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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Evil Smells, Has Lice, and Wants Your Spare Change! “Parasites” review!

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Los Angeles’ skid row is the desolated and forgotten residence to countless displaced people living in tents or sleeping bags on the cold streets, fighting ever which way they can to live just one more day. When three University of Southern California students take a wrong turn onto the streets of skid row, a dangerous world opens to them where being young and privileged doesn’t warrant an easy pass through LA’s notorious “The Nickel.” A homeless gang, ramrodded by a vicious vagrant named Wilco, catches them trespassing under the unused sixth street bridge and detains them until the situation turns deadly wrong. When one of the students, Marshall, escapes naked and on foot, a chase ensues through the empty concrete jungle, and as he attempts to retrieve help, he encounters wretched night owls who are just as dangerous, or if not more so, than Wilco and his gang.
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The very first impression from the films of “Parasites’” director Chad Ferrin came in the form of Ferrin’s 2003 underground cannibal dweller film “The Ghouls” and, retrieving past critiques or comments from past yonder, I wasn’t too thrilled with his indie sophomore feature. However, after sitting through “Parasites” and being a fan of the 2009 pleasantly berserk “Someone’s Knocking at the Door,” a second viewing might be warranted. The 2016 film, shot on location, defines Ferrin’s immense penchant for independent filmmaking that basically tells a story of one man’s perilous and herring marathon journey through the meat grinder of Los Angeles while also reminding and resonating viewers that the homeless are just an unfortunate alternate version of ourselves.
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“Parasites” will suck every once of hope and happiness one might have for humanity to the point of believing in misanthropic perspectives. Purely oozing with cynicism in a nightmare scenario, the story couldn’t have reached such depths without a few key performances such by Robert Miano (“Giallo”), a bold and enduring role for Sean Samuels, and an always pleasant cameo by “Day of the Dead’s” most villainous captain, Joseph Pilato. Though, some exaggerated moments of peculiar over performances and prolonged montage scenes of Sean Samuels running through the barren Skid Row maze run their course with seizing captivation, but Miano steals many scenes with his spiteful portrayal of an overprotective, mad dog violent bum being the venomous snakehead of a 1980’s style street gang whose keen on hunting down and burying a college quarterback.
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What I also found interesting about the Ferrin’s scripted-narrative is the severe lack of tension with race and gender relations between the eclectic group of characters. Much of the action and dialogue flows freely without much opposition as if the racial slang or the running down of a young black man is normalcy. Gang leader Wilco only cares about one thing, his dilapidated corner of L.A., and berates everyone in a fit of racism peppered with nihilism. Ferrin purposefully implemented a Hispanic and an Asian in Wilco’s crew to run rampant with obscenities from their leader, along with a hefty woman to whom Wilco objectifies constantly with chauvinistic nicknames such as “Sugartits” and “Sweet Cheeks,” and an athletic black character being the subject of a bizarro-world reversal characteristic witch-hunt that relates awfully too familiar with recent race crimes. The social commentary leaves an everlasting trail of uncomfortable goosebumps, working their way toward the heart’s core of human morality and packing a powerful punch when not nearly one single character has any redeeming value.
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Crappy World Films in association with Girls and Corpses Magazine produces “Parasites,” an exhibition a do-or-die survival horror framed to point out the loathsome portions of past, and most certainly, current events. Ferrin’s low-budget film goes the extra mile with the brief, yet effective, violent special effects. I’m unable to critique on the audio and video quality of the 108 Media distribution release, nor the bonus features, as a screener copy was provided. “Parasites'” raw approach through characters, story, and cinematography, breathes life into a desolate place like “The Nickel” and gives power to the powerless, remarking upon the monsters we create by ignoring their existence and shunning their potential worth. The fear from this film is all too real.