When You’re Jilted and You Contemptuously Summon an EVIL Succubus! “Lillith” reviewed (Terror Films / Digital Screener)



Jenna’s been dating Brad for 5 years and when she catches him red-handed with another woman, learning that he’s been with multiple women over the span of their relationship, blood boiling revenge seems like the only course of action.  Jenna’s wiccan friend, Emma, has a radical strategy to summon a succubus to sleep with Brad and give him heartbreaking Satanic STDs.  Warned about the dangers of black magic that could backfire 3 times the affliction upon them, Jenna and Emma go through the summoning ritual, calling forth the sex-crazed succubus named Lillith.  Quickly making short work of Brad, tearing him open like a gift on Christmas day, the friend soon realize they’ve unleashed an unstoppable, man-eating killing machine and they have no idea how to stop her. 

In Jewish theology, the she-demon Lilith has been weaves into popular culture and literature time after time again with tweaks, alterations, and revamps to capitalize on the first wife of Adam’s infamous name in various outlets.  Amongst being one of the first female demons, the figure, in name only, has been broaden across numerous religious texts and  pop culture mediums from vampires, to a wild beast, and to a source of lustful dreams.  For Lee Esposito, Lillith sticks to the demoness basics, luring gullible and randy men to sex and death as a ritual beckoned succubus, in the 2019 horror-comedy, merely titled “Lillith.”   The indie picture cautions revenge as a hasty, reckless option that tows disastrous, deadly consequences.  Based off Esposito’s 2016 7-minute concept short of the same name, the 93 minute feature length film levels up the concept’s sound department crew member, Luke Stannard, to cowriter and was the genesis of Esposito’s New Jersey-based production company, Ritterhaus Productions, with executive producers Joey Esposito and Mike Arpala footing the bill. 

To pull off a slimmer version of “Jennifer’s Body,” “Lillith’s” cast had to be indispensably funny and well-versed with their characters.  For the most part, the cast stick the landing, running away with their character ticks that fully engulf the colorful performances and making them certifiably memorable.  Savannah Whitten most notably showcases her amusement playing the titular character decked out as an alternative-cladded woman with promiscuous purpose.   Whitten also doesn’t look too shabby in full body lime green attire that requires the actress to don a protruding head prosthetic, bulky mouthpiece, and vibrant yellow contacts as the Lillith shifts, in edited scene transitions, back and forth from alt-girl to full blown succubus.  The snazzy redhead, NYC based actress is opposite Nell Kessler and Robin Carolyn Parent in their respective roles, who spell besties as demon summoning chaos, Jenna and Emma.  Kessler and Parent equally have fun in being the vindictively scorned, jilted lover and her eccentric best friend who just wants to see if she can conjure up evil for the hell of it.  The female-led cast deliver timely, funny bits of dialogue individual wrapped like their very own personal skits, but then the attitudes change and the range stretches more meaningful when circumstances become dire and that’s when the cast of ladies really do shine as actors.  “Lillith” wouldn’t be as half as successful if it wasn’t aslo for the supporting cast, even in the small roles, to add a smooth ebb and flow of macabre comedy with Langston Fishburne (yes, that iconic surname is related to Laurence Fishburne), Taylor Turner, Lily Telford, and Michael Finnigan.

“Lillith” very much appeals to the feminist esteemed without beating you over the head with the crusading theme.  Cornerstones like a succubus snacking on sexually-charged males, Emma’s astute quips and enthusiasms about the historical and religious rises and victories over men while also in an unabashed lesbian relationship, and the vagina being held as a live or die power source of extraordinary consequences all reflect feminized filmmaking, but then Esposito, who is a man and identifies as a male, makes a sharp criticism that isn’t exclusive to feminism but can be said about most subjects if slipped into an oversaturated abundance.  What if the actions of feminism goes too far?   What if drilling an ideology beyond the point of no return causes more corrosive damage than actual good?  That’s what Esposito’s “Lillith” explores inside the “uh-oh, we made a mistake and must fix it” latter acts with great attention to how a woman’s genitals becomes key to saving all of mankind.   The irony is unbelievably hilarious, smart, and provocative, whether intentional or not.  What kills most of “Lillith’s” boutique vibe is the fluidity of the A/V technical quality that often approaches homemade movie levels of inconsistent sound design.  I’m frequently adjusting up and down the volume and trying to discern dialogue out of stronger ambience and noise the boom captures in an unfortunate leaky blockade of decent script dialogue. 

