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.

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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.

A Lone Woman Takes On Three Evil Poachers in “Fair Game” review!


Jessica is a caretaker for a wildlife sanctuary located in the Australian outback. Her day-to-day challenges consist of refilling drinking water trowels in the midst of the heat and herding wandering animals away from a treacherous sinkhole with the help of faithful sheep dog, but Jessica’s way of life, and the lives of the sanctuary animals, becomes threated by three maniacal game poachers. Behind the wheel of a menacing modified truck, the poachers toy with the young woman: slaughtering the protected inhabited animals, destroying structures in her compound, and playing psychological games to mentally and physically break her will. When enough is enough, Jessica, whose nearly lost all that she has, decides to fight back against the well-armed and aggressive hunters that take their dangerous, back-and-forth game to a whole new life and death level.

Mario Andreacchio’s exploitation gem “Fair Game” makes a grand Blu-ray debut onto Umbrella Entertainment’s Ozploitation Classics collection line. Penned by screenwriter Rob George and headlined by the Brisbane beauty Cassandra Delaney, “Fair Game” is a lavishly brutal film about one isolated woman’s plight to righteously defend what’s hers at any cost against a blitzkrieg of assaults from three nasty, but very different, personalities. What’s utterly fantastic about Andreacchio’s film is the cinematography from the late “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie. Lesnie, who worked on “Dark Age” that was also released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment, had a knack for vast landscapes and the director of photography made the already arid outback seem physically monstrous, especially during long shots of Cassandra Delaney running for her life through rocky, dusty terrain. There’s a stark contrast between his day approach and his night scenes that air a soft blue and white glow on the backdrop horizon, a familiar motif typically showcased in horror films, that immensely deepens the chase and stylizes the visual ambiance.

Cassandra Delaney stars as sanctuary overseer Jessica. The demanding role pits Delaney against the terrain elements as well as the three poachers in David Sanford, Garry Who, and Peter Ford as Sunny the trio’s relentless leader. Whereas Jessica’s as pure as they come, being an animal savior and contributor to the community with Delaney selling that to the fullest extent even when she’s pissed off and being a stoic like Sarah Connor, the antagonist are about as rotten as festering, worm-riddled apple with each actor portraying a very different type of character. David Sanford’s Ringo is an acrobatic young man with a punk rock look and attitude overlaying his athletic tone, marking him the versatile go-getter. Garry Who’s Sparks is a potbelly grease monkey and as the lone designated pit crew of his posse, Who enables the slightest probably of being the most sensible of the three thugs but still meager and mean when pushed by Ringo and Sunny. Sunny denotes himself the pit boss, an elite outback tracker with narcissistic tendencies in believing he’s invincible, and Ford’s hard nose and stern take on Sunny is pinpoint precision at it’s deadliest.

To be all fair about “Fair Game” reasonability, the big question that surfaces after viewing the film is who is the most certifiable between Jessica and Sunny’s gang of hoodlums. The answer to that riddle is ultimately Jessica. Though that might seem like a radical answer, Jessica is, by far, the craziest person with a severe death wish. Whenever Jessica retaliates against the poachers, the three inevitably response with something much worse. Here are some examples: Jessica dumps flour onto Ringo’s face and slaps a vegetarian bumper sticker on their truck that causes the ruffians to quietly invade her compound and take pictures of her while she sleeps naked, Jessica causes a small avalanche to temporarily trap them in a small cave and Sunny’s hoodlums respond by shooting her horse dead, and Jessica welds their assault rifles together in a heap of twisted metal and the poachers tie her half naked body to the hood of their truck and drive around until she passes out. The spat between them overwhelming seemed one sided, as Sunny as his hounds play with their live food before biting down hard to snap it’s neck, but made for kickass exploitation that echos genre classics such as “I Spit On Your Grave.”

Umbrella Entertainment releases 1986’s “Fair Game” onto high definition, 1080p Blu-ray with an all new transfer from a newly restored 2k master. Presented with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer looks impeccable. The palette coloring isn’t vivid, but not surprising since the film is set in the arid outback with nothing but brown on top of brown or yellow on top of brown; however skin tones and the fine details are evidently splendid in Andrew Lesnie’s mise-en-scenes. There’s expected noise through out with some minor vertical scratches, especially earlier in some day time sequences and in the longer shots, but the restored transfer bares a cleaner and fresher take on the 30 year old plus film. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a lossless transfer that reinvigorates the menacing aspects of the back-and-forth contest, an example would be the monster-like, if not personified, truck that rumbles and roars when trekking and chasing across the outback. Also enhance is the soundtrack that’s a concussed epiphany of acute and rough synthesized and blunt off key tones and melodies meshed together to form a mesmerizing score from composer Ashley Irwin. The release also contains a slew of special features including audio commentary by director Mario Andreacchio and screenwriter Rob George, an extended interview with Cassandra Delaney, a segment about “Fair Game’s” set location, A couple of local TV spots from 1985, a behind the scenes with Dean Bennett, the theatrical trailer, image gallery of still scenes and rare production and promotional materials, an animated storyboard, and five of Mario Andreachio’s short films. Whew. Talk about your full loaded package. “Fair Game” is the epitome of ozploitation with lucrative degenerate characters and a fair amount of gratuitous nudity that goes without being overly sleazy and downright violent like most collaborators in the subgenre. Packed with vicious machinery and a wicked sense of mind games, “Fair Game,” hands down, one of the best in the world of Australian cult cinema.