In the Shadows, Evil Awaits to Rule. “Shadowbuilder” review!


In the fight against pure evil, the Catholic church trains champions to battle against the forces of hell and all that is unholy. Father Jacob Vassey is one of those very champions. The man of the cloth who wields dual 9mm handguns and has a penchant for penancing through the act of self-righteous wrongdoing in the name of Church and of God. When an treacherously evil Archbishop summons a shadow builder to undo all of God’s creation on Earth, Father Vassey pursues the demon to the small town of Grand River in search for a hunted pure soul; the demon tracks down young Chris Hatcher whose been through a sign of God’s passion, the stigmata, and is the key to demon’s ultimate goal. Once the shadow builder has collected enough souls and has laid sacrifice to the boy, the demon will reverse the creation of God, humanity will cease to exist, and the world would be ripe for restructuring at the whim of one of hell’s most demented minions. Humanity’s last hope lies with Father Vassey, a local sheriff, Chris’s veterinarian aunt, and the town loon to bring forth light toward the prospect of a dark and gloomy apocalypse.

“Shadowbuilder” is the 1998 apocalyptic horror film from director Jamie Dixon, steering his sole major production from a high octane and progressive anecdotal script by “Iron Eagle IV” screenwriter Michael Stokes and produced by Imperial Entertainment, who delivered some great films like “The Bikini Carwash Company” and The Bikini Carwash Company II.” Based off the short story in the “Under the Sunset” collection by Bram Stoker (author of “Dracula”), “Shadowbuilder” expands, develops, and morbidly seduces around Stoker’s tale that doesn’t necessary implement a Universal Studio’s “The Mummy” like tale progression and design, telling of a weak, yet venomous creature feeding on souls or people in order to regain world destruction strength. Stokes script goes right into the action with Vassey’s hunt for the beguiled Archbishop and the way Vassey is introduced is absolute 1990’s gold: a priest armed with two handguns with laser sights. Studios don’t make films like this anymore! Rivals as one of those films that has a doppleganger, like “Deep Impact” and “Armaggeddon” that coincidentally came out the same year as “Shadowbuilder. “End of Days” is that doppleganger film as the two share unholy similarities of a citizen of hell on a mission to sacrifice a human for above ground dominance.

No actor could pull off properly the gun-toting and shrewd role of a haunted and troubled priest that is Father Jacob Vassey. No actor except Michael Rooker (“Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer” and “The Walking Dead”). Rooker’s gravel pit voice is inarguably his best trademark trait that nails extra tension into the substantially bleak and world-ending situation; a tone that carries enormous weight and Rooker’s natural vocal gift, along with his lip snarling, square chin and piss-offstare, earns the actor to be the well armed and dangerous man of the cloth. “Bruiser’s” Leslie Hope joins Rooker as the Veterinarian aunt and the film’s love interest, but not of Father Vassey. Instead, the love interest belongs to the local town sheriff, Sam Logan, played by Shawn Thompson. Hope and Thompson’s on-screen chemistry can’t seem to puncture through as it’s defined as back burner material, overshadow by Vassey’s unwavering pursuit of the demon and the frantic search for the boy, Kevin Zegers (“Dawn of the Dead” remake), through the muck of the shadow builder’s poisoning of the town upstanding morality and ethics. Rounding out the cast is Andrew Jackson as the shadow builder, Hardee T. Lindeham (“Survival of the Dead”), Catherine Bruhier, and genre vet Tony Todd (“Candyman”).

“Shadowbuilder” is by far a perfect horror film. Dixon, new to directing, dives into the infancy stages of CGI and, for the most part, the turnout pans out with the effects despite being slight crude around the edges. Stokes script puts story development right into the fast lane and doesn’t let off the gas so if you walk out of the room for a coke and return, you’ll miss something pivotal. The design works well to keep up the pace for a story that has a lot to tell and to not give the viewers a chance to piecemeal pick apart a teetering concept. One aspect that really tilts toward the negative is actually Tony Todd’s performance as the town crazy, a one-eyed Rastafarian named Evert Covey who is completely aware of the demon’s presence, but goes unexplained. Todd sells crazy, and sells it really well, but the lack of exposition into purpose plunders the character into outside the lines oblivion that begs the question, why is this character here? A guess would place Covey as a means to keep the lights running as he’s some sort of convivial, jerry-rigging mechanic.