July saw the release of Lee Esposito’s “Lillith” rip through the hormonal student body pool with a laid back and snarky she-demon from Hell on Demand and Digital courtesy of indie genre distributor, Terror Films.  “Lillith” is shot over the course of 33 consecutive days from New Jersey to New York with director of photography Vincent Caffarello behind the camera and though making any sort of judgement on the A/V aspects for a streaming link might as well be akin to chucking my words right into the trash, I do firmly believe a considerable amount of budget went into casting solid actors and eye-catching makeup work as sound design guerilla notches into Lillith’s smoother interior like a throwing small river rocks at a pristine car. Maybe the shooting equipment lacked high definition properties or maybe post-production could have cleaned up Caffarello’s basic standard efforted shots but, either way, the DP’s stationary and steady cam of mediums and closeups, with occasional slight POV or over the shoulder, gather enough information about what’s happening in the scene in a still interesting perspective. With any digital screener, special feature content is at a zilch and there are also no bonus scenes during or after the credits; however, let “Lillith” speak for itself without the glamour of extra goodies. There’s hell to pay but paying hell with lives is what the sultry death-dealer “Lillith” does best between the sheets…just watch out for her teeth, gentlemen.

“Lillith” is right now included with Prime Video!  

You Can’t Run From the EVIL That Seeks Out the Competition. “Homewrecker” reviewed! (101 Films / Digital Screener)



Michelle is at the point in her life, struggling as a 30-something year old interior designer, where the urge to have children is strong.  When trying to conceive with her husband seems to be going downhill, she is befriended by an overly obsessive stranger, Linda, who has took an uncomfortably intense interest in her personal life.  An innocent enough invitation back to Linda’s house proves costly with Linda’s flickering infatuation for Michelle’s private business that turns quickly sour in a cat and mouse game of survival.  Trapped, Michelle must understand Linda’s madness in order to stay alive.

Ca-ra-zyyy!  That’s one of many ways to label Zach Gayne’s woman-on-woman scuffle in the comedy-horror “Homewrecker” that will surely turn many feminist heads at breakneck and contentious speeds with the better woman standing scenario.  Gayne’s freshman film tests the wills of two very different women and their counter mindsets while excavating a common core connection rooted subconsciously deep within them both.  A distinction that gives the 2020 riotous feature an edge is the two sole actresses, Alex Esso (“Starry Eyes,” “Doctor Sleep”) and Precious Chong (“Luba”), daughter of famed stoner comedian Tommy Chong, portraying Michelle and Linda are also “Homewreckers” cowriters alongside Gayne, equipping their characters with an authentic image by filling the roles themselves and getting out of the project exactly what’s desired.  The trio also produce the film in a coproduction with fellow producer Josh Mandel of Industry Standard Films and under the financials of Precious’s mother Shelby Chong, Chris Morsby, and Delaney Siren as executive producers.

Precious Chong, hands down, steals all the glory in “Homewrecker” with her wide-eyed, mentally unstable, zany, and stuck in the 80’s single white female that makes Glenn Close performance seem diminutive and more like an innocent and shy little crush in “Fatal Attraction.”  Linda epitomizes the very definition of crazy as a person unable to progress from an era of her peak youth being the most popular girl in school, judging by the VHS tapes, 80’s soundtrack, and outdated board games, I’d say Linda’s popular party girl inner nature hasn’t disembarked from the late 80’s to early 90’s train, and Chong delivers a singularity tweak of neurosis and delusion that frighteningly teeters from over exaggeration to real representation.  Unfortunately, Chong’s invasive, off-the-rocker performance overshadows Alex Esso’s more level-headed, amiable, and fight or flight Michelle and her unconventional responses and reactions to Linda’s incessant behavior in, perhaps, a more poorly written character.  Michelle is the too nice to the point where opportunities arise for escape or attack and she chooses the total opposite in trying to reason with an unreasonable person.  The motivation behind Michelle for even going to Linda’s house is rather slim so either something deep in her subconscious wills her to go (maybe Linda’s eagerness to lend an ear on a torrent of personal unloading) or she’s a just gullible to a fault.  Rounding out the cast is the man in the middle, Robert, played by Kris Siddiqi and the friendly neighbor Wilson, played by Tony Matthews (“The Craft: Legacy”), in a bit part that’s a clever homage to the Wilson character in Tim Allen sitcom, “Home Improvement,” as he peeps just over the fence to say hello as well as an contradictory play on the “Homewrecker” title.

