You Must Put EVIL to Fire! “You Are Not My Mother” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

Quiet and meek Charlotte lives with her granny and mother in Northern Dublin, Ireland. When Charlotte’s mother spirals into one of her depression fits after dropping off Charlotte at school, her mother disappears without a trace only to return a day later, wandering into their home in the middle of the night. Happy to see her mother acting jovial, the teen aims to reconnect the mother-daughter bridge that has long been under disrepair due to severe mental depression, but she then notices a string of fits, fits not concerning depression but of violent, erratic behavior too frightening for Charlotte to believe that this person who came back home in the middle of the night is the same person, her same mother. When her Granny suspects that mom has been replaced with a changeling, Charlotte and her new best friend Suzanne seek to uncover her mother’s true self on Halloween night when the barrier between our world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest.

There are many customs and cultures surrounding Halloween for various countries. Sometimes, the day that most of us horror fans look forward to every 31st day of October every year isn’t always about dressing up in costume, obtaining bags upon bags full of candy, doing mischievous pranks, or even sitting down to marathon the Michael Myers’ “Halloween” franchise. For UK, specifically in Northern Ireland, bonfires light up the land on Halloween,” or what is called Samhaim, for an array of reasons, one more traditionally being to keep evil spirits from crossing over from their dimension and into ours when the “All Hallow’s Eve” barrier between the two realms near kiss in proximity. Today’s Irelanders set ablaze bonfires more for an extravagant, beer-drinking party than to defensively thwart the uninvited spirits from gliding into our world and this becomes the Halloween backdrop for Kate Dolan’s written-and-directed, debut feature length folklore horror film, “You Are Not My Mother,” as a battle against the supernatural hidden in plain sight as one of us, a doppelganger. Dublin-based Fantastic Films (“Vivarium”) and the sweeping Screen Ireland compose as the film’s production companies with “Vivarium” and “Sea Fever’s” Deirdre Levins as producer.

The touch and go fragile battlegrounds of where children tiptoe on already severely fractured eggshells around their parents debilitating and volatile depression can be tough to capture on screen.  The voyeuristic hesitancy of sunken melancholy keeps the child around the fringes and ever guessing their parent’s rotating state of mind and “The Green Sea’s” Hazel Douple, as the teenage daughter Charlotte, nicknamed Char, and Carolyn Bracken (“The Dublin Murders”), as the unstable mother, connect strongly with that unnatural relationship imbalance.  Douple is perfectly reserved with Char’s mother’s erraticism, witnessing, and conveying a different response with just her eyes, every emotional stage washes over her mother from listlessness to jovial dancing to complete abusive rage, a range Bracken unnervingly does so frighteningly well.  Eventually, Char would need to realize the truth that her mother’s manic behavior is not solely due to a mental health issue but a malevolent fairy issue and need to break the chains of restraint to save the only parent she has left.  There’s no mention of a father figure throughout the narrative and could only speculate that the father either past or hightailed the relationship due an infinite amount of reasons with one being more prominent against mom’s harmful instability.  Amongst the multi-generational, female-driven, character story is the top matriarch in Granny, played by “Citadel’s” Ingrid Craigie, who is positioned awkwardly as a bypassed presence and not really substantial weight bearing down on the contentious tension in the house they all share together.  Granny’s off-putting and mysterious ever since the opening scene with a layer of understanding and occultism hardly tapped into or even with a slight of exposition as she builds talismans and goes off to visit a friend to discuss Char’s mother.  Paul Reid (“The Ritual”), Jordanne Jones, Katie White, Jade Jordan, and Florence Adebambo co-star.

