Two Out-Of-Town Girls. A Town Full of Depravity. One EVIL Massacree! “Even Lambs Have Teeth” reviewed! (DVD / Syndicado)


It’s True.  “Even Lambs Have Teeth!”  Now On DVD.

Katie and her best friend Sloane volunteer to work on a countryside organic farm for a month in order to have one fabulous shopping spree weekend in New York City.  Taking Katie’s Uncle’s precautions semi-seriously, the two young women play it fast and loose while waiting for the bus that heads straight to the farm as they agree to hitch a ride with local boys, two brothers, who offer a ride instead of taking the bus.  Instead of arriving at the farm to work on the NYC trip, Katie and Sloane wake up chained to shipping containers where they’ve been incorporated into a twisted town’s sex trade systematized by the brothers, their mother, and a local shopkeeper of missing women to provide the local perverts a quality product.  Raped for days and coming to the fatal end of their use, Katie and Sloane barely escape with their lives only to turn back to reign down merciless revenge on the entire community of accomplices. 

When your parents warn to never get into a stranger’s car, this is why!  “Even Lambs Have Teeth” is the 2015 exploitation rape-revenge thriller from “Recoil” director Terry Miles looking to get his hands dirty with a script diving into the unpleasantries of a rural prostitution ring while washing his hands clean of sin with vindictive, vigilante justice antibacterial hand soap.  The Canadian horror film, which embraces a title suggesting not everything cute and fluffy is harmless, meek, and without malice, joins a slew of like-minded films of the last decade in the resurgence of the subgenre from the high profile remakes of the trailblazer rape-revenge pilots of the 1970’s, such as “The Last House on the Left” and “I Spit on your Grave,” to contemporary crafted original works from Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” from 2017 or Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” from 2020 that enacts a woman’s voice on the subject matter of sexual assault and the course the victim ensues to not right a wrong but rather to satisfy an itch for six-feet-under retaliation.  Having one of, if not the, longest pre-title opening sequences ever at a staggery 23 minutes before the title comes up, “Even Lambs Have Teeth” is from the Random Bench Productions’ producing team of Braden Croft’s forgotten sasquatch flick “Feed the Gods” of Elizabeth Levine, Robin Nielsen, Adrian Salpteter, and Danielle Stott-Roy along with Gregory Chambet (Av:  The Hunt”) and Dimitri Stephanides (“Don’t Hang Up”) under the banner companies of WTFilms (“Slaxx”) and the France-based Backup Media (“Piggy”).

In order to be the sweet and promiscuous that oozes innocence and ignorance while also, on the other side of the coin, becoming the subjugated flavor of the week by exploiters craving the almighty dollar at the expense of your body, Katie and Sloane need to be a rock solid, yin and yang energy force to machinate the undoing of their captors and rapists without an ounce of empathy, compassion, and hesitation. Tiera Skovbye (“Summer of 84”) and Kirsten Prout (“Joy Ride 3: Road Kill”) put forward the right foot in Katie and Sloane’s plight and fight for not only to survive but also to make sure what happened to them never happens to any other woman misfortunately stepping one foot into a town full of tongue-lapping wolves by laying waste to the Podunk prostitution syndicate. Skovbye and Prout start invincible as if the world is their oyster that includes Prout gender reversal of stereotyped horny best friend. We don’t see that kind of confidence again in both women until after the dirty deeds are done to them by the likes of distinct, depraved men with one thing in common – their undying perversion for cargo container chained young women. These customers so to speak are played by Craig March (“Suspension”), Graem Beddoes (“Horns”), and Christian Sloane (“Black Christmas” ’06) and go through the entrepreneurship of one demented family business. Hunky bothers Jed (Garrett Black) and Lucas (Jameson Parks) lure the itching to have fun Katie and the always randy Sloane to their isolated house where their mother (Gwynyth Walsh, “The Crush”) drugs them with blueberry pie before meeting the ringleader of the bunch, the unofficial town mayor in Boris (Patrick Gilmore, “Trick ‘r Treat”) who isn’t as dippy or uncivilized in his business practices. Performances are more than solid all around for an under-the-radar Canadian tit-for-tat flip the script. The cast comes complete with Manny Jacinto, Darren Mann, Brittany Willacy, Valerie Tian, Chelah Horsdal, and Michael Karl Richards as the detective uncle.

