Victor, a pioneering and experimental genetic scientist, has done the impossible, cloned a living human baby and named the girl Elizabeth. Obsessed with learning from his creation, Victor works tirelessly, neglecting his wife and two children. He also neglects a dark secret from his past that threatens everything he’s worked for and achieved. Religious group and lawful prosecutors blind him from the underlining and he continues with his research, diving deeper into the mysteries of Elizabeth. When Victor’s dark past catches up with him and reveals itself, he becomes forced into protecting his family and his creation Elizabeth from harm.
The Billy Senese sophomore written and directed film about the inevitable consequences of cloning shares a familiar similarity to being an adult version of Larry Cohen’s monster baby macabre “Its Alive.” Instead of hideous and murderous Davies baby, “A Frankenstein Story” caters more to realism with a deformed, genetically developed child growing up in pain and in secret. Senese tunes into a style that’s comparable to the likes of “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh, soaked in a contrast of composure and slightly solemn.
The “A Frankenstein Story” title is a UK title. In the USA, the film goes more recognizably under “Closer to God,” which is a line withdrawn from the film, and while I do think “Closer to God” is a more suitable title, the gothic-like title has holds water in an off color way. Aside from a man creating a human out of biological genetics instead of using body parts and electricity, the Senese film homages the old Mary Shelley tale in some other respects. Lead actor Jeremy Childs plays Victor and we all know Victor is a the first name to the titular character Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s story. Also, Senese, wether intentionally or not, has envisioned and dressed Childs as the creator and the monster. Victor is toweringly tall, freakishly broad shoulders, and has a square like face, making him appear like The Creature.
Senese’s narrative has promise at the very beginning and the very end with everything else in between being quite stagnant in developing and displaying Victor’s awfully well hidden secret. There also isn’t any exposed motivation between Victor, and some of the other characters, in behind the laboratory conceiving of Elizabeth. The only conclusion that’s explicit is that Victor becomes obsessed with being God, a very fine line between being human and the Almighty, putting the science more in the background and putting his fatherly strides first in defeating nature.
The High Fliers Films DVD hit retail shelves in the UK this past Tuesday, January 25th. The disc was a DVD-R review screener and contained just the film so I can’t speak upon or review the bonus material or the film’s quality. However, we’re not totally sold on Billy Senese take on the mad scientist genre, even with a semi-favorable review. The last 15 minutes is intense, tragic, and compelling that the second act needed so desperately to keep interest and to keep the story developing along.
Twenty-one year old Eve has been chained to a basement structure of a desolate house in the desert. She turns the tables on Phil, her sexual predator, by clocking him hard with a stone brick and escaping his hellish domain, until she realizes, through Phil’s pictorial archive, that he has more girls in similar captivity. Driven by guilt over her sister’s own demise at the hands of their captor, Eve sets forth a nonstop mission to release girls no matter the cost even if that means bringing her injured rapist along for the ride. As they stop from location to location, not all the victims are as calm and collected as Eve and her predator isn’t the only dangerous one in this particular sex trafficking ring.
“Bound to Vengeance,” also known under the working title “Reversal,” would naturally seem from first glance reading the title as a rape-revenge exploitation film by José Manuel Cravioto, except the story begins in the basement with Eve’s escape. Cravioto’s film fast forwards past the pre-show character story development, the terrifying abduction, and the uncomfortable rape scenes or sequences. Instead, the story bee lines straight toward the revenge act, raising Eve out of the ashes like a worn torn Phoenix and obtaining the upper hand on Phil. From there, only sporadic interjections of her prior abduction are revealed through video tape footage of her and her boyfriend. Even without displaying all the horrible things that have happened to Eve, a successfully conveyed cognizance of her strife goes without saying, or in this case, showcasing because the Rock Shaink Jr. and the late Keith Kjornes, whom I remember from his first penned wacky work in “Repligator,” cover Phil’s monstrous and unquenchable sexual rampage through the scared and scarred eyes of all the victims Eve intends on liberating and from Phil’s spew of lies from his own snake forked tongue.
Dark Factory Entertainment, for a company as a whole, is as small as a guppy when compared to bigger, badder fish in the ocean; however, “Bound to Vengeance” is like a piranha, a flyspeck river fish with a vicious bite. I’m also impressed to see “Kindergarten Cop” star Richard Tyson presenting a delightfully decadent performance in his character Phil, whose a mid-40’s man living a double life, living the American dream with a beautiful wife, innocent young child, and living in a grand house while a darker, hidden side revels in an oversight role in the world of sex slavery. Phil represents the very definition of a very real evil inside our society and Tyson, through that slightly raspy and baritone voice of his, brings out the character’s warranted ugliness. Tyson opposites Stephanie Charles, saddling into the empowering female role Eve, and Charles meets the veteran Tyson eye-for-eye on all their scenes together, never once sensing a performance recession.