“You Are Not My Mother” continues to be a tsunami of new wave UK horror washing onto the shores of theatrical, digital, and home video platforms and any film that starts with burning a baby just might be okay in my book.  No, I’m not a psychopath, I just like to be overcome by dreadful content; yet, though the Kate Dolan cinematic accession as a feature film writer-director doesn’t start with perfection with the story burdening more wrinkles than the direction  I’ve already touched upon the mishandling of Granny and her connection to a supernatural belief goes without say that her role as mediator falls severely short of development key to Char’s total comprehension of her mother not really being her mother due to XYZ reason.  The backstory also tries to reinstate itself into the present story but can’t shape up from its gelatinous yarn, giving little for Char and the audiences to work off of and take all that is happening with good faith on face value. There are continuous instances of this weak bridge connection between characters and events as we also see between Char and a school bully Suzanne who instantly become best friends after a single shared connection that’s not poignantly stabbing, but for the narrative, it’s enough for Suzanne, who wants chewed gum and stuck it on Char’s school notes or help set a photograph of her mother on fire, to open up a soft spot instantaneously without a hurtle to overcome.  Where “You Are Not My Mother” succeeds is in the character and story driven parameters without relying heavily on gratuitous special effects with enough practical to scare the wits out of you and firmly no CGI to supplement the creation of Carolyn Bracken’s facial dysmorphia, like a disturbing happy face emoji, as a replaced mother.

“You Are Not My Mother” is a Halloween movie, an Irish folklore Halloween movie, prickled with Samhain traditions at the very core of Kate Dolan’s story.  The film is slated for a March 25th release in theaters and on demand from Magnet Releasing. The 93-minute folklore horror is equally matched by its rifting, soul-stirring composition from the Belfast-based and worldly-sound of Die Hexen who also double-dips as sound designer, blending sometimes delicate but often jarring synthesized ensemble of sound. Narayan Van Maele’s cinematography has an overcast austere, almost icy, in the rendering of what is usually a lush in greenery and rich in historical, old-world place, but the Maele’s wide and long shots are engrossing accompanied by a tighter edge that often feels cramped when inside the house, good for close quartered domestic contention in the family drama parameter. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits for this film. If not for Carolyn Bracken and Hazel Douple’s fiery and lucid performances to keep glued to, “You Are Not My Mother” would simply fall apart at the seams, squandering much of the Irish folklore that already hangs by a thread.

Meir Zarchi Returns With Another Round of EVIL Exploitation! “I Spit On Your Grave Deja Vu” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)

Forty long years have passed since the sexual assaulting atrocities of Johnny Stillman and his gang were committed on the young and beautiful Jennifer Hills.  Empowered by her horrific tale of survival with the release of a new tell all book of how she outwitted and took homicidal revenge on her rapists by luring them in with her sexual persuasions, Hills finds herself back in familiar terrorizing territory being kidnapped by Johnny’s devoutly vindictive widow and three living relatives of the gang that once ganged raped and brutally beat her, but she’s not alone.  Captive with her as collateral damage is her famous supermodel daughter, Christy.  Both are caught up in an eye-for-an-eye revenge plot where being lethal is the only means of survival and with a long history of resentment, rooted deep inside Johnny’s kin, fighting back will take every ounce of resilience and strength against a community of hellbent sociopaths. 

Circa 2005-2006 is around the time I first bared witness to Meir Zarchi’s 1978 controversial exploitation shocker, “I Spit on Your Grave.”  Popping in the DVD popped open my eyes to the world of graphic vengeance and the submission to primal, carnal whims inside the human-on-human violence context.  Before Zarchi’s film, which is also known as “Day of the Woman,” and even Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left,” this neophyte’s description and knowledge of horror was limited to the stymies of broadcast television that only aired edited and censored slashers like the “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” series or supernatural presences of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Poltergeist.”  Never has the likes of “I Spit on Your Grave” been a red pill option into the vast horror matrix for this then college kid who glazed over with the façade of sleeping through studies and worrying over trivial matters involving the opposite sex.  In a way, Zarchi was a kind of Morpheus to me when I started purchasing physical media that opened my eyes and my mind to the rape and revenge facet in horror hidden behind the commercial veil.  In 2010, a Zarchi produced reboot saw more light in the commerciality and spawned two sequels in its wake, but not until 2019 did Zarchi get back to writing and sit back in his director’s chair to helm an official, yet less commercial, sequel entitled “I Spit On Your Grave Déjà Vu” or “Day of the Woman Déjà vu” that was produced by his limited company banner, Déjà Vu LLC with son Terry Zarchi and Jan O’Connell producing.