What separates “Even Lambs Have Teeth” from the rest of the pack?  That’s the million-dollar question that helps us select a title amongst a sea of sordid rape-revengers and provides different angling lures that can draw interest and elevate beyond the material that has just been recycling the mold every so often. What generates an enjoyable watch is the well-written dialogue with witty, provocative banter from Kirsten Prout that can blush her best friend to near unbearable shame. The exchanges throughout feel fresh enough to keep our ears tuned into the action and the actors do a phenomenal job keeping up the character acts that evoke a rightfully root for or a rightfully despise against. Not everything about the characters is entirely copasetic with a wavering integrity in what they do. Katie and Sloane revenge spree buckles the knees of nearly every individual involved, reducing them down to a sniveling murderee for the sole sake of a money offering gag device. While the gag greatly points out a commonly used trope in these types of stories, there’s an immense let down with the way a group of predators go down with virtually no fight or no dignity. The starkness of the sudden turn of events might unmask who they really are on the inside, weak stomached sociopathic and chauvinistic control freaks with a hankering for either quick cash or to get their rocks off. Comparing “Even Lambs Have Teeth” with other rape-revenge flicks, the Terry Miles production is on the lighter side of explicit material, for a lack of a better way to describe. Usually, audience bear witness and endure in shared disgusts to the unspeakable acts of violence, torture, and sexual assault to not only shock the viewers but also directly force them into a role of surefire support for the woman so when she ultimately escapes and goes postal with a no holds barred policy against her violator(s), we clap and cheer for when the rusty nailed and sharp object rod is plunged in a fit of rectal sodomy retaliation. “Even Lambs Have Teeth’s” third act is the cleanest with a familiar territory of a quick and dirty barrage of brutality, an expected recourse handed down for all the pain and suffering that doesn’t stop until these hopeful girls, who are now forced to be pragmatic women, kill every last person involved.

A punishable by death dose of executions without the judge, jury, or trial in Terry Miles “Even Lambs Have Teeth,” now released on DVD home video from the once VOD emerging Syndicado who have now entered the physical release game. The single-sided, single-layered DVD5 presents the film in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a rather remarkable picture quality that’s able to capture the minute objects like floating dust and differentiate between assorted lighting. Skin tones appear textural and natural and the organically lit tone leaves noir at the door and the glossiness of hyperviolence unneeded as the premise itself is satisfyingly unfeigned to be dolled up as something else. The English language Dolby (though not listed as such) surround sound caters to mostly every whim with clear dialogue, good enough depth, and a soundtrack with fidelity albeit the same song stuck on repeat. What’s essentially a feature only release, bonus material only includes the theatrical trailer of the film with a final product package not terribly appealing with a colorless tawdry cover of a dirtied Tiera Skovbye and Kirsten Prout glaring stoical outward with weapons in hand. The unrated feature has a straightforward and brisk three act structure within the confines of 78 minutes. Not as vile as most but undoubtedly slimy, “Even Lambs Have Teeth” bites down hard with a respectable rape-revenge thriller in a subgenre that has yet to hit a wall.


It’s True.  “Even Lambs Have Teeth!”  Now On DVD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pass or Fail Weekend is Evil’s Playground. “Camp Twilight” reviewed! (DarkCoast / Digital Screener)

On the verge of failing and having to repeat a grade, six students are given the opportunity to spend one technology free weekend at Camp Twilight with their homeroom teacher, Ms. Bloom, and principal, Mr. Warner, as chaperones.    Planned with a series of outdoorsy, bonding activities, the weekend will serve to boost their grades to the cutoff line for graduating and, for some, maintaining their spot on the high school sports teams.  A local urban myth has haunted the camp’s reputation based off a grisly scene of murders a few years back, but the revamped park now serves as a community safe zone overseen by three dedicated, and also quirky, park rangers:  Art, Bob, and Chief Tom.  On a weekend where none of the students wanted to attend, forced by the threat of academic failure, an ominous figure revives the camp’s notorious past as one-by-one campers, teachers, and park rangers fall victim to a hooded killer’s impulse for blood.