The rape-revenge flick, minus the rape, concentrates, just outside the surface, around the sex slavery ring. In fact, the insightful story is quite educational and informative, sectoring separate pieces of the sex trafficking ring from a simple abduction, restraint, and rape to a criminal empire consisting of various locations and various hands in this particular ring. Victims also go through stages of stockholm syndrome, such as with one of the girls Eve attempts to free, but she’s too far gone under the influence of Phil and his forceful philandering friends. And for a film that’s about sex trafficking, sex has nearly been omitted from the entirety with only some disheveled and scanty covered women, some with BDS&M outfits. Criavioto’s suspense thriller breaks the narrative barriers without being, story suggestively, sexually explicit and gratuitous.
The High Fliers distributed DVD and Dark Factory Entertainment production is a win-win for both companies where dynamic actors and sexually charged subject matter thoroughly straps you forcibly in the passenger seat and causes a five-finger death grip on the oh-shit handle bar. Prepare to have your eye balls glued to screen and your jaw drop when each scene becomes more intense than the other, from girl-to-girl, to house-to-house. Gravitate to this release as soon as possible as I swear disappointment will be far, far away from any reaction bestowed upon this Cravioto film.
Under the sadistic thumb of their ruthless father, two physically and mentally abused brothers as children follow in their father’s footsteps in adulthood, falsely portraying to be EMT’s in old ambulance 37 and slaughtering those who desperately need medical attention on an infamous and isolated stretch of road. When the brothers’ loving mother becomes the victim of a hit and run by a group of young teens, the brothers’ quest to kill gets personal. Unbeknownst to them as the brothers’ targeted prey, the arrogant and rowdy teens live their complex and immature lives, overflowing with trivial matters such as fast cars, dating, and cosmetic surgeries.
“Old 37” (aka “Ambulance 37” or aka “Death Call”) wrecks before reaching the finish line. Bittersweetly, the story by Paul Travers, written also by Paul Travers and Joe Landes, is an interesting concept of life savers taking lives and, interestingly enough, a similar idea was in the news recently where a supposed unmarked cop cart pulls over young women, but the driver is actually a cunning rapist instead of an actual officer of the law. “Old 37” is essentially art mimicking real life. We feel safe when an emergency civil servant or agent is present or tells us not to worry, as exhibited in “Old 37.” “Don’t worry, I’m a paramedic,” says one of the demented brothers.
“Old 37” greatly has much going for the Three Point Capital funded movie. Three Point Capital has backed many other notable films such as “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “Nightcrawler,” and Kevin Smith’s “Red State.” Partnered up with Joe Dante’s “Burying the Ex’s” post-production company Siren Digital, the two companies had the mucho dinero to sleekly design, which it does, and to hire a moderately formidable cast, which they do. Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley headline, being the pair of horror icons forced to be reckoned with, and slide into the shoes of the two ambulance driving, bloodthirsty brothers, intercepting 911 calls via their scanner for victims. Hodder hasn’t lost that Jason Voorhees gait and menacing body motions and Moseley, without even trying, has the uncanny ability to sinister up an entertaining and terrifying persona. Together on screen, a powerhouse of an unimaginable magnitude as they are, hands down, the highlight of “Old 37.”
With high-end production value and two of probably the most prolific names in horror attached, what could go wrong? Well, the first wrong is “Old 37” is mostly an unfunny teen comedy rather than a horror movie. It’s more “She’s All That,” than “Scream.” It’s more “American Pie,” than “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” It’s more “10 Things I Hate About You,” than…you get the picture. Horror didn’t surface into full eligibility until about the last 20 minutes with the archetypical final girl chase finale and even then was the horror story still underdeveloped. The teen characters’s lives are too complex as they take over the story, including one awkward, self-loathing lead character, Samantha, eager to fit in (even though she does), eager to look beautiful (which she already does), and eager to obtain breast augmentation (though she doesn’t need them). The breast enhancement scenes drastically change the direction of the film, throwing me for a serious loop for various reasons: Samantha gets the okay right away when she asks her mother for new breasts, she gets new breasts in a matter of days, and she isn’t sore or in pain directly after receiving them. Time is an illusion when two the contrasts display Samantha throughout going forward from the entire beginning to end process for new flesh pillows while one of her crude friends gets murdered. Something doesn’t add up.
Special effects guy Pete Gerner and his talented crew do blood spattering justice with the sanguinary written murders and while I feel the brutality and the blood is amongst the film’s aurora, the gooey gory scenes are quickly edited, taking away the time to where we can’t fully appreciate, fully engulf, nor fully digest the “I Sell The Dead” Gerner effects. The final nail in the coffin is director Alan Smithee. If you Google Alan Smithee, results will show that Alan Smithee is a pseudonym used by directors who want to disown a project. Christian Winters removed his name from “Old 37” because he thought his control over the film wasn’t his anymore. And that’s fairly accurate as “Old 37” seems and feels incomplete, much like Rob Schmidt’s 2011 unfinished debacle “Bad Meat,” directed under his pseudonym Lulu Jarmen, and just like “Bad Meat,” “Old 37” has the potential, the substance, and the talent to what could have been a solid horror narrative.