The long-awaited sequel reteamed Zarchi with original lead actress, and also ex-wife, Camille Keaton, distant relative of the famed comedy and stunt actor, Buster Keaton.  Camille Keaton, who looks phenomenal in her 70s during production, steps back into the infamous Jennifer Mills role that made her a household name amongst grindhouse-horror community.  Though completely nude for most of the 1978 film, that part of her performance takes a step back for a new actress to pave a new path in the saga.  Obscure indie scream queen Jamie Bernadette (“Axeman,” “The Bunnyman Massacre”) is ceremoniously passed the torched as the new riches to ragdoll as the Jennifer Mill’s unhappy supermodel daughter, Christy, who becomes haplessly snagged into her mother’s unforgotten past.  Bernadette offers a variable beauty and a diverse poise that doesn’t make Christy a carbon copy of Jennifer Hills, but the actresses deliver the same apathetic venom of a woman scorn.  More of a carbon copy is the four backwoods bumpkins fuming over Jennifer Mills’ vindictive dissecting of their dead relatives.  The gang is spearheaded by Beck, played by Maria Olsen who, like Bernadette, has made a name for herself in low-budget horror having roles in films such as “To Jennifer,” “Starry Eyes,” and “Gore Orphanage.”  Olsen projects Becky as the gas station attendant from Hell, someone you don’t want to interact too long with as you’re pumping gas in the middle of nowhere, but Becky is not a woman of a few words who constantly has to remind us, to the blistering point of annoying, that she must avenge her late husband’s sinful murderess.  The rest of the gang didn’t impress much after that.  Jonathan Peacy has a chance to shine from out of the extra and bit part shadows as the crazed and hyperactive Kevin, brother of Stanley from the original film, and while Peacy channels his best Al Leong look, Kevin is ultimate a big detrimental goof with small dog syndrome than actual menace.    The last two aren’t any better with a lackluster act by Jeremy Ferdman as Andy’s cousin and “Tales of Frankenstein’s” Jim Tavaré’s rather befuddling downplay of Matthew’s mentally disordered father, Herman, who teeters back and forth between morals with a jumbled underlay of piety.  There are not many sane performances in a rather loose and unbridled Zarchi follow up with a cast that rounds out with Alexandra Kenworthy, Roy Allen III, and Holgie Forrester.

Performances aside, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” is also a cacophony of yelling as the script, from paper to pronunciation, reaches top of the lung levels with every bit of dialogue from every player in this tussle of who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes down to justifications of killing.  Zarchi’s sequel lacks the tact his first film achieves so delicately with Mills post-assault softer approach to lay waste her assailants.  “Déjà vu” satisfies its own revenge kicks with little subtly in trying to be outrageous, outlandish, and off its rocker as the confrontation between Christy and the gang becomes a rancorous grudge match.  What concerns me most about “Déjà vu” is the year in which this sequel takes place.  Between the 1978 original and the 2019 follow up, 40 years have passed, but the characters don’t fit any of Father Time’s natural aging characteristics on the surface.  Becky looks okay as an early to mid-60s woman despite Maria Olsen’s actual age being early 50s at the time of filming and release.  Herman is another one that sneaks into fathomable constructs as a character living a farmer’s life in the latter half of middle age, but I question whether Kevin and Scotty were even born yet.  The two youngsters barely seem to be out of their 30s and the same can be said for Christy where much more of her life is revealed as the story progresses.   If following the script logic, I would assume the story takes place in the 90s, but certain technologic advances, like modern day touchscreen phones, suggests no earlier than late 2000s.  As a whole, time and space don’t appear to exist on any reasonable plane for the film with characters able to bump into each at random intervals despite being a densely wooded and rural location and, for all you cinematographers out there, if your location is supposed to be rural, don’t shoot in at a cemetery with a massive grave footprint with a stream of cars speeding down a busy suburban street.  You instantly lose the illusion.  Zarchi’s intentions were clear to only echo the original while allowing for individuality with a brasher onslaught of right versus wrong, eye for an eye, and misguided righteousness for injustice, but the execution crumbles with excruciating results, never reaching the same poetic justice the first film accomplishes so graphically grafted. 