Summer camps and masked serial killers are as synonymous as the vast ocean is with the dreadful thought of man-eating sharks.  “Friday the 13th, “Camp Blood,” and “Sleepaway Camp” have made a fortune and a franchise off the backs of the hapless summer campers, hacking and slashing away at the pre-martial sex crazed, the love struck wimps, and the overconfident jocks to build a flawless, ultimate killing machine series.  Will director Brandon Amelotte’s debut slasher, a horror-comedy entitled “Camp Twilight,” claim stake in the genre being the next persevering serial killer franchise?  For starters, the USA-made, indie feature releasing later this month has a leg up with “Sleepaway Camp” scream queen Felissa Rose headlining a cast that also includes a few other genre favorites as well as co-written the script with Amelotte.  Shot on the grounds of the palm tree lined Markham Park, “Camp Twilight” trades in mountain bike trails, disc golf, and it’s outdoor weapons range for machetes, lots of machetes, and is a product of Rick Finkelstein and Brandon Amelotte’s Florida based Entertainment Factory productions and, also Amelotte’s, Pelican Films.

As mentioned, genre icon Felissa Rose ditches the awkward teenage camper from the finale traumatizing “Sleepaway Camp” for a hyped-up, goody two shoes high school teacher in Ms. Bloom.  The top billed Rose brings the energetic know-how of her fully present, larger than life, broad range persona who audiences will never know exactly where her character stands until it’s lethally too late!  Rose is joined by more fresh faced, incredibly automaton co-stars in the roles of the six students and principal, played by the executive producer Barry Jay Minoff.  Minoff and Rose are supposed to be a couple concealing an affair, hiding their lustful courtship very poorly around the students, but both roles are completely under written, unexplored, and unfulfilling in the grand scheme of their pivotal plot point.  Little can be said differently about the students with a range of interrelationship intricacies that tried to be fleshed out as psychological terror triggers in lieu of their already conventional teenage sensitivity struggles.  There are other cult genre vets alongside Rose but in minor, more cameo-esque roles.  Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), and Vernon Wells (“Innerspace”) add more or less star power to the fold, supplementing virtually nothing to the narrative but campy slasher fodder for fans to gobble up.  More impressively is Dave Sheridan bringing forth a version of “Scary Movie’s” loveable dimwitted cop, Doofus, with Ranger Bob, adding a great deal of the substantiated comedy toward “Camp Twilight’s” campy ebb and flow.  Cougar MacDowall, Thomas Haley, Hayleigh Hopkins, Harris Sebastian, Dondre Tuck, Brooklyn Haley, and Steven Chase, with “Truth or Dare’s” Jessica Cameron and Sport’s Illustrated model-turned-film producer, Tracy Lear, filling out the troupe lineup.

I wish I could say that “Camp Twilight” is a campsite of entertainment, a paradisal slasher of genius design, offering up a new breed of deranged psychopathy to the likes we’ve never seen.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of Brandon Amelotte’s derivative and tired trope-laden slasher rippled with loose and forgotten subplots and characters while at the same time being a heap of longwinded exposition that still way after viewing can’t fully explain the turbulent core of the story.  I hate to knock anything Felissa Rose touches, but I would be doing an injustice and a disservice if I tried to play up a slack script that starts off picturizing a campy horror-comedy but plays out the third act with critical revelations without a hint of funny bone material. The kills follow the trend of a lighthearted horror comedy, albeit the pelting of F-bombs, with “Camp Twilight’s” holdall of off screen deaths, barely scratching the surface with on screen kills rendered only by closeups, and not particularly bloody, intense, or nearly as menacing by a black hooded killer in jeans creeping up on prey in a well-lit campground with lots of room to run. The same company, Entertainment Factory, behind the horror icon drenched disappointment, “Death House,” should have been a clue into “Camp Twilight” critical success, but much like the “Death House,” both films are a totality of mess.