Aforementioned, there is gray area in the character actions and rationales that thins much of the story’s harrowing affect and even seeps slightly into the more dark comedic moments.  Yelling (in my head) at the screen for Michelle to jump out the window (after lingering half out for clearly a minute) or taking advantage to overpower Linda (during a moment of long poignant embrace) was just a waste of my mental breath as the Michelle is frustratingly too timid, too nice, too afraid to cut the unseen bounds that holds her back from reinstalling balance in her upheaved life held in Linda’s unstable hands.  The pacing a bit of a drag as well by holding onto scenes, with various cuts, longer than necessary.  For a film slightly over an hour long, the conversing segments between the principle characters, Linda and Michelle, could last up to 20 minutes with more than most of the chat awry by Linda’s idiosyncrasies.   What works for “Homewrecker” is single day story set inside Linda’s home that really hones in and develops the snowballing turmoiled relationship between the two women. Being the film’s strong suit in unveiling the crux of the problem that’s not surface level crazy person versus sane person, the plot point revelation truly did blindside me and I was like, whoa.  Everything made sense without having to dig deeper into exposition to understand the minor details of what was happening exactly.  “Homewrecker” also has great brief climatic gore involving an emblematic sledgehammer and a pair of sharp scissors that, again, comes unexpectedly from a cat and mouse game that has been rather tame for most of the film.  Zach Gayne’s film pleasantly puts a blood red cherry on top of a deranged ice scream sundae dripping with fanaticism fudge in a scrumptious little fatal attraction.

Efficiently compact but just as aggressive as an overly jealous and overactive girlfriend plagued by psychosis, “Homewrecker” premiered it’s way digitally into UK homes by 101 Films back on May 24th.  The Toronto, Canada production is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio with a lean runtime of 76 minutes.  Co-producer Delaney Siren serves as the cinematographer for “Homewrecker’s” regular split screen and multiple angle shots denoting a clear sense of where each character location is without the film feeling like a typical slasher while maintaining the focus on telling both women’s side.  “Homewrecker” marks Siren’s first feature film as a cinematography, but has multiple credits in the genre for macabre inspired music videos under the Toronto based music recording and film production company, “Reel Wolf Productions.”  For a film that has completely and satisfactory bookends, there are no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Quirky and dark, “Homewrecker” is a read between the lines comedy-thriller about abduction, devotion questioning , delusional obsession, and honesty.

First There Was a Good Guy Doll. Then, There Was a Turkey. Now, EVIL Comes In the Form of a “Killer Piñata” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

A father purchases 3 piñatas for his young child’s birthday party the day before going on a weekend getaway.  His college age eldest child, Lindsay, stays behind to have a night of drinking with her best friends, one of them being her ex-boyfriend who hasn’t figured out that her romantic interests no longer lay with the entire male sex.   With the pink piñata done in at the party and the other Captain American-resembling one bashed to smithereens by Linday’s friend, the surviving donkey piñata, possessed with the bullied and vindictive soul of a piñata factory worker, is fueled by bloodthirsty vengeance and on a campaign of death as one-by-one Lori’s friends fall casualty at the paper macheted hooves of the candy-filled sinister piñata and it’s up to Lindsay and a hook for a hand, old Latina piñata shopkeeper to stop the carnage.

I, personally, never whacked a sweet-treated stuff piñata on a joyous, celebratory occasion in my 37 years of growing up (in retrospect, my childhood didn’t seem very fun) and after watching Stephen Tramontana’s farcical horror-comedy, “Killer Piñata,” the 2015 release, receiving an enhance 2021 Blu-ray director’s cut, has now instilled a crippling fear of the inanimate that secures the fact that I, and probably my kids and my kids’ kids, will never take a baseball to those cute little piñatas ever!  With a penchant for the worst-of-the-worst horror movies and being an acolyte of the Jordan Downey’s brazen killer holiday turkey masterpiece, “ThanksKilling,” Tramontana, along with his entrepreneurial cohorts who started out in the healthcare field and have turned into amateur B-horror filmmakers, helms his crowdfunded sophomore feature, but first donkey piñata bloodbath, and co-wrote alongside fellow screenwriters Nick Weeks and Megan Macmanus who spun a wild fantasy into cinematic reality.  The 8 day shoot around Chicago’s Logan Square employs Tramontana’s investment partners Jennifer Kunkel as producer and Paul Summers as cinematographer, editor, and score artist under their pun of a production banner, Angry Mule.