As far as rape and revenge exploitation is considered, “I Spit on Your Grave Déjà vu” gets about as down and dirty and ugly as they come.  Cult movie curator, Ronin Flix, delivers the Meir Zarchi sequel onto Blu-ray home video, presented in 1080p, full high definition, with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  A+ for natural lighting, skin tones, and overall appeal, Pedja Radenkovic’s cinematography is about as uninspiring as they come artistically, but, as a personal preference, the shots are more organic, raw, and less distracting from the content that’s much more abrasive and interesting.  A more natural framework also more time for Russell FX’s practical effects to be showcased without enhanced imagery.  As long as the details are there (they are), no damage is concerning (there wasn’t), and the framing made sense (for the most part), “Déjà vu” can be considered a win for Radenkovic.  The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack for “Déjà vu” is a blessing and a curse.  Dialogue clarity is excellent and there’s a wide range to exploit, forgive the punned term, each channel with great balance, but remember what I said about all the character yelling?  Also, with the higher bitrate DTS, the quality is too good for some of the applied ambient effects like the exhaust sputtering of an old Ford pickup that sounds way too fake and way too close despite its positioning in the scene. The region A, not rated Blu-ray is stored on a BD50 due in part to the film’s massive 148 runtime and the inclusion of special features that include a new audio commentary with film critic and “The Last Drive-In” host Joe Bob Briggs, select cast interviews, the making of the film, behind the scenes footage from producer Terry Zarchi, and the theatrical trailer. Is “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” the long-awaited sequel to Meir Zarchi’s first film? I’d say they’re two totally different exploitation entities cut from the same cloth with ties only in names and some flashbacks alone, but both films would make for a great double bill that starts with a harrowing, nothing-to-lose, woebegone toned, revenge thriller complimented with a lukewarm and unfocused follow up to help come down off the original’s gripping ultra-violence high.

Ronin Flix’s “I Spit on Your Grave Deja Vu” Blu-ray available at Amazon.com!

Daughters Don’t Cause This Much EVIL! “Son” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



After escaping the imprisonment of an abusive ordeal with her father’s cult, the next eight years have been easy for Laurel living with the joy of her son who was born as a result of her abuse.  When her son contracts a mystery ailment that causes open sore rashes and bloody vomit, the doctors are baffled when the surely fatal, undetermined disease makes a rapid retreat and the boy recovers seemingly miraculously.  Days later, the boy again falls more ill and, this time, Laura suspects her previous life in the cult to be behind his suffering.  With clandestine acolytes making the presence known, Laura flees with her son as the two motel jump across the Midwest with no only two detectives on her tail but also the cult looking to reclaim her son with a terrifying and gruesome new gift. 

Back into the creepy kid subgenre field we go with another multiplex single mother and son relationship American-thriller, simply titled “Son,” from Irish-American writer and director of “The Canal,” Ivan Kavanagh.  Spun from the yarn of familiarities that are stitched together with the overprotective mother trope battling the forces of beleaguering evil reigning down on her child, as seen in such films with Jacob Chase’s “Come Play” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” Kavanagh deviates from the abstract lines of the mental illness undercurrent that reshapes and plagues centric characters into horrific, supernatural episodes of isolation, grief, and loneliness personified by often terrorizing entities lurking in the dark.  “Son” is an American production formed by intercontinental production companies with the UK’s Elastic Films (“Cub,” “What We Become”) spearheaded by producer Louis Tisné, Dublin based Park Films co-operated by Kavanagh along with AnneMarie Naughton and Ana Habajec, and René Bastian and Linda Moran’s Belladonna Productions (“Funny Games,” “Stake Land”). “Son” is an exclusive release of Shudder and RLJE International.

Added to the long history of assorted turmoiled single mothers versus the things that go bump in the night is currently a big name in horror at the moment with being principally casted in the latest three recognized sequels of the “Halloween” franchise.  Andi Matichak steps into the wretched past but ever so optimistic shoes of Kindergarten teacher Laura whose introduced in a prologue of heavy rain and the blood pumping cacophony of an intense chase.  Pregnant and haggardly dirty and barefooted, Laura is being followed by menacing, unknown men before she pulls off to safety just in time to give birth to a child she verbally proclaims no desire for but reluctantly accepts as her own after a bloody, front seat natural delivery, a moment that not only conveys Laura’s compassion but also her strength. Fast forward, Laura and son David (Luke David Blumm, “The King of Staten Island”) living daily normal lives with school, neighbors, and the ins and outs of parenting.  Blumm gives a good run on distress and duress as the titular character that has contracted an illness rapidly reconstructing his mortal soul.  “Killer Joe” and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe’s” Emil Hirsch enacts a sympathetic detective taking an interest in Laura’s case, but Hirsch is mostly silent and stiff, almost like he’s part of the background furniture, for the entirety of the character arc, bringing down, as a counteractive device, much of “Son’s” speedball narrative.  Rounding out “Son’s” cast is Blaine Maye, Cranston Johnson, Kristine Nielsen, Erin Bradley Danger, Adam Stephenson, and David Kallaway.