Not a fan of the outdoors? Hate bugs, snakes, and all things that go bump in the night? Does your fear of an unclear, inaccessible toilet seize you up? DarkCoast has you covered with their digital release of “Camp Twilight,” arriving onto digital platforms come November 1st, 2020 – Day of the Dead. The release platforms will include InDemand, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vudu & Fandango. The A/V qualities will not be reviewed due to the digital screener provided for this new film release, but I will say much of the soundtrack sounds stock file-ish (and there is no composer listed which would be a dead giveaway) and the Adam Beck cinematography is too well-lit, benumbing any kind of intense emotions that would correlate with the action. There were no bonus features included with the release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Camp Twilight” plays into it’s own title as a dim denticulated slasher that’s far too breathy and far less spirited and so the question stands, will “Camp Twilight” be the next slasher hit to spawn a lengthy, decade spanning franchise? The answer is no.

When Evil Calls, Don’t Pick Up! “Close Calls” reviewed!


Spoiled brat Morgan MacKenzie indulges in the good life under the roof of her wealthy father; perhaps, the party girl indulges a little too much when her father catches her and her boyfriend in a sexual act by the backyard pool. Her continuos snarking, cantankerous attitude, and sexual delights force her father to ground her before going out on a date night. With a box full of miscellaneous hard drugs and a house all to herself, her sole responsibility is to supply her deteriorating grandmother imperative medication, but when obscene phone calls place Morgan on edge, paranoia rocks Morgan’s lucid tate of mind through occurrences with her horny, drug pushing boyfriend, a vile and deranged grandma, and a stranger at the doorstep on a rainy night that instigates nebulous effects, rendering her trapped, scared, and questioning everything about life as she knows it.

A visually colorful feast of mind-warping fear is Richard Stringham’s psychological horror-thriller, “Close Calls.” The 2017 feature that bares a undeniable resemblance to the 1970’s Italian giallo films with stark, dreamlike color lighting keenly favors an admiring homage of a bygone genre. Writer-director Richard Stringham, contributing product of “10/31” and it’s sequel, shepherds the film through S and Drive Cinema on a production that’s near entirely shot on one set location and in a handful of built sets to purposefully thrust an empathetic viewer trapped alongside, hip-to-hip, the snooty,scared, and smack-tripping Morgan and the script, which has been a work in progress for some time prior to release, finally saw completion when, supposedly, Stringham was tripping on drugs himself – that backstory alone should ensue a viewership.

“Close Calls” introduces horror fans to Jordan Phipps as Morgan MacKenzie, the tortured receptor of the obscene calls and whose nerves are buckling under a bombardment of uppers, downers, and many, many hallucinogens. To really stomp hard on the fact that “Close Calls” is indeed a horror film and to add upon the slight separation of the normal circumstances, the unearthly busty Phipps performs in her underwear and bare feet through the entire film and its comically written against the character to undress Morgan in not a literal sense, but works toward a natural teen prerogative that Phipps courageously pulls off dutifully. Because of the very fact that “Close Calls” is the actress’s debut feature told in her character’s entire point of view, I expect Phipps to be on the casting radar as an array of talent and as one who can go unscathed in the daunting course of leading lady. Morgan has exchanges with a couple of interesting characters to note from “10/31’s” Greg Fallon as Barry Cone, a colleague of Morgan’s father with sexual deviancies and callous intentions, and “The Phone in the Attic’s” Janis Duley portraying Morgan’s mentally unstable grandmother with takes dumps in the closet. Fallon and Duley hone in on their respective roles with uninhibited momentum that viciously contributes to Morgan’s spiraling home alone situation and creepily loom a visceral presence under a disturbing guise. Carmen Patterson (“The Boo”), Kristof Waltermire, and Landen Matt round out the cast.

