Before Careful What Hotel You Book Online. There Just Might be an Ancient EVIL Lurking in the Basement! “The Ghosts of Monday” reviewed! (Cleopatra Entertainment / Blu-ray)

 “The Ghosts of Monday” is now on Blu-ray Home Video!  Click to Cover to Purchase!

A small film crew of ghost hunters travel to the Grand Hotel Gula, a magnificent resort that accommodated tourists from all over the world, to document the hotel’s horrible past on a rare 53rd Monday of a year when the hotel befell into notorious tragedy as guests attending a party were poisoned and the three owners had committed suicide soon after.   Eric, the director of the show, is on his last leg to make the show a success as he becomes pressured by local benefactors and even the show’s host personality, Bruce.  At the request of Bruce, Eric brings his wife Christine who Bruce raised as a child.  From day one, the empty stunning foyer and luxurious accommodates pale against the ambient creepiness of the dark corridors and basements and the ominous sounds that lurk from within the shadows.  When the shooting commences into an investigation, the unsuspecting filmmakers find themselves in an ill-boding situation with an ancient evil that has been kept hidden away from the world for eons.

I want to prelude this review by saying that my thoughts are with Julian Sands family and if there is any hope left to grasp onto, we want sincerely to yearn for the outcome of Julian Sands disappearance in the hiking region of Mount Baldy, California to be a positive one and see the actor, the husband, the father of three alive and well.  As an entertainer, Sands gave us a malevolent sorcerer in the “Warlock” trilogy and providing us with notable performances in David Lynch’s “Naked Lunch” and the fear of spiders-inducing “Arachnophobia.”  Since the turn of the century, Sands has more-or-less fell out of the limelight with sustaining his presence mostly on direct-to-video releases and appearances on TV series.  The British actor’s latest low-budget horror “The Ghosts of Monday” is a film helmed by Italian director Francesco Cinquemani on the little-known getaway island of Cyprus, a country located in the Mediterranean Sea.  Cinquemani, who typically directs his own scripts, co-writes the film with Andy Edwards (“Zombie Spring Breakers,” “Midnight Peepshow”), Mark Thompson-Ashworth (“POE 4:  The Black Cat”), and Barry Keating (Killer Mermaid,” “Nightworld: Door of Hell”).  “The Ghosts of Monday” appears to be a blend of region myth and cultural belief pulled locally and from the stories of Greeks Gods into one abandoned hotel horror full of cult sacrifice and betrayal, produced by the “S.O.S.:  Survive or Sacrifice” producing team of Loris Curci (“The Quantum Devil”), Marianna Rosset, and Vitaly Rosset under the Cyprus production company, Altadium Group.

Julian Sands might not be the principal lead of the story but is a major player in what culminates into an ambuscade of doomsday deliverance at the expense of others.  As the documentary’s host and a Cyprus local, Sands plays the eccentric, often frisky, heavy drinker Bruce who has been a father, or the adopted father-figure as it’s not entirely clear, to Sofia (Marianna Rosset, “S.O.S.:  Survive or Sacrifice”).  Christine is distant and disordered returning to her Cyprus homeland with her husband Eric, the director, played by “The Turning’s” Mark Huberman.  Almost seemingly estranged from each other, Eric and Sofia display some noticeable pensive and tension-riddled issues between them that the story never fully fleshes out for the audience.  Christine is under medication for a sleep disorder, Eric’s feeling the pressure from powerful producers, and none of that external strain has defined or even as much delineated itself in full in their aloof relationship that has glimmers of hope and smiles as the wall between them is more up than it is down despite Eric’s constant vigil over her.  Performances from Rosset and Huberman meet the need of concern, desperation, and pressure forced upon them more from in the outside than in, especially in Huberman with a slightly better angle on his creative-driven, project-lead sudden derailed from his narrow focus to deliver a quality product as his career careens out of control and that brings out his rougher edge we see in the latter half of the story.  In comparison, the more iconic and recognizable figure, Julian Sands, doesn’t land his role well in what could be seen as if his performance landing gear only had one wheel down before touching pavement but was able to jerry-rig a not-big-enough wheel to get him safely through.   “The Ghost of Monday” has some mysteriously odd and menacing individuals in hotel owner Frank (Anthony Skordi, “Carnal Sins”), his wife Rosemary (Maria Ioannou, “Waiting Room”), and the producer couple Dom (Loris Curci), and Pat (Joanna Fyllidou, “Girls After Dark”) as hovers, prowlers, and the overall conventional creeps in the corner, watching you.  On the other side of the coin, you have a film crew who are more or less victim fodder for the evil powers to be with Anna (Kristina Godunova) and suspected lesbian lovers in sound designer Christine (Elva Trill, “Jurassic World:  Dominion) and cinematographer Jennifer (Flavia Watson) because A/V is just another acronym for LGTBQ+.  With the exception of Frank and Rosemary’s background on why they bought the forsaken hotel, none of the other characters constitute a piece of the pie as they are thrown into the mix, sprinkled with tidbits of intrigue, before their dispatched into the feast or famine categories.