“Son” is surprisingly gory involving intestinal viscera and severed body parts with child actor Luke David Blumm at the center of all the carnage and the story is heartbreakingly sober when a mother, a rape victim, has to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.  Kavanagh subtly massages the thematic quandary of how a rape resulted child can be a perspective schism.  On one hand, the born without sin child stems the mother’s womb, ready to be loved and cared for by instinct to protect our own, whereas the other side, of that coin, more ingrained into the human psyche than we like to admit, is the child is a constant reminder of the past, a figurative reincarnation of a hurtful monster who the victim has to lay eyes on every day for the rest of their life.  Kavanagh instills into Laura that blurred line of trauma while imprisoned by the cult and she couldn’t clearly recollect whether her father or someone, or something, else is David’s biological father.  However, Kavanagh’s script houses too many illogical potholes to warrant foolproof approval, some more egregious than others.  For example, at one point Laura removes her severely ill son from the hospital without authorization because she believes cult members are after him to at which then she arrives back home to gather clothes and supplies to skedaddle out of town.  Yet, there were no police officers or cult members in route or staged at the home which should have been the first place anyone looking for Laura, as Emil Hirsch’s character states over the phone to Laura, would be staked out.  Secondly, the local detectives are able to cross state lines into Mississippi, Kansas, and Alabama without so much as batting an eye lash, presumably stepping over local authority.  Lastly, If evidence of a cult, especially a pedophile cult as one of the detectives suggests, is rearing its ugly head again and coming after a previous victim and her son, the federal government would be much more involved than local PD.  “Son” holds fast in keeping it’s cast close to the chest albeit some severe logical issues.  With that being said, Kavanagh knows how invoke dread and horror with his bleak narrative and stylistic techniques.  Good at horror, poor at story is what Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son” boils down to, leaving behind a lingering middle of the road afterthought in it’s wanton wake.

“Son’s” the past catches up with us all story perpetually never becomes tiresome, hitting every stage precisely with intention and full of scares to garner big, soul-freezing reactions. The iciness of “Son” will leave goosebumps, raise hairs, and shiver spines and you can watch it all now on a UK Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. Presented fully hi-def in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the region 2 Blu-ray is PAL encoded and has a runtime of 98 minutes with UK rating for strong gore, violence, language, sexual threat, and child abuse references. When looking over the picture quality, there’s not much to note other than some scenes appear softer than others in a more a director’s style approach to the content of the scene. Much of the blood is inky black with a nice mirror glaze shine, as Paul Hollywood would say, inside from the solemn color-toned to the natural lighting of daytime scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix has a robust and fiery soundtrack in Aza Hand’s quite aggressive sophomore composing score. Dialogue is clean and clear without any break in the chain or obstruction as the audio tracks are balanced appropriately through all five channels. Special features include a spliced together snippets from interviews with the cast and crew along with deleted scenes more directly involved exploring Laura’s cult-captive background. To say you would do anything for your child is a complete understatement in Ivan Kavanagh’s “Son,” a top shelf singer full of venom , but as a whole, better stories are out there.

Take a Dekko at this EVIL! “The Collingswood Story” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)



Rebecca moves from her small town of Bedford, Virginia to Collingswood, New Jersey to attend college.  Her small town boyfriend, Johnny, buys her a webcam to keep in touch with long distant video chatting, or to more so keep tabs on the sanctity of their fraying relationship.  For her birthday, Johnny provides her an entertaining list of audiovisual phone numbers to call, one such number belonging to an enigmatic online psychic Vera Madeline who is compelled to reveal Collingswood’s gruesome, satanic ritualistic history with one of the town’s most horrific mass murders having occurred at the very house Rebecca currently resides.  As Rebecca and Johnny investigate deeper, the webcam keeps rolling as their curiosity leads them into a dark and deadly supernatural mystery that will engulf them both. 