On a parallel plane with the losing one’s mind from a heavy dose of drugs, trauma, and spoiled entitlement, the psycho-sexual narrative of “Close Calls” shouldn’t be ignored and is fringed with totalitarian perversion. The extremely saturated provocative and mainly lewd discourse calls an uneasiness to the moral senses that undercuts the congenial desires for Morgan. Like aforesaid, Morgan struts in her underwear thoroughly through the story and Stringham elaborately showcases her assets with some fine tuned camera work and angles, but Morgan’s drug use topples her sexual stability, leaving her vulnerable against predators that also include her douchy boyfriend, but it’s co-star Greg Fallon that takes the sexual deviance to misogynistic heights as a blunt force object with a high-level stalker obsession toward Morgan. Fallon exacts a persona that’s explained to have watched Morgan from afar in the shadows and schemed plots to infiltrate her by any means necessary, even if that means killing her when he’s done. As Barry Cone, Fallon manufactures to perfection a middle aged man’s grimy malaise toward young teen women and Cone is so vile that he can even starkly contrast Morgan in a better light despite her explicable flaws.

S and Drive Cinema production of Richard Stringham’s “Close Calls” dials up onto DVD home video from Scream Team Releasing presenting the film in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, full of colorfully vibrant lighting familiar to the old Italian thriller while sustaining a complimentary cinematography with a flat vintage definition image. The stimulating combinational pops of color and lighting were the collaborative efforts of the director of photography Graig Wynn and the late colorist, Omar Godinez (“I Spit On Your Grave” remake), who died of heart failure before the film was finished. The English language PCM DTS-HD Master Audio mix has little to fear with a robust, slasheresque-score by “The Barn’s” Rocky Gray, but the dialogue track can be soft at times where the score overpowers and nearly drowns out the actors. There are also gag-like foley effects, such as when Morgan rubs cocaine onto her gums and the squeegee sound effect sounds more like something out of a Leslie Nielsen parody. With the exception of a static menu, only a single DVD bonus feature included with an audio commentary by writer, director, and produce, Richard Stringham. Loaded with psycho-sexual themes and psychedelic-contorting deconstructs, “Close Calls” is not only a 128 minutes of rabid affections for Jordan Phipps, but also a trip down the uninviting rabbit hole of collusion, murder, and an endless supply of suspense.

Purchase “Close Calls” on DVD! Click the DVD cover!

Evil Isn’t Home. “Death House” review!


Top law enforcement agents, Boon and Novak, achieve special access through steep sacrifice during job assignments and are permitted to tour their upcoming placement in the highly exclusive Death House, the ultimate maximum and multi-level penitentiary home to the nastiest criminals known to society and the deadly threat to mankind in a metaphysical way. Death Houses uses virtual reality to keep inmates stimulated to the point of calm submission as well as drugging the homeless and the unwanted to supply killers with victims upon victims in an their personalized virtual surroundings, but when an outsider uses an EMP to knock out all power within the facility, the cages are open and the ruthless animals are free to overrun, beating to death the guards and staff. Boon and Novak must fight their way to the bottom level that hold the Five Evils, criminals with grotesque supernatural abilities and a wickedly grisly past, where the two agents believe the Evils are their best hope for survial against a Five Evils acolyte named Sieg and his faithful jailhouse followers.

Considered as “The Expandables” of horror, “Death House” had gained almost instant fandom solely from the long-list of horror icons in the cast. Director B. Harrison Smith (“Camp Dread”) re-writes most of Gunnar Hansen’s original “Death House” story produced by Cleopatra Entertainment and Entertainment Factory. Cleopatra Entertainment is more notably a music label that has delved into films the last few years and, in my opinion, haven’t faired positively in the horror genre, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” star fought tooth and nail to try and get his script off the ground, even in the face of death. “Death House” saw release after Hansen’s death, but from interviews with the filmmakers, Smith had almost totally revamped the original treatment, leaving The Evil’s at Hansen’s request if his script was to be entirely cleaned. Shot right in this reviewer’s backyard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the defunct prison is an ideal location as the “Death House” due in part to John Haviland’s separate cell design and gritty appeal that was once of the home of Al Capone, but more of the focus is on the interior than exterior with green scenes and Los Angeles shots constructing the story-lined scenes.