“Killer Piñata” casts Chicago regional actors who thought starring in a film about a murderous piñata would be a once in a lifetime opportunity as well as a challenge to broaden their craft by working with puppets and, boy, were they right!  Stage actress Eliza-Jane Morris stars as Lindsay, battling not only a party donkey figure but also her sexual preference ignorant ex-boyfriend, Scott (Billy Chengary).  Much as Lindsay in herself is a trope of what is known as the final girl in horror, the script is riddled with trope characters just to make it abundantly clear “Killer Piñata” means funny business. Scott is the clingy, insecure ex who can’t see between his legs why Lindsay is no longer interested. His pal, Chad (Nate Bryan), resides on the opposite side of the spectrum as the confidently shameless, hypersexualized, and vain best friend who is equally matched in being confidently shameless, hypersexualized, and not terribly vain with Lindsay’s bestie, Rosetta (Lindsay Ashcroft). Martin (Daniel Hawkes) rounds out the group of the ill-fated soirée as Rosetta’s much hated bothersome cousin who is perhaps the only character out of the five to feel any morsel of pity for as he’s incessantly bludgeoned by insults, especially by his own Rosetta, and doesn’t have a single clue what’s in store for him. The most seasoned talent on set played a fiesta Latina shopkeeper with a “I Know What You Did Last Summer” hook for a hand; “High on the Hog” and “Asylum of Fear’s” Joette Waters gives an over-the-top Dr. Loomis performance. Cast rounds out with a fair amount of bit roles from Elvis Garcia, Sheila Guerrero-Edmiston, Steven James Price, and Elias Acevedo who all indulge in the nonsense of a superficial inanimate villain horror.

A piñata running rampant in a suburb home with poisonous candy being expelled from it’s paper and cardboard rectum and able to mechanize corpses like in Gundam with a simple transfer of hoof-to-spine energy awards Tramontana and his thinking outside the box team a 9×9 baking dish full of creative brownie points. “Killer Piñata” can also be funny indicative to all by the nonsensical title and if you’re not stiff as a board in the humor department, you’ll find one scene to be unsettling shocking with a lingering piñata blowjob death that’s literally jaw-dropper and a teary eyeful. While the film is by no means an in earnest attempt at a serious plot, continuity mistakes, in scene goofs, minor equipment quality issues, and narrative pacing drag down Tramontana’s quaint pintsize slasher and even drags a little more apathetically with tired jokes, farting gags, and formulaic routines albeit some okay puns and a smirk inducing making weapons montage. Not until around the plot point of the third act is when the death scenes start to hit the fan, briefly hovering up to the “ThanksKilling” gore-and-gags level, splattering the blood splatter here and there while the first two acts barely register on the oh, damn Geiger counter in what’s an interior imbalance of how to set the tone of a killer piñata video diagram.

Only five years after the initial release of “Killer Piñata,” Darkside Releasing proudly releases an enhanced Blu-ray director’s cut of the film that saw an overhaul and rejuvenation on the color grading, a brand new sound mix, and a quicker pacing, which I still think could have been tweaked better.  Presented not rated in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a runtime of 84 minutes (originally 87 minutes but trimmed in the new director’s cut for pacing), there is some early on banding in the opening shot’s blue sky over Chicago, but for an indie production on a budget less than 5k, or now maybe more with a facelift in the new release, the coloring has a brighter glow and is not as flat some of the original footage appeared. The anecdotal animation nicely becomes an intermission to the story and a change of pace in the par quality with simple, but well illustrated, sketch animated backstory.  I never knew the original score, but the Paul Summers pulsating electro-club rescore homages the works “Killer Piñata” is inspired by with an upbeat soundtrack mingled with a traditional minor key soundboard.  Special features includes a new audio commentary, a recollection of pre-, post-, and during production in “A Look Back at Killer Piñata,” a reason why we never saw a sequel follow up title “Whatever Happened to Killer Piñata 2?,” the making of featurette with a few key scenes, and bloopers & deleted scenes.  Stay put after the credits for a bonus scene that aims to piece together things for the potential sequel director Stephen Tramontana promises.  The future for “Killer Piñata” is not yet certain and I firmly believe, in what I consider to be the promising next steps for the murderous inorganic party-pooper, is that the genre needs and should receive a crossover of Turkie vs Piñata in a showdown of the possessed puppets or in an egregious alliance to take a good chunk of mankind’s population down a peg!