Talk about dated content!  “The Collingswood Story” is the 2002 trailblazer for the paranormal webcam subgenre that has ballooned over the last decade with the success of “Host,” “Followed,” and even the “Paranormal Activity” mega-franchise.  Writer-director Mike Costanza’s early 2000s film starkly contrasts how internet communication technology has changed over the last two decades with the ridiculous long corded phone jack plugins, time consuming uploading of camera footage before the invention of social media live platforms, and the lack of a pre-multiple participant teleconference with a limited single caller-to-caller video application. Once under the working title of “Mischief Night” as the story is set around Halloween night, “The Collingswood Story” is one of Constanza’s first feature films after branching out from the Paramount Pictures’ art department and right into the low-budget horror constraints, but the novel stylistic idea, based off real reports of a mass murder in a New Jersey town and saw little-to-no post-completion success traction back in the early 2000s, was a sell-produced production by Constanza’s Cinerebel Media along with associate producer Beverly Burton.

An interesting tidbit about “The Collingwood Story’s” shooting with the cast is that all the actors were shot individually since everything was done on essentially a webcam. Constaza would be in the room and read opposite the actor in performance. What’s spliced together makes good on delivering reasonable and believable menace, but without talent performances, there would not have been a revisiting home video release of this title. Stephanie Dees got her start in a major horror franchise by playing a minor role in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and 13 years later, Dees finds herself in the lead role of pioneering computer horror as birthday Rebecca. Opposite Rebecca is the lovesick paranoid puppy Johnny, played by Johnny Burton in his only credited role. Rebecca and Johnny go through the song and dance of his skirting around his relationship controlling paranoia as he bounces from Rebecca to his crass friend Bill (Grant Edmonds) while Rebecca is the picture of studious student, ignorant to the self-imposed friction in Johnny’s head. Burton’s a little stiff around the gills in his one-note and uninspired blue collar rendition of a longing, small town boyfriend whose personality matches his small bedroom as a background that never changes with the character unlike Rebecca who seems to grow into her environment with ever frame. In what’s probably her biggest identified role in a feature film, television actress Diane Behrens lurks in the shadows as the enigmatic psychic Vera Madeline wresting the story away from the slow burn of a dissolving relationship of young lovers and diverting into what we all came here for – a thrilling ghost story. Behrens plays the part with showmanship and a subtle inking that anything itching to come off her of mouth will be infomercial and portentous.

What Costanza has accomplished technically with “The Collingswood Story” is nothing short of amazing in his ability to seamlessly film and edit not only the scenes together coherently but also fabricate a meaningful connection between the two actors, shooting separately without a breath of another’s creativity to pull from, over still rather new and evolving technology to which some opposing critics would consider the technology to be disassociating the social standards.  “The Collingswood Story” is not a point and click monotony of talking head syndrome one might expect as Costanza, despite the gratuitous B-roll footage recorded by Rebecca as she drives around Collingwood searching specific locations, adds enough main footage filler of Johnny’s suspicions of a secret boyfriend, Johnny’s lowlife, yet witty, friend Billy giving him bad advice, and of psychic Vera Madeline’s mystifying mysticisms to keep viewers engaged while looking through the garbled eyeglass of lower compression bitrate quality of webcam footage shot on a Hi-8 camcorder that truly gives Costanza’s film that 90’s SOV feel at times.  There’s also the age-old theme of helplessness associated with webcam horror where those characters watching, just like us viewers, can only watch in an eye-widening terror unable to be a lifesaving branch of help when the supernatural stuff goes down.  Costanza also conveys the sense that the paranormal has zero limitations on a medium, in either a soothsayer or an internet conduit facet, to extend evil from the beyond, but the limitations on sensibility can extend only to a certain point in a culminating of Rebecca’s foreboding curiosity as her expedition into her lodging’s attic behooves her to take her laptop, along with its super long extension jack plugin cord, in order for her boyfriend, who lives a good 600 miles South, to accompany her into the darkness.  At this point, technology has yet to catch up with “The Collingswood Story” need and that’s where plausibility of the characters logic fumbles coinciding with an open for interpretation ending that wraps too quickly and asks more questions than provide answers.