We have ghosts in the title. There are cult members, sometimes shrouded in obscuring clothing, sometimes just lingering exposed outright. We have silent but deadly twin girls with kitchen knives. There is also a slithering creature lurking in the basement. “The Ghost of Monday” is a variety show of vile villains with very little coherence to bring the elements together, but what is clear is a mythical being at the center of the surrounding maelstrom that’s quickly closing in on the protagonists. With the script penned by a cohort of writers experienced in resort massacres and killer aquatic creatures, all director Cinquemani has to accomplish is the effectuation of ideas, but what results is haphazard derision from what feels like “Ghostship” in a hotel and looks like “The Shinning” without the isolating madness all in the confines of a very shaky and marred cinematography. The core of the story is inadvertently lost amongst the competition of where audiences should retain their attention which is a shame because at the core is a deeper, broader, and more mythically rich in Grecian horror with a gorgon immortal that’s equated as the devil itself and linked to life’s destruction if not sacrificed a corporeal shell.  Viewers will be treated to only a glimpse of that circling terror during the climatic end and, more than likely, budgetary reasons ground the story’s larger-than-life concept with only a mixed bag clash of content leading up to the end.

Plugged as Cyprus’s first native horror production, “The Ghosts of Monday” arrives onto a Blu-ray home video release from the Cleopatra Entertainment, film division of Cleopatra Records, and Jinga Films with MVD Visual distributing.  The featured release is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot on what IMDB has listed as the Sony CineAlta Vince with a Zeiss Supreme Prime Lens.  The AVC encoded Blu-ray retains a quite a bit of compression issues throughout the entire digitally recorded package as video ghosting is the biggest image culprit.  I’m sure that type of ghost was not what “The Ghosts of Monday” were referring to in the title.  Aliasing, banding, and small instances of blocking also appear occasionally and in conjunction with the ghosting which makes this transferred format nearly impossible to watch with hardly any detail in what should be a high-definition release that renders closer to 480 or 720p as the video decodes at a low 22 to 23Mbps average.  The Blu-ray has two audio options, an English 5.1 Dolby Digital and a LPCM Stereo 2.0. Though both outputs render nearly identical because of the lack of explosions or an extensive ambient track, the surround sound mix offers a better side to the A/V attributes with a barren-disturbance sound design and a solid score that keeps the concerned glued to the television sets, waiting for something spooky to pop out from behind. Dialogue doesn’t perceive with any issues with clear and clean conversation, as expected with most digital recordings, and is greatly centered and balanced without sounding echoey and out of depth’s scope. The bonus features are scantily applied with only an image slideshow and feature trailer, plus trailers from other Cleopatra Entertainment productions, such as “The Long Dark Trail,” “Frost,” “A Taste of Blood,” “Baphomet,” “Scavenger,” “The Hex,” and “Skin Walker.” The physical attributes of the release come with a traditional Blu-ray snapper cast with latch and cover art, that’s slightly misleading, of a glowing apparition. The region free release has a runtime of 78 minutes and is unrated. “The Ghosts of Monday” doesn’t buck the trend for Cleopatra Entertainment’s string of C-grade horror but is an unusual, new venture in the sense of strictly being a horror story without an eclectic soundtrack of signed artists to carry it through to the end.

 “The Ghosts of Monday” is now on Blu-ray Home Video!  Click to Cover to Purchase!

Copperton Cult Commands You to be EVIL! “Heartland of Darkness” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

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Copperton, Ohio – a quaint and quiet, unsuspecting small town if looking to downsize from the big city hazards.  However, beneath the provincial veneer lies a satanic cult spearheaded by the local Reverend Donovan and his flock of townsfolk worshippers.  Donovan’s grip reaches far beyond just the local municipality as the insidious cult schemes to turn the state’s top officials into devoted followers of Satan.  Copperton’s new local newspaper editor, Paul Henson, along with eager reporter, Shannon Cornell, use their journalistic gut instincts to unearth and expose the corruption by Donovan up to the ladder of the town’s sparse governmental hierarchy, but with only a few residents unsubscribed to Donovan’s fanatical sermons, Paul and Shannon have nowhere to turn in order to protect themselves, Paul’s daughter Christine, and the entire state of Ohio from succumbing to Satanic domination. 

Once lost in limbo for three decades, “Heartland of Darkness” finally sees the light of retail shelves day!  Left unfinished for many years, director Eric Swelstad, then an Ohio State film student, supervises the completion of the horror thriller that revolves around satanic cults, grisly sacrifices, and sheep mentality based on the 1980’s satanic panic craze that swept the nation.  Penned by Swelstad, who moved on with this lift and helmed a handful of direct-to-video titles, such as “The Curse of Lizzie Borden 2:  Prom Night” and “Frankenstein Rising” in the early 2000s, and filmed in and around Columbus and the Granville village of Ohio, the 1989 principal photographed production was thought to be ultimately completed by 1992 but due to funding and production constraints, that was not the case.  The film also went through a couple of other titles, beginning with Swelstad’s original script title “Fallen Angels” and then changed to “Blood Church” at the behest of a possible financier that eventually fell through.  In the end, the film settles on “Heartland of Darkness” as a privately ventured production Steven E. Williams (“Draniac!”), Wes Whatley, Michael Ray Reed, Thomas Baumann, Mary Kathryn Plummer, and Scott Spears (“Beyond Dream’s Door”) serving as producers.