Overall, “Old 37” has the financial backing, has some serious blood that made the cut, has a great soundtrack assortment, and has motherfuckin’ Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder. What the disowned film lacks is a well-written narrative, contains poorly written and idiotic teenage characters, and needs a director with an eye for direction instead of a producer with greedy big pockets. “Old 37,” under the name “Death Call,” will be hitting DVD shelves from UK distributor High Fliers films. If you’re a fan of Hodder and Moseley, but don’t expect a typical horror movie as this film goes through multiple genre transitions and doesn’t settle just on one at any point. There is one delicate scene of Olivia Alexander which I’m sure will be pleasing to any viewer.
Single mother Madison lives with her two small children in their presence-plagued home. When money becomes severely tight and her son’s violent behavior erupts once again, the family of three are hesitant to leave their home, but once one of the apparitions transmit something to the children that won’t allow them to leave the house without becoming severely ill, the family is forced to remain stuck in their abode cell. Madison’s scientific boyfriend Nikolai looks to help the weary family fight this evil that won’t let them leave, but when Madison digs further into the apparitions, she discovers that their is more to their sudden and random appearances and that the once trusted Nikolai might somehow be maliciously involved.
“The Diabolical” is an interesting horror film from first time feature film writer-director Alistair Legrand. Legrand, whose credits mainly include music videos, opens the story up to a withering family on the verge of destruction with the father-husband having already left due to a lingering love-hate relationship between him and Madison and they’re well aware of the presences, some more grotesque than others, that come and go with a sudden spark of electricity. No set up laid out to introduce the initial contact between apparition and family; instead, the characters, though still unsettled by each frightful visit, continue to live life amongst the paranormal. Not even paranormal scientists have the fortitude to challenge the eidolons, which pokes fun at films like “The Conjuring.”
I say that “The Diabolical” is an interesting film because the apparitions have complexities that are not made clear until near the end, but hints are strewn through to give that something isn’t exactly clear sensation. However, Legrand doesn’t quite piece together the story to deliver a packed full package to feel the full effect. The story feels undercooked and when the finale is revealed, many of the previous events in the film don’t quite add up to conclude nicely the twist ending. The apparitions have qualities that are never explained and don’t contribute to their reason for being. Another frustrating underdevelopment is with Madison, the family, and their relationship with Nikolai. Were not quite sure if Madison’s husband left because of Madison, a little exposition states that’s the case, or if their son Jacob did something to harm him fatally. The father just doesn’t exist and his presence felt neglected, ignored, and forgotten to the point where there was really no need to have the off-screen existence. Nikolai fills in that father shoe, but his relationship with Madison seems very casual as if Madison didn’t just come off a serious relationship and was dating for the first time.
Madison is not the kind of typical role for lead actress Ali Larter. The Resident Evil and Final Destination star has been an archetype of strong female characters in most of horror movie credits and while Madison is a strong female lead, envisioning Larter as a mother of two children sits unimaginably. Besides, Legrand doesn’t make the beautiful and unflinching Larter seem like a worn and torn down person whose husband has is gone, bills are piling up to the ceiling, and harmful apparitions are popping up all over the house. Legrand also doesn’t necessarily pit the evil apparitions against Madison until near the tail end, painting the apparitions almost as if their part of the family’s imagination in the beginning. The sense that the family is completely cool with these ghost-like-gruesome and terrifying presences does nothing to motivate the family, especially Madison, to move out form the house.
The special effects department delivers top notch phantasms even if some of the apparitions move around the house like Bill Cosby in “Ghost Dad” or look like creatures from the “Silent Hill” films. Nothing from the practical or the computer generated effects appeared shoddy. I’m pleasantly appeased by the work special effects artist Jason Collins and his colleagues have conjured up. However, the story doesn’t reflect the effects as the story loses steam abruptly for a knockout ending; the ending felt, as it looked, rushed. Tying up the mystery of the apparitions into a brief, underdeveloped scene. Then to top off the ending, leave an open ending scene that doesn’t quite work to solidify an understanding.
“The Diabolical” is truly diabolical as Alistair Legrand’s horror film with a Sci-Fi flair teases a good and fascinating story, yet only manages to founder with an over saturated underdevelopment. I really wanted to like this movie, especially since I’m fond of Ali Larter and her work, but trying see past the Alistair Legrand’s flaws is like throwing a no hitter and still walking half the batters that come to the plate – its not a perfect game. In any case, I would still recommend “The Diabolical” from the UK distributor High Flier Films for a unique story, eye glazing CGI, and, of course, the gorgeous Ali Larter!