Like aforementioned, “Death House” has been called the “The Expendables” of horror. An immense, if not soaked, cast of horror fan favorites are peppered about around the main characters of Agent Boon and Novak. “Sushi Girl” and “Zombeavers” star Courtney Palm embodies the Agent Boon character with G-man toughness, but finds difficulty leaving that b-horror mentality with shakiness in working climatic scenes. Palm’s also roped into doing an extremely gratuitous shower scene with Cody Longo (“Piranha 3D”) as Agent Novak. Novak’s a hotshot and Longo has the looks and the talent to out perform his character, but Smith’s script doesn’t do justice to either Boon or Novak’s character that blatantly underwhelms their performances with cameo star power and a shoddy narrative. Dee Wallace (“Cujo”), Barbara Crampton {“Re-Animator”), and Kane Hodder (“Jason Goes to Hell”) have prominent roles that are pertinent to the story and are enjoyable to see them in more of a supporting capacity. Andrenne Barbeau {“The Fog”), Sid Haig (“The Devil’s Rejects”), Vernon Wells (“The Road Warrior”), Bill Moseley {“The Devil’s Rejects”), Lloyd Kaufman (Mr. Troma), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Sean Whalen (“The People Under the Stairs”), Debbie Rochon (“Killer Rack”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Deadly Revisions”), Felissa Rosa (“Sleepaway Camp”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Tiffany Shepis (“Abominable”), Brinke Stevens (“The Slumber Party Massacre”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), Gunnar Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Whew. Rounding out the remaining cast is Lindsay Harley (“Nightmare Nurse”), Vincent M. Ward (“The Walking Dead”), and Bernhard Forcher.

While the genre star-studded ensemble cast is a wet dream for horror fans, “Death House” fails in numerous filmmaking categories with the first being the most important, the script. Smith’s re-work of Hansen’s original story requires another drastic once-over, or two, as the final result attempts to push, stuff, and cram 100 lbs of multi-subgenre elements into a 10 lb, inflexible bag, cramping the ambitious project with dis-connective storyline tissue braced together with shoddy visual effects, like the two agents free-falling down a bottomless elevator shaft and able to precisely shoot their targets on each level. The overall result of “Death House” just endures an unfinished varnish and seems slapped together with pre-schooler glue and claggy spit. Singular moments surface as diamond specks amongst cubic zirconias, like the Mortal Kombat fatality-esque practical effects, but are too far and in between to muster up an enjoyable film. The Five Evils definitely and desperately needed more presence in the story instead of just flexing the talking heads muscle; well, the only two Evils to say anything at all were Bill Moseley and Vernon Wells. The Five Evils didn’t quite have that oomph to be a force to be dealt with as Gold-described beings who philosophical interpretations on the concept of good and evil.

Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present B. Harrison Smith’s long-anticipated “Death House” onto DVD home video. The unrated, all-region DVD is presented in a widescreen format that displays some frayed flaws like contrast; there’s way too much inky black in the dark scenes and little-to-no definition in more visible sequences. The compression suffers from blotchy artefacts at times too and lacks hues, which works with the gritty tone inside the Eastern State Penitentiary’s decomposing walls of rubble and decay. Visual effects are glossy with virtually no textures to give detail or, essentially, life amongst the continuous death. Bonus features include multiple interviews with director B. Harrison Smith, Courtney Palm, and more. Also included is a behind-the-scenes feather, a gallery slideshow, and theatrical trailer. Despite being true to the title and highly anticipated since it’s inception into the public market, “Death House” ultimately disappointments as an unfurnished mess enlisted with big names in the horror domain that’ll unfairly sell the film on it’s own, but all-star cameos won’t establish “Death House” as a solidified cult favorite, being unfortunately one of the biggest release flops of 2018.