One of the reasons why the obscurity adrift “Heartland was Darkness” was so sought after by horror fans is because the title became one of the lost films of scream queen Linnea Quigley.  Standing at only 5’2’’ tall, the “Return of the Living Dead” and “Night of the Demons” actress was a hot commodity during the late 80’s and a genre film giantess who ended up having a fairly prominent, written-in role just for her hire in what is, essentially, a student film.  Quigley’s role as the town’s high school teacher, Jessica Francine, makes the hormonal boy in me wish my teachers actually looked than beautiful and provocative in high school, but in the same perspective, Quigley doesn’t appear or is barely older than Sharon Klopfenstein as Paul Henson’s daughter, Christine.  The two share a high school hallway moment while sporting crop tops, tight bottom wear, and discussing paganistic occultist Aleister Crowley and Nazi mass murderer Adolf Hitler and while the additional scene gives Quigley screen time, it evokes risibly campy optics.  Dino Tripodis defines the principal lead Paul Henson, a former Chicago Tribunal editor having left the midwestern journalism powerhouse after the death of his wife.  Stepping into a world of cultism, Paul’s eager to save what’s left of his family at all costs by exposing grisly murders as more than just drug-related collateral damage (I didn’t know drug wars were such a big thing in Ohio).  The debut of Tripodis’s performance fairs well enough to solidify himself as the marginalized hero against a Goliathan opposition that’s deep rooted and backed by powerful leaders, but hands down, Tripodis is outdone by Nick Baldasare as the dark featured, maniacally calm Reverend Donovan.  Baldasare has such a tremendous presence as a fire and brimstone agent of the most notable archfiend that his performance swallows the shared screen moments with Tripodis.  A few principals come off as rigid and flat in their efforts.  As the sheriff of Copperton, Lee Page is the biggest offender with an obvious staged act of busting Tripodis’s balls for a better part of the story.  “Heartland of Darkness” is a mixed bag of showings from a remaining hyper-localized cast compromised of new to little experiences actors including Shanna Thomas, Sid Sillivan, Ralph Scott, Dallas Dan Hessler, Ray Beach, Mary Alice Dmas, and with the John Dunleavy in a magnetic role of a cult-crime fighting preacher.

Hard to fathom why but still completely understandable how “Heartland of Darkness” remained in celluloid purgatory for so many years.  Swelstad had tremendous ambitions for a student film that included a visual effects storefront explosion, but the money well dried up to finish shooting, touch ups, effects, and digitizing the filmmaker’s efforts onto a marketable commodity to distribute.   At last, here we are, 33 years later with a finished copy of the “lost Linnea Quigley film” and, boy-oh-boy, does not disappoint, living up to the expectational hype surrounding the film’s once stagnant, hidden from the world existence.  Swelstad creates the illusion of vast world from the small town of Copporton to the big cities where the District Attorney and Governor reside.  Car chases, rock quarries, a church nave, animal intestine smeared ditches, and a slew of constructed sets, an array of offices, and an abundance of diverse exteriors. “Heartland of Darkness” might have a lot going on and is often repetitive in the scenes with Paul and Shannon pleading their case to multiple officials to probe into gruesome deaths and the cult’s leadership but not to the story’s detriment as all the progressive storyline dig Paul and his small band of investigators into a deeper danger hole with Donovan and his Devil devotees under the guise of God’s Church. Scott Simonson’s entrail splayed and blood splattering special effects culminates to a shotgun showdown at a virgin sacrifice and an impressive full-bodied impaling that is, frankly, one of the best edited shots of the film. “Heartland of Darkness” is rayless and scary, callous and cold, formidable and shocking with a pinch of sex and is finally within our grasp!