Take a Whack at the Killer Piñata Director’s Cut on Blu-ray!

 

Nurses’ Put Up With All Kinds of EVIL in a “12 Hour Shift” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

In the dwindling days leading up to the turn of the century, Mandy is about to start a 12 hour nursing shift at an Arkansas Hospital.  As a side gig, Mandy must supply fresh internal organs to her dimwitted cousin and organ mule, Regina, to earn a little extra cash to pay for her narcotic habit, a condition prolonged and sustained by a front desk colleague.  When Regina misplaces the bag full of internal organs and doesn’t deliver them to her ignoble black market boss, she returns to the hospital desperate and corners Mandy into coughing up more, even if that means killing a patient or two.   When Mandy profusely refuses, but reluctantly complies, Regina still takes matters into her own reckless hands and as the bodies begin to pile, Mandy has to stave off police interrogation and suspicion long enough to get through the long night shift of twisted circumstances and peculiar characters.

As if nurses didn’t already work tediously long hours on normal circumstances as it is, Brea Grant’s pitch black comedy, “12 Hour Shift,” is a cardiac inflamed melee of drug users, a convicted cop killer, and black market goons slaughtering it out with hapless patients caught in the middle.  “12 Hour Shift” is the sophomore film written and directed by Grant, released 7 years following her feature debut of the apocalyptic drama, “Best Friends Forever,” in 2013 as Grant also costars alongside Vera Miao as a pair of BFF journeywomen.  Now, Grant steps fully behind the camera, cherry picks real life headlines, and blends them with urban myths to inject cynicism right into our plump veins with pulpy anti-heroes and a graphic violence backdropped with a Y2K hyperbole.  Shot on location in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the film is produced by Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne of HCT Media and alongside actors, Tara Perry and David Arquette, and David’s wife, Christina McLarty Arquette. 

“May” star Angela Bettis jumps into scrubs as the steely junkie, Mandy, who teeters on benevolence after a streak of merciful killings of terminally ill patients for vital organs in exchange for addiction withdrawal averting cash. Mandy is stuck between a motley nursing staff, unpredictable cops, and a pair of bad guys as the coupling link scrambling to tread above water.  Bettis brings her harried eyed fortitude as a sarcastic and solitude-immersed nurse who is a jack of all trades contending internally with paper thin sympathetic motivations paralleling her self-preserving abilities.  Mandy’s calculating, on-the-fly smarts comes under threat by Regina’s halfwit, caution to the wind, sociopathy, housed under blonde teased hair sitting upon a model’s thin frame from the build of Chloe Farnsworth (“Crying Wolf 3D”) who dons crazy like a dunce cheerleader of a Renaissance slasher of an 80’s throw back, but instead of being the chest-baring victim killed while having prematernal sex in the woods, Regina is a scrappy and determined go-getter with more Cheeto dust on her fingers than braincells in her brain.  Grant paints a hefty list of colorful characters, written to ooze their own sanctimonious nature or Podunk refinement, a pair of inglorious splendor fallacies of small Southern townsfolk.  Dusty Warren plays one of those roles in the tactless ponytail wearing Mikey, the right hand muscle of the organ trafficker, and Mikey has nerveless feelings toward those that surround him except for his boss and, then, there’s Tara Perry’s Dorothy, a religious chatty-Cathy nurse who is essentially the most good, but less influential character of the whole rotten bunch.  “12 Hour Shift” cast rounds out with Kit Williamson as the cute, but hopelessly funny beat cop, Nikea Gamby-Turner as Mandy’s side hustling quasi-employer/colleague of drugs and organ, Brooke Seguin as the tireless nurse shift supervisor, and a pair of wrestlers, the only and only Mankind, Mick Foley, and the actor-turned-wrestler, David Arquette (“Scream”), who I must note is perhaps in the best shape of his life for this film.

