawrence, a very young Fran Drescher in the beginning of her career, Jeff McCracken, and Jeff East (“Pumpkinhead”), but the more fascinating role, that was hardly explored, is awarded to MacDonald Carey, the resident occult professor of the neighborhood. Carey’s has a very old school actor with a performance very familiar to Robert Mitchum and the veteran actor’s vast career felt very small here in the catalytic role as the confirming source for Rachel in her suspicions.
In addition to the withdrawal of the contentious content, “Summer of Fear” entertains on a minimalistic special effects stage that still pops with jaw-dropping suspense and still caters to an, even if slightly dated, story altering moment that rockets toward a maelstrom finish. All the while, Lee Purcell’s character has such glam and beauty that the bewitching sticks overpoweringly raw as a telling moment that beauty isn’t all that’s wrapped up to be and people can be ugly on the inside. Through brief glimpses into Julia Trent’s authentic past, including the mountainous Ozark retreats, one could conclude the story’s ultimate ending, but the fact that the actors embrace their rolls and Wes Craven connects himself enthusiastically to the project makes “Summer of Fear” a solid small box show of terror.
Doppelgänger Releasing releases the Wes Craven classic “Summer of Fear” for the first time onto Blu-ray home video. Transferred to a 1080p resolution, the presentation is certainly made from TV in the Academy, 4:3 or 1.33:1, aspect ratio. Image quality sporadically has moments of definition instability where the image goes fluffy or soft and amongst the duration’s entirety are a slew of white specks and noticeable grain, but the transfer remains solid over the decades that display a grandeur of vivid coloring despite some scenes of with an overburdening washed yellow tint. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio cleanly presents the feature with not a lot of flashy audio moments and the dialogue is clean and clear suggesting that the audio track aged very well. Bonus material includes an audio commentary track by director Wes Craven, an exclusive interview with Linda Blair, photo and poster gallery, and concluding with the original 1978 trailer. “Summer of Fear” might be obsolete in modern ways of terror filmmaking, but Wes Craven imprints a searing cult classic that brandishes more than just guts and gore. Instead, the father of “Scream” continues to impress beyond the grave, thanks to distributors like Doppelgänger Releasing, with the filmmaker’s expansive range that debunks many popcorn horror goers’ assumptions about the director and his films. “Summer of Fear” simply showcases that Craven was a jack of all trades when coming down to brass tax in creating a terrifying story.