Visual Vengeance, a pioneer in curating the lost, the forgotten, and the technically shoddy indie cult and horror films, releases for the first time on any format ever “Heartland of Darkness” on Blu-ray. Coming in as VV08 on the spine, the Wild Eye Releasing banner strays their first seven SOV features to bring aboard a 16mm negative transfer, director-supervised from original film elements of the standard definition masters. Visual Vengeance precautions viewers with the usual precursing disclaimer that due to the commercial grade equipment and natural wear of aging, the presentation is the best possible transfer available, but, honestly, the full screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio presentation looks outstanding without much to critique. Obvious softer details were expected but with the celluloid film, there’s not much in way of macroblocking or tracking complications as common with shot-on-video tape features. Compression verges to a near perfect reproduction of the picture quality. Skin coloring and overall grading is congruously natural in grain and stable image. The English stereo mono track doesn’t pack a punch but isn’t also frail with strong mic placement and the dialogue is clean and clear of imperfections as well as major hissing or popping. The faint 16 mm camera whir can be heard but isn’t distracting, adding a comforting churr to the footage. Optional English subtitles are available. Special features include a new 40-minute behind-the-scenes documentary Deeper into the Darkness, an audio commentary by writer-director Eric Swelstad, actor Nick Baldasare, cinematographer Scott Spears, and composer Jay Woelfel, a new interview with cult icon Linnea Quigley, commentary with Tom Strauss of Weng’s Chop magazine, an archival Linnea Quigley TV interview, the complete “Fallen Angels” 1990 workprint, the same workprint with audio commentary with Swelstad, vintage cast and crew Ohioan newscast interviews in the Making of Fallen Angels, the original promotional video for “Blood Church,” a behind-the scenes image gallery and footage, and the original TV spots and trailers, of this feature and other Visual Vengeance films, from the static, composite menu. Ready for more? “Heartland of Darkness” comes with just as much physical bonus swag with a limited-edition prayer cloth, a six-page liner notes from Tony Strauss complete with color beind-the-scene stills, a folded mini-poster of a leather-cladded Linnea Quigley’s high school hallway scene, and retro Visual Vengeance stickers inside a clear Blu-ray latch snapper with new, illustrated cover art that also has reversible art of the original “Blood Church” promo art, sheathed inside a cardboard slip cover with a different and new illustrated cover art. The region free, 101-minute release is unrated. Visual Vengeance continues to pump out gilded, undiscovered treasures and giving them the royal treatment. For “Heartland of Darkness,” this sublime release was 33 years in the making and is one Hell of a bounty!

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When Your Shame and Guilt Turn EVIL! “Prey for the Devil” reviewed! (Lionsgate / Blu-ray)

“Prey for the Devil” on Blu-ray home video.  Purchase a Copy Today!

The rite of exorcism has been strictly performed only by Catholic priest; a decree enforced by the Church for more than a century.  At the Saint Michael the Archangel School of Exorcism in Boston, Massachusetts, Ann, a young nurse caring for suspected possessed individuals, finds herself bound personally to a demon from her childhood.  An opened-minded Father invites her to study exorcism as an observer only, but when Ann is able to connect to beyond the demon of a terminally possessed little girl, her theory on exorcisms goes against Church doctrine.  Unable to officially help the little girl without agitating trouble, Ann performs back-alley exorcisms to prove her theories correct, bring her findings to the Church, prepare herself against a demon hungry for her soul, and save the life of a girl bound for transport to the Vatican where she will surely expire.  Ann’s past and present collide in a battle between light and dark with a young girl’s life hanging in the balance.

Possession and exorcism movies have become rather formulaic in the last two decades with more than most being derivative as surpassing the bar on William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” has been an uphill battle, but, in my opinion, director Daniel Stamm has figured out a path to make the wavering subgenre emerge from the depths of the Netherworld and take possession with a different angle. “Prey for the Devil” is a terrifying tale by screenwriting partners and brothers Earl Richey Jones and Todd R. Jones, the first horror work from the “Rio” and “Johnson Family Vacation” writers, and the script, under the original working title of “The Devil’s Light, is designed by “Halloween H20” co-writer, Frank Zappia.  The Hamburg, Germany-born Stamm returns to the demonically charged, demon possession genre having found moderate success with fans in his 2010 pseudo-doc/found footage film “The Last Exorcism.”  More than a decade later, Stamm is still sending young girls up climbing up the corner of walls in his latest exorcism themed entry produced by the Jones brothers, Jeff Levine, Jessica Malanphy, and Paul Brooks under production companies Gold Circle Films (“Slither,” “Blood Creek”) and Lionsgate (“Saw” franchise).   

“Prey for the Devil” has an embattled protagonist facing two opposing fronts – one fowl demon hellbent on devouring the Godsent Ann from the inside out and one the Church solely for being a woman wanting to practice what’s been appointed as a man’s vocation. Jacqueline Byers has been penned to play the curious and targeted nun and the “Bad Samaritan” actress doesn’t disappoint being the center of attention without overstepping conceitedly into Ann’s habit. The story never feels like it’s Ann, paralleling similar to the overall theme of looking past the surface level demon and understanding the person’s state of consciousness that might have invited the demon inside. Byers evokes more curiosity of a woman drawn to exorcism because of her own past involving an abusive mother (Koyna Ruseva) who, when listening to the voice inside her head, would hurt child Ann with a tough tugging, decorative comb. In Ann’s way is the Church represented by Sister Euphemia (Lisa Palfrey, “The Feast”), Father Quinn (Colin Salmon, “Resident Evil”), and Cardinal Matthews, played by the late Ben Cross (“Exorcist: The Beginning”) who would succumb to cancer after the completion of his role. With a trifecta of solid performances, the Church opposition lacks fortitude in coming down hard on Ann for not only taking a shining toward a priest’s appointed aptitude, but also for performing an unauthorized exorcism on a desperate priest’s sister. Her desperate priest friend, Father Dante (Christian Navarro, “13 Reasons Why“), is a sympathetic friend without much skin in the game of sticking his white collared neck out for Ann. “Prey for the Devil” introduces the teenage actress Posy Taylor with a chillingly consumed Natalie who has a strong semblance to Regan when demonized to the fullest and in a while gown. The film rounds out the cast with Nicholas Ralph, Keith Bartlett, and “Candyman’s” Virginia Madsen as the psychiatrist using science to disprove possession.