MVD Visuals Rewind Collection label sports a special edition Blu-ray of Bram Stoker’s “Shadowbuilder.” The 1080p resolution is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Despite the the 1080p resolution that aims to bring a little more detail to the fold, the coloring on the transfer is quite faded with considerable noise that’s hard to ignore, but while the noise is underfoot it doesn’t necessarily cripple “Shadowbuilder’s” ominous and foreboding vehicle. The CGI looks better than expected being an early model from the millennial transition into more prominiment animation in the turn of the century. The English uncompressed 2.0 PCM sound track passes muster, leaving dialogue rightfully forefront and substantial ambience as support. Bonus features include a nifty poster insert, a visual effects tour, and a making of featurette with interviews that include with the director Jamie Dixon, screenwriter Michael Stokes, the demon himself, Andrew Jackson, and Tony Todd. Kevin Zegers has his own featurette, a commentary director Jamie Dixon, and the theatrical trailer alongside MVD trailers for other Rewind Collection films. Michael Rooker, Tony Todd, and a demon. A winning combination reamed with apocalyptic mayhem, destruction, and undiluted carnage and up on a pedestal with on the eclectic MVD Rewind Collection.

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Takes Evil to Know Evil. “The Anatomy of Monsters” review!

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Timid sociopath Andrew patrons alone at a low-end bar, sipping delicately on straight whiskey and waiting for the perfect opportune moment to approach the right lonely woman. Andrew is not looking for a one night stand. Andrew is on the hunt for a victim, but when the night’s odds don’t seem to be in Andrew’s favor, a lovely young woman approaches him at the tail end of the night and begins to make small talk. After a night of coincided flirting, the woman seductively invites Andrew back to her motel room for some provocative foreplay, but before Andrew can move in for the kill, he suddenly realizes that the woman might just be as more of a sociopath than he could ever imagine by turning Andrew’s moment of a gratifying kill into her tragic tale of a more experienced and assured killer.
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Suspense thriller “The Anatomy of Monsters” is the sophomore film from the multitalented writer-director Byron C. Miller and stars Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, and Connor Marx in a twisted narrative involving love, death, and the struggle between the two. Miller, unfortunately, wrestles to keep buoyant the scope of his story contained as scenes teeter when holding an airtight structure as Bastien’s character, Sarah, asserts her mortal coil. Her plight doesn’t grasp the attention needed to draw in an audience; instead, the back and forth between her present plea with Andrew and her past of leading a double life of affliction with whether to act on her killer instinct with the love of her life or not either passively regresses or just stands completely in place, not moving a motivational inch to take the much needed mile in making us believe in Sarah’s tragic love story and the story is actually, well, tragic by not building the passion between Sarah and Nick, played coyly by Connor Marx, as they just hunker inside Nick’s quaint apartment, affixed to his bed or couch while contemplating their instantaneous love for each other.
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A part of the film’s indelicate sting comes from Tabitha Bastien’s performance. Sarah, in the very definition of the character’s persona, is a sociopath which denotes a monotonous person to be without empathy, to have an ice cold demeanor, and to be calculating in their actions. While Bastien epitomizes a sizable amount of emotionlessness, her presentation leans a bit more toward being ingeniously staged, emitting a phoniness that doesn’t naturally crossover. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed Bastien was a T-100 cybernetic organism underneath a flesh and blood outer layer from “The Terminator’s” apocalyptic bleak future. What Bastien does attribute very well to “The Anatomy of Monsters,” aside from her mechanical display, is a pair of piercingly bright eyes set upon a unique belle face akin to that of the nice looking girl next door you peeping tom on through the cracks of your window shades. Jesse Lee Keeter opposites Bastien with a more genuine approach that favors a Michael C. Hall similarity complete with a kill kit. Keeter’s Andrew is an example of well-written hesitation, exhibiting more of a killer’s struggle to maintain a low profile whereas Sarah leaves nothing to the imagination, baring it all out on the proverbial table with the extreme potency of egocentric cockiness.
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Along with Miller’s stationary script, the industrial rocker’s sporadic editing technique can be best described having a short-sighted attention span and his shaky handheld camera visually impairs the viewing pleasure of one monster’s monstrous thirst for death. “The Anatomy of Monsters” feature does play the role of being the quintessential independent product, but without stability and patience, Miller’s artistic craftsmanship suffers heavily from the technical aspects with really the only exception stemming from the minor gore scene during Andrew’s brief description of past murders, committing to a solid neck piece mock-up that realistically seeps blood in order to get the good throat slit shot.
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A fond blend of John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” “The Anatomy of Monsters” is slated for a DVD and Video on Demand release on November 15th from the Philadelphian distributor Artsploitation Films. Certainly a film that’s an attestant to an American-horror, Byron C. Miller explores the corners of the dark and deranged minds associated with serial killers while meddling through the conventional intimate affairs of the masses, spurring an atomically explosive situation from a slowly, simmering boil. Though technically unattractive with arguably underwhelming and sulky performances, suggestions of a greater notion leaves behind an everlasting scar tissue from the necessary urges and the unquenchable desires of a killer can be appreciated.

Watch The Anatomy of Monsters on Amazon Video!