For the first time, “The Collingswood Story” receives a proper North American release where technology has finally caught up to Mike Costanza’s vision! Cauldron Films presents the worldwide debut of a high definition, unrated, and region free Blu-ray release, remastered from the original source tapes by Costanza himself. Filmed on a Super Hi-8 camcorder, with Costanza undoubtedly the DP, “The Collingswood Story” remains presented in it’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and what also remains is the compression artefacts associated with transferring the source tapes. Certainly nothing devastating beyond a handful of B-roll scenes as much of the webcam shots look neat and tidy, but I’m surprised the reversal, aka webcam perspective of the person talking, scenes still shows a fair amount of blocky noise. The English language 2.0 stereo mix emits noticeable background static from, more than likely the culprit, the digital interference. The faint hum of dialogue track feedback hum is annoyingly choppy and it’s not just the play on the webcam mic of come-and-go vocals and background noise; however, the dialogue is clean and clear. The choice of soundtrack, a sundry of late 90’s-early 2000s placid rock, is audibly limp even for the dual channel output. The release comes with option English SDH subtitles and has a runtime of 82 minutes. Special features includes a behind the story with Mike Costanza looking back at the genesis of the idea as well as noting his inspiration for the idea, an interview with Stephanie Dees, an interview with Johnny Burton and Grant Edmonds, a director commentary, image gallery, and trailer. Despite it’s antiquated flaws, the crossbreeding of tech and terror in “The Collingswood Story” should have lifted the film into the cult status rafters of found footage films with the likes of “The Blair Witch Project,” but in lieu of the world’s massive oversight, Cauldron Film’s release is a big leap forward that looks back to the past.

Own the Limited Edition “The Collingswood Story” on Blu-ray Today!

Dan Stevens. The New Face of EVIL? Freakin’ Love It! “The Guest” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / BD-R Screener)

Recently hospital discharged combat soldier David Collins visits a fallen brother in arms’ family, The Petersons, to convey their son’s last moments of love for his family.  Taken immediately in by the grieving mother, David stays for a few nights at the Peterson home, quickly befriending the family of four with his military “yes ma’am” charm and good looks.  When a string of accidental and homicide related deaths begin to flare up in what’s typically a quiet rural town, eldest daughter, Anna, suspicions turn to David.  As Anna digs deeper into David’s past, nothing can stop the elite special forces soldier from taking steps to protect his identity and his mission, even if that means turning the Petersons’ hometown into a deadly warzone. 

One part action, one part slasher – Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” is a hot take on the infiltrator horror subgenre.  The “Pop Skull” and “You’re Next” director, who went on to helm the epic clash of the two biggest creatures in all of creature feature history with this year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” directed “The Guest” to challenge the slasher narrative with an atypical, slightly campy, American indie thriller with an unanticipated and surprising twist that’s more than just your run-of-the-mill snapped war-traumatized soldier gone shell-shocked rogue.  The script reteams “Dead Birds’” writer Simon Barrett with Wingard for their eighth collaboration that pits all the story’s action into the rural confines of an unnamed small town in America while the actual shooting location takes place in New Mexico.  “The Guest” is a production of the UK based HanWay Films, which also oversaw the production of Wingard’s “You’re Next,” and Snoot Entertainment of the zomedy “Little Monsters” from the producing management team of Keith and Jess Wu Calder.