“Prety for the Devil” sets the stage strong by defining from the very opening credits that women were forbidden to perform the rite of exorcism. There’s even back support from Sister Euphemia giving her glares of disapproval and a library that limits the access to priest approved restricted texts, but Ann slides into the realm of exorcisms when little push back that begs the question why no other nun ever attempted to enroll in the demon extraction rituals course? Perhaps being set in the permissive Boston and not the draconian Vatican might have something to do with it, but the theme of inequality is ultimately suppressed and dispelled from the story, leaving Sister Ann to face a one-front battle against the unholy creatures of the underworld inhabiting those closest to her. For supernatural special effects, the computer visual imagery renders a meticulously blended and seamless compositional execution from a team under VF/X supervisor Laurent Spillemaecker (“Overlord,” “Martyrs’). The mesh of reality and virtual reality becomes indistinguishable to the point where good scares scenes come about as a result. There are plenty physical effects that are joint into a pivot from the visuals and the motions don’t have an ounce of clunkiness to them. While we touched upon the theme of inequality of women in the Church, “Prey for the Devil’s” other theme revolves around a fairly common one in films today – guilt or shame. The new angle the story provides ceases to look at possession not from a demon focused level but to reach in and try to convince the person within that they’re at fault for whatever it is they grieve in shame for and to tell them whatever the case may be, no fault is put on them. Novel enough to be interesting, guilt and shame will forever be vilified and demonized, literally, in most horror. For “Prey for the Devil,” the element of anguish proves to be more powerful than most who utilize it, capitalizing in on the power of being overcome by it, and turning it into a nasty, soul-swallowing distemper one may not come back from. This is why Virginia Madsen’s psychiatrist character exists, to provide that presence of psychosis and other mental disabilities that sometimes appear to be demonic in nature to the naked, untrained eye. The story does well to create an alternate universe around this idea by having the Church admit patients with undiagnosed disorders as they could be more than what meets the eye.

Not quite the nunsploitation one might be hoping for, but “Prey for the Devil” envisages self-conscious emotions as a wide-open door for pain, suffering, and unmitigated self-punishment. Lionsgate Home Entertainment presents “Prety for the Devil” on a high definition, 1080p, AVC encoded Blu-ray, DVD, and digital code release with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. With tight quarters of Saint Michaels, a fictional location setup from Sofia University in Palo Alto, California, the anamorphic lens compacts hallways and auditoriums cylindrically, offering more space than actuality, but the format doesn’t necessarily fit this type of a film that offers no vast landscape or much depth or long shots. Not much else to say negatively about the digital image that offers a darker, low contrasted tone. The audio track has three audio options: an English Dolby Atmos, a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio, and a French 5.1 Dolby Audio. For the English Atmos, the format fully immerses the viewer into a complete surround sound experience with each crescendo jump scares as well as in the middle of a good versus evil quarrel. Crisp and spatial, Atmos on the release takes advantage of the infrasound to build tension where it might be lost in other audio formats and also italicizes the ambient composition into the Nathan Barr’s (“From Dusk till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter”) classical and haunting lullaby scores. The special features include an audio commentary with director Daniel Stamm and principal lead actress Jacqueline Byers, a 41-minute featurette with in-depth and retrospective interviews with cast and crew Possessed: Creating Prey for the Devil, Nathan Barr’s discussion on creating the score for the film A Lullaby of Terror, exposing the film’s visuals effects The Devil’s Tricks, a feature-length, nearly 2-hour roundtable read of the original first screenplay draft from the cast, and an Exorcist and Psychologist discussion about the possession with screenwriter Robert Zappia mediating (or maybe even moderating) the comments. The physical release comes in a traditional Blu-ray snapper case with artwork cover pictured with one of film’s rememberable scenes. Inside is the digital code slip and outside the snapper is sheathed in a cardboard slipcover with the identical cover art. Possession-exorcism films are just as tired as the zombie subgenre, but “Prey for the Devil” possesses symbolic and doleful undertones inside a superbly acted and an intriguing alternate universe story that’s not too far from the truth in one of the Church’s more confrontational, as well as controversial, methods to battle evil.