“12 Hour Shift” comes off as like a big, crass joke on Southerners with a bloody knuckle one-two punch domino effect of disaster after disaster mayhem.  Grant satirically captures the hackneyed perceptions of a small Arkansas town from the late 1990s, complete with tube televisions and really bad hairstyles, that doesn’t the support the age old Southern mantra that is Southern Hospitality.  Every character touts an awful version of themselves.  Even Mandy, a junkie who commits unauthorized euthanasians with bleach in exchange for cash, crowns being perhaps the absolute worst of the entire character pool, but endeavors through the chaos as an anti-heroine we want to cheer for but is nowhere on the brink of amiability.  A strong point for Grant is giving every character, from scarce to principle, a once over and also touching on them periodically throughout to keep the minor parts existing in the back of the mind  Only David Arquette’s convicted death row inmate, emitted into the hospital due to self-harm, is the only role that feels half-heartedly fleshed out as a small story outlier or maverick whose dynamic is to only add another layer of obstacle fear without becoming too involved with the heart of the organ trafficking plotline.  The comedic air is dry, bloody, and not egregiously over the top in savoring enough plausibility of the abstracted truths to be told in a verse narrative that relies much on Matt Glass’ cymbal, bass, and snare drum soundtrack to provide an unique rhythm for a feminist story.  The two female leads absorb, react, and solve the issues on their own without male assistance; Mandy’s very own half-brother lies comatose for all of the duration and he’s even the reason for Mandy’s pounding addiction, but she still exhibits compassion for family, as we also see with her cousin by marriage, Regina, in the last act, and will do anything to guarantee his safety.  The attributes of the male characters are inversely heroic with qualities like whining, coquettish, uncouth, and gullible running rampant amongst the behaviors; ergo, female characters Mandy, Regina, and even Nikea Gamby-Turner’s Karen have room to grow in the timespan of Brea Grant’s “12 Hour Shift.”

 

Magnet Releasing and HCT Media in association with One Last Run presents “12 Hour Shift,” stat, releasing this Friday, October 2nd in theaters and video on demand.  The black comedy from the United States clocks in at 87 minutes of a shift from hell.  Since the screener provided was of a new theatrical release, there will be no A/V specs listed and critiqued.  The only bonus feature outside the any kind of physical release is an extended last scene after the principle credits role that encourages more hospital mayhem, but will alas leave open ended about the destruction that would ensue.   Aforesaid, Matt Glass serves as the composer on the film, but the multi-hatted filmmaker also serves as the director of photography, producing tactile scenes with a lot of rich, natural lighting on a slightly higher contrast scale and with pockets of brilliant, soft hues to exude more dastardly situations. “12 Hour Shift” goes to show you, in extreme measures and unpredictable circumstances, much like real life hospital scenarios, the rigors and pressures of nursing can be unfathomably taxing, but under the gun (literally in the movie), the nursing staff can overcome all obstacles and filmmaker Brea Grant, in her own style, honors with a gritty, black comedy for the profession that, in many instances, goes unappreciated and thankless.

When Music Videos Go EVIL! “The Backlot Murders” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red / Blu-ray)


After a night of drinking that ends in breaking a bottle over the bar owner’s head, a struggling and internally conflicted rock band kicks out the cancerously unhinged and troublesome member before their rise to stardom. Unfortunately, all the talent went out door along with the excommunicated band member, forcing the band to impress with an extravagant music video shot on Universal’s iconic backlot, sponsored by their agent and the lead singer’s girlfriend’s music mogul father. Instead of intense pyrotechnics and scantily cladded female groupies dancing on their crotch, the band, their girlfriends, and the crew find themselves caught in the gloomy, labyrinth-like movie lot, housing spooky interior and exterior sets, unaware the lurking murderous manic taking them out one-by-one.

By far a polar opposite polished genre film than the sadistically raw brutal rape and murder extravaganza that was “Chaos,” writer and director David “The Demon” DeFalco dabbles in the early 2000’s revival of the slasher genre with his 2002 released feature “The Backlot Murders” in the wake of the widespread success of the “Scream” franchise. In much of the same way “Chaos” came to fruition derived from “Last House on the Left,” DeFalco, once again, finds inspiration in the form of cult horror director Wes Craven. However, DeFalco strays away from the meta-horror and trope-reversal techniques and replaces it with a satirical façade of the music industry where glam is more important than meaningful substance. The slasher-comedy carves up nods to Van Halen, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, and even Elvis Presley with a horrendously skewed mask version the killer wears. “The Backlot Murders” were co-written by Paul Arensburg and Steven Jay Bernheim with the latter writer serving also as co-producer with DeFalco in association with Dominion Entertainment.