To put things simply, Dan Stevens is scary good.  The “Downtown Abbey” star plays the titular troublemaker and, now, I will never look at Matthew Crowley the same way again.  Stevens trades out the proper aristocracy of British English with a slight American English Southern draw, a heavily used trope portrayed with U.S. troops in cinema, but Stevens does more than just talk-the-talk.  The Surrey born actor who once played the Beast in Disney’s live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” plays a different kind of monster that’s akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing with David, adorning his physically fit character with a clandestine depth in his ambiguous background and sociopathic tendencies that makes him very much a mysterious maniac much in the same fashion as iconic slasher villains.  Trying to stop David’s undermining reign of controlled carnage is Anna Peterson, played by Maika Monroe (“It Follows,” “Independence Day:  Resurgence”).  Ana’s a levelheaded, yet rebellious, teenager adverse to being told what to do to much of her parents chagrin from dating a pot dealer to her objection in David’s stay with them.  Monre puts angsty effort behind Anna Peterson’s eyes, but the character herself is rather flimsy willing to put her trust in an unsponsored secret organization agent, “John Wick” films’ Lance Reddick, and his request to get into his car urgently without hesitation, but has a difficult time swallowing at her own pace her dead brother’s fellow soldier even with the stamp of whole heartily approval from her parents and little brother and photographic evidence of her brother’s relationship with David.  Yet, Barrett’s openly oblivious characters play into the slasher/thriller campiness of accepting everything at face value without ever an inkling of doubt.  Perfect examples of this would be 3/4th of the Peterson family: the mother (Sheila Kelley, “A Passion to Kill”) trust him with handling routine tasks like picking up her son from school or laundry, the father (the great supporting actor Leland Orser, “Alien:  Resurrection,” “The Bone Collector”) trusts him with personal secrets, and even the school outcast brother (Brendan Meyer, “The Color of Space”) desperately believes David is his friend.  Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, Ethan Embry, Chase Williamson, and Steven Brown co-star.

Pulling loads of admiration and inspiration from the “Halloween” franchise, “The Guest” not only rocks as an action thriller but also mimicking a retrograded slasher in a subgenre slapped with a label I like to call the infiltrator subgenre.  David Collins is no mindless, walking and not talking, killing machine like The Shape, but instead gains trust, backdoors problems, and has the quick confident moves to see the job through with hand-to-hand combat and other more visceral merciless methods.  Barrett and Wingard purposefully leave much to the imagination with David’s past, turning what would usually outcome as frustrating ambiguity for an essential character to more of an enigmatic antagonist allure similar to the way we don’t have a clear-cut motivation why Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees shish kabob horny teens without a second thought.  Sure, there are sequels that try to enlighten reasons, such as being pure evil, but abstract is not concrete.  Same with “The Guest” with a control spoon feeding of just enough backstory to wet one’s thirst for more on David’s ruthless sociopathic behavior.  David’s also a very likeable with the impression that his good deeds done in violence speaks to a justice-driven character, but what’s brilliant about David, and enhanced profoundly by Dan Stevens, is that when he does kill someone in cold blood for this first time, the impact is tremendously unreal because it’s unexpected and off brand from the Barrett and Wingard’s buildup of him being a standup and do-what’s-right soldier.

Second Sight Films invites you to be their guest for their limited edition 4K Ultra Hi-Defintionand Blu-ray of Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” that hit retail shelves this month on October 25th.  The stunning makeover of this cult favorite, limited to 5,000 copies, offers a brand new color grading for both formats supervised by Wingard with 4K UHD presented in Dolby Vision HDR.  Since a BDR was provided, commenting on the exact audio and video quality of the release isn’t possible, but rest assured, knowing the care and attention Second Sight Films put into their releases, “The Guest” will surely not overstay it’s welcome in the image and audio department.  The film has runtime at 100 minutes and a UK 15 certification; however, there is much more to this 3-disc release that includes the film’s 80’s inspired soundtrack on a compact disc.  Special features include new Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett commentary plus an archive commentary track from the two filmmakers, a new interview with actor Dan Stevens The Uninvited Guest, a new interview with actress Maika Monroe A Perfect Stranger, a new interview with Wingard and Barett By Invitation Only, a new interview with producers Keith and Jessica Wu Calder Producing the Guest, a new interview with director of photography Robby Baumgartner Light and Fog, a new interview with production designer Tom Hammock Lightning Strikes, a new interview with composer Steve Moore The Sounds of The Guest, and deleted and alternate including an outtake gag with optional director commentary.  With this limited release comes a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Adam Stothard, 160-page booklet with new essays by script to screen storyboards and extracts, behind the scenes photos, Wingard’s soundtrack notes, and new essays about the film, and, lastly, 6 collector’s art cards. In a time when modern horror desperately needs a solid sequel, “The Guest” is a good candidate with it’s captivating villain with so much story still left to tell. Hopefully, Second Sight Films’ irrefutable powerhouse release will ignite step-taking action amongst the rumors.

Grab it fast!  Liminted Edition “The Guest” on 4K UHD and Blu-ray Now at Amazon.com!