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Forcing Conformity on EVIL is a Violent Cause. “Murder in a Blue World” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

Nurse Ana Vernia lives in an authoritarian, dystopian world where she just received a commendation for her work, but beneath the archetype of a scrutinizing society seeking to acculturate deviants by way of involuntary electroshock treatments, Ana moonlights in her own violent behavior as an act of mercy. Under the pretense of disguises, Ana seduces men aberrant to the social norms, returns them to her luxurious mansion, sleeps with them, and to then only murder them with precision before they can be subjected to imperious judgement for being different. All the while, societal dissentient David, an exiled member of a brutal gang, witnesses Ana’s exploits and infiltrates her home, her life, to garner incriminating evidence in order to blackmail her for money, but when David is tracked down for his former gang and beaten to near death, he comes ironically under the care of nurse Ana who plans to fix David before his fate before the electroshock treatments.

Get ready to dial high on voltage on the social commentary scale, “Murder in the Blue World” is a fascinating, dystopian look at social disorder. Heavily influenced in more ways than one by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the Eloy de la Iglesia 1973 picture was once entitled “Clockwork Terror” in the U.S. to ride the lucrative coattails of Kubrick’s symphony to violence. Also known in other parts of the world as “To Love, Perhaps to Die,” “Satansbrut” (“Satan’s Fiend”), and “La clinique des horreurs” (“The Clinic of Horrors”), Iglesia’s original penned script and title actually “Una gota de sangre para morir amando” (“A Drop of Blood to Die Loving”), co-written with José Luis Garci (“El Teroso”), Antonio Artero (“El tesoro del capitán Tornado”), George Lebourg, and Antonio Fos (“Panic Beats”). The Spanish film goes internationally by many monikers but has one objective and that is to counter the dictation of free-thinking individuals with violence. “Murder in a Blue World” is produced by José Frade under his self-titled production company, José Frade Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.

“Murder in a Blue World” is so much so in the Stanley Kubrick wake, the film stars Sue Lyon who played the titular character in Kubrick’s “Lolita.”  More than a decade later, the “End of the World” and “The Astral Factor” actress enters another emotionally lacerating role of a woman, a nurse, sworn to do no harm who sees that a quick euthanization is the only possible mercy she can offer to spare societal downcast souls from a fate far worse than death in a cold and cruel condemnatory world.  Lyon’s excellent in curating her different disguises and looks, taking on a variety of personas with subtle mannerisms despite how comical or implausible they may appear on screen, such as the idea of being an old, gray-haired woman.  Lyon is fair and small in stature compared to her male counterparts but commands the screen with her confident approach to Ana’s advantageous beauty and eroticism that can turn a gay man straight apparently.  Former gang member David shares her ideology to an extent, to the extent of capitalizing off her nightly murder for mercy escapades in order to survive on the street alone.  Christopher Mitchum, son of the late Golden Age of Cinema actor Robert Mitchum (“El Dorado,” “The Longest Day,” “Scrooged”), plays the nihilistic gangbanger with aversion to any or all rules that tell him how to think.  Mitchum’s impressive motorbike skills are utilized for an impressive chase sequence that incorporates ramp jumps and car crashes at a high speed velocity, a talent Mitchum and film producers utilized often in his other credits, such as “Sumertime Killer” and “Big Jake.”  Lyon and Mitchum don’t have much screen time until later in the story but their interactions are playful, flirtatious almost, but in a predator-prey kind of way and we’re not really sure which-is-which in that shifty relationship.   French actor Jean Sorel (“A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin”) rounds out the three-prong principal characters as a diehard representative of the authoritarian body and a potential love interest for Ana.  Playing Victor Sender, a neurologist experimenting on the criminally insane with electroshock therapy and working at the same hospital as nurse Ana, Sorel is the epitome of the calculating stability and clean-cut coldness of the ruling class that’s doesn’t see what they’re doing to be a unjust, cruel, or even a problem at all. “Murder in a Blue World” rounds out the cast with Ramón Pons (“Scarab”), Charly Bravo (“The Cannibal Man”), Alfredo Alba, Antonia del Rio, Domingo Codesido Ascanio, and Fernando Hilbeck (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”).

On the surface, director Eloy de la Iglesia carves a rib right out of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” with themes of exquisite, unprovoked violence sparked by the very basis of rebellion against authority. Not to also forget to mention the elaborately dressed gang of four, the electroshock treatment that aims to cure the criminal cerebrum, and the dystopian, futuristic guild with hints of fascism. “Murder in a Blue World” is a mixture that’s two-third post-Kubrick and one-third part pre-Paul Verhoeven, the latter reaching into fascist imagery as well as extreme commercialism that has surely inspired the “Robocop” and “Starship Trooper” director. Blue wellness drinks and panther-primitive men’s underwear are just a few the commercials fabricated for Iglesia’s coloring of an influential culture as the filmmaker uses the motif to symbolize and parallel brainwashing that becomes more severe when the government attempts to force a cure for criminality down incarcerated individuals’ throats. Even David announces to the world in multiple scenes how he doesn’t care what others think and he’s a free thinker. Homosexuality, prostitution, and physical imperfections suggest master race ideology amongst the domineering class hierarchy. Those who Ana seduce, as well as David, struggle in poverty and are considered inferior though not explicitly mentioned in the story. Iglesia integrates his trademark graphic violence, closeups of stabbings and throat slitting, but only really visualizes post-third act climax to keep more of an implied violence, off screen, and quickly edited to maintain an unclear vagueness of what’s right and what’s wrong in what Ana’s accomplishing.