Thirty-years ago, little Jeremy Duffin barely escaped the clutches of the Krampus, the horned companion of Santa Claus who punishes naughty children the coldest weeks before Christmas. Now as a grown man and an officer of the law, Duffin, still haunted by memory of his own abduction, obsesses over the similar current child snatching occurrences and, on the direction of his captain, constructs a three man team to hunt down the child predator. Confronting the Krampus doesn’t go as expected as bullets fly harmlessly through the mystical creature, resulting in Jeremy becoming a brief prisoner and his team facing a more fatal outcome. Jeremy escapes and makes his way back home where Krampus homes in on, seeking to punish Jeremy’s only daughter Heather, but one of Jeremy’s prior arrested offenders was released from jail and also has vengeful plans for Jeremy and his family. A trigger-happy obsessed cop, a vengeance seeking convict, and a child punishing anthropomorphic becomes a superbly wrapped deadly and wild gift on Christmas Eve.
On the verge of Michael Doughtry’s “Krampus” being released in theaters, the UK’s High Fliers Films distributes to home DVD the older, more experimental black sheep brother “Krampus: The Christmas Devil.” I say older because this Krampus Christmas horror film, written and directed by Jason Hull, was released over two years ago. Now with all the interest in Doughtry’s bigger, star-studded production being released this holiday season, the Snowdog Studio production filmed in Eerie, Pennsylvania is finally receiving a home DVD release in the United Kingdom and was just released here in the States only a month ago as well. Now while “Krampus: The Christmas Devil” will be exposed to the world, I fear that Doughtry’s “Krampus” will completely overshadow this microbudget film and, in all honesty, will rightfully do so due to the feeble and disjointed plot.
The Jason Hull film’s swiss cheese story is missing many pieces to this Christmas tale puzzle. The begiining voiceover description of the Krampus backstory is great for those who know nothing of the myth, but in the duration, the creature travels to a particular part of the North Western side of Pennsylvania to solely strike the top ten misbehaved children in one year, 25 days before Christmas. Krampus, like his brother Saint Nicholas, travels the world in those hours to various lands to punish all the naughty listed children. The scope of Hull’s Krampus was written too narrowly, missing to portray Krampus as on a grander wickedness. Another plot hole is with Jeremy’s daughter Heather. Santa specifically requests Heather Duffin to Krampus by pointing out that she’s truly a terrible child, even worse than a child who tortures and murders animals. The reason why Heather is a horrible brat isn’t explained and is rather ignored. Heather seems like a sweet and smart girl even when she knifes a man who attempts to rape her. Heather’s wide open story plunges into a pit of wonder.
Bill Oberst Jr. is one of the big names attached to this project and his part is rather slim, playing the role of Brian Hatt, the released child rapist looking to strike a vengeful blow upon the Duffin family. Oberst, hands down, raises the value of “The Christmas Devil” tenfold by being a wisecracking villain with a submachine gun and showing no mercy. If Oberst was ever awarded a role in a Batman movie, he would be a fascinating, if not terrific, Joker. Just sayin’. Finding more the good in “The Christmas Devil” has yet to be seen. Aside from Bill Oberst Jr.’s superb wayward performance, only an extended topless scene of Model Mayhem model Angelina Leigh as Krampus’s cave-chained Pet slowly discharges any kind of titillating and riveting on screen arousal.
The production value is unmistakably low level and this reviewer wasn’t expecting much when considering sets and post-production quality, but Hull should have spent film funds on skilled talent to the likes of Oberst or to the opposite likes of novice actor Paul Ferm, who plays the part of a biker-salty Saint Nick with an on/off personality switch. Lead actor A.J. Leslie as Jeremy Duffin frustratingly shows no range and aimlessly makes his way through Duffin’s most conflicting and life-threatening moments. Even Duffin’s bar fight with costar Darin Foltz and his two cronies conveyed no raw emotion needed to sell the action and, speaking of the same bar fight, the staged event looked awfully fake all around.
The High Fliers Films and ITN distributed Krampus Christmas horror film is 82 minutes of discombobulated mess. The story crawls slowly across to coherency, lightly candy coated with moments of acting talent and gratuitous nudity. Surely to be blown out of the water by the bigger and badder PG-13 “Krampus” film, “The Christmas Devil” can be considered to be a low end starting point for the anti-jolly myth of Santa Claus, helping those to jump start in learning all about the horned devil-like character and his brat-napping ways. I’m unable to review the audio and video quality and bonus material of the film as I’m sent a DVD-R copy and doesn’t truly reflect through a burned copy. “Krampus” The Christmas Devil” comes to DVD and Blu-ray in the UK courtesy of High Fliers Films.