A contributing factor to “Scream’s” success was the diverse in career cast that clicked together as well as twisting archetypical roles into atypical whammy that veered audiences to the edge of their seats. “Scream” shocked audiences with the immediate death of a well-known actress right out of the gate, nabbed “Friends’” star Courteney Cox, “SLC Punk” and “Hackers” actor Matthew Lilliard, teen heartthrob Skeet Urlich, one of the Arquettes with David Arquette, and, perhaps, would have guaranteed Neve Campbell a slab of concrete for the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with an already cemented label as a scream queen and a final girl. The same eclecticism could be transfixed by “The Backlot Murders’” acquisitions but on a more obscure scale with a cast from all walks of life that includes the Roger Rabbit voice actor himself, Charles Fleischer, “Three’s Company” star Priscilla Barnes, 1997’s Playboy Playmate Carrie Stevens, and the late Corey Haim (“The Lost Boys”) as the band’s guitarist in a role that seemed below his fame stature. Most gaps are plugged with interesting characters treated with some backstory buildup that becomes more stagnant than footfall companions in order to get to know them better before their demise, but their persona conductors include Brian Gaskill (“The Bloody Indulgent”), Tom Hallick, Jaime Anstead, Dayton Knoll, Lisa Brucker, Ken Sagoes (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), LoriDawn Messuri, Angela Little, and Tracy Dali.

“The Backlot Murders” didn’t set out to revolutionize the slasher genre, but only relished in the after success and donned a more satire effort that purposefully retreated back into the conventional tropes to form an entertaining run of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll gags, but the one thing missing, and it’s a doozy, is the actual killer presence in the film who is treated as an afterthought of slim importance and chucked into a insignificant plot twist that forces DeFalco’s hand to become a routine hack’n’slash lemming. One positive aspect of “The Backlot Murders” is the extremely high body count that produces a continuous stream of nixing off a slew of characters with their own death scenes inside the renowned confines of a Universal backlot backdrop that’s not only good-humored irony but also a sizeable effort by the Bernheim/DeFalco producing team. Yet, despite the high body count, the kills and gore felt sorely uninspired and underwhelming, rehashing into homage death scenes from “Friday the 13th” and “Scream” with a few forgettable approaches to call its own, until DeFalco breaks the damning goreless streak with a gruesome Columbian necktie effect that goes for the throat. I make “The Backlot Murders” seem unenjoyable and heartless when, in fact, the early 2000 slasher-comedy is immensely funny with a Charles Fleisher gold recorded, laugh track amongst the relentless mocking of the music industry from a far in this true to form slasher accessorized with a high body count kill dozer of a villain.

When things are quiet on set, “The Backlot Murders” evoke the slasher spirit on a new-to-Blu Blu-ray release in the U.S. from Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red with MVDVisual handling distribution. The 1080p, hi-def release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen from a brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The cool contextual colors render nicely amongst the shadowy gloom and foggy backdrop that’s reminiscent of a softly lit late 90’s and early 2000s slasher. The textures are sharper than the Razor Digital DVD release; the tactile feeling of asphalt when a bluish white glow hits the pavement or the gritty backlot sets vibrant with an ominous glow strike powerful chords of a lively presence from the transfer. There doesn’t seem to be any cropping, edge enhancing, or any other manipulation to the transfer present. The English mono track, which leans away from the LFE, has the opposite, lackluster appeal with a single channel blockade that doesn’t project the bands pyrotechnics, the screams of being chased, and settling for limitations on other wide range of girthy resounding audio. However, the dialogue is clear, unobstructed, and in the forefront. Bonus material includes a new audio commentary with director David DeFalco and Code Red’s Banana Man plus three new and very bizarre interviews with Carrie Stevens lingering from effects of the #MeToo movement to making home fudge, with Charles Fleisher and dissociative disorder or madman genius insight, and ending with a fairly regular interview with Brian Gaskill recollecting the film and his career through a tough industry standard. The Fleisher and Gaskill interviews end with a video op with The Demon himself, David DeFalco. “The Backlot Murders” had forefront potential of systemic slasher films of the time period, but pitter-patters for levity and a sweeping kill count that reconstructs the dread into death and comedy.

“The Backlot Murders” on Prime Video!