A phenomenal companion piece and second bill to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Eloy de la Iglesia’s “Murder in a Blue World” finds Blu-ray love with a high definition, 1080p release from the genre film eternizing Cauldron Films. The Blu-ray debut is a 2K restoration of the 35mm transfer that has held up fairly well over the decades to only show pockets of wear and tear. Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, there’s no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction to clear out the natural stock grain, leaving the picture quality with more texture. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural and popping color grade doesn’t stray too far from its integrity until one brief scene goes full Oompa-Loompa orange before reverting back to normal. Light scratching is common throughout but not obtrusive to the viewing. Two audio options come with the release, an English dub dual mono and a Spanish dub dual mono. Since the cast is comprised of American, French, and Spanish native actors, neither track appears attractive from a lip-reading and audio-hearing perspective. Preferably, I went English dub as Sue Lyons and Chris Mitchum monopolize the lion’s share of screen time. There’s quite a bit of hissing and popping on the single channel output that can render dialogue almost indistinct but passes with a D+. The English subtitles synch well and show no sign of inaccuracy or grammatical issues. English SDH captions are available as well. Special features include a 2008 archive interview with Chris Mitchum, an interview with dubbing guru Ben Tatar Dubbing in a Blue World, a video essay read by Spanish Gothic film and literature scholar Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes who dives into the themes and constructs of Iglesia’s film, audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, the VHS cut of “Clockwork Terror” in 720p standard definition, and image gallery. The physical release comes in a clear Blu-ray snapper with a colorfully illustrated cover art that is reversible with one of the more notable and beautifully shot scenes on the inside. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the release is region free and is unrated. “Murder in a Blue World” receives a gorgeous Blu-ray restoration and debut as it’s an eclectic work of inspired and pioneering visual art from one of Spain’s most individualist directors.

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

EVIL Told You Not to the First Time! “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / Blu-ray)

“Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” on a Special Edition Blu-ray!  Purchase Your Copy Here!

Beginning where the last film left off, alien attack survivor Jane, bruised and bloody, stumbles into the under-renovation Pine Hills Summer Camp where a group of newly hired and horny camp counselors, a nurse chaperone, and a handy-man ex-con spruce up the place.  Jane is met with hostility when sounding off about monsters and death, but when the Pine Hills staff realize that a few of their friends are missing and haven’t checked in, Jane’s story is beginning to resonate and take traction.  Out in the woods, the rape-impregnated sperm of the monster are parasitic and seek out human hosts to infect with raging hormones and adrenaline, transforming hosts into razor-sharp teethed, superhuman mutants hellbent on procreation of a new monster.  The invading parasites turn the isolated camp into a slaughter yard of bloodshed and chaos and it’s up to the remaining survivors to nut up and put violent stop to an alien’s insidious carnage. 

Well, by God, Shawn Burkett did it!  The director made a sequel to his straight-forward, out-of-nowhere, 2016 indie hit “Don’t Fuck in the Woods,” directly following up from where the first film left us off with a lone survivor having just blown up a sex-crazed, blood-lusting alien creature who clawed, tore, and banged his way through a bunch of naked women and some off-color guys doing the dirty in the woods.  The first film made such a splash of interest with the provocative and often controversial title as well as being one of the most pirated movie in the last decade due to said title, The Ohio-born Burket began to formulate the next step of “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” with a story co-written with one of the sequel’s principal stars, Cheyenne Gordon, writer of the Tory Jones directed films “The Wicked One” and “They See You.”  The enticingly crass, but greatly adored and sought after title aims to be gorier and even more nudity-laden as the first film with the story situated at an actual family-owned campground, Hannon’s Camp America, in College Corner, Ohio.  Shot in the Summer of 2019, the pre-pandemic film, “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2,” is a production of Concept Media, Studio 605, Rising Fire Films, Taintbad Productions, and Head on a Stick Productions with Burkett producing and John Lepper (aka Johnny Macabre, executive producer of “Smoke and Mirrors:  The Story of Tom Savini” and “The VelociPastor”) as executive producer.

Though the sequel does not mark the return of the voluptuously captivating adult actress Nadia White, as her character (spoiler alert) was ripped apart by the creature (end spoiler alert), the sequel casts a whole new lot of ladies willing to let Mr. Skin archive and immortalize all their bare body parts forever…or at least until the servers crash, the internet dies, or the world ends.  It’s not like eternity or anything.  The one returning principal to return is the first film’s sole survivor, Jane, and returning to fill her blood-soaked shoes is Brittany Blanton that has officially solidified the Houston, Texas native as a scream queen, franchise final girl, and an overall badass slayer of otherworldly creatures.  Blanton is just one of several actresses to play into the popular campy motif and titular theme of open sexuality and nudity as a formulaic no-no in horror films.  B-to-Z horror movie regulars, starting with “RIP:  Rest in Pieces’” Kenzie Phillips, “Model Hunger’s” Kaylee Williams, “Slaughterhouse Slumber Party’s” Kayla Elizabeth, “5G Zombies’” Julie Anne Prescott, “Blood Moon River’s” Cara McConnell, and Nessa Moore, who I suspect used a body double for her bare all scene, follow suit (birthday suit that is) playing chopping block babes abreast of their outcome.  Burkett doesn’t completely make void his sequel of complex human emotions, supplying bitter love triangles, an oversexualized third wheel, and two more adult-ish characters running from their unpleasant past,  One of those two is ex-con Gil (co-writer Cheyenne Gordon) forced into a corner as the camp’s handyman while attempting to turn his life around for the better but finding the path to redemption difficult when being harassed and threatened by corrupt law enforcement officer.  Already down in the dumps being judged and juried by fellow campers and law enforcement, Gil is sympathetic role that earns his keep when going toe-to-toe with mutation spawn.  Mark Justice (“Atomic Shark”), Jason Crowe (“Dead Moon Rising”), Tom Komisar (“Slaughterhouse:  House of Whores 2.5), Alex Gottmann, and returning from the first film for a brief but memorable scene is Brandy Mason completes the cast. 

No contextual messages. No metaphors. No symbolizing themes. “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” pumps you full of the same obligatory creature feature construct as the first, those who have sex, get murdered….horribly. The only slight difference this time around is director Shawn Burkett gets himself out of the man-in-a-monster suit element and into a state of possession as the cast of characters become heinous hosts to parasitic alien slugs, essentially turning people on themselves in a battle to the death. The concept brings a new angle to the series to build upon the creature’s never say die multi-nefarious abilities that keeps it returning, in one form or another, from the grave. Blood runs rampant with the special effects team implementation of a blood gun into their bag of tricks that soaks the cast in more than one scene, but I would say between the two films, both are equally matched in blood shedding as the sequel, that doesn’t see the return of the first film’s SFX artist Deryk Wehrly but hires the 2016 film’s producer, Rob Collins to fill that void, doesn’t surpass the antecedent’s practical butchery. Looking through a technical critical lens, the indie feature has noticeable issues with crew mistakes, such as shadows of the boom operator in the frame, and scenes that hit the cutting room floor would have shed light on a few second and third act scenes that ended up not keeping the story smooth in a logical sense; one of the bigger scenes in question is one two large arms break through a wall and grab Gib from behind. The arrangement of character positions didn’t quite work out and the feature’s after credits bonus scene cements that misalignment even more. “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” might have filmic gaffe (there might be a cream for that) but what started as a straight-shooting, sex and slaughter, potboiler has become Shawn Burkett’s undeniable magnum opus and he’s only just beginning.

Wild Eye Releasing camp on one of the most campiness horror to date with “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” on a special edition Blu-ray release. Presented in high definition, 1080p, the transfer is exhibited with widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. First thing I noticed about the independent film and distributor release is there are virtually no issues with compression. The black areas remain deep and inky, hues naturally come across without any fluctuation, and there are no visible banding or artefact issues. In comparison to the first film, the sequel is quite brighter with more lighting available and Burkett isn’t too heavy on gels or tints unless in slug-vision mode with a tinge of low opacity fuchsia. The release comes with a lossy English 2.0 stereo mix that’s every bit languid as it sounds with current releases. Dialogue is clean and clear of damage and interference but is too underweight for full-bodied effect. Sound design offers arm’s length depth but is ample in range with slimy sluggy-ness slithering about and skirmish associated hubbubs to make the action excitable. Optional English subtitles are available. The special features include a behind-the-scenes featurette that gives a walking tour of the Hannon’s family camp shooting location building-by-building, blooper reel which can be seen during the end credits, two deleted scenes, the original producer trailer, Wild Eye Releasing trailers, and a feature length documentary “What Happens in the Woods: The Story of Don’t Fuck in the Woods” that digs deep not only into the genesis of “Don’t Fuck in the Woods,” but also into the personal strifes of Burkett and how the story’s title was turbulent, controversial, and heated from the beginning but became a wildly great success that spurred greenlights for future sequels, such as the after credit scene that may or may not involve space and/or time travel! The clear Blu-ray snapper with latch has physical special features that include a folded-mini poster insert, reversable cover art with a composited image on the front and a bloodied Brittany Blanton screengrab snippet on the opposite, and cardboard slipcover with a mashup character collage on the front. The brisk 81-minute runtime compacts the blood and boobs in this region free, unrated disc. Shawn Burkett teases fans with a third picture that’ll surely bring the wanton woods into the world of tomorrow but, for now, bask in “Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” unfettered maverick success.

“Don’t Fuck in the Woods 2” on a Special Edition Blu-ray!  Purchase Your Copy Here!